Every developer knows how critical user acquisition is to the success of a game. But the mobile app landscape evolves at lightning speed and new challenges constantly arise. So how do you keep up? Fortunately, new solutions are also coming to deal with the latest problems.
Martin Price, Vice President of Product at Vungle, is one of the best people you could ask about user acquisition challenges. Martin runs Vungle’s product team and, as well, is responsible for roadmap planning, research and development, user experience and product design. With over fifteen years experience leading product teams, Martin also has had executive roles at Yahoo!, Vdopia and OpenX and strategy roles at Vodafone and Nokia.
At Casual Connect USA 2018, Martin presented the session Tricks of the User Acquisition Trade: How Advertiser Tools are Changing and What You Need to Know to Drive More Revenue. They discussed what today’s user acquisition challenges are and how creative optimization plus data give the opportunity to transform the way audiences are grown. And they described the ways creative optimization and self-serve advertising tools help to empower a new kind of mobile advertiser. Be sure to watch the video of this presentation to learn more.
As Chief Operating Officer at Gravity Co., LTD, Yoshinori Kitamura is in charge of management, with major focuses on business strategies, overseas development and new business development. Currently his emphasis is on expanding the Ragnarok business according to the one source multi-use method. He is also in charge of managing the group companies (the US office and the Taiwan branch), and the NeoCyon office involved in mobile business to business. Yoshinori has participated in Ragnarok‘s Japanese business since 2003 and became involved with the management of Gravity in 2008.
Finding Trends in a Fluctuating Market
Yoshinori enjoys the fact that his job shows clear results for what he does. He likes to challenge himself as he predicts trends in a market that is constantly fluctuating. As he describes, “It is rewarding when you succeed with new ideas without being caught by fixed concepts.”
His first exposure to gaming came in his school days; while playing Famicon with his friend he developed a desire to enter the game industry. However, at the time this seemed unlikely. Instead Yoshinori became involved with American football. While doing sales at a recruiting advertising company he was given the opportunity to join their company football team. Following this career he began working for Rothman’s Marubeni, a tobacco company which withdrew from the business some years later. He was then involved in starting several IT companies invested by Marubeni.
Solitary players are spending most if we put them into the most socially active room! - Wibe WagemansClick To Tweet
As the fastest growing social casino company, Huuuge Games is innovating through relentless focus on a real-time social multiplayer platform. At Casual Connect Asia, Wibe Wagemans spoke about how Huuuge Games has already achieved category leading monetization (ARPDAU) and has seen success with TV and digital ad campaigns and how Huuuge Games is going after new market segments and demographics. He reflected, “The funny thing is there are a lot of players in social casino who play slots solely alone. What we’ve discovered is if we put them in the same room room with other players, you can drive the ARPDAU for even 50-year-old players.” Keeping on top of updates is crucial to user retention. He explained, “I cannot emphasize enough how important speed is for a startup. We have cycles where we do updates every two weeks – which allows us to innovate way faster than anyone else in the industry.”
I’m a busy guy. I run a game studio that has made over 45 premium casual games in the last decade. I podcast and livestream. In the last year, I’ve traveled to about 20 different cities, spoke at a major game conference about every other month, and found time to climb Mt. Fuji, go trekking in Nepal for 2 weeks, and a bunch of other cool stuff. All of that while being a father, a husband, and having a quality sit-down dinner with my family almost every night. People ask how I find the time. It’s actually pretty simple. I’ll share.
I work from home. This alone saves me 10-20 hours a week. I am not wasting time commuting and all of my breaks are shorter and more meaningful. Lunch? The kitchen is just 20 feet away. I’m done eating in half an hour and most days I get to share lunch with my wife. Want to take a break and read? The couch is right there. And all of the little stuff that needs to be dealt with every week: dentist’s appointments, paying bills, PTA meetings, etc., I fit that in between work tasks and can build the most efficient schedule for it because I never run into the “but I have to go home to do this” problem – I am already there.
