main

Asia 2014Video Coverage

Tung Nguyen-Khac and ProSiebenSat.1 Games | Casual Connect Video

June 10, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

feature7.jpg

“Sometimes it’s a miracle, sometimes you don’t really know it, but in a way you can plan it or you can also structure it,” Tung Nguyen-Khac said in regards to getting your game up in the app stores at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “But it is one of the hardest things to do, to get into the app store, to get into the top grossing charts, but also to get into the top installs charts.”

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Photo by Sasha Paleeva
Tung Nguyen-Khac, CEO of ProSiebenSat.1 Games

Tung Nguyen-Khac, CEO of ProSiebenSat.1 Games, feels the major achievement of his career was when the company acquired Aeria Games. ProSiebenSat.1 was the first company to close a large M&A deal in Europe. This was an especially satisfying experience for him because he had the idea, initiated the talks, and, together with their M&A team, he negotiated and executed the transaction. He says, “We made the impossible happen! Only a few in the industry would have expected this from ProSiebenSat.1.”

Love For The Industry

Nguyen-Khac became involved in the games industry after meeting Heiko Hubertz, founder of BigPoint. When he came on board, BigPoint was a rather small company, but he immediately began expanding, growing it from just a handful of people to a few hundred employees; it became a big player for online browser games in Europe. And he has never regretted the decision.

He emphasizes that he loves the industry: it is never boring, and, as in a big family, you can exchange views and opinions, even with competitors. He particularly appreciates the way gaming connects people, whether old or young, or from the East or West. This is especially important to him because of his Asian background.

Taking The Helm

Nguyen-Khac assumed leadership of the management board of ProSiebenSat.1 Games in December 2012. He tells us, “The story which led to this position includes a good mixture of startup experience, media, and finance know-how, and naturally, a good portion of luck. It helped a lot that I’ve learned the intricacies of a big corporation in the past, so I was well prepared when joining.” As CEO, he is responsible for strategy, M&A, and all online games publishing departments. It is not surprising that he thinks of himself as someone who can make things happen.

Photo by Sasha Paleeva
Nguyen-Khac presenting at Casual Connect Asia 2014

When not involved with work, Nguyen-Khac pursues several interests. He is an avid reader, especially of biographies, and he loves traveling. But doing activities with his family is the best quality time he can think of.

Most of Nguyen-Khac’s gaming is connected to his work. Currently, he is playing the internal beta of Goal One, the football manager they have coming out this May. He also has fun playing and testing mobile quiz games and mobile eLearning apps—he is always looking for the best ones for his children. An iPhone is the device he uses for his gaming, although he believes both Android and iOS have their distinct advantages from a business perspective.

He must be a very dedicated gamer, since he describes playing while sitting in a ski lift last December. He was losing when the lift made a swift movement and his phone fell about 30 meters down deep into the snow. Of course, he never found it again, although he says, “The person who found it may be a happy mobile game player!”

Free-To-Play Domination

For the next few years in the games industry, Nguyen-Khac sees free-to-play continuing to be the dominant business model and mobile becoming the number one platform, with eLearning more and more relevant, especially in Western markets. He also believes we will see more and more highly involved communities forming around specific gaming concepts, uniting different kinds of gamers, from casual to core gamers of all ages.

Photo by Sasha Paleeva
For the next few years in the games industry, Nguyen-Khac sees free-to-play continuing to be the dominant business model and mobile becoming the number one platform, with eLearning more and more relevant, especially in Western markets.

At Casual Connect Asia, Nguyen-Khac announced that with the acquisition of Aeria Games, ProSiebenSat.1 Games formed Europe’s number three publisher, SevenGames. He also discussed Goal One, their new football manager which will be at the launched internationally at the end of May.

 

Europe 2014Video Coverage

Rik Haandrikman: Enticing Players to Connect | Casual Connect Video

March 3, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

feature3.jpg

Asynchronous multi-player is a genre that is big in the app stores and has proven to be very sticky. Yet, according to Rik Haandrikman, there can never be enough attention to the topic. At Casual Connect USA 2013, he presented a session on the genre, but felt that it needed a wider point of view than just his own. So he approached Casual Connect about presenting a panel on multi-player gaming for Casual Connect Europe 2014. The panel combined the knowledge of Phil Mansell (Jagex), Micha van der Meer (Exit Games), Jan-Michel Saaksmeier (BigPoint), Alfonso Villar (Playspace) and Haandrikman with the guidance of Paul Heydon, (Avista Partners) as host. Haandrikman believes the panel greatly outstripped anything he could have brought on his own. He hopes this panel will become a recurring part of the conference with more multi-player game developers participating in the discussion.

