2016 proved to be a fruitful year for Vungle, with the company reaching new milestones this last year. They are now the trusted ad platform for more than 25,000 mobile apps and serve two billion video views monthly on over 560 million devices across the globe. The company was consistently ranked No. 1 for cross-platform user retention – surpassing even Facebook and Google with gaming apps on iOS and Android in an AppsFlyer Performance Index Report.
How did these accomplishments come about? Here is a quick look at some of the key takeaways from Vungle’s successes.
Casino-oriented attendees at Casual Connect Tel Aviv packed lecture hall 2 at The Charles Bronfman Auditorium earlier this month to dive into everything casino – from sweeping overviews of the social casino industry to detail-oriented lectures on building apps to ways non-casino developers can break into the casino industry.
Highlights included a social casino industry overview by industry leader Playtika’s Elad Kushnir in which he predicted casino operators will ultimately find it difficult to capitalize on social casino and will exit the market. Anatolii Henis of rising star Murka dove into how the company crafted a poker game for a younger generation. PlayStudios’ John Lin looked eastward and discussed how social casino is evolving in Asian markets.
Many other industry leaders and experts from companies such as FlowPlay, Gamblit, Eilers & Krejick Gaming, Rocket Games, GSN Games, Super Lucky Casino, Product Madness, iGaming Capital and Google also provided key insights on topics ranging from game mechanics, business acquisitions, skill-based games in casinos, business strategies, user acquisition, emerging markets and much more.
Casual Connect will be building on the themes from Tel Aviv as well as reinventing itself in new and innovative ways through its Esports & Casino track during its upcoming conference in Berlin this February 7-9.
In addition to providing the expected high-quality content on social casino games, Casual Connect will also dive into esports – providing game developers with insights on streaming, esports game design, advice from esports teams and more. Finally, key lectures will discuss how the two different realms of casino and esports are coming together.
Currently confirmed speakers include experts from Murka, Gamblit, Twitch, Wargaming.net, ESL, GameCo and more. You can view all currently confirmed speakers for the Esports & Casino track on Casual Connect Europe’s official speakers page.
Casual Connect will also offer actionable insights on next-gen technology such as VR and AR, funding, growth, emerging markets, data, analytics and more. Over 100 gaming leaders are expected to speak at Casual Connect Europe and over 2,000 industry professionals are expected to attend.
In addition to lectures and workshops, the conference will also provide multiple ways to network – including through the company’s Pitch & Match system and high-profile networking parties. You can learn more and register to attend the event now at europe.casualconnect.org.
Plarium started out humbly enough in 2009 on Russia’s social networks with only a poker game and a farming game to its name. Today they are the #1 hardcore game developer on Facebook and a major force on mobile that is continuing to grow quickly. How did Plarium get from one to the other? It all comes down to its content, its employees and its players – with a dash of marketing thrown in.
Ilyon has only been on the scene since 2013, but they already have over 40 titles and are continuing to see strong user acquisition and retention growth every month among their various titles. The company, which was started by four former Israeli military officers who worked on their game projects at home, has since grown to 40 employees with an office in Israel.
The company started around a simple bubble-shooter game with only one game mode which Ilyon COO Ilya Molo says had a “total respectable” 2M downloads. They then took the feedback and data they received from that game and worked on it full-time to improve it. The resulting changes led to 1000% growth in downloads and revenue. Today, the same app has more than 14M downloads.
Ilyon has continuously used this model to grow: Reinvesting in its games as it reaches new thresholds – creating new levels, hiring new designers, adding game modes and improving in-app purchases. Additionally, they create special bubble-shooter apps to take advantage of current events such as the Olympics or holidays.
This is part of a series on the convergence of video games and the casino industry and opportunities for non-casino game developers. Part 1 focused on mobile games. Part 2 focused on skill-based games. This is the final article in the series and focuses on esports and virtual reality.