I have a really nice workspace. I spend most of my waking life sitting at a desk working so I made sure that the chair I sit in is a good one. My desk is large enough to let me spread out papers, have room to swing a mouse around, and have a couple of monitors to spread out the digital content I need to be putting together. My space has a door. When the world outside intrudes, the door closes, the headphones go on, and I get stuff done. This, of course, is based on your tolerance for distraction. Some people in our company can tolerate a lot more distraction, and smaller working spaces. Some even prefer to work in cafes. This is something you have to test and see. That being said, most people generally benefit from reducing distractions, ensuring they are comfortable, and minimizing the number of outside influences while they work. Incredibly, working at home, even in a very busy home with children, parents, etc. can’t touch an open-office floor plan for creating distractions and annoyances. When I consider how much of the world is forced to work in brutally open floor plans, surrounded by aggressively distracting coworkers breaking their chain of thought… the mind shudders.
Similarly, I minimize digital distractions. Nothing on my computer makes noise. No application has popup notifications turned on. I take regular short breaks between tasks to check internal company chat groups, Facebook, Reddit, etc., but I never let these programs notify me or pull me away from my current task unless someone specifically summons me by name. Any decent internal chat program will let you set up notifications this way, and it’s critical. Even my phone has the ringer turned off, and it’s in another room. When I am working, that time is mine, and short of some major emergency, I don’t allow interruptions.
I schedule ruthlessly. If you want a meeting with me, it gets scheduled. Want to exercise regularly? Schedule. Time with the family? Schedule. I do “date night” once a week with my wife. That’s on the schedule. I go to guitar lessons with my daughter. That’s on the schedule. Think of your schedule like armor protecting you from the people who want to take time from you. You want to talk to me for 2 hours? Sorry, I only have 30 minutes for you in my schedule. Talk faster. You’d be amazed at how much someone can cram into 10 minutes when you only give them 10 minutes.
I avoid “regular meetings” like the plague. If you schedule a regular meeting, you will likely have to make up things to fill it with. Screw that. Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul. When they are absolutely necessary, I bring a list of what I want to achieve and I only bring the people who need to be there. It’s rare you really need more than 3 people in a meeting – better to have smaller meetings, write notes, and disperse them to the people who just need the info and aren’t actively contributing to the content. Forget big collaboration meetings. The science is clear: collaboration breeds mediocrity. Divy up the work, let people go do, and save the meetings for figuring out how it all works together and what to do next. This is how creative people thrive.
Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul.
I hire competent people and let them do their jobs. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than hiring someone to do a thing, and then doing it for them. This is a critical management skill, and it takes an adjustment of the mind to do well. Specifically, you have to change your thinking from “Is this what I wanted?” to “Is this good?” The reason you hire experts is because they are better at things than you are. So assume that they will give you something different, and probably better, than your expectation. Back off, look at it objectively, and if it does the job, pull your ego out of the equation and let it be. If you find that you can’t do that because you don’t trust or believe in the work someone is doing, replace them.
Good enough is good enough. I’ve been called “relentlessly Pareto”. I take that as a compliment. I only polish when it matters. The rest I let be. If you see me chatting with the team, my text is full of typos. They know what I mean. This isn’t getting published. I let it be. Our design documents are loose, rough, and produced fast. Our prototypes are ugly. When I give feedback, I take screenshots and scribble on them with the pen in the Windows Snipping Tool. It’s ugly, but the team gets it. Better they get the info ugly now than pretty tomorrow. If it’s not going in front of a customer, it’s only as pretty as it needs to be to be understood.
I don’t do email. Email is where information goes to die. If you are writing emails that require more than a few sentences to notify someone of something, you’re doing it wrong. That information needs to be put in a living document somewhere and shared. If I need to talk, I set up a quick call, we talk, I make notes, post them where they can be easily referenced later (we use Basecamp) and that’s referenced on our chat system (we use HipChat). If you need to say something more than a few sentences, document it, text, or call.
I do one thing completely before I do the next. Half of any serious creative task is just figuring out what you need to do, unpacking the details, and then banging them all together into something. If you are constantly shifting from task to task, you’re constantly redoing all of that preparation work, over and over. Stop that. Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on. Half-done tasks pull at your attention and energy and make everything else you do more irritating and stressful. Clear your mind of these distractions by doing, completing, and moving on.
Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on.
