Beating up the old guard: How Xyrality came to lead the German mobile MMOG market
Co-CEO Ossenbrüggen reveals all
While other players - notably Bigpoint - have struggled to make the transition from browser online games, the 2009 start up has demonstrated the value of a clean slate approach.
Its debut Lords & Knights is still growing strongly, while it's using its strong technology base to release more games.
We caught up with co-CEO Sven Ossenbrüggen to find out why, and where Xyrality's going next.
Can you give us some background about Xyrality?
Sven Ossenbrüggen: Alexander Spohr [the co-CEO and CTO of Xyrality] has been a friend of mine for over ten years. We were always keen on the idea of realising a games company together.
By the end of 2009, we were not sure what our first project would be exactly, but we wanted to get into the mobile market.
The MMOG genre was already interesting for us back then, and when we finally got around to founding Xyrality in mid-2010, the MMOG genre had opened up for mobile markets as well. That was where we saw our chance to jump right in. We had a clear market entry strategy and made very quick progress.
Looking back, it's nice to see this was the right decision. We managed to be early enough to become one of the first German companies in the mid-core sector.
How difficult was it to find staff in Germany for iOS and Android development?
It was - and still is - rather difficult to find qualified personnel for iOS and Android development.
We can see that a bigger iOS developer scene has grown, which makes recruiting slightly easier. When it comes to Android, the developer scene is still very small.
In order to build up our team we have invested in talented employees and their Android and iOS qualifications. Our company philosophy enables the talents to learn and develop quickly.
What other challenges did you face?
We always cared for optimal player experience and have since, created native clients for three different platforms: iOS, Android and browser.
As you can imagine it is a relatively big challenge for a small company to develop and update on three systems simultaneously.
We also had some compatibility issues - a good example of which would be the Emoji characters, which are very popular on iOS devices but cannot be displayed in the browser and on some Android devices that easily.
Lords & Knights has been very successful in Germany. Why do you think that's been the case?
Not only in Germany - we have in fact been #1 in the iTunes top grossing category in 14 countries and in the top ten in 44 countries. Less than 25 percent of our revenue is coming from Germany.
We believe this is due to the fact that Lords & Knights offers players the full functionality of an online strategy game but on smartphones and tablets.
We have a very big and active community in all the different game worlds, which is vital for MMOGs to be attractive for new players. We are also focusing on a fast and effective customer support.
And last, but not least, even though we present a complex game, it is easy to get into as the user interface is intuitive and has been developed according to the specifics of mobile gaming.
All-in-all, we offer a complete strategy online game experience that was specially made for mobile and has a lot of active players and social aspects to offer. This makes our games so much fun to play.
Are there any other countries in which it's been particularly popular?
We are quite successful in Spain, France and Russia, and are making progress on the US market, which is becoming increasingly important.
We are especially proud to have achieved a partial success in Japan (#25 in top grossing overall), which is a very difficult market for a Western company.
Recently you've released a number of themed MMOGs including vampire, Asian and Celtic games. Why have you done this instead of focusing all your attention on expanding Lords & Knights?
Our technology structure enables us to produce new games in regard to the visual experience without investing a lot of effort, since we can use the same engine as a base.
We can hence set up new themed games for other player types relatively easy, by changing some stats and features as well as the appearance.
In other words, we can produce a new scenario and another taste of the game without huge effort. This gives us the chance to attract players with a different taste for graphics.
Lords & Knights works very well in Germany, whereas Crazy Tribes, which has a post-apocalyptic setting, performs better on the US market, especially on the Android platform. With Imperial Dynasties, we have designed an Asian version and are especially hoping to attract Chinese players.
With a diverse portfolio, we also gain some advantages marketing-wise, as the CPAs are lower in the relative markets.
Additionally, we can use our growing user base for effective cross promotions within our portfolio. However, this strategy of adaptation and changing skins is not endless. We are working on completely new games too.
When it comes to updates and fixes of our products, the aspect of a shared engine is an advantage as well. New features or hot fixes are available immediately for all games that use this engine.
The German browser game industry has found it difficult to move onto mobile platforms, so why has Xyrality been so successful?
We were focused on the mobile market from the very first. We were lucky that our competitors gave us such a long time of being nearly alone in our genre in the mobile universe.
However, these times are now over and the competition has increased a lot. Taking this into account, we believe it is much more difficult to get into the market today.
The strategy and RPG game sector is now very competitive with companies such as Kabam. How do you expect to continue your growth?
Our company strategy gives us a lot of potential ways to expand. In 2013, we expect that our revenues in the Android and browser sectors will grow at rates of several hundred percent.
Furthermore, we are still growing on the iOS, which is our most successful platform among the existing games. On top of that, we are developing three completely new games and have just successfully published our first third party game.
So what should we expect from Xyrality during 2013?
We are really excited with this year's upcoming projects!
In addition to a lot of new features for the Lords & Knights family, we are currently working on a very tricky and challenging puzzle application, which is based on a game with a long history on the Amiga. More information on that will follow soon.
One of the favourite projects among our staff is definitely the tower defence game that we are developing.
The genre is simply one of the most addictive ones. Obviously, the market might not starve for another tower defence game but we really love the genre and wanted to put our own ideas into it.
With our own tower defence IP, we will also be able to perform powerful cross-promotions, even though the game itself might not be a candidate for top grossing scores.
And, personally I am thrilled about our upcoming triple-A role-playing title. We will launch an MMORPG, especially designed for mobile devices in the second half of 2013. It has a very immersive gameplay and a huge basket of high quality graphics. This will be a real pleasure for all fantasy fans!
Thanks to Sven for his time.
You can check out what Xyrality gets up next to on its website.