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Europe 2014Video Coverage

Ben Cousins: Good Enough is Enough | Casual Connect Video

February 13, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Ben Cousins took up the challenge of evil game design by making a game based off the secret theme: Minecraft into “an evil, free-to-play experience with a focus on retention, engagement, acquisition, re-engagement and most of all, draining the players of all of their money.”

Ben Cousins
Ben Cousins, General Manager, Scattered Entertainment

Ben Cousins, General Manager of Scattered Entertainment, actually claims a PC with keyboard and mouse as his favorite platform for playing games. Unfortunately, as with many of us, he finds free time a rare thing, particularly as he runs his own studio and is parent to a three-year-old. And he doesn’t own any consoles, simply because he never has several hours to sit in front of a screen and play a game. So he most often finds himself playing on an iPad. The main problem with this situation is, he claims, “There are so few games to my taste on this device.”

Playing and Building Games He Loves

But Cousins has a simple solution: At DeNA, he makes the type of games he enjoys, particularly as he believes there are many players who prefer the same games he does. Currently, he is playing Scattered Entertainment’s latest game (yet to be announced), as well as Terraria, Angry Birds Go, and Papa Pear Saga. But he feels the last three definitely need more violence and explosions.

Cousins’ present work focuses on free-to-play shooter games on mobile. Previously at Electronic Arts, he was making free-to-play shooters on PC, so the transition was a natural one. He chose to leave EA because, as he puts it, “I was tired of playing second fiddle to AAA games in boxes.” And at ngmoco (as it was then known), he found the people he most wanted to work with. He tells us the one of the most satisfying accomplishments in his career was turning around Battlefield Heroes from a mediocre business to a very successful one within only a few weeks.

The Drowning
The Drowning is just one of the games in Scattered Entertainment’s portfolio

Interestingly, Cousins is a developer of free-to-play games who believes his value as developer in this genre stems from his reluctance to spend on free-to-play. He says, “An IP has to be extremely appealing to get me to buy it. I think the most expensive thing I’ve spent money on is a run of extra turns in Candy Crush that ran to about $10. I was trying to catch up with another player.”

Enough is Enough

As Cousins considers the direction the games industry is going, he sees the biggest impact coming from “devices ‘good enough” for the biggest addressable audience getting smaller, cheaper, and drawing fewer watts.” He tells us his company will be most affected by the development of new classes of devices running iOS and Android, including TVs, watches, glasses, and headsets, although, until he knows more about these platforms, he can’t be sure how he will implement the newest trends.

Video Coverage

Roxanne Gibert: Behavior Analytics | Casual Connect Video

September 5, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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“The framework for analysis that I use when I go into any game is taking a look at what is the metric that is suffering the most right now that can contribute the most to my gross revenue,” Roxanne Gibert told her audience during her session, Monetization Toolkit: Tuning Game Design Using Analytics, at Casual Connect USA.

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Facing Distribution Challenges

Roxanne Gibert is a Product Manager of User Acquisition for DeNA. She is currently working on driving new viral, cross-promo, and user acquisition targeting features for the Mobage platform. She believes the biggest challenge the games industry currently faces is becoming truly cross-platform and finding new distribution sources outside of the social networks. The industry needs to create new networks that can connect developers with distribution sources other than Facebook and the Apple store.

Mobage
Roxanne currently works on driving new viral, cross-promo, and user acquisition targeting features for the Mobage platform.

Her previous experience as a developer with an emphasis on user behavior analytics will help her create more seamless discovery experiences for players on the Mobage platform.

In Roxanne’s free time, she enjoys spending time with various activities around San Francisco, a city where she loves living. She takes urban hikes through the city or Golden Gate Park, explores the restaurants and lounges and drives around Lake Tahoe and Napa Valley. She also enjoys wine tasting, playing poker, and cooking for her friends and family. She occasionally likes to dabble with playing the piano and guitar.

When you realize what flying blind really looks like, you want to find the answers, and the process of coming up with those solutions is really enlightening.

Analytics from Scratch

When Roxanne tells us about the greatest moments of her career, she describes starting a mobile gaming studio two years ago. They published a midcore strategy game that wound up hitting Top Ten Strategy in US and Canada, and they make their own analytics platform. She describes this time as an incredible learning experience.

Roxanne Gibert
Roxanne Gibert

Creativity vs. Data

The biggest challenge Roxanne has had in her career was trying to merge a culture of creative design with a metric-driven business strategy. Although she doesn’t claim to have overcome this challenge without a few bumps in the road, she did learn how to merge the two over time. She tells us, “This process led me down the path of diving really deeper into user behavior analytics and forecasting than I had in my career. When you realize what flying blind really looks like, you want to find the answers, and the process of coming up with those solutions is really enlightening.”

Android Emergent

Roxanne believes the next important trend in the games industry will emerge as Android opens up a whole new way of looking at app development and discovery. She says, “I am excited to see how developers grow on Android.”

Video Coverage

Terato Tech’s Reza Razali on Discoverablity and Fundraising | Casual Connect Video

July 1, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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“Our experience of working with clients and game publishers enabled us to grow quickly.”

When Founder and Managing Director Reza Razali started Terato Tech four years ago, the company consisted of him and his brother. During these four years, they have grown to a team of thirty-one. They are now able to maintain a positive cash flow and have received many awards for their accomplishments as a company which develops mobile applications, focusing mainly on games development and daily basis software. Reza describes the company as starting out building enterprise mobile apps for clients, serving both domestic and international markets. From there, they grew into building their own IPs. He says, “Our experience of working with clients and game publishers enabled us to grow quickly.”

Reza Razali
Reza Razali

He has faced many challenges, but one that stands out most to Reza is when a well-known publisher dropped one of their games only a few months after they had signed the contract. It was still necessary for them to continue servicing that IP, but the company and the team persevered. Fortunately, they had healthy revenues from other parts of the business with which they could continue to fund their IP development.

Discoverability and Fundraising

He insists that discoverability is also a problem unless the company has an adequate user acquisition budget or the backing of a well-known publisher.

As for the greatest challenges in the game industry, Reza believes it is discoverability and fundraising. The majority of companies in the area find it necessary to supplement their revenues from IP development with servicing work. It is difficult to raise sufficient funds, and fundraising too early leaves a company vulnerable to a low valuation. He tells us, “I have met various game development companies which gave up 50 percent of the company for less than $10,000 US.” He insists that discoverability is also a problem unless the company has an adequate user acquisition budget or the backing of a well-known publisher. At Terato Tech, Reza works to mitigate these challenges with publishers, partnering, and funding user acquisition.  They work with numerous publishers and have successfully launched games in this way. They have allocated adequate funds for their user acquisition activities.  And finally, they have partnered with companies such as DeNA which assisted them in producing their next IPs.

Reza emphasizes the need for the industry as a whole to find ways to work with these challenges. He sees Casual Connect Asia as a great initiative, allowing developers within SouthEast Asia to connect where there was previously no similar opportunity. He points out that there is a need for more regional platforms for regional developers to connect. Rather than the challenges, Reza sees tremendous opportunities in Asia. Since SouthEast Asia is home to 550 million people, it is a huge market for game companies. There are now many up-and-coming game developers and exciting IPs coming out of the region, which is way Reza is excited about Terato Tech’s new development, a game development accelerator based out of Malaysia. This accelerator is designed to assist game development companies in South East Asia with accelerating and launching games globally.

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