The biggest names in the video game industry can no longer do without the strategic services of Sparkers, an SME based in La Hulpe. Until now remained discreet, this technological nugget has the potential to impose itself and become a world leader in the entertainment sector.
“We support the entertainment industry in the broad sense for everything related to understanding the market, sectoral developments, commercial performance”, contextualizes Gilles Collet, CEO of Sparkers. This forties graduate in management from the Louvain School of Management and having made his debut at Deloitte leads with Sébastien Van Vyve this new structure founded in 2020 on the basis of another techno company active in B to B. Sparkers employs around fifty people, mainly at the headquarters in Walloon Brabant but also in its offices – already – scattered around the world with teams in Sydney, Madrid or London, to name but a few.
“We support the entertainment industry in the broad sense for everything related to understanding the market, sectoral developments, commercial performance”, contextualizes Gilles Collet, CEO of Sparkers. This forties graduate in management from the Louvain School of Management and having made his debut at Deloitte leads with Sébastien Van Vyve this new structure founded in 2020 on the basis of another techno company active in B to B. Sparkers employs around fifty people, mainly at the headquarters in Walloon Brabant but also in its offices – already – scattered internationally with teams in Sydney, Madrid or London, to name a few. The management does not communicate for the time being on its turnover but suggests that it reaps “between 5 and 10 million euros” thanks to about twenty customers. And not least: EA, Ubisoft, Activision, Bandai Namco, Warner Bros, Sony PlayStation, etc. “We have always been a small box but working for large accounts”, pin Sébastien Van Vyve, co-CEO of Sparkers. This other forty-something, a sales engineer also graduated from Louvain and went through consultancy at Deloitte, already shared the helm with his counterpart in their previous boat. Sparkers customer inventory does indeed speak for itself. Only reference customers who weigh billions of dollars. The Belgian SME is blatantly the preferred partner of the global gaming industry. “We provide market measurement for video games in more than 50 countries. We cover everything from the west of the United Kingdom to the east of Japan”, explains Gilles Collet, who considers this situation as the company’s greatest accomplishment to date. “The whole of this industry, which is a mega-industry, has trusted us to play this role instead of large research institutes like Gfk, Nielsen and others.” To grill the courtesy of these major players in data analysis, Sparkers has found valuable support from the European Federation of Video Game Publishers (ISFE). The industry, as powerful as it is close-knit, was the first in the world to reclaim its own panel and to somehow free itself from these large institutes benefiting from a certain monopoly, according to sector observers. But Sparkers, a techno company in essence, has also taken advantage of its internal strengths by relying on very advanced in-house solutions to be able to measure everything that is happening in the world of video games and, more broadly, thanks to the acquisition , the processing and analysis of data from all types of sources. “We are a challenger for these analytics behemoths because they don’t come from the tech world. Historically, these large research offices are polling institutes that have gradually evolved into technology-based activities by charging for data … but it’s not in their genes like us”, pleads Sébastien Van Vyve. Being a tech box above all, Sparkers automates a series of processes and notably manages to provide services at prices much lower than the pundits of the competition. “This disruptive approach manifests itself through our lower costs, but also in our ability to capture more varied information, which is very important in a world that is becoming ever more digital”, takes care to add Gilles Collet . In the past, market analysis was confined to the physical world, that is to say, studying what is sold in stores at MediaMarkt and others. This represented 60 to 70% of the market. Whereas today, this commercial reality represents perhaps no more than 40%. “In general, business models are evolving very strongly. With the downloading of games of course, but also subscription systems, streaming, the explosion of micro-transactions, etc. Sparkers is very well equipped to capture all this data”, says Sébastien Van Vyve. The activities of the SME are therefore structured around a line of macro services, market analysis, and another micro, called Cockpit, which controls the performance of the distribution networks (depending on whether a game is sold on the PlayStation Network, Steam or in-store, for example). Sparkers is precisely working on “a big innovation that will be released soon”, namely the measurement of audiences on live streaming platforms. “Twitch is the biggest, but there are about twenty other relatively important ones in the world: Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming, in particular. We are talking about live here, which changes a lot of aspects, especially technological ones”, underlines Gilles Collet. Capturing all the data from the streams and processing it in real time is a real technical challenge, with data missed in the stream being unrecoverable and the reporting taking on fairly daunting proportions. But these live streaming media being born with the video game, more than 90% of audiences in the world are currently linked to gaming (game retransmission, gameplay test, previews, etc.) And the community dimension is very strong. “These platforms have become another way of interacting with players and fans, of presenting new games, add-ons,” says Gilles Collet. Naturally, these global audiences carry enormous potential in terms of advertising, sponsorship and other revenue. Tens or hundreds of millions of people log on every day. But the advertising market is only busy organizing itself. Because there is no international reference of measurement. “In the same way as in the traditional media, the industry had to structure itself around an audience recognized by all. If the media announces 100,000 viewers but the sponsor thinks that there are only 50,000 , it creates confusion and inefficiency in marketing”, explains the CEO. Ideally, Sparkers would therefore like to replicate its model of transactional analysis of video game sales and adapt it to live streaming. Finally, although Sparkers currently finances its growth organically, with equity, by reinvesting all its profitability , the two CEOs intend to test the support of investors in the near future. “If we have to address our internationalization in a strong way, fundraising in 2022 or 2023 will not be superfluous”, smiles Sébastien Van Vyve.