Esports and virtual reality are coming to casinos. At the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas, esports have already arrived and at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) esports and virtual reality were on display in major ways. Multiple panels were dedicated to the topic of esports and Gamblit Gaming showcased the possible future of VR and esports on casino floors with their G-Sports station and Virtual Reality Cube (VRC).
This is part of a series on the convergence of video games and the casino industry and opportunities for non-casino game developers. This article focuses on skill-based games. Part 1 focuses on mobile games. Part 3 focuses on spectator events such as esports and virtual reality.
At the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, panels and attractions with companies such as Caesars, IGT, Gamblit Gaming, GameCo and Competition Interactive made one thing abundantly clear: The video game and casino industries are converging. This promises not only new sources of revenue for casinos, but new opportunities for game developers outside the casino industry as well.
This is Part 1 in a series on the convergence of the games and casino industries and how non-casino game developers can get involved in emerging areas of the casino industry. This article focuses on mobile gaming. Part 2 focuses on skill-based games. Part 3 covers esports and virtual reality.
The casino industry is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. With demographics in casino patrons rapidly changing, casinos are looking at ways to engage with younger audiences through the things they love as well as keep older patrons engaged even away from their properties. As a result the industry is starting to see more innovation than it has in years.
With major players in the region, Tel Aviv is a perfect hub for those interested in social casino gaming and the emergence of skill-based gaming in casinos around the world. Casual Connect understands the importance of these areas to developers and will be unraveling them at their upcoming show in November.
View from the Top
Elad Kushnir, SVP Business Development Playtika, will open the social casino track by giving an overview of the current state of the social casino market. Later on, Playtika’s General Manager Caesars Casino Boaz Levin will dive into how to run a real-time, always-on social casino business.
Playtika executives will also be teaming up with other experts to offer deep insights. Playtika Director of Business Development Adi Hanin will discuss the hottest and latest social casino trends with Huuuge Games CEO Anton Gauffin while Playtika Marketing Director Jeet Niyogi will take part in a DAU-UP panel with representatives from Google and Murka on early adoption and marketing innovations.
One of the first things someone might notice when looking up RED Games online or visiting their brick-and-mortar location is the code FF0000. While some may be at a loss to the meaning of this letter-number combination, those in graphic and game design will likely recognize it as hexadecimal for the color red.
RED Games CEO Brian Lovell says the unique branding is indicative of the company’s work and has been a great talking point for clients. “It suggests we do things a little different and we tend to think outside the box. It subtly connects the name RED to the work we’re doing with design and technology. New clients will ask us what it means, so it’s been a nice icebreaker. Most of the time (people) get a kick out of it once we tell them – they get to be part of the cool kids club.”
RED Games definitely has a different way of doing things. RED Interactive Agency, the company RED Games is under, opened its doors in Los Angeles in 1999 with a different approach to the business world. Rather than honing in on a specific niche or product, RED began with the idea of simply doing cool work with interesting clients.
“We knew that the actual type of work we were doing would evolve over time with the constant changing needs of clients, new technologies, consumer demands etc.,” Brian says, “so our vision has always been to evolve with these changes but to never forget what drives us on a day to day basis, which is to do great work with awesome people.”
RED started out building websites and applications mostly for clients in the entertainment industry. Since then, they have expanded into Boulder, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah, mainly to tap into new talent pools outside of the LA market – something Brian says has been a driving factor in RED’s success.
Another driving factor for success, Brian says, is the way RED is organized. The company works across eight practice areas and works with brands and organizations across their entire customer journey to provide a consistent brand experience. Each department within RED has a very specific focus, which allows RED to bring a deep level of understanding and expertise to their work.
Today, along with some of its original entertainment clients, RED works with major brands such as Nike, ESPN, Netflix, Microsoft, Lego and more. Meanwhile, RED Games, which started out in Salt Lake City creating web games and game-like experiences, has become completely devoted to casual mobile games.
