In our continuing series on women in video games and esports, we’re chatting with Crystal Dugan, head of marketing for Bionik and My Arcade. Dugan oversees brand initiatives across both programs for Bionik’s line of gaming accessories and My Arcade’s collection of retro gaming machines and products. One of those products is a set of headphones that helps esports players hear and release heat while they’re playing.
Dugan is also responsible for driving brand recognition, launching new products, developing web content, and managing social media efforts across both brands. She told SYFY FANGRRLS all about working on the social media side, her lifelong love of gaming, and advice for getting into the industry.
Tell us about what your job entails and what the day-to-day is like for you.
Sure. Basically, I head two of our gaming brands, which is called Bionik, which is for more car gaming. It's really cool and unique items for the Switch, PS4, Xbox, all the major consoles. The other brand is My Arcade, which is such a fun brand because it's all retro stuff, PAC-MAN, Galaga, all the really cool retro titles that you know and love. As the head of marketing, I kind of handle everything that kind of falls under the umbrella of marketing, whether it's the social media or working with our outside PR company. I do have a small team that works underneath me, and they're great. All the email marketing, anything that goes into our website, and things like that. It's a little bit crazy. Of course, we have our big events like E3 that I'm sure you've heard of. We're actually planning for CES. I don't know if you go to that one, but it's in January. We're kind of in the trenches with that one right now. We have a really cool booth set up this year, and it's for the My Arcade brand and I'm super excited about it because it's like an arcade. How can you not be excited?
In what ways do you interact with esports?
So, [in] esports we're looking at for more of the Bionik brand. We haven't looked at it for the retro band at this moment, but I have been in talks with a couple of teams to see if we can kinda get involved in that arena. I think esports is really cool and we have some upcoming products that'll work really well with it so we definitely want to get involved in that, too, but more for Bionik at this point just because it's more gear that they would play with.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the gear?
Yeah, we have this really cool headset that we actually announced at E3, and it's called the Aries and it's got this really cool tech in it. It’s got a carbon fiber type of lightweight band, and it has different pieces that you can interchange to make them feel more customized. The coolest thing is the patent-pending technology that we have called Air8, and basically, you can move the actual over-ear pad things open and close. A lot of gamers, their ears get really hot when they're gaming so they can open it to allow the airflow in... I know that a lot of gamers have friends or significant others with them in the room, they can just turn it open and hear them and have a conversation with them as well, while not losing that over-ear type of feel with the gaming. I'm really excited about those. I actually need a new pair of gaming headsets for myself so I'm trying to hold until those are ready. I'm just waiting for these because they're super lightweight. They're wired which I actually prefer over wireless — I don't know, there's just something about it and I'm really lazy. I don't like to charge things. So I'm really excited about it. It comes with bass boost, too, so you can really crank up the bass if you really want and I'm kind of one of those types so I'm really excited about those.
Tell us a little bit about how you got into this career to begin with.
I've always been a gamer, all my life. I started when I was a kid with my brother with the NES. It's always been an intriguing industry for me and I'm a nerd in general so this is just something I'm just drawn to. A couple years ago, I saw a posting for this company and I was doing marketing, at, believe it or not, an insurance place, I was at an insurance company, and I met with my now-boss who's the creative director and I just kind of fell in love with this place and his vision. It worked out and I'm so happy to be in this industry. I love my job. I know the industry really well and it's something that it just feels natural, you know?
What sort of advice would you give to people who are trying to get into this side of the business? One of the things we want to do with this series is highlight different parts of the gaming industry that people can get into.
Like you said, there are a lot of different aspects and paths in this industry. It's not all about the console makers or the ones that make the games. There's also like what we're doing is accessories so it's a little bit different. So there really are a ton of avenues. I would recommend looking into one that best suits your interest. I love these retro machines we make and that's because I'm super into retro gaming. I think it makes a difference when you're really passionate about something, it really shows through. It makes it so easy to talk to people and these shows and do interviews and things because it's really something I can relate to everybody with. I would definitely look at what types of paths are available and really do your research on the industry itself. I think it does take a lot to know what the trends are in the industry and things like that. For instance, the retro thing is huge right now so knowing that and kinda bringing that into, when you're going in to interview or looking for companies you want to work for, know what industry they're in. Know it and then use that to leverage yourself.
Tell us some more about the retro gaming machines because I've been playing since PAC-MAN , so I very much appreciate retro.
Well, we have a PAC-MAN. So they're actually six inches tall. They're called a micro-player. They're kind of like a collector's series, kinda like the Pop figures. You want to get them all. It's kind of the same thing where it's the cabinet, we work really closely with our licensors. For instance, PAC-MAN is Bandai Namco so we worked really closely with them to make sure that the cabinet artwork is really authentic and is really paying homage to the original ones. And then we also offer a bigger 10-inch version, which has all the Bandai Namco heads so it has PAC-MAN, Galaga, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Mappy, Splatterhouse, which is one of my favorites. So we have these different cabinets. They're really great. We're going to continue to work with more and more licensors. We have a new, we've done Data East and Bandai Namco to date and then CES, we're announcing a brand new partnership which is really exciting and I can't say yet, but it's gonna be really exciting.
In terms of the social media work that you do, how do you manage that at a time when social media can be pretty intense?
I want to tell you that is actually one of the hardest aspects. It's just, both of these brands are newer so we're pretty much building from the ground up. I wasn't stepping into, hey we already have millions of followers, just manage it. This is kind of something we're building from the ground up for the past year or two. It is challenging, especially when you have multiple brands. It's very time consuming and you want to do content, create content that really connects with your viewers and it's really important to me to engage them in conversation and have an ongoing conversation and sometimes that can even help with product research and things like that. I think social media is a very important aspect of the overall marketing job, but it is again, one of the most challenging.
How have you seen things changing in the video game industry since you started in this side of the business?
You know, it's interesting. A lot of it has moved towards online gaming verse...not necessarily online gaming, but purchasing games online now. So when I started, everyone was buying their games in store and now you can just download them on your actual device and things like that which has caused a big change in physical retail locations and things. It's kind of eliminating some of the typical sources of where we would reach our end customer. So, really most of the stuff has moved online versus being more physically in stores so an online presence is so much more important than it was even just a couple years ago.
Are there any new projects that you can talk about that you want to promote?
We are introducing the... I kind of briefly mentioned the 10 inch Namco Museum Arcade machine. It's so cool. I love it. It's coming out in December. You'll start to see it on store shelves, but it has 20 Bandai Namco heads and like I said PAC-MAN and all those great ones. I'm really excited about that one. I think that'll be a really fun, big nostalgic piece because of the kind big hits that'll be in.