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Joystiq interviews David Reid of GameTap

Zack Stern

We recently sat down for a quick meeting with David Reid, VP of Marketing for GameTap, the Turner game-download subscription service. GameTap had previously announced that the episodic releases of Sam & Max and Myst Online: Uru Live would be added to the service as part of its monthly $10 fee; these are the first new games to go alongside GameTap's catalog of re-releases. Reid talked about how GameTap is growing, the sort of gamer it attracts, and how -- as Reid says with his marketing prowess -- the site is shifting from the DVD-model to the HBO-model of new content.

How big is GameTap? Can you tell us how many subscribers you have or how the service has grown?

We don't disclose subscriber numbers; that's just Turner policy. Some of the things we do talk about are, right now the service has a free trial component to it. We find that 70-plus percent of people who try GameTap become purchasers. We find that a very encouraging number and if you look out and see what Xbox Live's announced about Arcade in terms of people who take a trial version, download, and then purchase it we think our numbers compare extremely favorably.

Is there a difference in the audience that prefers to buy games in the store versus downloading, and then how do you compete with that experience?

Different kinds of consumers are looking for different ways to purchase games and get introduced to games. We're all competing at some level for the same entertainment dollars out of subscribers or out of consumers rather -- and for us, the best things we have in our network are ... it's really two-fold.

One is just this overall, pretty staggering value proposition. At the end of the day if you're buying individual games for five, ten, or fifteen dollars, after a period of time, that ends up being a lot of money. If you buy ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty of these games, that can yield years of GameTap in which you will get those games, you will also discover new games, and you will also rediscover games that you haven't played in a while.

So that's one part of it, and the second part is really how we are able to surround you uniquely with a lot of other content. It's not just similar games from adjacent platforms and creators, but also the video content we're able to do with GameTap TV. We have some exciting stuff that we're doing with Sam & Max for example, with machinima shorts and making-of and things like that. And there will be more to announce on that front with that title and other titles.

But again this is the sensibility that Turner brings to a network; it's not just about the hits, but it's about everything around the hits and the lifestyle programming around that. So you know, it's slightly different stuff [than other services] I think, but overall we feel really good about our value proposition and the unique content that we bring to people looking for these games.

How important is seeking out new, unpublished content? What sort of balance will you strike in republishing games versus introducing new titles?

New, exclusive, and innovative content is absolutely fundamental to GameTap's strategy and success. You may remember in October 2005, GameTap launched with 300 of the greatest arcade, console, and PC games, but none of them was newer than about 2 years old. On our birthday October 17 this year, we'll launch our first new title with Sam & Max which is debuting exclusively on GameTap.

This is really the future of GameTap -- we are evolving from what you might have called a "syndication" or "DVD" model at launch, where we focused on redistributing and repackaging previously published games, into what we now describe as an "HBO" model, where having critically acclaimed exclusive content is what really drives you to the network and keeps you there. In the DVD model, the vault of hundreds of previously published games was really the product. In the HBO model, the vault becomes a critical supporting point with the new, exclusive content in the lead -- much like HBO has The Sopranos, GameTap now has Sam & Max and Myst Online: Uru Live [coming in October].

Two places you'll certainly hear more from us are on the fronts of more episodic games and more MMOs; Sam & Max and Myst Online are simply the first of each of these.

We'll continue to add new games every week in the republishing model -- we have over 1,400 games under license and will have half of those live on GameTap in the near future, as we have 662 today. And we definitely have some very exciting news for the gamers coming very soon for our birthday on October 17. But the key strategic focus for GameTap moving forward is definitely on new and exclusive content.

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