The CULTURE OF RED Games
RED Games launched its first self-published mobile game title, Pet Peaves, in 2013 with a team of roughly seven people. The game did over one million downloads organically with no marketing. This was followed immediately by Battle of the Beards in partnership with A&E. Now, RED Games has a team of over 20 and is working on multiple projects with companies like Nickelodeon and Hasbro.
The company’s culture has more of a startup vibe, with the benefit of being part of something larger – affectionately termed “Big Red.” RED Games keeps their hierarchy very flat – with RED Games Executive Creative Director Jared Kroff noting that it’s much easier to put together teams and complete projects when there is no jockeying for position.
“We run small agile teams that ship multiple titles a year,” Jared says. “We rely on each team member to actively contribute to all aspects of the project from concept to launch. We thrive on collaboration, fast iteration, and a passion for striking visuals.”
Jared admits the flat hierarchy can be initially disorienting for someone coming from a more structured environment, but the company believes it provides the best opportunity for people to realize their full potential – regardless of their role.
At any given time, RED Games is working on two or three mobile game titles. While the company is currently excited about and focused on the mobile space, Jared notes they develop their games in Unity and many employees come from a console background, which leaves the door open to expand to other platforms – including VR.
A typical game cycle – from concept to launch – takes roughly six to eight months. Brainstorming is something everyone really enjoys, but they will quickly dive into art and code for rapid prototyping as part of the conception process. Jared says that once a team captures an idea for a game the vision becomes self-perpetuating and at that point the game is happening.
“It doesn’t matter if everyone has a slightly different version of the game in their head,” Jared notes. “It is the collective excitement that makes things start happening. One of the skills we cultivate as a studio is the ability for this to happen predictably.”
All development is done in-house – even back-end server development, which RED Games works with “Big Red” in Los Angeles on.
Currently, many of RED Games titles have been kids-oriented 2D illustrated games with traditional animation. However, they are currently working on 3D titles and games targeting women 45+ with “equal passion.” While the company is very enthusiastic about making their own titles, Jared says they are equally enthused about working on partnered titles because they choose the clients that allow them to do their best work.
Monetization & Discoverability
One of the biggest decisions in game development often deals with monetization. RED Games isn’t picky when it comes to the different monetization methods out there. Jared says premium games are “refreshing” but notes that when it comes to partnered games, titles are always free-to-play with in-app purchases. “We believe that in order to be successful on mobile you need to be able to set aside any disposition you might have towards a business model and dedicate your time to finding a fun game that has real value to the player.”
We believe that in order to be successful on mobile you need to be able to set aside any disposition you might have towards a business model and dedicate your time to finding a fun game that has real value to the player. – Jared Kroff, RED Games
When it comes to app discoverability, Jared notes that it’s a big challenge. The company has been lucky to have their games featured by Apple on launch day – and they always make sure to merit the feature. They also partner with brands they believe can drive downloads and have a big impact on user acquisition.
The company has also invested in an internal team focused on marketing and user acquisition and will often help create marketing plans and provide promotional materials for clients on partnered games.
While every game the company built has been featured in the App Store, the company takes the most pride in the relationships they’ve cultivated with their partners and team members. RED President Donny Makower says each project is a step forward and the company is currently working on its biggest and most exciting titles ever, anticipating that 2017 will be a “breakout year.”
A big part of RED’s culture is to keep our fingers on the pulse of technology. – Donny Makower, RED Games
Brian agrees with that sentiment, saying that the company has big projects and game titles on the docket for 2017. Additionally, Brian says, the company will continue to build long-term partnerships and co-production deals, invest in marketing and user acquisition capabilities, and even create and expand RED Games’ own intellectual property.
Looking forward, Donny says there is a lot unexplored potential in new frontiers and RED Games is constantly working to stay on top of the latest ideas. “If you walk through any of our offices you’re likely to bump into a 3D printer or a defenseless dev wearing an Oculus. We have a passion for toys and are working with partners on some exciting physical-to-digital initiatives. A big part of RED’s culture is to keep our fingers on the pulse of technology.”