Sometimes, all of this breaks down, and I am seriously unproductive. It happens. When it does, I get up and walk away. Take a walk. Go to the gym and swim. Take a bike ride. Read a book. There are no bonus points for the number of hours you spend at a desk. If you find that you’ve been at a desk for 30 minutes or more, and have achieved nothing, step away. Recombobulate. Come back fresh. If you don’t, you’re going to just screw around looking at Facebook or YouTube or doing easy busywork anyway. Once you start down that road, you’re gone for an hour or more. Own that time. Make it yours. Shove something else you want or need to do into it.
I have one last, super specific tip: Every night, my last task is to write down the three things I will do tomorrow. I do this on a piece of scrap paper, and lay it on my keyboard. When I wake up and start in the morning, it’s there. Waiting for me. I don’t check email. I don’t do Facebook. I start with item one on the list and start my day. Until that list is done, my day is not over. When it’s done and my scheduled meetings are complete, I can call the day a success, and move on to stuff that I want to do – be that work related or not. This creates a sense of purpose that starts me every day, completion that helps me feel good at the end of the day, and excitement for what I am going to do tomorrow.
That’s largely it. Of course, I don’t keep to these rules 100%. Some days I keep closer to my regimen than others. But I have found that the closer that I keep to this life plan, the happier I am, the more I get done, and the better I feel about myself. Hope it helps.
Pixel Gear is a colorful 3D pixel shoot-em-up with a variety of humorous cartoon monsters, zombies and ghosts as enemies to defeat. The game includes six levels that are filled with a variety of interactive objects that exhibit entertaining reactions when hit, and a host of upgradeable weapons as well as defensive objects.
Some companies in Japan focus on making kinda virtual girlfriend content. - Masaru OhnogiClick To Tweet
As Head of Global Business Development for gumi Inc, one of Japan’s leading mobile gaming companies, Masaru Ohnogi oversees their strategic business partnerships around the world. Most people know gumi for their successes in mobile games, such as with Brave Frontier, Phantom of the Kill and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. Over the past year, gumi have expanded considerably into VR by co-founding a $50 million VR fund called The Venture Reality Fund with partners in the Silicon Valley, which focuses on seed or early stage startups. In their session at Casual Connect Europe 2017, Nogi showcased the company’s achievements within AR/VR as well as provided the opportunity to take a peek into the current and future trends of VR in Asia and the world.
Let’s face it, conferences aren’t cheap. Hotels, flights, dinners… even a small 3 day show is quickly hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. When you factor in lost time for travel and preparation… You’re going to want to maximize the value of that commitment.
For this article, I am focusing on B2B conventions, where you are mostly interacting with other companies in your sphere of influence. Consumer-based conventions require different skills and strategies, but much of this will still be meaningful.
How do we thrive in this highly competitive games industry? Developers face many challenges such as players’ discerning tastes and the fact that not every game works in every region. Gaming companies can appeal to regional audiences by culturalizing content and using certain techniques to create games with a local brand image. At Casual Connect Tel Aviv, Robert Pontow, VP Publishing at Active Gaming Media Inc, highlighted how companies can apply culturalization when releasing games in Japan as an example of a mobile gaming market which is lucrative but hard to crack for foreign developers. During this session, Robert reflected, “It is very important to really get the localization and culturalization right. Otherwise, you might not get the potential users.” See the video of Robert’s session below to learn more.
Christopher Natsuume is the Creative Director for Boomzap. He helped co-found the studio in 2005, though he has been working in games since 1994 on console, PC and mobile platforms. Christopher calls running his own studio a fulfillment of a dream since he worked with his co-founder Allan in Scotland.
'The advance of mobile phone and technologies will continuously enhance games.' - Shelley LauClick To Tweet
Traditionally, game studios don’t fit the same profile and growth horizon as other technology companies seeking external funding such as venture capital. In a talk given at Casual Connect USA, Shelley Lau, managing partner of IPC Ventures, covered the nuts and bolts of building the next “ventures” in the mobile gaming space that, in turn, will be on par with other tech startups to take advantage of the ecosystem of venture capital and startups and hit the critical mass. “Think from the perspective of your investor. It’s not easy to be in the business. It’s not easy for them and it’s not easy for you. Just try to be collaborative. Try to think of a win win situation for both of you.”