Today we’re interviewing Ryan Kiskis, the director of Product Management at xFire, which is a gaming platform for popular games such as Metin, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and others.
you’re going to love this next disruptive company highlight. today, we’re speaking with Ryan Kiskis of Xfire. Xfire is the de facto standard of online gaming. we’re excited to have ryan on shmula today.
Be sure to read our other interviews in our leadership series.
update: this posting was ready during the week of april 17. but, as of april 24, a huge announcement was made that Xfire will be acquired by viacom for $102 million. congratulations to ryan and the Xfire team.
Tell us a little about yourself, ryan.
I’m currently Director of Product Management & Marketing at Xfire, though everyone at our company wears a lot of different hats. I’ve been with Xfire since about the time we launched the service at the start of 2004, and I’ve done vastly different jobs over that time frame. I’m primarily interested in next-generation web development, what’s currently being called Web 2.0, but I’d like to think we’re always pushing the envelope to the next thing. As a gamer myself, I’m lucky enough to be able to combine that interest with one of the most fun industries around, the videogame space. I came to Xfire immediately after graduating from Stanford’s MBA program, which itself came immediately after graduating from Princeton in aerospace engineering. I’m still shooting for that opportunity to fly in space one day.
What is the business problem or opportunity that xfire addresses?
You can break it down into 2 major aspects, one consumer oriented and one business oriented. The consumer piece of the problem is that the game industry was fundamentally focused on the game title itself as the link between people. Gamers went to play Counter-Strike online, and they generally played against random strangers on the internet. That can be fun, but in general it’s not nearly as satisfying as playing against friends that you’re going to chat with and hang out with over a longer period of time. To use a golf analogy – I like to play Stanford’s golf course, but if all my buddies are heading up to the Presidio, I’d much rather play with them up there.
The business aspect is that gamers are getting older (average age about 28-29 now), richer, and less reachable in traditional advertising channels. The average Xfire user uses our service for over 80 hours a month; I guarantee you they’re not watching TV for that long. They’re also becoming increasingly resistant to traditional marketing messages – you need to engage them, get them to interact with your product or service, not just see a brand message every few minutes. So it’s becoming an increasing challenge to reach gamers, especially for more traditional advertisers.
How does Xfire address the business problem? how is this approach disruptive?
Coming back to the game-centric attitude of the game industry – we basically tried to flip that on its head and refocus the experience on your friends and social network. Xfire is fundamentally about connecting you with your friends to play games, regardless of what specific game they happen to be playing. All of our features – one-click join, in-game chat, voice chat, rich-data profiles, everything – are designed to simplify and enhance a social gaming experience. I think our 4,000,000 users, as well as the success of other gaming social networks such as Xbox Live, have proved the validity of this model. In the PC space we’re still pretty unique in overall feature-set, and our independence from any individual publisher or platform holder has allowed us to innovate in what features we’re offering much faster than we would otherwise be able to.
On the advertising side, we’re offering our advertising partners more innovative, engaging campaigns to reach out to gamers. We’re able to combine a single, powerful ad placement in the client with online events that bring gamers together. Our gamers will be spending hours over the coming weeks – interacting with the games of our publisher partners, interacting with the Axe brand as they create their stories, and interacting with each other in collaboration on movies that will stretch into full-blown epics. We also have done skins of the Xfire client for partners, often associated with a community skin creation contest, as well as sponsored online gaming events with gaming professionals. We’re continully working on ways to combine our traditional advertising placements (web banner ads and our client placement) with these more innovative, engaging events, and we’ve had great success with them to date.
In terms of selection, price, and flexibility, how does Xfire compare to other companies in it’s space?
As I briefly touched on, we’re pretty unique in terms of feature-set for the PC gamer. No one else has our in-game chat technology or our automatic screenshot upload features. Other services provide individual features (voice chat, file downloads, etc), but with those services being their core businesses, they have to charge for them. Xfire is entirely free to our users, with features as robust as many of the comparable pay services. So if you’re a gamer, there’s really no reason to not have Xfire, and I think our growth rate indicates that’s true.
In the advertising space, we are obviously an alternative to traditional placements on the gaming media outlets (IGN, Gamespot, etc), as well as newer channels like in-game advertising or advergaming. However, we really have a sweet-spot in that gamers use our product for significant periods of time each day (unlike gaming media outlets), but they can also easily interact with these innovative marketing campaigns I described earlier (unlike in-game advertising – you can’t even click on an in-game banner, let alone interact). We actually have an interesting document up that we presented to the iMedia conference a few weeks ago, which is a great read for anyone interested in reaching gamers: http://www.xfire.com/cms/imedia.
