At Casual Connect USA 2018, Jeroen spoke about designing and managing the viral funnel for your game. He discussed how to set up and optimize the social features for optimum results. Jeroen explained, “If you just set a high score, if you just unlocked a new level, unlocked a new character or found an epic piece of loot, those are all moments when your player is high on your game. He is having a great time. That is the moment when they want to share it with friends. So make sure that when you have those moments, present your player with the opportunity to share.” To learn more, be sure to watch the video of the full presentation below.
Jeroen Bouwman is CEO of GetSocial, the company that powers social features for games from companies such as Super Evil, Megacorp, Sega and Ubisoft, as well as others. GetSocial’s aim is to provide the social infrastructure for all mobile games and applications. Their belief is that a game’s own users are the best advertising; mobilizing these users to bring their friends to the game, interacting with them and other players, is the key to a game that is both fun and successful.
Jeroen made the switch to GetSocial from the music industry, where he was working in YouTube’s music division, and began as the commercial director. When one of the founders left the company Jeroen stepped into the CEO role. As CEO, he is involved in a variety of responsibilities, but the majority of his time is spent speaking with developers, both existing and potential customers, to help them understand how their games’ performance can improve with the power of social.
Helping Developers Focus on the Game
Throughout Jeroen’s career he has been fortunate to come into a company when new departments were needed or when existing departments needed restructuring. As a result, he gained extensive experience looking at problems from different angles while managing many varied opinions from internal and external parties. All of this is valuable in his present position, dealing with the change and uncertainty inherent to the game industry.
While Jeroen was working in the music industry, including at record labels and music platforms, he was struck with the similarity to the games business. He says, “Game developers are artists in the same way that musicians are; they have a vision for a product and whether that’s a piece of music or a computer game, the end result is the similar: loads of people enjoy your product and you get a sense of satisfaction from that.” Jeroen was attracted to the industry because of his fascination with the business side of it, believing that someone skilled at the business aspect allows the artist to focus on making the best possible version of their product without any distractions.
A High Level of Cooperation
The major difference between the game industry and the music industry, as he sees it, is the level of cooperation. In the music industry, for one company to grow, another must shrink. But in the game industry, the size of the industry keeps growing, so even if one company’s percentage of the share decreases, its size is actually growing. As Jeroen describes, “The fact that you see developers on stage at conferences like Casual Connect, talking about all the different things they screwed up, so other developers can learn from their mistakes and not repeat them, is something I didn’t see in the music industry.”
While working for a large music company, Jeroen proposed setting up a casual games division after recognizing that a major problem for casual games was branding. There are so many games available that standing out is incredibly difficult. With a record label you have internationally recognized artists and it would be possible to build games around them with instant appeal. In fact, he did that with artists such as Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit. But the company chose not to go in that direction. Meanwhile, Jeroen had spent so much time looking into and loving the game business that he started looking for opportunities to join, found it with Spil Games, and his games career had its start.
Challenges and Proud Moments
When asked about the proudest moment of his career, Jeroen admits this is a very difficult question, with different answers at different stages. But he is always proud to see the people he has managed and worked with doing well in their own lives and careers. At GetSocial, Jeroen is especially proud of the product they have delivered and of the fact that they were voted one of the twenty-five most promising startups at Websummit 2017.
One of the biggest challenges Jeroen has faced as CEO of GetSocial, was realizing he had built a company that was larger than was needed, both from a product and a staffing point of view. This required making difficult decisions in both restructuring and letting people go. Having to let people go was particularly painful. So the management team immediately called everyone they knew to let them know there were these great people looking for jobs. And within a month, everyone they had to let go had found new jobs.
When he is looking for members of the team, he looks first for cultural fit. A small company like GetSocial means everyone has a lot of freedom and people must be able to handle that. Jeroen also looks for people who will disagree with him. “I don’t have all the answers, and I want anyone in my team to feel comfortable telling me I’m wrong if that’s how they feel.”
Jeroen’s favorite aspect of his work is talking to people who are so passionate about what they are building, whether that is a puzzle game or a real-time PvP esports title. As he claims, “That passion is contagious.”
Creative blocks are always a hazard in his work, but Jeroen tells us they are actually quite rare. When he hits a wall, leaving it and doing something else or talking with the team for their ideas generally helps. If it’s an especially big block, taking out the motorcycle for a ride or going for a walk helps clear his head.
Working With Developers
When Jeroen is working with developers, he must always keep in mind that their games are not just a job, but more like their babies. So it is essential to be respectful of what they are trying to achieve, always being positive and constructive when discussing the game. He describes, “I remember at Spil Games there was a 10-year-old boy who was submitting games to us that he wanted us to publish. The games weren’t very good, but you have to respect the effort and persistence and be constructive when talking to someone.”
The distribution methods for mobile games have not changed much in the past five years, according to Jeroen; if anything it is getting worse. Apple and Google are still very much the main players. The amount of content coming into the stores and the high cost of user acquisition make it very hard for smaller developers to compete. Every day over a thousand games come out and CPI is approaching four dollars.
GetSocial’s goal is to help with the user acquisition and discovery issue. They believe social is often overlooked as a way to increase user acquisition without the high cost. And data from their customers show that social users also retain significantly better. Game invites and sharing got a bad rap when so many games flooded inboxes with invites, but done well it can contribute to a good UA strategy, delivering significant numbers of users.
AR, UA, and Influencers: What’s Coming Next
When looking to the future in the next few years in the game industry, Jeroen is interested in seeing what will happen with augmented reality. After the huge success of Pokemon Go, he expected more from Niantic, but now he is excited about their Harry Potter title coming in 2018 as well as Next Game’s Walking Dead AR title.
Connecting with other players is especially important with AR, but you might not want to do it on Facebook, Jeroen says, since they will own all the information. GetSocial’s social graph runs inside a game, and the data is owned by the developer, not the platform. Developers can use this graph to connect players together based on shared friends and shared behavior without involving Facebook.
Jeroen does expect the overall UA landscape to become more difficult for small and mid-sized developers, so there will be more consolidation. GetSocial is responding by working on making their acquisition-centric social features better, particularly with optimizing moments a user may want to share.
Jeroen also believes we are only at the beginning of the influencer era in mobile gaming; soon we will see influencers contributing more directly. For example, you may join a guild headed by your favorite influencer and fight against the guild of one of his rivals. GetSocial’s technology is built with influencer marketing in mind, so it can track, attribute and reward both influencers and followers based on their behavior.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.