Games as a Service will be 'table stakes' from 2014, says Glu

Chris Akhavan on focusing on your infrastructure

Games as a Service will be 'table stakes' from 2014, says Glu

As part of an ongoing series, SponsorPay - together with - is launching an interview series about market trends and future opportunities with C-level executives from key game developers and publishers.

The series starts with Glu Mobile's president of publishing Chris Akhavan.

Previously at companies such as Tapjoy, RockYou and Yahoo!, Akhavan leads Glu Mobile's worldwide publishing activities including player acquisition, advertising monetization, marketing and strategic partnerships.

How has the freemium model served Glu? What key trends do you see happening in future?

Chris Akhavan: Glu's transitioned from a premium (licensed IP) feature phone business to an entirely free-to-play, original IP smartphone model in 2010.

This allowed the company to develop strong relationships with each of the major mobile platforms as well as reach a massive global audience.

I expect the following trends to continue or develop in the future:

  • Server-based games, ones with persistent, online interaction are dominating top grossing charts. Glu's invested heavily in our own central server-side technology platform that we're rolling out as part of many of our Q4 titles this year. I expect delivering true Games-as-a-Service to be table stakes from 2014 moving forward.
  • Additionally, I expect production values of titles to continue increasing over time as platforms mature. The bar for graphics, sound, and user interfaces will continue to rise as consumers expect more and more polish from the games they play.
  • Monetisation systems will also need to evolve along with the free-to-play model. As consumers better understand how free-to-play games operate, the industry is going to need to update the monetisation strategies and mechanics driving their offerings.
  • As the adoption of connected TVs, tablets and controllers for gaming continues to rise, we might also see some experimentation in session length of gameplay. Most free-to-play games are currently optimized for short session lengths as many users play in short bursts. As mobile gaming crosses into the living room, games will be designed to transition to different environments and situations, allowing users to play very short to very long sessions in ways that keep them engaged throughout various times of the day.

What are your thoughts on the potential of mobile video? Will mobile video continue to grow as rapidly as it has this past year? How do you see this trend impacting your advertising solutions?

Having spent the past several years of my career in digital advertising, mobile video ad growth is a trend that I've been excited to see evolve over the past year.

Glu has been integrating video-based advertising since Q2 and will continue to do so. We think there is still significant room for growth in mobile video demand.

Delivering video on mobile is a compelling medium; it's an engaged audience, people watch intently before returning to their content. Advertisers will eventually follow their audiences.

To what extent do you think Glu's robust online presence (its high-traffic Facebook page, for instance) attracts and engages consumers? Should this be a part of every publisher's strategy?

For us, connecting with the players is about cultivating a relationship around our brand, not just individual games. We want users to be drawn to our titles by recognizing Glu's brand as one that delivers high quality, fun content.

We want them to see our 'g' man in the corner of a game icon and have it immediately communicate the type of quality game they're downloading.

Knowing where your audience is communicating and creating a community in that medium should be a priority for all publishers.

How have Glu's partnerships with leading entertainment brands like Atari and Fox impacted product and strategy?

In the early days of the company, Glu leveraged licensed IP such as Family Guy and Guitar Hero to stand out in the feature phone economy. We've also had great success with the Deer Hunter brand, which we purchased outright from Atari.

However, as we transitioned to the free-to-play business model, we've focused our efforts on creating high-quality, original IP games.

Original IP games will remain the backbone of our portfolio for the foreseeable future, but we are once again finding value in licensing IP in some select cases. We will continue to evaluate opportunities on a case-by-case basis - keeping fun, original gameplay as the main objective.

How do you see genre games (e.g. zombie games) performing against more unique storylines? Would you tell developers to diversify their games portfolio?

The type of game a developer is looking to make depends heavily on the type of investment they're willing to put forth.

It's easy to take a cookie-cutter approach that takes advantage of a popular genre. Assuming you can do that on a small budget, it could end up being an ROI positive effort. But chances are, it won't have a long shelf life.

However, if a developer is willing to invest more aggressively to create something unique, there's a better chance of that game being around for a few years.

It's entirely possible to create a successful title with either approach. It all depends on goals. The bar has gotten really high for a long-lasting game that will be a sustaining hit. But everyone loves a good zombie game! regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.