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.
If you have ever been to a theme park or large carnival, you know first hand how crowded such places can be. As a game developer, have you have tried to tackle simulating something like that in a game? Frontier Development’s Principal Programmer Owen McCarthy Traditional has some pointers. In a talk at Casual Connect Europe in London entitled Simulating 10,000 Guests in Planet Coaster, Owen gave an overview of how Frontier did it in Planet Coaster. They were able to successfully simulate over 10,000 park guests in a player-created environment by using potential field research based on continuum crowds. In the presentation, he takes a deep dive into the studio’s development process to show how they took this system from prototype to full production. See the full session below.
Virality matters. It has become one of the essential features describing the propagation on social networks. This ranges from viral news to viral videos on YouTube or Vimeo to viral games. It helps to monetize, but in spite of being such a vital feature of digital marketing, the ways of measuring virality remain somewhat elusive and non-ubiquitous. Join Michael Leznik, Head of Data Science at Product Madness, during his talk at Casual Connect Europe 2018 where he discussed separate metrics and some technical possibilities of evaluations.
Are you a game developer who has decided to use the free-to-play business model? Then, no matter how exciting your game, you must find ways to make it profitable if you are to continue in business. How will you convert the users into paying users? Then how will you convince those paying users to continue spending in your game? These are difficult but absolutely essential challenges. There is no better person to advise you than Teut Weidemann.
Teut Weidemann is the F2P Consultant at I Teut You So. As a senior online games specialist, he consults with companies in the F2P space, sharing the knowledge he gained working in games since the 1980s and shipping over 100 titles on multiple platforms. He was part of the team that created the browser game of the year, The Settlers Online.
At Casual Connect Europe 2018, Teut gave the session titled Raising ARPPU and Conversion in Your F2P Game. In it he used examples from dozens of different games in best practices for raising ARPPU and conversion: the most difficult problem. Once past this hurdle, raising ARPPU is a little easier, but still tricky. You must always be aware of the fact that players want value for the money they spend in the game.
To learn more about how you can keep your game profitable while providing the value players want, be sure to watch the video of this session.
To read more about Teut including some more of his wisdom from Casual Connect Europe 2017 which took place in Berlin, see this exclusive article.
The idea of Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic for many but for game developers in particular. Enjoy this non-technical presentation which draws on recent work by a Professor at Essex University, Dr Richard Bartle. At his presentation AI for Games and AI for Gamers at Casual Connect Europe, he outlined how AI can help game development right now as well as how it will be able to help and/or hinder it in the near future. “A must read when learning AI technology is Yannakalis & Togelius: Artificial Intelligence and Games”, he recommended. Tune in for highlights on: testing game balance, prediction of player experiences, rapid testing AI opponents, data mining, story generation and automatic game creation.
Hyper Casual, the latest genre of mobile gaming, has caused a monumental shakeup in the app stores in the past year. But what exactly makes a game hyper-casual and why has this genre been seeing such success? How do we expect hyper-casual games to evolve? And, most important, what can strategies can you learn from the developers of hyper-casual games?
If these are questions that concern you, there was a session at Casual Connect Europe 2018 that offered some answers. This was a panel session, The Ascension of Hyper Casual Games, that brought together experts in the field to discuss all aspects of this new genre. These are the participants on the panel:
Eren Yanik, Chief Revenue Officer at Gram Games. Eren is responsible for both ad and IAP monetization, overseeing Gram’s ad business and the shift of the focus on IAP. Previously, Eren was a management consultant with McKinsey and ran projects in the US, Middle East and Europe.
Hugo Peyron, Head of Creation at Voodoo. Hugo co-founded publishing at Voodoo and has helped it grow to the number one ultra-casual game publisher in the world. As Head of Creation he is involved in the company’s reflexion on continuously creating the best performing games possible.
Nimrod Klinger, Senior User Acquisition Manager at TabTale. Nimrod, as a mobile growth expert, is responsible for managing the growth of more than fifty of TabTale’s games, including its greatest hit, Run, Sausage, Run. Nimrod is in charge of the entire conversion funnel, including briefing creative teams, managing channels and campaigns, until the final conversion, getting in and staying in the app store’s top charts.
The panel was moderated by Carl Livie, Senior Manager, Business Development at AppLovin. AppLovin is a comprehensive platform that helps developers of all sizes finance, market and expand their businesses. Carl leads the European Business Development team and is responsible for helping European publishing partners scale their ad revenue. As an avid gamer with a BA degree in Arabic, Carl has the perfect attributes for a career in performance marketing.
To learn more about hyper-casual games and the strategies you can take from them, be sure to watch the video of The Ascension of Hyper Casual Games.
As President of Tangelo Games, Vicens Marti treated the audience at Casual Connect Europe in London about how to make a successful merger or acquisition between two related but different businesses. He spoke of the various parts on how to identify the synergies between the two companies. This included how to bridge different cultures and identities and set up and keep a correct balance of power. This launches the need to make a strategically based plan to support an effective brand migration and other important aspects. See the full presentation entitled Top Tips on How to Ensure a Successful Merger or Acquisition Between Two Related but Different Businesses Within the Social Casino Industry to learn more.
In 2017, the team at Wooga began an 18 month long journey to ‘bring Diamond Dash back from the dead’. The game did quite well but ended up being retired in 2015 as the market changed. Learn from Senior Product Manager at Wooga Tim Shepherd as he tells the story of resurrecting a 7 year old game. Join Tim for his talk entitled Bringing a 7 Year Old Game Back to Life at Casual Connect Europe 2018 in London.