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E3 Interview

Dana Massey Posted:
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Support company thrives as the MMO giant grows

There is more to games than just making them. Themis Group is one of the myriad of companies best known for their community management and public relations arms. Yet, over the last few years, they have grown into a multi-faceted organization that specializes in one thing: gamers.

Now a seven-figure miniature empire, their ventures include community based websites (WarCry Network), public relations and marketing (TAP Interactive), community management (PlayerBase Solutions) and their latest venture, a hard-cutting online game magazine (The Escapist).

At E3 2006, I spoke to Alexander Macris, Themis Group CEO and Co-Founder, about his company, its growth and what it does for the game industry.

The Escapist has become their flagship brand. This web-magazine publishes a weekly themed issue on some aspect of the game industry. Unlike most though, they have been paying writers top dollar since day one and the quality is reflected in the work. The magazine has grown over the past year into a widely read and highly respected form of game journalism. According to Macris, the magazine is read by a host of industry insiders. They even ran a four part article by Warren Spector, the designer of Deus Ex.

What’s more, the company’s annual E3 party – held in a club on the Sunset Strip – bore the magazine’s name.

How then does a site that pays writers top dollar and throws extravagant parties with almost no revenue?

It doesn’t, says Macris, at least not yet.

Readers will notice the lack of advertising, but soon that should change. Macris wanted to build the brand to a stage where the readership warranted top tier advertising. Earlier this year, they ran magazine style ads for Carlsberg, among others.

“It wouldn’t take much for the Escapist to become profitable,” he added.

The WarCry Network is another arm of the Themis Group. Among the original group of fan site networks, the WarCry Network survives to this day in that highly competitive space. Macris explained how the first generation - WarCry, Stratics and the Vault, among others – attempted to compete as community sites. The second generation, such as the recently IGE acquired Alakazam, swooped in as database and information sites. Macris sees the third generation as a combination of the two and expects WarCry to lead the way.

With that in mind, WarCry has re-launched their World of WarCraft and Dungeons and Dragons Online sites as a hybrid of the two styles. Since this happened, traffic on both sites has doubled.

Their public relations and marketing wing, TAP Interactive, are partly what makes sites like MMORPG.com tick. They represent a range of MMORPGs and other games. Their roster currently includes Auran, UBISoft, Nokia, Runestone and Perpetual Entertainment, among others. On a day-to-day basis, we work with them for coverage of games like Fury, The Saga of Ryzom and SEED.

Their smallest, but ironically the wing that brought Themis to where it is today, is PlayerBase Solutions. The community half of this wing specializes in grassroots relationships with players through message boards, GM and event services, etc. At the moment, they have several hidden contracts, in that they provide the service transparently, and one public one: Jumpgate.

PlayerBase Solutions also researches the industry. This includes white papers, customer research, etc. This is the kind of information they provide to companies as they try to position themselves in such a saturated market.

One of the historic staples of the Themis Group, the Themis Report, was an annual report on the state of the MMORPG industry. That, like the Escapist, was a brand building exercise. Macris says that instead they prefer to concentrate on the smaller scale white papers of PlayerBase Solutions.

To most, this diverse group of companies would seem at odds. How can someone own both a media outlet and marketing company? Outside the game world, it happens all the time. AOL Time Warner owns everything from movie studios to media outlets like CNN. So then, what is the common thread that holds this together?

Macris sees his company as one that specializes in gamers of all kinds. More and more, marketing is being ignored and as companies seek new ways to spread their message, they’ll need to find people who know how to reach highly specialized target market. Gamers are Themis Group’s specialty.

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Editor's Note: I am an occasional freelance contributor to the Escapist. While I do not believe that in any way impacts the article, it should be noted.


Dana Massey