Rik Haandrikman, Director of Business Development at GamePoint, attributes his success in this career to “dumb luck.” He began doing community management at GamePoint, but was becoming restless within a couple of months. The opportunity to move up in the company came and, as he says, “I grabbed it with both hands.” His team’s responsibilities range from user acquisition to analyzing game metrics to improving every facet of the business. Most of his time is involved with growth strategy and operations.

He is ambitious for himself and for the company, insisting, “I want GamePoint to conquer the world, and I want to be there to lead the charge.”

Gamepoint (123)
Attendees having fun at GamePoint’s Gold! Party at Casual Connect Europe 2014

“Market Research”

Of course, not all his time is involved in his career; he loves spending time with his family, claiming every minute he spends with his two-year-old daughter is a minute well spent. He also manages to find time for the gym. And he spends a lot of time doing ‘market research’, his name for his gaming habit.

Currently, Haandrikman’s ‘market research’ has him using his iPhone to play 99 Bricks, a game by the Dutch indie, Weirdbeard. He finds the game both addictive and challenging, using the strengths of iPhone perfectly, and he is excited to see what it will do after its international launch.

Open Days
Open days at the office, where players are invited to come and talk to GamePoint

For his mobile gaming, he prefers iOS to Android, although he recognizes that Android has become a sizeable economic opportunity in the last two years, and Gamepoint is definitely developing for it. But he prefers the more curated experience iOS provides and finds the UI preferable to what most Android devices offer.

Haandrikman tells us the most interesting place he has played mobile games was in the Banda Islands, a tiny group of Indonesian islands with no real connection to any of the larger islands. They also have no TV, no internet, and lights out when the sun goes down. When he and his girlfriend passed their time in the evenings playing Civilization Revolution on their iPhones, they suddenly became very popular and the center of considerable excitement.

Even with the amount of mobile gaming he has “researched,” his favorite platform continues to be PC. Some of his favorite titles can only be properly played on PC. The title he plays most intensely is Civilization, having logged many hours on every version of the game.

His console gaming is fairly limited; he is still satisfied using his Xbox 360 and PS3. But his daughter’s desire to play Dora the Explorer usually trumps his plan for GTA V. He does plan to get Xbox One when it comes out in the Netherlands, considering it a family-friendly option.

Beach Volleyball
GamePoint is involved in more than just digital games, they also have a beach volleyball team

Intersection of Creativity and Business

Haandrikman tells us what he enjoys most about the game industry is the intersection of creativity and business. He says, “We create things that bring joy to millions and get paid while doing it.” And wearing a Star Wars t-shirt to work is an added bonus.

Gamepoint is a good example of this at work. “We don’t simply build multi-player games, we sculpt an experience that entices players to connect,” Haandrikman says. “When you play one of our games, our aim is to have you enjoy that game, obviously, but more important, we aim to have you form relationships with other players. My proudest moments have been when I got to meet people for whom those relationships have been life-changing.”

Some of the Business Development Team at GamePoint
Some of the Business Development Team at GamePoint

As an example, he points to a family with two children who wouldn’t exist without the game that helped their parents to meet, saying it puts everything GamePoint does into perspective. He spends much of his time looking at data: seeing what the players do within the games, how much they chat and how many buddies they add. But he insists, “Seeing that data turn into actual people and change actual lives is amazing.”

Haandrikman has been in the game industry for seven years, and in that time he has learned it is impossible to predict what is around the next corner. So it is critical to be as agile as possible and always be ready to respond as soon as a trend emerges. GamePoint answer to this situation is investing heavily in research on new platforms, new concepts and new audiences.  As he says, “When they pop up, we’ll be ready.”

Europe 2014Video Coverage

Teut Weidemann: Understanding Why Equals Win | Casual Connect Video

February 25, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

feature43.jpg

Teut Weidemann believe he has proof that the future of the game industry will show an even larger trend toward tablets and mobile. “Tablet will eat into notebook, PC and console market share while Smartphones eat into handheld market share. The game industry needs to adapt fast.”

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Teut
Teut Weidemann

25 years ago Teut Weidemann decided to turn his gaming hobby into a career. He insists he’s still having fun with his work, saying, “That’s not too bad, is it?” When thinking back , the time in Weidemann’s career that brought him the most satisfaction was in 2000 when a publisher wanted to buy not just his product development, but the entire company. At the time, they had proven they could develop high-end PC games, and they pitched only online games, the right track to be fit for the future. This was before Facebook or free-to-play. The company’s gleaming potential led to the buyout offer.

Currently, he is consulting for Ubisoft‘s online games. He enjoys the philosophy of Ubisoft, where mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn rather than a reason to be fired, something he found a pleasant surprise. “When mistakes and the learning process are a natural part of the company, you can be much bolder, more daring, and gutsy with what you do,” Weidemann said. “And, as direct as I am, I do this day by day.”

