Ville Heijari gave his audience insights on tools that work when launching a game, engaging users, building long-term growth, and setting a game apart from the rest during Casual Connect Kyiv 2013. He explored the latest trends in player acquisition, engagement, and monetization while providing examples from successful mobile developers.
Ville Heijari, General Manager, Europe at Playhaven, works closely with the European game developer community, particularly in helping F2P developers understand, adopt, and integrate the business engine Playhaven offers. To this position, he brings extensive experience working with developers and publishers. Throughout his career, Heijari has emphasized the importance of understanding the concerns and motivations of players so developers can learn what it takes to run a healthy business while providing a captivating game experience. He insists on the need for anyone working in mobile analytics, advertising, marketing or CRM to have this firsthand experience.
Challenging Problems, Different Solutions
There are several issues facing the games industry today that Heijari sees as both complex and deep-seated. Game discovery continues to be a major challenge for developers, as does overall in-game engagement. Service providers, networks, and data are fragmented, leaving many developers and publishers confused.
He believes the industry will rise to these challenges through greater consolidation of service providers, publisher networks, and developers. He recommends, “Developers and publishers should be more open to collaboration and sharing their reach, and service providers should be able to offer more coherent and extensive tools, at reasonable and scalable costs.”
At Playhaven, they respond to these challenges by remaining open to new opportunities and technologies. For example, they offer wide support for different development platforms, including Unity, Adobe AIR, Corona, and Marmalade. He also points out, “Different solutions have different strengths and weaknesses, so non-exclusivity should be a no brainer.”
The Free-to-Play Megatrend
As Heijari considers the direction the games industry will take in the next few years, he suggests that the biggest trend for the next three years will be F2P. He points out that the industry is still split on the value of premium and freemium business models three years after the trend emerged in the western hemisphere. So he believes that, although F2P is already a megatrend, it will take about three years before the F2P mindset is established across the whole industry, with a balance between fun and business. At Playhaven, their focus on this trend means continually working with cutting edge developers providing them with the best-in-class tools to effortlessly run their businesses so they can concentrate their efforts on creating amazing and engaging games.
Although Heijari is clearly highly focused on his work, at other times, he enjoys cycling and calls himself a bike nut, constantly fiddling with his bikes. He also enjoys running and, of course, video games. He listens to electronic music, especially tech house, which he finds perfect for a flow state focused exercise.
Launching into Space
Heijari claims the launch of Angry Birds Space as the greatest moment of his career. He played a part in assembling an array of partnerships, media exposure, stunts, and audiovisual material to support the launch of this incredible game, helping push it to a record number of downloads in a remarkably short time. He says, “There were a lot of things we accomplished during my time at Rovio, thanks to a dedicated team pulling together with incredible effort. But physics demonstrations using Angry Birds plushes on the International Space Station? You absolutely cannot beat that!”
Metrics and Common Sense
The biggest challenge Heijari has faced in his career was managing customer interfaces while transitioning Rovio from a games company to a media company, juggling the interests of all stakeholders involved. Instead of just keeping loyal fans happy, suddenly he had to balance business and marketing partnerships, licensee interests, and new media products, at the same time as retaining as many people as possible and bringing in new audiences. He insists, “There is really no way around it except metrics and common sense.”
Stick to your Strategy
He states, “The most important thing I learned is that focus is essential to the successful execution of your strategy. Focus on things that engage the crap out of players and fans, impact the bottom line, and expand your business in the future. Everything else needs to go.”
At Casual Connect Kyiv, Heijari announced that Playhaven’s Push Notification beta program is in full swing and they are continuing to accept new applicants. Hundreds of developers have already signed up, and interested developers can gain access to the beta tool at here.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.