Netflix for movies, Spotify for music, but nothing like that for games… so Rovio, who many just know as creators of Angry Birds, have corrected it by coming up with Hatch: a free-to-play mobile game streaming service that will first come to the Android platform. Instead of downloading a game on your phone, you stream it through an app, whose backend cloud infrastructure makes it possible to play without lag. What is more, you can hand the controls to a friend, therefore turning a single-player game into a multiplayer experience. Hatch founder and CEO Juhani Honkala told Gamesauce more about Hatch-ing the new project.
Michail Katkoff described important mechanics of retention, virality, and monetization in the mid-core genre during Casual Connect Kyiv 2013.
Michail Katkoff has recently joined Scopely as Director of Product Management, where he works with developers in all phases of the product development cycle. Since some developers are closing to a soft launch, some are in pre-production phase and others are out with a live product, his contribution varies depending on the product phase. At different times, he is building game economy and core loop, going through numbers and reviewing traffic performance, optimizing user flows, or putting together user tests to see how the current build performs with real users. He says, “I get to do daily the tasks a normal product manager would do during a year—and that’s awesome!”
Family Support for Sega
Katkoff’s fascination with games began as a very small child. When he was only five years old, his family moved to Finland and immediately made a huge sacrifice to give him a Sega, which he feels was an investment that has proven immensely valuable. Without a background in programming or art, he didn’t realize he could have a career with the games industry. But in 2010, he discovered an opening for a Product Manager with Digital Chocolate, applied, and was excited to get the position. While there, he developed, managed, and launched Facebook games. Two years later, he joined Rovio, leading games monetization, and then Supercell as Product Manager for Clash of Clans and later Partnership Lead, building the business side of games. He emphasizes, “My experiences at Supercell and Rovio have given me a unique window into everything that goes into scaling a mobile game into a global success.”
Attacking Social Games
The most gratifying time of Katkoff’s career was the launch of his first game, Army Attack. He found the road to that moment long and filled with doubts as he thought over and over that the project would be killed. He states, “When it was finally launched and we saw really good numbers coming in, I was extremely proud.”
Agile Not Just for Development
When Katkoff joined Supercell and was asked to do business development rather than building games, he experienced his greatest challenge. He responded by creating targets and establishing a strict timeline for reaching these targets. He explains, “Basically, I created a mini SCRUM for myself with two-week sprints.”
Katkoff revels in the pace of the games industry as it evolves and grows at enormous speed. He points out, “What worked a year ago just doesn’t move the needle anymore. You have to be learning and evolving all the time to stay ahead of the game.” And this is what keeps him in the business.
Rising Production Value on Mobile
When not involved with work, he indulges his love of sports, especially mixed martial arts, and is at the gym daily. He also enjoys listening to Rap for the confidence boost it gives him. No wonder he describes himself as driven!
When considering the future of the games industry over the next few years, Katkoff emphasizes the importance of mobile devices, with high level production hitting the market as soon as smartphones are able to run them. He doesn’t expect console-type gaming to be a big factor on mobile. Instead, he claims, “We’ll be seeing more of the deeply engaging casual titles that conquer the hearts of the vast majority of people who don’t consider themselves as players.”
Ville Heijari gave his audience insights on tools that work when launching a game, engaging users, building long-term growth, and setting a game apart from the rest during Casual Connect Kyiv 2013. He explored the latest trends in player acquisition, engagement, and monetization while providing examples from successful mobile developers.
Ville Heijari, General Manager, Europe at Playhaven, works closely with the European game developer community, particularly in helping F2P developers understand, adopt, and integrate the business engine Playhaven offers. To this position, he brings extensive experience working with developers and publishers. Throughout his career, Heijari has emphasized the importance of understanding the concerns and motivations of players so developers can learn what it takes to run a healthy business while providing a captivating game experience. He insists on the need for anyone working in mobile analytics, advertising, marketing or CRM to have this firsthand experience.
Challenging Problems, Different Solutions
There are several issues facing the games industry today that Heijari sees as both complex and deep-seated. Game discovery continues to be a major challenge for developers, as does overall in-game engagement. Service providers, networks, and data are fragmented, leaving many developers and publishers confused.
He believes the industry will rise to these challenges through greater consolidation of service providers, publisher networks, and developers. He recommends, “Developers and publishers should be more open to collaboration and sharing their reach, and service providers should be able to offer more coherent and extensive tools, at reasonable and scalable costs.”
At Playhaven, they respond to these challenges by remaining open to new opportunities and technologies. For example, they offer wide support for different development platforms, including Unity, Adobe AIR, Corona, and Marmalade. He also points out, “Different solutions have different strengths and weaknesses, so non-exclusivity should be a no brainer.”
