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David Fernández, CEO of Sandsoft, on the importance of Blockchain to the future of games

Fernandez gives his thoughts on the state of the gaming industry ahead of speaking at Pocket Gamer Connects in Jordan this week
David Fernández, CEO of Sandsoft, on the importance of Blockchain to the future of games

We’re back in the city of Amman on November 12th to 13th for Pocket Gamer Connects, and you won’t want to miss everything we have in store for you at this unmissable event. The MENA market is the fastest growing market in the games industry with plenty of opportunities to explore. Ahead of the conference we interviewed some of the fantastic speakers who will be appearing, this time David Fernandez of Sandsoft.

David is an experienced leader in the gaming industry with more than 15 years working across THQ, Digital Chocolate, Nokia, wappier, King and Sandsoft Games, across Leadership, Strategy, Product, Marketing, Sales and Business Development. Before joining Sandsoft Games, he led the last 2 games released at King, Candy Crush Friends Saga and Bubble Witch 3 Saga, expanding both Candy Crush and Bubble Witch multi-billion-dollar game franchises for Activision-Blizzard. He also has a complete picture of the mobile ecosystem having worked for telco operators, device manufacturers, service providers as well as developers, being involved in mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile services, mobile content, mobile apps and mobile games projects during the past 20 years.

David holds a Masters in Telecommunications Engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid as well as an Executive MBA from Instituto de Empresa. David is currently working in Sandsoft as Chief Executive Officer. He’s also a Partner in Conector Start-up Accelerator and an Angel Investor in gaming and tech. Please give us a summary of what you’re speaking about and why it’s important.

Our Diamond Sponsorship on PGC Leadership Summit Riyadh 2022 is reflecting the relenvace for us to host the event in Saudi Arabia and connect the country with other vibrant gaming ecosytems in the world. As Sandoft's CEO, I'd be speaking at the event to (1) showcase the work and the experience that our team have and upscale our company profile, (2) connect with potential partners for our game development and/or game publishing activities, (3) enhance the local gaming ecosystem by sharing knowledge, (4) increase the attractiveness of the MENA region not just from market/consumer perspective but also to establish a gaming hub in Riyadh for game development and publishing.

What’s the most common mistake you see being made in the games sector?

Considering that all games will eventually be commercially succesful when most of them actually fail.

If you could give other mobile games companies one piece of advice, what would it be?

Focus on core game experience and mechanics first as player engagement is key for success.

Where are the next big opportunities in the mobile games market?

Blockchain technology will transform the games industry and enable players with better game experiences where developers and publishers will share ownership with them.

What’s the most important key performance indicator (KPI) for you - and why?

30D retention, as it would give you a sense on how sticky your game is. If 30D retention is healthy and you're able to keep players engaged during that period of time, they enjoy your game and you can find ways to monetize that experience and business models which can support your revenue goals.

What is your biggest aspiration/goal in mobile gaming?

Drive a MENA-based organization to become a relevant player in the global games industry.

What company do you most admire in the mobile games world?

I can't name just one as there are many I admire for different reasons ... Blizzard, King, Electronic Arts, Supercell and Ubisoft are in the top 5. Scopely is quite close.

What do you think the next big disruptor in mobile games will be?

Blockchain technology will transform the games industry and enable players with better game experiences where developers and publishers will share ownership with them.

What is the single biggest challenge facing the mobile games industry today?

Non-organic growth as User Acquisition has become morecomplex and more expensive.

What leaders/pioneers in games do you find inspiring?

Trip Hawkins, Ilkka Paananen, Riccardo Zacconi and Javier Ferreira are industry leaders I had the pleasure to work with, I admire and I respect.

What developments do you think have been undervalued by the mobile games industry?

Female players are still to be developed and nurtured beyond casual games.

What’s your favourite ever mobile game?

Again, it's hard for me to pick just one mobile game as there have been many that I have enjoyed ... From historical perspective I would say the following ... Snake (Nokia), Prince of Persia (Gameloft), One (Digital Legends, Nokia), Angry Birds (Rovio), Candy Crush Saga (King), Clash of Clans (Supercell).

