Domain strategy of a small but global game developer
May 26, 2018 (Sat). Few days ago, I read the news of a small company in New Zealand joining the Tencent group in China, so I was interested in how it happened and how they used domains in their business.
Grinding Gear Games started in a garage in Auckland, New Zealand in 2006 to develop online action role-playing video games. In 2013, it published its popular game "Path of Exile" which was named PC Game of the Year by GameSpot and Best PC Role-playing Game of 2013 by IGN. That caught the attention of China-based Tencent, the 5th largest internet company and the largest game publisher in the world. In 2017, Grinding Gear Games teamed up with Tencent to release Path of Exile in China. Their relationship escalated last week when the game developer announced the sale of 80% of its shares to Tencent. Joining Tencent's network will enable Grinding Gear Games to further expand its gaming business worldwide, and Tencent's investment is also an endorsement of the skills and talents of this 114-staff company in New Zealand.
Now, let's study the domains owned by Grinding Gear Games. Both GrindingGearGames.com and GrindingGear.com were registered in 2006 when the company was formed. One year later, PathofExile.com was added. The country extension .nz was of no interest to them until 2016 when GrindingGear.co.nz was acquired. Interestingly, GrindingGearGames.co.nz and PathofExile.co.nz are still available for registration as of this writing.
By looking at the domains registered as well as those that are not, we can conclude that at the very beginning the company already positioned itself as a global -- not New Zealand -- company even when it was just a tiny operation.
Another observation is the use of the shorter GrindingGear.com as their corporate domain even though they secured GrindingGearGames.com at the same time. This shows that the company expected the brand to become shorter in due course; however, the company could still depend on the longer name in case their vision did not pan out. This is good brand protection and prevents misguided visitors and email leakage of confidential information. In addition to corporate domains, they also cared about product domains by registering PathofExile.com as a dedicated website for the fans of their popular game title.
All in all, the story of Grinding Gear Games encourages even tiny startups to think big and position themselves as global players. The internet is global by its very nature so by default you are a global business on day one. To become a global player, you must secure your brand matching name on the global extension .com. Of course, country extensions are still important because they can be used to meet local rules or market conditions if required.