Animoca Brands‘ CEO, Robby Yung, shared his thoughts on leveraging brands in mobile games in his session at Casual Connect Europe 2015. One of the key challenges in his job is to keep brands at the table. “We try really to maintain close personal relationships with the people,” Robby says, “so that they are aware of our schedules, pipeline, and products. The better informed they are, the less likely they will be to look around to better opportunities”.
Robby Yung knows a thing or two about the intersection of technology, business, and media. After starting his career at wireless firm Metromedia, he went on to co-found two media outlets: Redgate Media and One Media Group.
Now, as the CEO of Animoca Brands — a leading developer and publisher of mobile games for global audiences — things have came full circle. This is his first role, he says, which has fully harnessed all of his years working across mobile, entertainment media, and internet companies. “In some ways, it seems like all those other experiences led to this role”, Robby says. “The part I enjoy most is bringing the things I learned to bear in the burgeoning gaming field.”
Robby entered into the mobile industry after having seen the tech boom of the 90s and the subsequent 2000s’ boom in China. He believed then that the mobile industry was going to dramatically change communications; and he wanted to play a role in it all.
After years of experience in Asia’s emerging internet and digital industries, Robby decided to tie it all together with a job in gaming. He looked up an old friend, Yat Siu — one of the co-founders of Animoca — who he heard had been making great strides in the app business.
After a couple hours of talking, Robby decided to take a leap into gaming. He worked as a director of Animoca up until last year, when a section of the company was spun off to form a separate Australian Stock Exchange listed sister company, Animoca Brands. Robby now heads this new division as CEO.
Robby loves the creativity and pace of innovation the gaming sector provides. “It’s become almost trite to say it, but this industry really does make dramatic changes every six months,” he says. “That keeps everyone on their toes.”
That need for continuous innovation can be a double-edged sword. While Robby loves this, he also sees keeping up with change as one of the biggest challenges he faces in his job.
He notes that even in the short time has has been in the industry, offer walls have waned in importance and premium apps have become marginalized. He also says that Android has become the dominant global platform in an industry pioneered by iOS.
Even now, things are in flux with in-game advertising looking to supersede in-app purchases before too long. The key, Robby explains, is to adapt to changes quickly and try to stay ahead of the curve. In anticipation of advertising eclipsing in-app purchases, Animoca Brands has already started working with agencies to incorporate product placements and other native ad formats into their apps.
Publishing and Development
As CEO, one of Robby’s focuses is publishing. He has found that to get the most out of a developer-publisher relationship, there needs to be a clear understanding of responsibilities and deadlines. He says that good project management is a must for creating quality products in a timely manner.
He also notes that, while it’s important for a publisher to share a developer’s vision, when it comes down to it, developers need to make sure that a publisher can deliver the users they want in the numbers, territories, and demographics they want. He suggests that developers seek a publisher with reach, experience, and resources.
And while publishers are more often used by smaller studios who don’t have the ability to focus on both publishing and development, he says even mid-size studios can find working with a publisher beneficial — especially when it comes to marketing games outside of a studio’s native territory, since publishers will have more knowledge of other markets and culture.
What Makes a Great Game
Robby Yung is also in charge of creating games from Animoca’s library of licensed intellectual property. Whether he’s in the role of creator, publisher, or even player, one of the things he watches for most in a game is the level of professionalism present. “When you play a great game, you can feel that the team cares about what they do, from the polish of the graphics to the sharpness of the gameplay, to the reliability of the engine,” Robby says.
Some of his personal favorites include Summa, a game which combines puzzles with math. He enjoys the challenge and appreciates how puzzle games can keep you coming back session after session. He also has a soft spot for Monument Valley, which reminds him of the original Myst.
Robby says that his proudest moment at Animoca happened last year, when part of the company spun off to form Animoca Brands. Not only was it something many people didn’t think they could do, but it made them market leaders by being the first mobile game company to list on the Australian stock exchange.
“I hope we’ve shown that we’re more than just another studio,” he says. “We couldn’t have done this without all the long days and nights our team spent making great games that gave us a story to tell the market.”