If you are a developer of mobile games, monetization is your constant concern; it is critical to your success. And it will be harder for you to monetize in some markets than in others. Emerging markets may be a particular struggle for you. So, what do you need to do to be successful in these markets?
Stanislav Sychenkov, Head of Publisher Development at myTarget, is someone who knows these problems and can give you valuable information. Mail.ru launched myTarget, a mobile monetization platform. It is now a main traffic source for advertisers in Russia. Before coming to Mail.ru, Stanislav was responsible for ad monetization in Zeptolab, the creators of highly successful games such as Cut the Rope and King of Thieves.
At Casual Connect Asia Stanislav used the example of Russia to provide insights into successful monetization in the more challenging markets. From their experience they developed several principles that they and their partners all over the world are using. By doing these things differently they are enabled to increase their profitability. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to use these same principles be sure to watch the video of Stanislav’s full session.
I make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day. - Vera VelichkoClick To Tweet
User Interface is the connection between the customer and your code. The CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio has a passion about what makes User Interface good or bad. In her lecture at Casual Connect Europe 2017 discussed this and how to build effective interfaces as well as how to direct the user’s attention to the right place at the right time. This presentation will help you whether you are an artist or not to design better layouts that help increase user engagement and retention.
One tip Vera shared was: “Passive and active colors for user interface UI needs a good balance, using gentle shades that won’t tire the eyes.” To learn more, see the full lecture and slides below.
Vera Velichko, CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio, has always been determined to have a company of her own, but for many years it seemed like a distant dream as she continued working as an employee. But finally, two years ago, the time was right. “I realized that there is no time like the present, and if I wanted to achieve my dream, I had to do it there and then.” So, with some friends, she began working on her first project, a visual novel called One Day in London. The company has developed into a team of twelve and they still work with this visual novel (an episodic project) as well as doing outsource artwork. During the past year they have completed seven projects together.
Doing Something that Really Matters
Today Vera firmly believes that the work she is doing means something; it really matters. This year Owl Studio’s online school for artists begins. Each day brings interesting tasks; each new project brings new challenges for Vera and the team. She revealed, “I can make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day.”
Almost all her life Vera has been working as an artist. While studying fine arts, she started accepting what it would be like to live on the salary a painter could make. But then Vera discovered that the game industry offered a brilliant opportunity to make real money doing what she loves. So she made a portfolio of her work and began doing freelance work as a game artist. At first she were working for almost nothing, but the work allowed them to continue improving the portfolio. And as the portfolio became better and better, the more opportunities it generated.
Building a Business
With the creation of Owl Studio, Vera entered a new stage of her career. Suddenly she must be involved in business development, networking, team building, setting up process, and many other aspects of building a business that she had never done before. Their motivation to succeed comes through seeing a goal and moving toward it. When she looks to the future and see there is something still needed, Vera just keeps moving on.
The biggest challenges she has faced recently is making decisions for the company. Vera reveals, “How can I find out that my decision is right? How can I be sure it doesn’t hurt my team?” She has realized that, although there is no way to be sure something is the right decision, it is still her responsibility as the leader. This continues to be the most complicated aspect of running the company.
Building the Team
For the members of the team Vera searches for those who can combine creative talent with responsibility, but it is a rare combination. This is because the art that Owl Studio makes is much more than a job or a way to make money. She explains, “We are trying to make a graphic with soul and spirit, that will take a user to a new world. It’s impossible without talent. And we work with customers and abide by deadlines, and this would not be possible without responsibility.”
The most difficult positions to fill are the team leads. This employee must have the very unusual ability to be a leader while also being a team player. And next most difficult to find are the UI designers.
Vera has discovered that there are no standard methods of how to work with the team members because everyone is unique; an individual approach is necessary. So she tries to find a way to connect with every employee, but recognize that is also important to know the moment to let them go.
Her commitment to team members is evident when Vera relates the proudest moment of her career. It was when she realized what an apprentice had accomplished, something more than Vera could do alone.
Developing and Testing a Visual Novel
When Owl Studio began working on their own project, they used play tests of their first demo to form the final vision of the project. They were testing UI, storytelling, sounds and perception of the image, and as a result of these tests they made changes and adjustments. As they tested this visual novel, the most interesting results came from seeing the differences in feedback from the different story lines. The choices the users made changed their perceptions of the entire story. It was a very important discovery.
Now there are no longer significant changes to the project mechanic from episode to episode, so Owl Studio is no longer doing play tests. However, they do get feedback from users on a daily basis and use this information to constantly improve the project.
The monetization method Owl Studio uses for One Day in London is premium. This is simply a result of the visual novel genre; there is no opportunity to monetize within it for using the free-to-play principle.
Vera has seen dynamic growth in mobile games, as well as hearing many colleagues talking about new trends in this sector of the game industry, and expects this to continue over the next few years. In response, she is teaching the team and students to understand the specifics of mobile art.
The Essential Skills and Attributes of Good Interface Design
There are two essential skills to the basis of good interface design. The first is understanding the features of the project and the target devices. The designer must be able to imagine how the user will use this. The second is understanding the topography and visual design. As Vera points out, not every artist can understand how to work with texts and infographics.
Vera describes the difference between UX and UI design this way: “UX design is the process of establishing the logic system that controls the application. UI design is the process of making this system beautiful.”
The software to design good graphical user interface will vary depending on the artist’s habits and preferences. Some possibilities include Photoshop, Illustrator or Animate. The only essential is providing a portable network graphics set.
For someone who is considering UI design as a career, Vera emphasizes the importance of playing games while thinking about how you do it. Also, study the topography design. These are the two most significant steps toward becoming a UI designer.
