Interview

Why Playlab is investing Juice Cubes' western profits in UA campaigns in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia

Why Playlab is investing Juice Cubes' western profits in UA campaigns in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia

On 14 June 2016, the Israel Mobile Summit will take place in Tel Aviv.

This year, one of the interesting topics is how western game publishers can succeed in Asia, one of the main speakers at the Summit, Jakob Lykkegaard, co-Founder and CEO of Playlab, will share insights in his talk.

The founder of the summit, Ofir Leitner, sat down for a short interview with him.

Jakob, to start off, can you tell us a bit about your top game, Juice Cubes, and its reception? What where your expectations before launch, and how did it take off in reality?

Juice Cubes was created at a time where we were really low on cash and only had this game left. I had never imagined that it would grow as fast as it did.

It was especially around the User Acquisition, as I remember us scraping $500 together for a Facebook UA test in Australia and after around a week we had made $700 back, so we were like "Wait, What if we put in a few thousands instead?" and when that worked we kept scaling up till we had profitable spend several millions within the first year.

Was there a specific market the game was mostly successful at? If so, why was it?

We made by far the most revenue in US, but Australia was a really great second market for us.

Playlab is still making all our revenue in western markets, but investing all the profits in Asian markets; south East Asian markets in particular.
Jakob Lykkegaard

Remember that this was also 3 years ago when Facebook was still keeping low margins and there wasn't as much focus on Australia, so the LTV vs CPI was still great.

Can you tell us about some user acquisition move that went really well? Or is it all about advertising?

For us it was all about having a great game that was social so people would invite their friends and on top of that have great monetization so we could afford to acquire users.

Back then there was very little knowledge being shared about UA, so for us it was all trial and error till we got it right.

We had one major loss a few years prior to Juice Cubes, when we launched Lost Cubes.

We had been told that incentivized installs was the only way to grow, so we managed to spend $40,000 on 16 hours to grow to #8 US free chart, only to heavily drop like a rock the day after and lose all the money. It took us 2 years to make that single day back.

It seems that today more than ever western mobile game publishers are keen to enter Asian markets, can you explain this trend, and why is it happening these days?

Playlab is still making all our revenue in western markets, but investing all the profits in Asian markets; south East Asian markets in particular.

The growth here is insane, we have had a constant growth rate of over 50% the last few years and it does not look like it is slowing down.

So for us due to our locations in Bangkok (Thailand) and Manila (Philippines), we are the only real studio based in the middle of this and following the growth first hand. It seems to be going at a much faster rate than the early days in USA

Is there one big "Asian Market" that can be addressed in one strategy as you'd approach the US market for example?

China, Korea and Japan are by far very different markets, so those take very different partnerships and strategies.

But for Southeast Asia, it is still seen as one market, the countries and cultures themselves are widely different, but since the global game market has neglected these markets for so long the taste of games and art on mobile are still very similar and can be addressed as one market.

It is only a matter of years before you will see this changing.

However at the moment it is very much a mix of western Supercell/King games and localized Chinese/Japanese games.

Can western games generally be marketed in some of the Asian markets with the same strategies?

In general, yes as you would still have Facebook as a great distribution here and Google Play as the main platform.

Google Play has been a great help as they have already expanded with sub-dollar pricing and carrier billing.
Jakob Lykkegaard

Google Play has been a great help as they have already expanded with sub-dollar pricing and carrier billing, those were the biggest pain points for us in the early days, as you had to go with 3rd parties.

Can you give some examples of known games that succeeded in Asia and some that didn't?

Best example by far was Pirate Kings from Israeli dev Jelly Button. They did much better in South East Asia than the rest of the world.

We are lucky at Playlab to also have Michael Velkes who was behind Jelly Buttons, marketing at that time and working on the next big thing to follow those steps.

I'm not sure exactly what games that have failed to enter here, but keep seeing western companies such as Rovio fully wrapping the Bangkok skytrain in advertisements for their games, which is locally known as the most expensive and least effective ad spot you can buy.

Which Asian markets do you see growing the most in the next 2-3 years?

My top 3 would be Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is based on all the data we have on size of market, spend per user, growth and cost per install.

Any special tips for game publishers who want to be successful in Asia?

Optimize on Google first, localize your prices, push their carrier billing and focus on sub-dollar offers.

Remember that $2 can get you a full meal here, so it is important to adjust your prices accordingly.

And last question: Will this be your first trip to Israel? What do you expect from this trip?

This will be my first trip to Israel and I'm super excited to come. I have heard so much about the country and companies, so looking forward to seeing it all first hand!

Jakob Lykkegaard will share more insights at his talk at the Israel Mobile Summit - 'How Western Games Succeed in South East Asia'

You can find out more details at the summit's website.


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