Business is pleasure for game maker

Walt Cook, The Union Democrat /

Sports, music and video games. For most people, they're extracurricular activities.

But for Doug Kennedy, of Twain Harte, they've amounted to work - very fun work.

Kennedy is the owner of Reverb Communications, a Twain Harte-based

marketing company that has promoted a number of big-name items since

its 2003 inception, including the iPhone and video games Guitar Hero

and Rock Band.

Kennedy started his career with the Phoenix Suns after attending

Arizona State University in the late 1980s. As a self-described "sports

fanatic," it was a dream job.

But, from there, things got even better.

In the early 1990s, he landed a job with electronics giant Sony. As

part of his duties - he was a "merchandise manager" - he toured with

rock bands like Pearl Jam, Sublime and No Doubt. In 1995, Sony

introduced its PlayStation, the forerunner to its popular PS3 video

game console, and charged Kennedy with promoting it while on tour.

As a big fan of the era's music and an avid video-game player - or gamer - it was a natural fit. He loved the job.

Kennedy's upward career trajectory only continued from there. By

2000, he was assisting in the launch of Xbox, Microsoft's highly

successful answer to the PlayStation 2 and predecessor to the Xbox 360.

He had just moved to Twain Harte, where he owned a vacation home, from

San Jose.

After the Xbox launch, Kennedy had an ambitious plan: Why not put

his skills, gained after over a decade of marketing, to work for

himself?

So he did. Reverb was incorporated - along with the help of co-founder Tracie Snitker - in 2003. Kennedy has no regrets.

"I couldn't be more passionate about what I do for a living,"

Kennedy said. "I absolutely love my job. I'm blessed that I've been

able to work in this industry."

Reverb now boasts a payroll of 13 full-time employees and annual

revenue of $1 million to $10 million. Kennedy is hesitant to give

specific figures, but, either way, for Tuolumne County, his operation

is a big one.

Reverb's success can be chalked up to its business plan. Kennedy

and Snitker's goal was to represent up-and-coming gaming companies,

whose "great ideas," Kennedy said, we're being pushed out of the

industry by bigger players.

But Kennedy and Snitker found that such companies didn't always

have money to pay up-front. So - following in the footsteps of pro-bono

lawyers - they set up a compensation program that provided Reverb with

a share of profits and a stake in the particular company.

In short, if the company in question did well, so did Reverb.

Luckily, one of Reverb's early clients was RedOctane, which, at the

time, was trying to spread the word about its new game called "Guitar

Hero," where players use a guitar-shaped game controller to play along

with popular rock songs.

"Guitar Hero" ended up becoming an unexpected cultural phenomenon

in 2005, with 1.5 million copies eventually sold and $45 million in

sales generated.

RedOctane was subsequently bought out by gaming giant Activision as

a result of its success. That meant not only a big payday for

RedOctane, but also Reverb.

Reverb has since worked on dozens of video game titles for the

Apple iPhone, Xbox 360, PS3, Facebook social networking site and the

Nintendo Wii gaming system.

Kennedy and Snitker see plenty of opportunity in the future, even with the recent recession.

For one, the duo said, the gaming audience is made up of both old

and young (video games have been around since the 1970s, Kennedy

noted). And new technology - like the iPhone and Facebook - have made

games available to a wide audience and people on the go, who at one

time may have shunned video games.

"You can have a 30-second game session now," Snitker said. "Gaming is everywhere."

In addition, Kennedy said live updates allow games to generate more

revenue for companies beyond their roughly $50 price tag, as players

pay to add more features to their favorite games.

It also helps that gaming technology has been improving at

seemingly exponential rates, Kennedy said, resulting in mind-blowing

graphics and sounds that keep drawing new people in.

Kennedy and Snitker practice what they preach. They play video games regularly at home and, of course, at work.

11770973
The Union Democrat
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