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 a game developer thinking about live operation in Asian markets? But you know Asian markets differ from each other. So what is the difference in game operation strategy between the different markets in China, Japan, Korea and South East Asia? These are crucial things to know, but it can be confusing especially if you are a western developer.
You could certainly benefit from the experience of Yuli Zhao, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at YOOZOO INTERACTIVE. Yuli is in charge of game and IP licensing, global merger and acquisition deal sourcing and strategy cooperation, and lead game operation for the China and Japan market. At Casual Connect Europe 2018, Yuli presented the session How Operation Influences Game Performance the Asian Markets and What Western Developers Can Learn From It.
In this session Yuli discussed whether live operation is a strategy or a tactic as well as the differences between the various Asian markets in game operation strategy. She also described how the live operation philosophy is influencing western markets and what western developers need to learn from it. To understand more about live operation, be sure to watch this video of Yuli’s session.
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.
At Casual Connect Europe, Nicol Cseko (VP of Product at Aarki) gave a talk entitled Level Up Your App Marketing with the Power of Creatives. She advised others on how to take the performance of your mobile app campaign up a notch by leveraging data for creative optimization. She also gave insights into successes and failures for mobile app campaigns and answered why they had the outcome that they did. Learn how you too can optimize ad creatives using data and previous lessons to deliver significant improvements in ad performance. Please see the video below for the full talk.
Join Michael Haberl, Founder and CEO of Xendex, at Casual Connect Kyiv 2017 as he described the dozens of smaller stores out there for apps and encouraged developers to think outside of the box. These small stores offer mobile games as premium products or via subscriptions. There truly is success to be found in such niches. Michael’s presentation takes a closer look at these alternative app stores and markets, the players in there, business models and how developers can access them.
Keren Yehiel is a Client Development Manager at Bidalgo where she manages SaaS clients. Bidalgo is an official marketing partner of Facebook, Google, Snapchat and Pinterest. Keren came to Bidalgo from the marketing industry. She was looking for work in a market-leading company that offered the opportunity to develop personally and professionally. At Casual Connect Kyiv, Keren discussed the seven commandments for social casino creative.
If your mobile company is to survive, you must continue achieving profitable user acquisition. Unfortunately, mobile advertising is a constantly changing landscape; what is working for you today may be, not just less successful, but completely irrelevant tomorrow. So how can you deal with this situation? Casual Connect USA, 2018 offered this panel of industry experts to help you.
Brian Bowman is the founder and CEO of ConsumerAcquisition.com, a company that offers an end-to-end user acquisition platform with AI-powered campaign automation and action-based reporting. Prior to founding ConsumerAcquisition.com, Brian was founder and CEO of LikeIt.com and has also been a consumer internet executive for Match.com, Disney, ABC and Yahoo.
Tom Young is Chief Marketing Officer at ConsumerAcquisition.com. Tom brings a decade of experience in marketing, including VP of Online Marketing at Reply! Inc.
Rich Jones is a client solutions manager at Facebook with a focus on mobile gaming. Recently his initiatives included the adoption of creative best practices, developing new automation tools, and the profitable scaling of ads-based games. Before coming to Facebook, Rich was Senior Growth Analyst at AppLovin and a researcher at Stanford’s electron physics laboratory.
At their session at Casual Connect, the panel The Future of User Acquisition – Creative Marketplaces, Machine Learning & UA Bots provided creative techniques and best practices for sustaining profitable user acquisition growth. They also discussed emerging tech such as creative marketplaces, machine learning, automated bidding and UA bots. To learn more about the innovations that are tremendously altering the industry, be sure to watch the video of their session.
Macy Mills is a business development specialist focused on the gaming industry. Currently, she works with game publishers who are interested in scaling their user base with influencer marketing. Before GameInfluencer, she was the VP of Strategy and Business Development at Hitcents, creators of The Godfather: Family Dynasty, Draw a Stickman, and Hanx Writer. At Casual Connect Kyiv, Macy spoke about different, unorthodox approaches to influencer marketing.
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.
Today, the global game market is $100 billion USD. Given this fact, publishing your game globally is a particularly compelling proposition. That said, it can also be quite a daunting concept. At Casual Connect Asia, President and CEO of LAI Global Games Services David Lakritz described how you can know which markets are the best fit for your game and where are you more likely to achieve a higher ROI. He highlighted some free tools and strategies to address these issues during his presentation. For the full session see below.