Anything else you’d like to share?
At this point, I think I’ve covered everything you’d wanted to know and more 😉 If anyone’s got any questions or wants a demo, my Xfire username is Wyndairn.
Lean Leadership Interviews
|Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way, shares his thoughts on Toyota Kata, why sometimes root cause analysis isn't necessary, and what else he is excited to learn - even after 30 years of being a student of the Toyota Production System.|
|In this Podcast interview with Eric Ries, the author of The Leanstartup, we learn about the how he's applied Lean principles to starting companies. He also tells us about his consulting work with GE and how GE, worldwide, has applied Leanstartup throughout all its divisions and is considering Leanstartup as its new Operating System for the company.|
|Michael Balle is a leading voice in Lean. In this interview, he shares with us his thoughts on Lean, tells us about his book, and spends a good amount of time discussing Respect for People.|
|Michael Jones, Head of Content at eBay||Michael Jones is the Head of Content at eBay and is the son of Daniel T. Jones, the co-author of The Machine that Changed the World - the watershed book that first brought awareness of the Toyota Production System to America.|
|We caught up with Akash Trevidi, a product manager at Kiva.org, the microfinance company that aims to help entrepreneurs worldwide in order to alleviate poverty through self-reliance and entrepreneurship.|
|We caught up with Hugh Molotsi at the Lean Startup Conference. Hugh is the VP of Innovation at Intuit Labs. In this interview, we discuss how to encourage everyone's voice in innovative product development and in solving problems.|
|Zetdi Runyan Sloan leads the startup and entrpreneurship events at the New Mexico State University. Learn about how use of Lean Startup.|
|Al Dupree is the head of innovation at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. In this interview, he discusses his use of Lean Startup principles in the world of research and innovation.|
|Cory Strong, Lean Leader at Nebraska Health System||Cory Strong first learned Lean by learning the Kawasaki Production System. Many years later, he finds himself in the exciting and high impact world of Lean Healthcare as a Lean Leader at the Nebraska Health System.|
|We interview Kaizen Institute (Kaizen.com) CEO Jon Miller. In this interview, we get a glimpse of Jon's balanced and thoughtful approach to learning, teaching, and the application of the Toyota Production System.|
Global Head of Lean Management at Hartmann Group
|Jonathan Escobar Marin is a Lean Leader and practitioner who first learned of the Toyota Production System while he was on a benchmarking trip to Toyota while employed at Procter and Gamble. In this interview you learn about his journey and how he blends the High Performance Organization Model with Lean.|
|Interview with Daniel Debow, Senior Vice President at SalesForce.com; In this podcast, we discuss Deming, Lean at SalesForce, and the SalesForce Wearables Initiative.|
|Matt Long, VP of Continuous Improvement and 24 year veteran at Herman Miller Inc. shares with us the history of Lean at Herman Miller, their association with the Toyota Supplier Support Center, and about the Herman Miller Performance System.|
|This interview with Dr. Bob Emiliani covers several aspects of Fake Lean versus Real Lean. There are real insights here from the "Lean Professor".|
|Michel Baudin is an author, highly-sought after consultant in the Toyota Production System. In this interview we learn about his distinctions between Lean-Lite versus Lean-Deep and how he understand the Respect for People Principle versus Respect for the Human as is used internally at Toyota.|
|Lean Branding is an application of Lean principles to branding. Read her provocative and practical approach to brand branding using the principles of Lean.|
|Robert Martichenko is the Founder and CEO of LeanCor - a lean logistics and supply chain company. He is also the author of the book "A Lean Fulfillment Stream", published by the Lean Enterprise Institute. In this interview, he shares with us how Lean can be applied effectively beyond the 4 walls of manufacturing and outside the office, but infused into the entire supply chain.|
|Leanpub is an innovative approach to book publishing, where Peter believes that lean principles apply. He claims that writing a book is essentially a startup. And, the worst waste of all is writing a book that nobody wants. Read more to learn how to apply lean to the world of book publishing.|
|Keith Sparkjoy is the Culture Officer at Pluralsight, a Utah company that raised $135 Million in 2014 - an unprecedented amount of venture capital. And, here's the really cool part, as the culture officer, he's trying to transform his company using Dr. W. Edward Deming's teachings.|
|David J. Anderson is the pioneer of the application of Kanban for creative knowledge work. His methodology and approach has had widespread acceptance and adoption and in this interview he shares results from companies that have tried his approach and other lessons learned.|
|Dimitar Karaivanov is the CEO of Kanbanize, a visual kanban system designed for creative and knowledge workers. In this interview, we discuss the product and its many uses and how it embodies the principles of Lean.|
