Sagi Schliesser explained how the company he co-founded, TabTale, was able to release 300 games in 4 years in his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. One of the lessons they learned was that, according to him, “Consistency is critical.”
Sagi Schliesser is a family man. He has two daughters, of which he is their “number one fan,” and takes part in all the regular fatherly tasks: helping with homework, cooking, talking with them, guiding them through life, and even playing games with them.
It’s the last item on that list that ended up getting Schliesser into the games industry. “My daughters would ask to play games on my phone, and there weren’t any that they wanted to play,” he says. Rather than bemoan the state of things, Schliesser decided to do something about it. A born entrepreneur who has always had a creative side, he used his connections as a technology executive to bring together game-makers in order to build engaging apps — with a focus on the children’s market. The result: TabTale.
Founded in 2010, the company first focused on interactive books and their first app, A Christmas Tale, hit #1 in the iOS App Store. And they’ve skyrocketed from there. The company had 25 million downloads in 2012, 100 million in 2013, and over 500 million this year alone.
Things have changed a lot since 2010. When the company started, there wasn’t mobile content directed toward kids — now, not only is there practically a mobile device for everyone on the planet, there are various tablets and electronics geared toward children. The company, which established their operations on iOS because of its dominance, is now operating in the Android market as well because it has found equal footing with iOS in the games market.
“(It’s been) stated by many people before that the only constant in mobile gaming today is change, and we keep seeing it constantly on the App Store,” Schliesser says. He notes though that “we are a nimble company, and adjust as we learn and as the industry changes.”
When TabTale started, they focused on the North American market. Today, they have strong audiences around the world — including in Asian markets and the Chinese market in particular. The company even recently acquired a Chinese studio.
Along with China, TabTale operates in five countries — a key part of TabTale’s strategy for growth. “When TabTale was created, part of our vision was to create a global company which does not have ‘one voice’ and taste, but rather a fusion of different cultures and talents,” Schliesser says. “We believe it can bring kids from different countries to learn about more than just the movie-type characters (they see in film) and enrich their experience.”
Schliesser notes that having a multicultural company is a great incubator for many different ideas and innovation. Part of his focus as CEO of TabTale is to make sure creativity keeps flowing and communication between everyone is open and continuous.
“Camaraderie and creativity flow from one conversation to the next at TabTale. We have fun in what we do — that’s important to our success,” he says. However, there is no room for things that gum up the works — like clashing egos. “TabTale already has over 200 people, but I have zero tolerance for red-tape or politics and (I’m making sure) we build a great DNA of people.”
Another key contributor of TabTale’s success is Crazy Labs — the company’s publishing arm. According to Schliesser, TabTale’s “Top 10” status worldwide downloads is largely due to the popularity of Crazy Labs games released over the summer — such as Airheads Jump and Cheating Tom. “In the first two weeks of release, each game had at least one million downloads — and Cheating Tom crossed 3.5 million so far,” he says.
The company got into the marketing game after coming to the conclusion that with their expertise in marketing and monetization, they could help a lot of great games — like the kind made by indie developers — get noticed. While they are very selective about the partners they choose, they are also very active in mentoring those they work with through whatever fine-tuning is needed to make the game a success.
“There is a lot of talent and creativity being put into great games (by) gamers who know what other gamers want to play,” Schliesser says. “We want to put their game in the top charts so that they can continue to keep making great games.”
TabTale is also keeping an eye focused on the horizon. Schliesser notes that wearables are a big trend the company is closely watching. However, the challenge is learning how to engage gamers with the technology in a way that is clearly beneficial to everyone — consumer and company alike.
The company is also closely watching Android TV, the rise of mobile-to-TV gaming, and 3D printing. “We believe the ‘family board games’ model will be extended to the living room using the big screen and handsets for playing, and we are already in the lead to meet this change — as well as the revolution which is bound to happen with the costs of 3D printing lowering and kids’ love for customized games or accessories.”
Meanwhile, TabTale is continuing to build its mobile game portfolio to suit all ages — with a strong focus on the kids demographic, of course — and expand its reach into Asian markets. They are also making inroads into the non-mobile markets. In the last year, the company announced a collaboration with Microsoft to bring their games to Windows stores, marking their first steps into the PC world.
“However,” Schliesser notes, “there are many new platforms to explore.”