Competitive gaming is the latest trend in mobile gaming. It brings the ‘core’ gaming experience from PC and Console to mobile devices. At Casual Connect Europe, the talk entitled The Unstoppable Rise of Competitive Gaming on Mobile, Tom Wijman who is a Market Consultant at Newzoo, described in detail the rise of competitive gaming, the trends that are driving it, and what this means for mobile gaming as a whole. He explored the impact that the growth of competitive gaming is having on mobile esports and how this differs between the East and the West.
When entering the European market in the games industry, one faces many challenges. Each country has differing language, legal, culture and demographics which means all of these variables need to be considered. It’s important to keep in mind that success in one country does not equal success in another. At Casual Connect Europe 2018. Tobias Edl, Head of New Business Relations at Whow Games presented the Complexity of the European Market. See the full lecture below.
For any developer who has tried to adapt a board game to a digital game, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced. At Casual Connect Euorpe, we had Philippe Dao, Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer at Asmodee Digital, address the insights and learns learned from Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Splendor in his speech called The Challenge of Adapting a Board Game to Digital. This included different angles like publishing, marketing and of course game design.
Mixed reality is the combination of the real world with digital content, allowing developers to bring games and interaction to the real world around you. This relatively new medium presents a number of unique challenges not normally faced by “normal” game AI. Because both the real world and the virtual world need to understand the other, AI and data parsing are huge areas for AI work. In a talk called Bringing Pixels To The World at Casual Connect Europe 2018 in London, Aleissia Laidacker, Interaction Director and Brian Schwab, Director of Interaction Lab at Magic Leap
discussed the ins and outs of mixed reality. This session explained the “what, why, and how” of mixed reality to develop truly immersive experiences. Instead of bringing you into the story [like screen games in MR] the digital objects are in our world, like Roger Rabbit. Tune in to the session below for more insights.
Are you ready to use Unreal Engine 4 for development in casual genres? Learn how to utilize this amazing tool in smart and effective ways. Tune in to a presentation by Aleksey Savchenko, a licensing manager at Epic Games, at Casual Connect Europe. This session, Unreal Engine 4: Perspectives for Casual, discussed smart and effective ways of using, including tips and tricks of the toolset, optimization and pipeline. Aleksey also concentrated on some specific hypothetical cases in HOG/HOPA genres to give a good example of what can be done with UE4 in this field.
Are you a game developer thinking about live operation in Asian markets? But you know Asian markets differ from each other. So what is the difference in game operation strategy between the different markets in China, Japan, Korea and South East Asia? These are crucial things to know, but it can be confusing especially if you are a western developer.
You could certainly benefit from the experience of Yuli Zhao, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at YOOZOO INTERACTIVE. Yuli is in charge of game and IP licensing, global merger and acquisition deal sourcing and strategy cooperation, and lead game operation for the China and Japan market. At Casual Connect Europe 2018, Yuli presented the session How Operation Influences Game Performance the Asian Markets and What Western Developers Can Learn From It.
In this session Yuli discussed whether live operation is a strategy or a tactic as well as the differences between the various Asian markets in game operation strategy. She also described how the live operation philosophy is influencing western markets and what western developers need to learn from it. To understand more about live operation, be sure to watch this video of Yuli’s session.
In an engaging Fireside chat at Casual Connect Europe with Steel Media’s Jon Jordan and Zynga President of Publishing Bernard Kim, discussed the growth of Zynga over the last year and what’s next for the company. In FIRESIDE CHAT: The Evolution of Zynga and What’s Next, Jon and Bernard discussed growth in the increasingly competitive mobile games market and how a focus on live services, genre expansion and player engagement can fuel a company’s growth. “Our focus is always on players experiences and how to make them more engaging and enjoyable within our existing and upcoming games.” He also spoke about the importance of authenticity, especially regarding branded games, and games like CSR that have real cars in them. To hear more great quotes and insights, see the full session below.
In a highly competitive industry, Best Fiends has managed to grow its mobile entertainment franchise into a $100 million brand. In a talk at Casual Connect Europe entitled How to Leverage Game Design to Sustain Brand Awareness, Reko Ukko, VP of Game Design at Seriously, shared his insights on how to successfully grow an audience and increase engagement through storytelling, new feature updates and holiday themed events.
