Today's gems are mined ⛏️ from session #3 of the "Secrets of Game Growth" event organized by Mopub/Twitter.
Michail Katkoff (CEO of Savage Game Studios, Founder of Deconstructor of Fun), Sophie Vo (Studio Lead at Voodoo, Founder at Rise and Play), Matthew Lewis (GM of Call of Duty mobile) and Vincent Pagnard-Jourdan (Head of Publisher Partnerships at EMEA, MoPub) discuss game development, marketability and monetization for very different games.
The Dichotomy on Mobile Games Market
For hypercasual games, it all starts with a mindset of “we don’t know what we don’t know”. The best way of knowing is to get to market fast and test a lot of ideas. They have small, lean teams with ownership at the team level.
For any games they do at Voodoo, they start by assessing the marketability first. They need to know very quickly that the game is viable on that front and that’s why they test a lot.
Hypercasual is also about developing what the market demands at a big scale which means it is very based on trends: what was popular a few years ago may not be popular today. That’s why you have to test a lot.
For a game like Call of Duty Mobile it is not just about having the right LTV/CPI ratio, it’s also about having the content pipeline that allows the game to maintain at a high level for a long time and evolve. Example: some content related to the “seasons” fatigued faster than they thought it would, so they had to tweak it.
While Call of Duty mobile is primarily IAP, they are trying to build a massive community and they know that a lot of people are not going to pay. So there has to be a way for players to get cool gear without paying: players can grind their way through playing or through watching ads.
However they do think about potential cannibalization of IAPs through ads/gameplay, so there are some cosmetics that you can only get through monetization. Example: a new common weapon (and its power) can be obtained through playing or watching ads (to keep things fair), but the best cosmetics often require paying.
There is a trend in the “midcore casual”: “casual” games that become more and more complex.
Project Makeover which is like 3 games in one and covering different player needs in one game (decoration, fashion, match 3).
There is also a trend of “hybrid casual” games that fall between casual and hypercasual (ad-based yet with a good amount of IAPs). These games offer more interest over time than hypercasual games, yet look very approachable (easy to get started on). Trend is also visible in China with games developed by Ohayoo.
With ATT it’s important to think about games that have a broader appeal, where you don’t suffer from the lack of granularity.
Post-ATT, the most important is how good you are at product marketing (not UA). UA is important (data science, creative capabilities) but there are ways you can drive installs and maintain community outside of UA. However the challenge for indies is that this tends to be very resource-intensive and it’s hard to achieve without increasing headcount.
With ATT rolling out, there is an appetite for gaming developers to diversify their ads revenue and capture brand budget. In 2020, brand advertisers also understood that their audience is in gaming. We’re at the beginning of more brands advertising within games.
To make it as a smaller studio, it’s less about the game idea that you have than it is about finding the right talent and building the right culture.
When testing for marketability (hypercasual and casual games), test first on your actual target market (not just on a similar market). There are techniques that privilege CTR tests over CPI tests but it’s best to test directly on CPI even if it’s with a prototype.
Direct ports of a game between geos never, ever work. You have to be prepared to have flexible UI across your game if you want it to work across different geos.