Free-to-Play: A Double-Edged Sword

Weidemann consults on all free-to-play Ubisoft games. He has extensive input during the creation process in the areas of online mechanics and monetization. His focus on online games since 1997 and his previous experiences with Bigpoint and Nadirim (Kabam) have assisted his present role. A deep understanding of why online games work so well, as well as playing them daily himself, is key to succeeding in his work.

Teut Presenting
A deep understanding of why online games work so well, as well as playing them daily himself, is key to succeeding in his work.

Free-to-play is something Weidemann has strong opinions about. He loves that it allows players to enjoy a game and deeply test it before committing to it. On the other hand, he hates companies who use the F2P business model, but put monetization over game play. He insists, “Those companies will fail in the long run and vanish, luckily!”

Gaming is Required

Weidemann tell us that in his career, it is essential to own all game platforms and to learn from their games and systems, emphasizing that he cannot afford to miss one. He owns both the PS4 and Xbox One, and so far prefers the PS4 because he likes their simple interface, digital store, and the Japanese games such as Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) that Sony always publishes. His favorite platforms to play on are PC and iPad: the PC because it offers the largest variety of online games, and iPad because he can play in locations other than his desk. These days he is playing World of Tanks and Ni No Kuni, saying it is a wonderful JRPG with tactical combat and art by the Ghibli Studio.

Video Coverage

Torsten Oppermann on Turning Products Into Brands | Casual Connect Video

May 22, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

Feature.jpg

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Torsten Oppermann is the founder and CEO of indigo pearl brand communications, a consulting business focused on building successful game brands. He is also co-founder and CEO of indigo pearl games financing (IPGF), a joint venture with a private placement firm that manages a portfolio of game-related investments. For IPGF, Torsten screens target companies, provides management services and oversees the distribution of funds.

Torsten is excited to connect with friends old and new and meet great developers while enjoying Singapore. His enthusiasm for the game business is evident: “I started in 1988 working on Germany’s first gaming magazine, simply for the love of games. It is a creative and fun industry that continues to evolve and amaze me; first from the perspective as a publisher and now as an enthusiast and consultant.”

Peaks and Valleys

I enjoy turning products into brands, turning ideas into businesses

Torsten’s most satisfying memory was experiencing the launch of Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive.  For every triumphant or epic experience, there are challenges. As the financial market crashed along with the tech boom of late 90s San Francisco, so too did Torsten’s hope of reaching profitability in a massive publishing business. Noting that timing is everything, he simply couldn’t survive such an impossible uphill battle.

These days, Torsten supports the geniuses behind the games: “I enjoy turning products into brands, turning ideas into businesses, starting new businesses and helping start ups get in shape.” Relishing all aspects of the industry, he also participates on a small scale as an angel and frequently advises companies he close to as a board member.

Torsten Oppermann
Torsten Oppermann

Innovative Business

Torsten’s consulting business with his 20 people team effectively drives PR, Brand Partnerships and Social Media to promote titles on a global basis. The business allowed him to help companies from the ground floor as he did in 2006 with E-sports (today BigPoint), but also well-known companies such as CCP, Disney, Nexon, Warner and UbiSoft or Symantec, where indigo pearl develops and executues PR-Campaigns, Social Media actions, Brand Partnerships, etc.

Logos

While he misses working on the creative side of the industry, Torsten enjoys running his business and helping others do the same. He maintains that Asia is noteworthy for its heritage in games; Japan was at the heart of the console industry, Korea originated MMO gaming. The future for the region is bright because great content is now coming from China and other Asian countries such as Vietnam. Should regional developers wish to grow beyond their borders, Torsten and indigo pearl are poised to help them to find the right partners.

Business

Bigpoint’s Heiko Hubertz on taking on the US market, going beyond casual, and the importance of known IPs

November 4, 2010 — by Gamesauce Staff

Heiko-Hubertz.jpg

German game operator Bigpoint has gained visibility with a unique approach to free-to-play browser-based games that’s garnered success, acclaim — and global expansion. Heiko Hubertz, a founder and chief executive of the firm, explains what makes their approach unique, discuses moving to San Francisco, and why they are betting everything on the American market.

Soccer with friends

“It was also clear that we couldn’t charge our friends five bucks a month just to play this crappy game.”

It all started when Heiko Hubertz and a friend developed a soccer game; the idea was to invite friends to play the thing together. It wasn’t supposed to make money nor get built into a business. “It was more a kind of fun project,” explains Hubertz.

“The problem was,” smiles Hubertz, “All of these friends invited their friends, and so on, and so on — and in the end, our server crashed.” Investing more money in servers just to be able to play their own game wasn’t part of the plan. “It was also clear that we couldn’t charge our friends five bucks a month just to play this crappy game.”