The social casino genre is one of the highest-earning and most fiercely competitive areas of the mobile gaming market. KamaGames’ CEO, Andrey Kuznetsov provided a number of key learnings, successes and challenges that contributed to the company achieving significant growth in market share, gross revenue and also reaching the 100 million player milestone in early 2018. All of this was shared in Andrey’s lecture at Casual Connect Europe. They also talked about the various innovative approaches KamaGames has taken to increase a number of key performance indicators across the entire product portfolio.
It’s daunting for many developers to have to constantly create new heroes, units, items to keep pace with engaged players. But designs that avoid the “content treadmill” most often lead to players desiring the game’s content less, and players who desire less will spend less. In a talk called F2P Developers: Get on the Content Treadmill! at Casual Connect Europe, Justin Stolzenberg, VP Publishing at flaregames, it is explained why it’s smarter to embrace rather than avoid ongoing content creation, and gave practical tips for small and medium sized teams. “A gacha is only as deep as the most desirable content.” He further explained, “Nobody plays the lottery for a consolation prize.” He suggests following these three steps: start with the end in mind, design for scalability, and be real about constraints.
Justin Stolzenberg, Vice President Publishing at Flaregames, has been responsible for monetization for a variety of browser and games companies over the past sixteen years. As part of the Flaregames’ management team, Justin now looks after their entire publishing portfolio. Justin came to Flaregames after getting to know CEO Klaas Kersting five years ago. Justin fell in love with Klaas’ vision and the Flaregames culture, which includes true partnerships with developers, a no-asshole-policy and real gamers.
Justin’s favorite aspect to this job is the people, both the diverse and inspiring partners and the brilliant people within the company in tech, marketing and product divisions.
From Gaming to a Career in Games
As Justin was growing up, he played games continually, every day. The most constant of these was Counter-Strike, which he played at the European Pro level until 2001. Interestingly, as he was growing up, his plan for the future varied according to what game that he was playing. “One summer I wanted to be a helicopter pilot because I’d sunk hundreds of hours into Novalogic’s Commanche, then I wanted to be a race driver because of Grand Prix 2.” So it was natural as an adult for him to pursue a career in the game industry.
He started in the industry as a game writer for a major media company. From there he quickly moved to product management and project management during the mid-2000s, while F2P browser games were most popular.
Justin describes, “Games require both artistic and scientific skills. Bringing both perspectives together to solve difficult problems is something that really drives me.” And this is what he enjoys most about his work today.
There are significant challenges in the industry because the mobile game market has become so competitive. There are also, traditionally, challenges in the relationship between developer and publisher. Flaregames wanted to change this dynamic, so they began iterating and learning from mistakes, and continued until they developed what they consider to be a formula that perfectly aligns the interests of both parties.
As a publisher, Justin is most proud of his work when he helped ship and scale something beautiful. These have included Royal Revolt II and Nonstop Knight, two of Justin’s favorite games.
The Key to Effective Marketing
The key to effectively marketing games, according to Justin. is deeply understanding the audience and then telling a compelling, joined-up story. This may be through influencers, media-buying or other ways. Because Flaregames is looking for brands to be successful over a number of years, they must make a deep investment in story-building and how they communicate with the player base.
Flaregames looks for magic in the games they are considering and how the developer manages the ongoing evolution of their game. With respect to the game, this means the themes the game covers, the ways the themes fulfill the needs of the intended audience, and whether the gameplay actually delivers on this vision. Flaregames then looks at the developer’s readiness for sustained live ops and continued content creation after hard launch, and whether this is a realistic proposition.
The Relationship Between Publisher and Developer
Justin emphasizes that the relationship with developers must be based on transparency, fairness and an alignment of interests. He always remembers the developer is the chief architect of the masterpiece while the publisher provides the scale, marketing, infrastructure and F2P expertise to bring the masterpiece to the masses. The developer should be left to do what they do best: making the games.
Making games is a full-time, intense amount of work, with little time for anything else. So, as Justin points out, it is important for a developer to find a publisher just as passionate and invested in the game as they are. If the publisher can offer world-class marketing, production and technical support, this is an excellent publisher to choose.
There are many, many great games from amazing teams that never gain traction. The volume of competition is staggering and a serious threat to most developers; this is where publishers can really make a difference.
“We at Flaregames call ourselves the ‘Guardians of Joy’: we pledge to protect the creativity of our partners in a cutthroat market,” Justin describes. “This is what the best publishers can offer.”
Justin continues to be passionate about games when he is not working. He plays in diverse genres: games that include Grand Prix II, Counter-Strike, Overwatch and all the Civilization games. Currently he is looking for the next game he will play really hard core. He also plays jazz guitar, reads sci-fi and exercises obsessively.