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Summary:

Apple is said to be in the process of bringing on Rob Saunders and Nick Grange, two top gaming industry PR execs, according to reports. If true, this could signal a move by Apple to play to its strengths in the ongoing mobile wars.

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Apple is said to be in the process of bringing on Rob Saunders and Nick Grange, two top PR execs working in the gaming industry, according to reports by UK gaming magazine MCV. Saunders just left a position as Nintendo UK’s head of PR, while Grange is currently Activision’s European PR director.

MCV doesn’t reveal its sources, and Apple hasn’t commented officially, but the gaming industry trade publication did break the news of Saunders departure earlier in the week, suggesting it has solid sources in this matter. Apple is also reportedly losing VP of Worldwide Marketing Communications Allison Johnson, according to a report from All Things Digital, so there is likely a PR gap to be filled.

If the reports are accurate, I think Apple wants to push gaming to the fore when it comes to marketing its App Stores, because this is already an area where it has a significant advantage over its competitors in the mobile space. The software library for iOS continues to be Apple’s greatest advantage when it comes to measuring the mobile platform against its competition from Google and others, and that’s an advantage that so far seems to have evolved without much active shepherding on Apple’s part (barring the “Funnest iPod Ever” campaign). If Apple puts a concentrated effort into promoting titles (gaming and otherwise) that are iOS exclusive, in the same way video game consoles have, it could help the company distinguish its mobile OS in the eyes of more consumers. Saunders and Grange know that game well, so it makes sense that Apple would be interested in bringing them on board.

Saunders has been with Nintendo UK for seven years, during which time he was crucial in the successful launches of the Wii and the DS, and established a strong relationship between the company and the mainstream media. If Apple wants to push the success of its devices as gaming platforms (games content is by far the strongest seller across the iPhone, iPad and Mac App Stores), who better to hire than a man who played a key role in the launch and ongoing success of two of gaming’s most successful hardware products ever? MCV reports that Saunders will focus on PR for iPad, iPod and iPhone apps.

Nick Grange has worked primarily on the software side. He spent time at Electronic Arts and Microsoft, and joined Activision in 2007, where he is currently the European PR director. MCV doesn’t report any specifics regarding what Grange’s role at Apple would be, but his area of expertise definitely matches the job description the magazine reported for Saunders, suggesting that Apple may be considering a significant broadening of its app promotion efforts.

  1. I think Apple has decided to work gaming into its corporate structure, but this is not enough to really set them apart from the competition. Apple also has to provide significant resources (people, money) to gaming and come up with something special. Not an easy or inevitably successful thing to do (see, e.g., the struggles of Microsoft in this area), but Apple is in a position to make a go of it– and they should.

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  2. If this is true it’s a serious move by Apple to take on the games industry and eat into the market share of the bigger players.

    If it’s to work the need to sort one thing out right now: the Game Centre. It really isn’t able to match Microsofts excellent online community set up. Get that right (can you imagine GC working like a mix of XBL and 4Sq for example?), and you’ll create a huge community of iOS gamers all willing to shell out on micro payments for the games they love…

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