|Chris Hefley is the CEO of LeanKit, a company that provides Virtual Kanban software for software development teams and knowledge workers. Reah his interview and learn what led to the development of LeanKit and the role Lean and the Toyota Production System plays.|
|In this interview with Dan Markovitz, we learn why he believes that everything is connected to the customer through the office. Based on this belief, he feels that Lean for Office makes the most sense. Read and learn how he's implemented Lean for the Office.|
|Jason Yip is a noted thoughtleader in software engineering. As a consultant, he helps software engineering organizations get better. In this interview, we learn the state of software engineering and the role of Agile, Lean for Software and Kanban.|
|Matthew May is an author and influential voice in Lean and also Design Thinking. He worked close to a decade at University of Toyota to help codify the Toyota Production System. In this interview, he shares with us his thoughts on his experience and what we can learn from it.|
|Lean Healthcare expert Mark Graban stops by and share his thoughts with Shmula readers on how Lean can be applied to arguably the most important industry in the world, healthcare.|
|Art Smalley is one of the most honest and influential voices in Lean. He was the first American to work in Japan's Kamigo plant, the plant where Taiichi Ohno began the Toyota Production System. He shares with us his thoughts on the Lean Movement and where it is going wrong.|
|Lean is being applied to every facet of business. Jeff Gothelf shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean for user experience, or Lean UX.|
|Cecil Dijoux shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean to IT, definitely a must-read if you are in the information technology space.|
|Brent Wahba is a fellow at the Lean Enterprise Institute and shares with us his thoughts on Lean for Sales and Marketing.|
Interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
|In December 2008, I was fortunate enough to interview Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. In a 5 part series of interviews, we discuss the Zappos strategy and Tony answers questions on why he chooses to focus on the customer and how he sees that as strategic.|
Interviews with Customer Experience Experts
|Mark Roenigk, COO of Rackspace and Board Member at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation||Rackspace Interview on Customer Experience: We interviewed Mark Roenigk on June 10, 2013. We discussed the Net Promoter Score and also topics around process improvement and how Rackspace places the customer first.|
|Shep Hyken Customer Service Interview: We interviewed Shep Hyken on June 3, 2013 and discussed topics close to his heart - the customer. We focused our discussion on customer service and how focusing on the customer is strategic, not just tactical.|
|Annette Franz Gleneicki on Customer Experience Strategy: Annette Gleneicki is a customer experience thought leader and Director at Confirmit, a voice of the customer platform. We discuss her thoughts on customer experience and the direction of the overall field.|
|Michel Falcon on Improving the Customer Experience: Michel Falcon is a former executive at 1800GOTJUNK and was the person who propelled 1800GOTJUNK to become a customer service powerhouse. In this interview, we discuss what he did and the lessons he learned.|
|Adam Ramshaw, a customer experience consultant with Genroe, explains the relationship between continuous improvement and customer experience.|
Aza Raskin, Author, Startup Founder, and Son of Mac Inventor Jef Raskin
|This is a multi-part Interview with Aza Raskin, on the Humane Interface.
Mary Poppendieck, Author and codifier of Lean for Software Engineering
|In this multi-part interview with Mary Poppendieck, the pre-eminent evangelist and teacher for Lean for Software, explains Lean Software Engineering.
|The inventor of Clocky, Gauri Nanda, shares with us her thoughts on innovation and the birth of Clocky|
Gretchen Rubin, Author and evangelist of Happiness
|In March 2010, I held a 2 part series of interview with Gretchen Rubin, the author of the Happiness Project. Her answers to reader's questions on a variety of topics centering on happiness will enlighten you. Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, shares with us here thoughts on how to be happy and what our part is in choosing to be happy.|
|Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow, shares with us his thoughts on this interview with Zillow back in June 2006.|
|Josh Coates, the founder of Mozy, shares with us jokes and the innovation behind Mozy.|
|Lloyd Hildebrand describes Diabetic Retinopathy and how his company, Inoveon, a Telemedicine Company, aims to eradicate diabetic retinopathy.|
|Ryan Kiskis of xFire, the developer of World of Warcraft, explains his thoughts on innovation.|
|Kaboodle, was clearly the predecessor to Pinterest. We learn about Kaboodle and the innovation behind it.|
|Mark Jen, VP of Product Management at Plaxo, a Contact management company, the predecessor to Linkedin speaks to us about innovation and the business of business networking.|
|Bzzagent, the word of mouth marketing company, explains the power of the buzz.|