PG Connects speaker spotlight: Volker Hirsh

The opportunity in 2014 is for the big beasts

PG Connects speaker spotlight: Volker Hirsh

It's just weeks to go before Pocket Gamer Connects 2014.

Our first conference will be held in London on 20-21 January - you can find out more details here.

So to whet your appetite, we're finding out more about some of our speakers.

Previously with Mforma/Hands-on Mobile, Connect2Mobile, Scoreloop and BlackBerry, Volker Hirsh is the co-founder of Oystercrowd (growth accelerator for start-ups); Blue Beck (a game development studio); and Digital M (branded digital merchandise for avatar and sticker platforms).

He also serves as chairman of Infantium, a Barcelona-based cognitive adaptive learning platform; Cognisess, a people analytics start-up based in the UK and US, and is venture partner at Emerge Venture Lab, an ed-tech accelerator from Oxford University's Said Business School.

He tweets at @vhirsh

Pocket Gamer: What do you think has been the most significant event for mobile games during 2013?

Volker Hirsh: There have been two, I think.

  • The continuing rise of Supercell and their $3 billion valuation on the investment from Softbank and GungHo.
  • King's performance and the filing of their S-1 on the back of Candy Crush Saga's success.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges and opportunities in 2014?

The sector is maturing and this generally favours bigger players with established player bases as it allows them to apply smart money in player acquisition and retention.

Also, the F2P arena might see scrutiny from regulators with an as-yet-unclear set-up. With games that have no cap on potential spending, we are almost guaranteed to see some backlash.

How will indie developers fare? Any advice for people launching new games?

The fall of Fishlabs shows how hard it is even for established indies with proven franchises and terrific talent to fight for survival.

It has been said that a game needs a budget of $1 million these days to make it. Even if that number is on the high side, those budgets are hard for most indies to shoulder. When it takes $100,000 in marketing spend on day-one to make it into the US charts, this becomes a daunting exercise which is not for the faint-at-heart.

It will be, therefore, ever more important for developers that still want to try and self-publish to apply a thorough end-to-end plan for launch: starting with well thought-out retention mechanics in the design phase, all the way to smart launch marketing plans.

However, my guess is that the budgets involved might push a few people back into more traditional publishing models. Niches both in genre and geography might also be a tactic developers could apply.

How big do you think the East-meets-West opportunity is, and which markets are you most excited about in 2014?

The smartphone penetration in some key emerging countries is pushing upwards fast and this might be an opportunity for those unable to compete with the big boys in the valuable key markets in North America and western Europe.

Asian markets are harder to tackle for most western developers and this is also the case for the bigger players. The reverse is often true, too. There are few Asian players that can replicate their success in the west. Collaboration may well become the norm soon (again, the marriage between Supercell and GungHo may be a trailblazer for this).

What are you expecting to learn from attending Pocket Gamer Connects?

To learn from the best!

What was your favourite mobile game of 2013?

Judging by the number of hours I spent, it has got to be Candy Crush Saga.

It is also a good demonstration on how to effectively use a lot of behavioural dynamics around an extremely well-known game concept and nailing it!

Finally, what's your New Year's resolution and what resolution would you enforce on the industry?

I don't do resolutions...


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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