As one of the biggest mobile publishers in the world, Playrix has a lot of insight on how to resonate on a global scale. Tune in to an interview at Casual Connect Europe between Catherine Mylinh, VP of Marketing at Vungle, ad Artur Grigorjan, Marketing Growth Director at Playrix, in a discussion on how to grow a loyal player base and how to scale this approach to drive engagement and monetization. One of many tips Artur shared was: “More money will be pumped into user acquisition so as a smaller developer try to look out for optimizing your game for smaller volumes. Do not compete with higher budgets. Focus on your game first, UA (user acquisition) second.” See the full session below.
Artur Grigorjan is the growth director at Playrix. The company is a Russian mobile game developer and has created free-to-play titles like Township, Fishdom and Gardenscapes.
“My job is to focus on growth of company’s revenues by finding as many different highly profitable channels of acquisition as possible,” said Artur. “It includes both digital media and offline promotion. On a side note, it is also my job to represent the company’s marketing team and find new interesting opportunities to grow the company’s presence in different world markets. I noticed an offer and decided to go for it. It seemed very challenging and I wanted to try.”
Learn from the Inside
Artur started as a junior specialist working in marketing for Creative Mobile right after college. Eventually though, Artur says they got tired of the routine and wanted new challenges to test their skills.
“I didn’t know anything back then, but I have been playing games all my life, so it felt like the right choice to learn the ‘kitchen’ from the inside,” Artur explained. “Plus, I wanted to learn and find the field in which I wanted to specialize. After I started I got hooked in only a few days. Was it the right thing to do? I don’t know. Time will tell, whether I should have gone to a brokerage firm or to financial consulting, instead of doing games. The fun part is to talk to players when answering their questions on social media. When doing that you start to realize that there is something terribly wrong with the world.”
“Eventually I took over the department at Creative Mobile and grew the team to 10 people. I learned marketing in gaming business from the basics up to the most professional aspects,” continued Artur. “My previous experience primarily consisted of negotiations with various companies on different levels, both operational and strategic. At some point, I got really good at it. My new colleagues like to say that sometimes I kick the door open with my foot when entering a meeting room, although I have never noticed that.”
“The only challenges so far are time constraints,” Artur added. “I joined the company not so long ago. I knew I needed to find my own path and optimize my time based on the goals I had, but at the same time not to ruin existing processes, while still maintaining a smooth operation flow.
Delivering Content Around the Globe
Playrix operates across multiple markets, yet does most of its work using in-house staff. There are a few things that are outsourced, such as translation to 15 main languages, but the company tries to keep most of its functions in-house when it can, and Artur thinks that the company culture helps them succeed internationally where others might fail.
“Globalization has helped enough with destroying the boundaries and enabling delivery of content across the globe,” said Artur. “But it does not help in those aspects, where cultural differences do make a big impact on consumer behavior. The product needs to be fit for a certain market. Games are often being developed by people who are used to playing them themselves. Cultural aspect is not taken into consideration, because how on Earth would you do something, which you don’t know exists, haven’t tried it or don’t like doing.”
Similar issues end up plaguing mobile game localization. “Some fundamental mechanics are so natural, that are fit for every human, some are so different that you can’t have two completely different groups of people understand them in the same way, which in the end reflects on how they use the product,” said Artur. “The challenge is to unify the mechanics of the game to fit every major market, which sometimes is not possible. So it might be reasonable to focus only on key markets for which the fit is ensured. For other markets it might make sense to do a different game, because when you try to localize the game to fit a certain market, it might be so different that should be supported independently.”
While localization can be a challenge, distribution is much less of a challenge because of the lower level of fragmentation. “Game content is primarily distributed through major platform stores like Play and AppStore,” noted Artur. “There are different options as well, like working with carrier or OEM preloads, working with smaller stores, but for most of the time it doesn’t make much sense. Difficulties start occurring when some groups of people or countries do not accept the new order of things. There are different reasons behind it. Usually it is a question of control. Governments ban international distributors, or give them less advantages on their local markets. It is the same way with any other industry. Governments do everything they can to protect their markets from international interests. In some countries, it is regulated very hard, like in China. In some countries, less. For some countries, it is not an issue at all and they operate on an open market (mainly EU).”
Technology Changes, Market Principles Remain
Artur said that the company uses a variety of tools to understand user behavior. At the same time, there are some crucial attribution analytics that the company utilizes.
“Although technology changes, key market principles stay the same,” Artur insists. “Technology which appeared over the years has only optimized existing processes, but it hasn’t changed the fundamentals. Profit is still the main goal of any business. If that definition stays the same and we stay in the same economical system, those objectives won’t change. Getting to know how technology works and what was the idea behind it helps to incorporate it in to your business, if you see value from it. Ever since human early history technology has always been the tool to help people do what they always wanted, but it hasn’t been the goal itself. If you can’t see the value of a certain tool, then most likely you don’t need it. If you do see value, then you will find a way to master it and to make good use of it in your business processes.”
“The main challenge is to make the tool flexible enough for being able to consistently change or add functionality,” Artur added. “’Hard coding’ certain algorithms, is not the best way to go. Having the ability to change stuff along the way gives you more flexibility as a company. We are still handling them in Playrix. It’s an ongoing process. Day after day we try to improve the tools, which we possess into making them more efficient and meet our expectations.”
When asked about tools they would be worried about, Artur responded, “Maybe a highly sophisticated data driven automation tool for programmatic media buying. I think once something like that appears, a lot of people might lose their jobs. But from a business perspective this would give them more leverage to make the most out of their campaigns in a much more efficient way. This would definitely impact the way we acquire users.”
Yelling Out in a Field
When asked about the proudest moment of their career, Artur, pointed to a game for Creative Mobile, featuring a rap artist Fetty Wap. “That was the most exciting project I have ever done in my life. Was very challenging as well,” Artur said. “But in the end after about 100 emails each way, additional 40 emails with my lawyer and two trips to New York, I have managed to launch it. I did receive some help along the way. But mostly this project was done on a very low budget. The biggest contribution was the investment of my own time.”
When asked for a concluding thought about an upcoming trend that is set to define the industry over the next few years, Artur pointed to VR. “I think this definitely has good chances of being the next big thing, since we haven’t seen much of innovation over the past couple of years,” Artur said. “It was mostly optimization. VR is taking off slower than expected, but eventually it will get there. There is very little I can plan so far. It’s a strategic matter and should be carried out on the C-level management or even higher. All I know is that it will happen sooner or later. My job is to react quickly once I start seeing potential.”
“There is very little a marketer can do to prepare in advance, since marketing relies on technology. Once we get the technology which will let us sell it better, we will use it. But there is always the classic approach: Going out in the field and yelling out loud about it. Sometimes it helps. Or they might lock you up in a hospital, if you are too persistent,” Artur joked.
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.