The 8th edition of this year’s Growing Games workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place last Thursday, and the subject was driving sales and achieving market access.
Finding just the right timing for taking your game across borders, or figuring out what your options are when it comes to go-to-market strategies in a new area, is no easy feat. But to help shed some light on the topic last Thursday was both Caspar Strandbygaard, the head of Multiverse, watAgame CEO, Henrik Riis, ICT Innovation Officer at Innovation Denmark in Shanghai, Ning Kang, and Annie Dumitrescu, Amazon’s business development manager of mobile initiatives in EU.
The host of the 8th edition of the workshop, which is arranged by Interactive Denmark, was the Danish Export Council and Innovation Centres. The day featured 2 main sessions focusing on the “when and where” and “how and why” of driving sales and achieving market access.
Before the main sessions started, however, it was time for a mini springboard session. The mini springboard is an opportunity for a game developer to pitch his or hers company, and ask a board of seasoned veterans for advice regarding some of the challenges they are facing.
On stage for the mini springboard was Dobriyana Tropankeva from Copenhagen-based Savivo, a company that develops mobile educational games. The challenge that Savivo has been facing lately, is that while their apps have over 2 million users and ranks as number #1 in the educational section of many app stores, the apps aren’t profitable for the company! Dobriyana explains that Savivo has collaborated with many local area publishers, but most of the time, the publishers have either failed to deliver on their promise, or the downloads have only been worth very little in terms of revenue, so the company is now looking for a distribution or acquisition deal.
The response from the panel was that Savivo should first of all look at how the competitors make money, and consider if that model would work for their apps as well. Additionally, they questioned whether or not one app would fit both the needs of the consumer and the educational institutions. Teachers, for example, might want a back-end system where they can control how their students use the app. Furthermore, the panel suggested that Savivo might have expanded too quickly, and advised the company to take a step back and focus on getting a good grip of the Danish market first, and then later on expand to closer markets in Europe. And as a closing remark, “Think of globalization in short, medium, and long term strategies”.
The first main session saw Caspar Strandbygaard, the CEO of Multiverse, and Henrik Riis, CEO of watAgame take the stage to talk about their experiences with the “when and where” of going international and driving sales.
Caspar Strandbygaard was first on stage, where he told the story of their product, Kogama, which he explained as a Youtube for gamers. “It is a tool where people can make games for others to play”, he explains. Initially, the company had bought 10k users through Adwords and Facebook ads to track how many would come back later, and how much the players would engage with the games on the website. Caspar’s experience had been that of the first 10k players, 5k came back. And those players brought so many of their friends to the site, that they quickly reached 15k users.
Thinking that these statistics would hold true for the next bunch of paid users as well, the company quickly ramped up their user acquisition budget, only to find that a) Facebook ads aren’t as scalable as you might think, and b) The first users are excellent and engaged, but the more you get, the worse the stats will look.
Kogama had used Russia and Poland as the first test countries when they launched globally in March 2014. After some initial database crashing and revision of the architecture, the website started launching in 2-3 new countries each week, and is now marketed in approximately 20 different countries, which brings in a total of 6 million monthly page views, and 150k hours played per day!
The fast growth didn’t come on its own, however. Near the end of his talk, Caspar explains that he had met Click Jogo at GamesCom in 2012, and that shortly thereafter, Click Jogo had invested in Kogama, which had led to a lot of exposure, in exchange for a 50/50 revenue share deal.
“It was pretty good business to give away half your company to get more users.”
Next on stage was Henrik Riis from watAgame. His company had taken a completely different approach to internationalization, where they self-publish in one country at a time instead of working with a huge publisher like Caspar Strandbygaard had done with Kogama. wayAgame was established in 2003, and has 20 full time employees in Copenhagen.
In his talk, Henrik focused on their newest product, Momio, which is a Facebook for kids. The product was released on Android and iOS in 2014, and is available in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Holland, and has been downloaded 1.3 million times.
Henrik’s overall message was that with an app, you should go global as soon as possible – but with a controlled approach. You need to have a detailed plan for your globalization, as you will want to minimize the risk of failed launches. In relation to the plan, Henrik explains that he is a fan of iterating, as it is very hard to get everything right the first time. And when you launch in a new country, you’ll want your plan to be spotless, as “you can only launch in a country once!”, Henrik emphasizes.
Near the end of his talk, Henrik explains that it is very important that your cost per acquisition is lower than the life time value of your users. It might sound like basic math, but how do you actually get to a point where the CPA is lower than the LTV? Henrik’s advice is to constantly look at the funnel. “Where are users in the flow, when they’re dropping out? Maybe the firs login, maybe the second or third login. Ask yourself: Where do they drop off, and can I do anything to improve this experience?”.
In the second session, Ning Kang from the Innovation Centre Denmark in Shanghai takes the scene to talk about the how and why of publishing games in China.
To answer the question of “why” to publish games in China, Ning starts out with showing a slide, which indicates that globally, the expected revenue in total is 80 billion USD, and in Asia, the expected annual revenue is 36 billion USD. That means that nearly 50% of the the total revenue generated by games comes from Asia. In additiona, there are 147 million core gamers in China, and 28% of these play more than 1 hour per day.
When it comes to operating systems, Android is slightly more popular than iOS, so that’s no different from most western markets. The challenge, however, is that there are several hundred different app store market places, and none of the payment systems we use in the western world are used by the Chinese. So how do you know where to go to, and how to find the right partner?
First of all, Ning explains that you need to understand that in China, “free to play is king. No exceptions!”.
But just because you’re free to play doesn’t guarantee that you will succeed, and Ning’s overall conclusion is therefore that you should always work with a locally-knowledgeable publisher.
At the very end of her talk, Ning also busts the myth that simply translating your app into Chinese is enough. “Don’t just translate the game into a Chinese language. You need to know all about the platforms and how people communicate, and change your game accordingly”.
The day ended off in a pitch training session where four game developers from the audience were given 5 minutes each to pitch their game and afterwards get feedback from a panel of judges on how to improve their pitch. The four developers were Peter Kjær from Pixeleap, Sebastian from Mystic box studios, Theodor from Typo Interactive, and Mikael Debel from Proper Dog Games.
Overall, the feedback from the judges were that when pitching, you should always focus on the unique features of your game, remember to explain what your offer the investor in return for their money, and always show gameplay. Always!
You can read more about Interactive Denmark and Growing Games on their website.