What game from another company do you wish you had worked on?

Diablo Inmortal

What game do you think offers something new, and exciting that hasn’t yet hit the mainstream?

I haven't seen anything unique and exciting lately.

What game has been on your phone the longest?

Bubble Witch 3 Saga

The mobile space evolves at a much faster pace than console and PC gaming, but is there a console or PC trend that you think has potential within the mobile space?

I see more opportunities for players to become represented and feel included in console/computer games versus mobile games. Everyone likes to be the hero and that's usually more inspiring with that character you pick to play is actually a fair representation of who you're.

What is the most overhyped trend from the last 12 months - and why?

The metaverse ... This is an aspiration point for the evolution of social networks, gaming and e-commerce. However, I see a lot of virtual worlds and/or games that are for from being universal, interoperable, accesible ... which are key requirements for an open ecosystem based on standards as Internet is. Amost everyone is buidling THE metaverse in a siloed, selfish approach.

What key trend should we be paying attention to in the next 12 months?

Blockchain games will evolve into better game experiences and hide the technology and focus on improving player experience

What role do NFTs play in the future of games?

Blockchain technology will transform the games industry and enable players with better game experiences where developers and publishers will share ownership with them. NFTs are a clear example where you can assign ownership of an unique digital assets in a game to players, providing them with a clear value not just in game but also outside the game experience.

Is hypercasual gaming here to stay?

Yes, however it would be trickier to scale simple games and their game design and economy would become richer and more complex, getting closer to casual games, to drive longer player engagement - not necesarily to unbalance the existing IAA vs IAP ratio.

Tell us your thoughts on ONE of the following: the metaverse, Cloud-gaming, Cross-platform games, Play-to-earn games.

I have already shared some thoughts on the metaverse before as well as blockchain games - I personally refuse to call them Play-to-Earn games as they're more approaches into it like Play-and-Earn or Play-to-Own. Cross-platform games would make sense as long as player experience is optimized for the platform at use and there's fairness in the game mechanic for players playing across all games; however, it should be noted that not all games are equally successful being cross-plaform as they challenge some of the principles shared. Cloud gaming is still to be proven as a viable solution and it's not clear where the consumer benefits rely as most of the clients/terminal devices that consumers have, no matter if they're portable or not will have enough processing power soon to deliver high-quality experience on device.

When not making/selling/playing games, what do you do to relax?

Cooking, watching movies/series, reading

What do you enjoy most about working in the mobile games industry?

The diverse set of talent I have the opportunity to work and/or partner with. Different cultures, perspectives, skills ... at the service of the players. I also like that, generally speaking, it's quite open and collaborative where most companies share their challenges and their learnings both in intimate and public environments.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you can pass on to others?

Be bold ... think big but start small.

What was your first-ever mobile phone?

Alcatel OT 301

What was the fundamental appeal of the mobile games industry that brought you to it?

As a gamer and a telco engineer, the path was clear when the industry started to boom with J2ME games.

What sessions/speakers (apart from your own) are you planning to attend?

Not sure yet ... I'm interested in Game Innovation, Player Behaviour, Investment Trends ...

What topics do you want to hear more about at industry events?

Players ... We don't talk much about how players behave, changes in the player audience, differences in player habits and/or consumption.

Can people get in touch with you at the event? What sort of people would you like to connect with?

Yes. I don't have any preference and/or restriction.

Who are your 'Don't miss' speakers at industry events?

In all honesty, I'm mostly networking/socializing an events rather than attending specific talks or panels. A recent surprise to me has been Yat Siu, CEO at Animoca Brands.

What would you like to see more of from events in the future (such as resources for neurodivergent people or more allocated spacing for meetings and networking)?

Not sure what to propose as I haven't attended PGC events lately.

What is one way attendees can prepare for your discussion?

Think out-of-the-box.