Jagex is one of the UK’s biggest video game developers and publishers. We caught up with Jeff Pabst, Jagex’s VP of 3rd Party Partnerships, to find about his work, and how the industry is responding to Covid-19.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
As VP of 3rd Party and Partnerships at Jagex, I lead a team that does marketing partnerships, business development, and content acquisition for our publishing group. Primarily, my team and I work with external companies – from driving new deals from a business development perspective, identifying and onboarding marketing partners that support our product campaigns, to meeting and evaluating developers of games we are looking to publish.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Travel! My job and my team’s jobs usually involve a lot of travel to visit partners, go to trade shows or conferences, and for due diligence – so lockdown has definitely changed that. Like everyone else though, we have transitioned to virtual meetings and other methods, but I would say productivity is lower and opportunities are fewer than before lockdown began.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Jagex as a business has been forced, like many others, to transition from a predominantly office-based operation to one that is entirely remote. Jagex has expanded hugely in recent years – growing 11% in terms of headcount last year – and we’ve been trending towards more working from home, especially in the Publishing organisation. We already use a lot of tools such as Zoom and Slack, alongside email and, of course, the phone – the key is making the best use of them.
In many ways, Zoom enables us to have more face-to-face contact with people than ever before, which is great, but it is easy to become fatigued when working from home because you don’t have a usual rhythm to the day. Forcing yourself to take breaks and to start and finish at regular times is important for productivity.
We also have a strong internal communications team that’s been working hard to make sure we implement best practise when it comes to using these tools; maximising their effectiveness and minimising effort.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
A lot of mid-sized partners have really shone through, not only in their business continuity capability – getting people to be productive quickly – but also in their caring approach to their employees. Some of our larger partners had a surprising amount of difficulty with seemingly simple technical tasks, and an impersonal approach to remote working that resulted in contact often going cold.
What changes are you making to help your brand/clients’ brands connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
We have always been a very community-focused brand and therefore have a wealth of experience in managing direct dialogue with our customers. In the first weeks of the pandemic, it was about focusing on our teams and making sure we could support them and keep our services up and running, which, given a large number of people were playing our games as a means of enjoyment and escape, was absolutely critical.
As it became clear it would last longer and we were secure in our ability to support our customers, we engaged in several community-led events and charity efforts to support our players and let them know we were there with them. We have long-standing relationships with mental health charities and have donated more than £200,000 to them since the pandemic began.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
One of the bittersweet positives of the pandemic is that global lockdowns have led to people engaging heavily with online services, and ultimately playing more games. This means everyone in games, especially online games, has seen higher engagement and revenues. However, it also brings some additional challenges in terms of increased strain on infrastructure and on teams – but those are good problems to have.
Jagex has been fortunate in that we have enjoyed five consecutive years of record growth and has unparalleled expertise in operating live game services, thanks to having been founded to do just that almost 20 years ago. Companies in more robust sectors with tight focus, strong teams, and great propositions can often ride the storm and even grow.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
These are uncharted times and in the short to medium-term, there will be continued uncertainty. However, like most other recessions and times of turbulence, there is a great opportunity for marketers to grow market share – but you need to think long-term and make sure you have the fundamentals in place.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your company?
Obviously the pandemic has made short-term planning a challenge, but we are looking at long-term planning much like before. At the same time, we are being mindful of additional scenarios, and also shortening our revision cycles given the constantly changing environment. But we take a positive viewpoint and are planning for the post-pandemic world and the opportunities it presents.