Jessica Rovello Interview

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posted 1/5/2007 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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When most people think of gamers they think of the teenage kid sitting in their living room playing a game on a console or squired away in their room fighting digital foes on their computer. The real truth is that statistically speaking the average gamer is more likely to be a middle-aged woman than a teenage. I recently got the chance to talk to Jessica Rovello, the chairman and Co-Founder of Arkadium about their new website that caters to female casual gamers.
 
 
GamingNexus: Can you tell me a little about your company and it’s history?
 
We started the company about five years ago in 2001. We originally started as a skill based gaming website so we allowed people to play skill based games. I don’t know if you are familiar with that space or not but companies like World Winner, King.com, and SkillJam that basically allow people to compete for prizes in tournaments. We originally thought that was going to be the next wave of gaming’s future and then quickly realized that people weren’t as interested in playing for prizes or money as they were interested in playing for free and using gaming as a way to get their minds off of their everyday stresses. 
 
In the last couple of years the company has evolved. We have three divisions in our business. One is the Agency Division which provides advergamers to both agencies and large brands directly. For instance we recently did a game for Dunkin Donuts and that just allowed people to keep visitors to their website by offering sticky content in the form of games. Also it allows them to introduce new products to the market through casual gaming. I would say 90% of what we do is strictly in the casual space.
 
We also have a division that deals with casino type games. For the most part we deal with offline casinos with games like that. We have a poker platform, backgammon, and things along those lines.
 
Then we have the division of our company that offers destination websites and consumer products.   We have a destination Casual game website that is aimed at women gamers who are 35 years plus and it’s called GreatDayGames.com. 
 
GamingNexus: How did you get into the gaming business?
 
The truthful answer is that my husband and I founded the company together. We were working at a dot com and it was going through a rough phase around 1999-2000 and we had grown up in arcades and loved play games. We had kind of gotten away from games as we had become adults because we didn’t really understand the systems as much for the core games and we didn’t have them but we were gaming and starting to play games online. We were always bouncing ideas off each other on interesting companies and whether we should start one or not. We finally said “Why don’t we take a shot at this while we are still young and before we have a family and see if we can make a go of it.” So we decided to start a games company. It just kind of happened like that. There was one incident that kind of made it come to fruition. One night we were talking about how we had spent a lot of time in the arcade growing up and I told him that I was a much better Ms. Pacman player than he was. We had never played against each other and he kind of challenged me and we went home that night to try and find a site where we could play a game like that or a similar game and compete against each other and we couldn’t. So we said “Hey, maybe this is an interesting idea for a games company”.
 
GamingNexus: Obviously GreatDayGames is going to compete with the other casual game sites out there, how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else?
There are a couple of ways. Number one, we target squarely the core casual gamer. The core casual gamer being primarily women 35 years or older. We do that in a couple of ways. One is through site design which I think is friendly to that demographic. 
 
Number two is through the types of games we offer. We really pay attention to what the core casual gamer is looking for in terms of play. Study after study shows that the categories they prefer are puzzle, strategy, word type games, and slot type games. So the majority of the games you’re going to see on our site will fit into one of those categories. We don’t really have a huge amount of arcade games or shoot ‘em up games, it is mostly puzzle and strategy games. Whereas if you are looking at sites like Yahoo, MSN Zone, or Pogo they are really covering the entire market and focusing on a broad spectrum of games that are out there. So that’s one way. 
 
Another way is that we know community is important to our users. So we’re building up a community of casual gamers through forums, leader boards, and a trophy and reward system that our users are really, really into. We offer badges if you will but they are trophies for now only how well you do in a game score wise but how much time you’ve spent playing that game. We have users who may not be the best Mahjongg player in the world but they love to grind it out for ten hours and they are going to get rewarded for that.
 
We also have a rewards system, kind of like a frequent flier miles program but for gaming which is called “Treats”. This also goes back to the demographic and what they are interested in. The longer you play and the higher score you get the more Treats you earn. Then you can cash in those Treats for entries into sweepstakes. Our sweepstakes also target the demo. Instead of offering 50” flat panel plasma TVs we’re offering Godiva Chocolates and Bed, Bath, Beyond gift cards, and Walmart gift cards and things that the people who play our games tell us they want. 
 
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