Cross Platform — Gamers in today’s climate want the ability to be able to play with their friends on a different console system. We have already seen the support fans will give platforms and developers where they enable an open ecosystem opposed to a closed one.
As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Murphy O’Reilly, Director of Esports and Gaming at Minute Media. Minute Media is the owner of six digital media publications across the world, including 90min, DBLTAP, Mental Floss, The Big Lead, The Players’ Tribune and FanSided. Minute Media has created the industry’s leading digital publishing platform and uses its proprietary technology to power content and media solutions for its own properties in addition to the licensing of standalone and full stack solutions to other leading publishers and digital brands.“Murph” directs all gaming and esports media coverage at Minute Media and its esports-focused publication DBLTAP. An avid gamer himself, Murph oversees the content and marketing concepts for global brands who want to break into the world of esports.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I spent the first few years of my career in the Enterprise Technology space working with Marketing and AdTech platforms, and suddenly decided one day that I wanted to pursue a career in something I was passionate about — gaming. I hoped to find a job where I could still focus on the things I loved about my job which mainly was working with marketing teams who want to make a difference to their customers. I eventually ended up at Minute Media where we’ve been helping brands enter the Gaming and esports world for the last 3 years with some great activations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we started pitching to brands about Gaming and esports I was surprised at how many were so eager to listen because they had seen all the reports and press around the sector. But when talking through it with them, some would be openly critical of the industry ‘I just don’t get it’ or ‘Why on earth would you watch someone else play video games? And why would you spend money on it?’ At first it was hard not to get annoyed that people would be so interested but at the same time so dismissive, until I realized that it’s just two different worlds for many.
This is an entirely new industry that many haven’t grown up in and for most people, they’re discovering esports through their children who are suddenly asking them for money to subscribe to a Twitch streamer or for tickets to an esports event or expo. It can be hard to first get your head around, especially if you are comparing the scope and size to traditional sports. But the opportunity is huge.
There’s a show in the UK called Gogglebox and I always think of the time when someone had to pitch that idea which is effectively ‘We’re going to create a TV show where we film other people watching TV’. That concept sounds ludicrous but it’s one of the most popular shows in the UK and is similar to what Twitch is today. For me it’s helped me be more open to certain areas and ideas that I might find strange but realizing that this might be the new way or new thing for the right people.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s very cliche but everyone I work with now and in the past is responsible for the successes I’ve had professionally. I believe that everyone you work with in some way becomes responsible in forming your career and how you handle new situations and challenges.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I wish I could do it more but one of the best things I’ve had the opportunity to work on is a project we did with a few retired professional Counter-Strike Players who formed a Team called the Old Guys Club. We managed to turn around some custom team Jerseys and sold them for charity that went toward helping kids cope with treatment in hospitals by giving them access to gaming.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?
The main focus of my job is supporting the growth of DBLTAP, Minute Media esports and gaming media platform that highlights the stories behind the players and games. While not technological, we serve as the voice of the fans in gaming esports — making sure to be representative of all the different facets of gaming we believe that everyone should be treated as a gaming fan and that you don’t necessarily have to be playing all day, every day or be a hardcore esports fan to be part of the community. At DBLTAP, we believe that if you play FIFA or Call of Duty for an hour a week or just enjoy passing the time on your phone, you are still a gamer. On the more competitive elements, we aim to help esports grow by being the most reliable source for news, features, videos and around the professional side of gaming. We see this as a key role in the development of the gaming industry and its attitude towards it.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
As said above, the more we start to accept gaming both as a mainstream activity/passion in the same way people consume sports, movies and literature and remove the ‘Video game nerd’ stigma, then the quicker and further we change people’s perceptions and attitudes and encourage acceptance of the professional scene. While many feel we’re making progress, there is still a long way to go to be seen in the same light as traditional sports.
It’s up to outlets like ourselves and other esports specific publishers to report on the lives/influences of the serious aspects of gaming, from the professional esports players to the developers themselves. The more this is reported on, the more we make it accessible and accepted by larger mainstream audiences. At the moment, too many people look from the outside in focusing on ‘The kids that play games for money’ as opposed to just treating them like their traditional sports counterparts.