Battlestar Galactica Online

“So we said, ‘Hey, let’s just sell them better soccer players for a couple cents, and if some of them pay, great, then we can pay our servers,’” recalls Hubertz. But the result was more successful than they imagined. Users bought so many in-game players at fifty Euro-cents that it generated tens-of-thousands of Euros a month in revenues. “We said, ‘Hey, that’s a business model.’”

Micro-markets in play

“What we have seen is that games we have developed in Europe are quite successful in Europe, but not that successful here in the US market.”

While Hubertz says that microtransactions came about by coincidence, the company has become an expert in the field since then. He explains that the Asian market is different from the European market, and the European market is different than the American market. “All three markets are totally different.”

In Europe, few players will actually spend money in the game, but those that do “spend a crazy amount of money.” In the US, notes Hubertz, a much broader user-number spend money, but less. And that impacts the design for a US-market game.

Battlestar Galactica Online

“What we have seen is that games we have developed in Europe are quite successful in Europe, but not that successful here in the US market,” reveals Hubertz, adding that games which are developed in the US market are quite successful back in Europe. “You have different budgets here. You can invest more money, because you have a bigger market.”

Genesis of the strategy

“In 2002, we were the first company in the western world who started microtransaction item selling,” Hubertz says, thinking back to when the company first started. “No one else did this at this time.”

Ruined

While Bigpoint started with mainly sports games, from soccer to ice hockey to Formula One — they made a big shift in 2005, thinking at the time was that sports games are great, “But maybe there’s a bigger space for these browser-based games with microtransactions.”

With that strategy in mind, they launched their first mafia game and their first pirate game. “We were quite successful,” says Hubertz. So successful that, in 2007, the company launched into other European markets beyond Germany.

Monetization is the message

“We were quite successful in Europe, because we were working with all the different TV stations,” explains Hubertz. TV stations were promoting Bigpoint games on-air, and the company would do a revenue share based the exposure.

“We were quite successful in Europe, because we were working with all the different TV stations.”

“The interesting part for them is they can promote games, and can monetize…because up to this point, all the content they had on their portal was casual related.” Old-style casual games were hard to monetize, but the new business model paid off for the television stations. “And it was so successful for them, that they really promoted our games on-air,” continues Hubertz.

After working with every television station across Europe, they sold a 70% stake in the company to a joint venture of NBC Universal and a private equity firm in London called GMT. That would prepare the company for its next step.

The land of opportunity

In 2010, Heiko Hubertz moved to San Francisco to open a new office there, because, he says, “The next market we want to enter is the US market.” He adds: “And we want to do it with local content.”

Hubertz reports that he’s pleased with the quality produced by the team in San Francisco. The strategy has been to hire senior developers to make content specifically for an American market.

Ruined

“Next year’s our big US year – that’s the goal,” he says. His view of America revolves around the number of unique cultures blended together. When that comes to games, Hubertz believes if it will resonate in the US, “it will resonate across Europe, which is why we’re developing more and more games in the US market.”

The future is different

What makes Bigpoint different is their commitment to browser games that are high-quality and fully 3D. In Europe, they operate a game called Farmerama, with some 15.8 million registered users. Hubertz boasts it’s larger than Farmville, but that few Americans have heard of it.

“Our focus is on high-quality games, in a browser. That makes us different.”

Development was inexpensive, and Hubertz terms it a huge success. But he says that so much of the casual and social game markets focus on an audience that is female, and older. “The entire market focus is on them,” he states.

“We think there’s a market for young and male.” But these users expect something different, because they’re already playing console games. And that’s where production values comes into play. “We want to offer high-quality games for them.”

Battlestar Galactica Online

The final frontier

In addition to that, the company is bolstered by its access to intellectual properties like Battlestar Galactica and The Mummy, courtesy of NBC Universal. According to Hubertz, the use of a recognizable property “helps people to stay longer in the game.”

A recognizable property keeps people in the game longer.

“One big problem with microstransaction games have is the churn rate,” Hubertz explains. The games are easy to get into, “Players can also leave very fast.”

With a franchise, reports Hubertz, “They take more time to try to understand the game.” There’s clear intention, the carrot of story, and trust of the brand. “And that’s very important for a microstransaction game.”

Ruined

“That’s what we believe,” concludes Hubertz. “We’ll see what happens next year, when we launch.” With that admission that this is all just an experiment, he smiles, saying: “But we’re always pioneers in our markets.”

Bigpoint is at work on browser-based free-to-play games featuring Battlestar Galactica, The Mummy, and Ruined, an original IP.

logo
SUPPORTED BY