5 Things We Learned at Pocket Gamer Connects SF

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Originally published on the GrowMobile blog.

Pocket Gamer Connects San Francisco took place earlier this month for the first time and a number of major mobile game companies came along to share their insights with the attendees.

And as we were there, we thought it’d only be fair if we shared the love with you as well. Here are five of our top takeaways from the show for you to think about:

1) Nintendo is taking mobile seriously

Anyone who may have thought that Nintendo’s move to mobile could have been made cautiously were proven very wrong by DeNA’s CEO in the West.

Shintaro Asako confirmed Nintendo’s intention to launch 5 mobile games in the next two years (each of a different genre), with new titles released at an almost quarterly rate after the first title breaks cover at the end of this year.

Rather than fearing the new mobile order, it appears that Nintendo is readying itself for a serious attack at the mobile gaming summit. And though they haven’t given us any clue on how exactly they’ll be doing that and with which IPs, expect them to get towards the summit very soon.

2) Build a fanbase for long lasting success

Mike Hines, Developer Evangelist of Amazon, reckons that mobile gaming companies can learn from NFL when it comes to succeeding in the mobile gaming space.

That might seem unintuitive, but when it comes to getting new players the NFL doesn’t have to spend any money because of its pervasive fan base. And though it may be difficult for a mobile game to reach that level of ubiquity, the idea holds true – establishing a fan base will help you push down marketing costs.

To do that, you need to establish a full plan. Reaching out to Twitch, Youtube and E-sports influencers can help you build a buzz about your game; working with your social media team to promote fan content can help build a buzz about your game; building a product strategy a la Angry Birds can make money and solidify brand loyalty.

Fans are difficult to make, but if you can then they will help you succeed far more than mobile companies simply acquiring “users” in the long run.

3) Disney licenses show the monetary value of consumer clout

Frozen Freefall is a pretty basic puzzle game and one which doesn’t hugely differentiate itself from the market gameplay wise. But the addition of Elsa and friends from the famous film helped it grow into one of Disney’s major mobile gaming assets and a method for promoting future games.

And that was just one of the takeaways from Chris Heatherly’s fireside chat that showed how much monetary value a brand or licence can have in the right hands. From giving Disney a foothold to create a puzzle game promotional network to the success of Marvel’s Contest of Champions leading to a tie in branded comic books, the immeasurable power of Disney brands has helped the company fire its way to serious mobile gaming success.

Best of all, their business model means it could be open to you. Disney is open to working with partners in the mobile gaming sector, provided they have free-to-play experience and knowledge of live operations. And if you’re good enough, you could discover for yourself how valuable a Disney brand could be for your gaming company.

4) Research could help you make your mobile game a success

Graham McAllister of Player Research showed a piece of research that has the potential to shock many game companies. In his time heading up a game research company, he showed that 73 out of 100 mobile games from a publisher had an issue within the game that was likely to stop the game from monetizing.

While Graham didn’t go into too much detail for fear of revealing company secrets, what he did reveal is that these weaknesses were revealed after the game was launched and not before hand. By failing to research the game early, this publisher had obviously spent a lot of money on marketing and launching a game that they are highly unlikely to have gotten back.

So research could help save a lot of money if you botch the game and launch it. But it can also help you throughout the life of a game. Hutch games saw a 30% uplift in game monetization after they redesigned a tutorial as a result of research advice.

By exploring how your players react to a game both using in-game metrics and qualitative market research, you won’t just solve problems in your game design; you’ll solve problems in your marketing and monetization efforts.

5) China needs to be treated differently

Why do people play mobile games across the world? In the U.S., South Korea and Japan, the top reason to paly mobile games is to pass the time according to EEDAR. But in China, the top reason to play mobile games is to relax. And it is just one reason why mobile game developers need to treat China differently.

In fact, one of the big themes of the show was the importance of treating China as an essential standalone market. Josh Burns, a consultant previously working with Chukong, explained how Google Play has no traction in the country, but a patchwork of 200 spin-out Android app stores do.

Furthermore, Chris Petrovic of Kabam showed how Western titles such as Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans have, for all their success, failed to replicate the lock out of the top grossing in China. Domestic properties have, instead, taken the top.

So it was left to Stephen Peacock to explain exactly what you need to do. A localization expert, his thoughts on preparing art styles and linguistic changes to suit a Chinese market is applicable across the board.

When it comes to China, you need to treat it as an entirely separate business enterprise. And until you do, you won’t be able to achieve full success in the largest mobile gaming market in the world.

ellad As a Senior Marketing Manager at the Growmobile team, Ellad Kushnir Matarasso is focused on the establishing and building of the Growmobile brand, including brand strategy, positioning and market analysis. He manages all external marketing activities including communications, content marketing, events, PR, product marketing, sponsorships and lead generation reporting. In his spare time he never misses an episode of “The Walking Dead,” and when not being chased by zombies, he enjoys traveling.

Published July 22, 2015
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