I may be biased but I believe that DBLTAP already has altered how gaming and esports has been covered. It is a unique industry and while compared to traditional sports, it does need to be covered in a unique way. We’ve recently seen some traditional outlets like ESPN and Yahoo Sports drop their esports coverage at the very same time we’ve ramped up. I think this is because many traditional outlets have unrealistic expectations of the sheer number of audience and viewers as compared to football, baseball, basketball, etc. While the industry has exploded, we are still in its infancy and I think there is a lot of misunderstanding around esports vs the individual games that each have their own unique audience and demographics, and there may not be cross-over.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?
While not necessarily a mission of ours, but more of a byproduct of what the unbelievably talented team at Minute Media and other publishers in this space are doing, is that we are helping to grow mainstream acceptance of the gamer lifestyle. While gaming is growing in popularity, it’s still a bit surprising to many that people will base a large portion of their lives around video games, whether that be as a professional player, a content creator or even just a fan who can more openly talk about it with their friends as one of the leading and most acceptable forms of entertainment. People define their lives by Sport, Film, Art, Fashion and other areas of culture from careers, how they choose their friends or a life partner. Video Games hasn’t done that… Yet.
It can be from us just indulging someone’s passion as a gamer that makes them consume a bit more or elevating awareness and acceptance of esports players as athletes.
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
I think that the pandemic forcing students around the world having to do remote studies has changed the way many people feel about games and education. For these students that now have to spend their entire school day looking at a screen, gaming has added a fun element and introduced new ways to learn and retain information. We’ve already seen some great examples of teachers using games as a virtual classroom, taking things like Fortnite and Minecraft where they have positive associations with and using it to be a catalyst for learning and experience.
I believe we’ll see more of this over the coming years, alongside people using gaming to build virtual environments and objects that will have just as much relevance as the real world. We’ve already had communities of people build incredible structures and artwork inside games that look phenomenal. Over time I can see education using games and gamification by extension to teach and explore different subjects in a much more interactive way, that in effect will replace traditional textbooks.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
I believe success is defined as exactly what the creator(s) set out for it to be. Would you define Fortnite as a success? I think for many you’d say yes — it generates a huge amount of revenue, it created a cultural wave of awareness amongst mainstream consumers and it explored avenues in video games that no one else did (both good and bad). Fortnite changed the idea of what a music concert could be with their Travis Scott event and they’ve run movie screenings and other events inside Fortnite. Essentially, I see this as redefining what exactly someone can do in a game. In fact, many people are logging into Fortnite now to not even play the core product.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
As I mentioned above, DBLTAP is not in the business of creating games, but reports on the games themselves, players and the fans that have popularized them. But if we look at how popular games are being developed and released today we start to see some themes emerge that might tell us about how we’ll see games defining success in the future
- Accessibility — Games and platforms these days are focusing more and more on ensuring their game is accessible to everyone, from creating custom controllers, to allow people to map their own button configuration in games.
- Increasing models of consumption — A different form of accessibility, but we have moved past the days where a retailer only ships a hard copy of a game charges 60 dollars and moves on to making the next. Increased models of consumption from Free to Play, Ad-Funded, Freemium and now subscription based services and games have opened titles to wider population for those who can’t or don’t want to pay full price for the entire game and just enjoy certain parts. This has also helped developers understand different monetization opportunities within their games.
- Ever evolving content — We are moving closer towards a TV Series model of gaming, rather than a Movie one, with different consumption models. Developers are building in DLC (Downloadable content) as part of their IP and franchises, ensuring that fans have new and exciting ways to access and enjoy the game, building longer term value with each fan.
- Cross Platform — Gamers in today’s climate want the ability to be able to play with their friends on a different console system. We have already seen the support fans will give platforms and developers where they enable an open ecosystem opposed to a closed one.
- Transparency — We believe that some of the most successful games will be ones that have transparency with their development teams and process. Game Directors and Creative Directors are turning into influencers of their own right, showcasing the life and process of making a game. This also extends to how they treat their employees, their approach to hard deadlines and so called ‘Crunch’ (Mandatory overtime to finish a game, often characterized with long working hours right before launch). Fans are becoming much more aware of the process and conditions under which a game is made that will likely affect their purchasing decisions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Unfortunately I am not a person of great influence (As much as I wish I was). If I could inspire anything through anyone reading this, it would be to pursue things you are passionate about in your career. I don’t think any job is free of stress, hardships or difficulty — even if it’s in an industry you love. Chances are your ‘Ideal Job’ doesn’t exist, which I think is quite liberating that you can spend most of your life in an area you love.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It could always be worse, if it truly can’t be any worse then it can only get better.