The Free-to-Play Megatrend
As Heijari considers the direction the games industry will take in the next few years, he suggests that the biggest trend for the next three years will be F2P. He points out that the industry is still split on the value of premium and freemium business models three years after the trend emerged in the western hemisphere. So he believes that, although F2P is already a megatrend, it will take about three years before the F2P mindset is established across the whole industry, with a balance between fun and business. At Playhaven, their focus on this trend means continually working with cutting edge developers providing them with the best-in-class tools to effortlessly run their businesses so they can concentrate their efforts on creating amazing and engaging games.
Although Heijari is clearly highly focused on his work, at other times, he enjoys cycling and calls himself a bike nut, constantly fiddling with his bikes. He also enjoys running and, of course, video games. He listens to electronic music, especially tech house, which he finds perfect for a flow state focused exercise.
Launching into Space
Heijari claims the launch of Angry Birds Space as the greatest moment of his career. He played a part in assembling an array of partnerships, media exposure, stunts, and audiovisual material to support the launch of this incredible game, helping push it to a record number of downloads in a remarkably short time. He says, “There were a lot of things we accomplished during my time at Rovio, thanks to a dedicated team pulling together with incredible effort. But physics demonstrations using Angry Birds plushes on the International Space Station? You absolutely cannot beat that!”
Metrics and Common Sense
The biggest challenge Heijari has faced in his career was managing customer interfaces while transitioning Rovio from a games company to a media company, juggling the interests of all stakeholders involved. Instead of just keeping loyal fans happy, suddenly he had to balance business and marketing partnerships, licensee interests, and new media products, at the same time as retaining as many people as possible and bringing in new audiences. He insists, “There is really no way around it except metrics and common sense.”
Stick to your Strategy
He states, “The most important thing I learned is that focus is essential to the successful execution of your strategy. Focus on things that engage the crap out of players and fans, impact the bottom line, and expand your business in the future. Everything else needs to go.”
At Casual Connect Kyiv, Heijari announced that Playhaven’s Push Notification beta program is in full swing and they are continuing to accept new applicants. Hundreds of developers have already signed up, and interested developers can gain access to the beta tool at here.
Gewben Wu is a Business Development Director at Fortumo, Ltd., an international provider of mobile payment solutions for web services and mobile applications in more than 70 countries. Like other companies at Casual Connect, Fortumo is focus on emerging markets. Gewben states that his entire view of the company changed at GDC 2010, when their close association with Rovio began. Android was a new platform then, but Rovio’s commitment to the platform indicated to Gewben that there was indeed mobile revenue to be made on Android.
At Fortumo, Gewben is responsible for the Asian office, where be brings six years game industry experience in management, sales and marketing. Before joining Fortumo, he helped set-up overseas businesses for several leading Chinese game companies, including Snail Game, Renren Inc. and Perfect World, helping. He feels this experience gives him an advantage in his present position.
“The greatest moment in my career came when I joined the Fortumo team,” Gewben says. “I was able to bring global payment solutions to well-known Asian developers and phone manufacturers. Together, we created totally new things that have benefited the industry.”
Joining Fortumo meant a significant change in direction for him, as the payment solution was quite a departure from a more traditional online game industry. His new role requires him to think differently about industry trends and consider the best ways to promote the Fortumo service to Asian developers and app stores. Now the Fortumo Asian team not only provides a global payment channel, it also helps developers release apps to the worldwide market. The key aspect of the Fortumo service is that it is free.
Focusing on the Big Picture
Gewben has learned to understand what developers are thinking, and discuss what developers want to know, enabling him to help them in different ways. He emphasizes helping people holistically by focusing more on the big picture rather than only what is directly in front of you. He points out that the economies of Asian countries are growing at a phenomenal rate, with over half the population of the world living in this area. By contrast, the Western game market is much more saturated, competition is tough and it is difficult to gain visibility. He says, “Game companies which have been successful in the West have huge revenue potential in Asia simply because of the enormous base of potential users. The greatest difficulty they will face is adapting games to the local culture and playing habits.”
Gewben suggests that mobile operators should carefully consider how they want to be involved in the app ecosystem. He also notes that change in market takes time because the huge telecom companies are working with some solutions that are more than a decade old. In order for operators to stay relevant and provide competition to credit card companies, they must update their payment solutions in cooperation with app developers and mobile payment providers.
At Casual Connect Asia, Gewben announced Fortumo’s partnership with a large Asian phone manufacturer. This was also announced in the Western media.