In the gaming industry monetization is key to keeping in business and making new games. Conventional strategies include in-app purchases or ads and yet there is no single right answer for all games for a monetization strategy. Join Diana Platonova, CBO at MyTona, as she described evidence-based examples of what worked well for MyTona. In her talk, Customising for Your Audience: How Game Art Affects Monetization, at Casual Connect Asia, and see how they were able to incorporate these ideas into their game Seekers Notes. Diana advised, “Strive for excellence and never stop there. There is always something in your game that can be improved, changed or tested.” Tune in a video of 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.
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.
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.
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.
Delivered at Casual Connect USA 2018, David Rogers, Lead Designer of inXile Entertainment spoke about the problems inXile discovered while building the core mechanic of The Mage’s Tale, that is, throwing fireballs in VR. While they initially thought this would be relatively straightforward, it turned out to be much more complicated. David would like to help others avoid the long iterative process they had to go through before getting it right.
While speaking about negotiating with publishers at Casual Connect USA, Caspar Gray of The Arsenal Agency advised, “Think carefully about what you want before you start the process. Identify your pressure points and think about what their pressure points are.” In his talk, Caspar gave details about how to zero in on a good idea, get people excited about it, negotiate smartly and sign a fair contract. To learn more, see the full lecture below.
You know the mobile games market is saturated, with many games coming out every week. And the gigantic companies have a huge advantage; everyone knows who they are and what they can do. So how can you, an indie developer, succeed in this market? And can you do it while staying true to yourself and what you want to create?
There are indie developers who have found ways to compete and succeed. At Casual Connect USA 2018, a panel of these developers shared their experiences in the session Ask the Developers – How Indie Devs Can Compete with Giants and Remain True to Themselves. Here are the participants:
Josh Nilson, CEO and Co-Founder of East Side Games, the studio that created Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money. This game was a top 100 game in more than 100 countries and had great player reviews.
Julian Erhardt is Producer at Fluffy Fairy Games. He began as one of the first employees one year ago. Now he owns the full release process for all updates of Idle Miner Tycoon and all platforms. He makes sure the millions of players get new content and optimizations every week.
Eiso Kawamoto is Head of Product, Monetization and User Acquisition for Metamoki, the studio that developed and published Mob Wars, Fruit Pop and Tap Mafia. Eiso spearheaded business development and game publishing in a partnership with Warner Music Group, building and successfully launching Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm on 420.
The Panel Moderator was Sean Webster, VP of Business Development at AppLovin, a mobile marketing platform that helps developers expand their businesses. Sean brings in new publishers from around the world to a company that processes more than fifty billion ad requests every day.
The panel discussed questions of urgent importance to indie developers, such as: should you take funding and when, and what are the common pitfalls. They also described unique stories from successful indie developers. If you are concerned about how to succeed as an indie, these are the answers and experiences that could help you. Be sure to watch the video of this session!
As an Art Lead at Microsoft, Floyd Bishop chronicled how to create expressive characters and their setup in Unity at Casual Connect USA 2018. He advised, “Use every part of the buffalo.” To learn more about how you can make this work for you, be sure to watch the video of the full session.
Although it is disheartening, when your game doesn’t sell, Brandon Sheffield, Creative Director at Necrosoft wanted you to know that this isn’t the end. Developers shouldn’t give up and think they missed their one shot. At Casual Connect USA 2017, Brandon stated that if you’ve got a game that’s portable to modern platforms, you’ve got a revenue stream. If not from consumers, it will come from platforms. By using examples from several companies, Brandon shared how Necrosoft sells versions of current or older games to new platforms in order to fund new projects in the session below.