As a developer, you constantly notice the changing dynamics of the app stores. How will the changes affect business models? How will they affect you?
At Casual Connect Asia Tarush Agarwal, Business Director at Toca Boca, gave insights into how you can successfully navigate this constantly evolving ecosystem. Tarush is responsible for managing and growing Toca Boca’s digital presence and revenue with global strategic partnerships. Before joining Toca Boca Tarush worked for the Walt Disney Company in LA and New York.
Using Toca Boca’s method for creating high quality apps for children as an example, Tarush demonstrated how leveraging partners and diversified business models can reach new customers globally. He described the best practices for developers to find creative solutions that will add customer value. To learn more about this important topic, be sure to watch the video of Tarush’s session at Casual Connect.
What is it about clan systems that is so intriguing? They are becoming more and more popular and have now been introduced in nontraditional genres. The racing genre has becoming especially engaging as this opportunity for social interaction has become a part of the experience. Leonard Frankel, as Co-Founder and CEO of ClanPlay, a messaging app that sychronizes with the chat inside games, is in a unique position to understand why and how clan systems really matter.
Prior to Clanplay Leonard was Vice President of Business Development at Plarium, a leading mobile strategy game developer. At Casual Connect Asia, Leonard used the clan systems in CSR 2 and Real Racing to demonstrate the key aspects of setting up a strong clan system in any game. Then he used these principles to set up an imaginary system for the arcade racing game Asphalt. To learn more about this exciting way to incorporate social interaction into a game, be sure to watch the video of Leonard’s session at Casual Connect.
Petri Ikonen, Creative Director at tracktwenty, joined EA in 2012 when they opened their mobile game studio in Helsinki, Finland. With responsibilities that include supervising the studio’s design team as well as doing many hands-on design tasks, he is vitally involved in developing tracktwenty’s creative culture and processes. At Casual Connect Europe 2017 in Berlin, Petri discussed the challenges of creating SimCity BuildIt.
Distortions, the creation of the game studio Among Giants, is an unusual game that combines music with a journey of self-discovery in the making. CEO Thiago Girello describes the experience as “a piece of our lives during the past eight years.” Among Giants is the winner of the Best Brazilian Game at BIG Festival 2017, an Indie Prize Partner event, with their game Distortions. They competed at Indie Prize and Casual Connect USA in Seattle.
A Process of Experimentation
Distortions began with a group of close friends learning to express themselves through the media of games. They shared a love for games and experimentation but each of them brought a different background, including movies, literature, design, and photography. Their variety of backgrounds had the advantage of allowing new and fresh insights into their game project. As a result, the making of Distortions was a process of experimentation and talking about subjects rarely seen in games. And throughout the eight years they never gave up on the project because making the game was always a fun time with friends, although Thiago does admit that they often say he gets too excited and should choose less ambitious projects.
How vulnerable is the game industry in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Its competitors in Japan and the US have an IP business foundation. Without the same foundation, Atsuo Nakayama maintains that ASEAN will lose ground in comparison.
Atsuo is President and COO of Bushiroad Singapore where they manage its TCG, Mobile game and Anime business that derives from the IPs they own, including Vanguard, Baddy Fight and BanG Dream. They also specialize in the IP business from their previous work as Studio Head and General Manager of Bandai Namco Studios in Vancouver and Singapore.
Atsuo described the process of creating the fan base for the game IP they were making, “It took a three year effort to crystallize IP with a certified core fan base.” Clearly this is not a quick and easy thing to do. But they insist that by following Bushiroad’s procedure in creating IP, developers will realize this is just what Singapore and the ASEAN countries should be targeting. Watch this video of Atsuo’s presentation at Casual Connect Asia to learn more about the importance of IP business.
What’s coming next in the game industry? It’s a vital question for all game developers and publishers; if you are not constantly aware of coming possibilities, you may not be able to profit from them or even stay relevant.
At Casual Connect Asia, Nelson Rodriguez, shared some exciting developments that will completely change how games are made, played and distributed. Nelson, head of Akamai Technologies media and games industry marketing strategy, has the experience and perspective to offer in how to be ready for the future. They have helped in the launch of dozens of games across every platform, from blockbusters such as Halo 3, Tekken 5 and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood to the indie games Tweet Defense and A Kingdom for Keflings.
Nelson described an emerging revolutionary platform that very few developers have focused on. After talking with leading technologists and companies worldwide, they predict that within five years everyone will be rushing to catch up. Nelson pointed out, “GM attended DICE and created a research division to create gamification and infotainment for cars,” as an example of what to expect with car companies investing in game technology. This unique platform is just over the horizon, so be ready! To learn more about it and the possible effects, be sure to watch this video of Nelson’s full presentation at Casual Connect.
Emotion is key, and often, that comes through character-driven storytelling. - Justin Booth-ClibbornClick To Tweet
In order to compete in this overly saturated and ultra-competitive mobile gaming landscape, having a compelling brand along with good creative ideas is key. This emotional connection is needed for both user acquisition and user retention. Justin Booth-Clibborn, Head of Business Development at Psyop explained during his session at Casual Connect Europe that simply showing fun gameplay only goes so far. He stressed that “connecting people through storytelling emotionally with your own tone of voice and personality” is extremely important in building and sustaining your brand.
A good influencer is not a YouTube, Twitch or Instagram star, but a star. - Michael AlbertshauserClick To Tweet
“Influencers are not as concerned about price as you might think,” stated GameInfluencer’s Head of Influencer and Campaign Managment Michael Albertshauser at Casual Connect Europe 2017. In this lecture, Michael highlighted the results of their survey involving 500 influencers. With insights on influencer perspectives and marketing deals, Michael educated publishers and marketers on how to be a better business partner for influencers and secure better deals and content.