PG Connects Speaker Spotlight: Ben Cousins

Ex-DeNA man now ripping it up freelance

PG Connects Speaker Spotlight: Ben Cousins

After taking over London at the start of 2014, Pocket Gamer Connects will make its grand return on the 16-17 June in the Nordic paradise of Helsinki.

We expect you'll be thinking of grabbing a ticket (if you haven't already).

And to give you a hint at what you can expect, we're shining the spotlight onto our speaker selection to give a deeper look at the speakers taking the stage at PG Connects.

Ben Cousins is a 15-year veteran of the games industry. He's worked as a senior executive, studio head, project lead, creative director and game designer at companies like DeNA, EA, Sony and Lionhead.

He started working on traditional games, but has been focused on the free-to-play business model since 2006 - an extremely long time by western standards. During that time he's worked on a total of ten separate free-to-play games across five different platforms reaching over 50 million users.

Pocket Gamer: What's been the biggest story in mobile gaming this year?

Ben Cousins: 90 million DAUs and $1 million in daily advertising spend for King I think was the biggest story. That SEC filing really hammered home how huge mobile has become in just a few short years.

The biggest event for me was leaving DeNA and starting up as an independent contractor. Finally being able to work with all these people who'd been asking for help over the years has been a really exciting and interesting experience.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges/opportunities for the mobile game industry in 2014?

I think the mobile game industry as a whole will have a great year in 2014 - I'm sure its best ever - we'll probably have a few more games hit the billion-dollar lifetime revenue number and I'm sure we'll see some new hits emerge.

Individual companies who aren't already at scale or supported by significant investment though I think will struggle on the platform.

My experience tells me .... trying to second-guess the taste of another country is a waste of time.
Ben Cousins

It's been clear for several years now that mobile gaming is rapidly evolving into a later stage (similar to consoles in the late 1990s and early 2000s) where the major players take most of the revenue through highly polished products supported by large marketing investments.

How well do you think indie developers are doing at the moment?

I think indie developers are going to struggle on mobile unless they can secure a good feature from Apple or Google.

Having said that, I recently saw some numbers from an indie developer who'd launched a premium priced title with good support from Apple and done horrible numbers, barely enough to pay for some decent concept art.

I think the best move for indies would be to move to new platforms like Oculus, Google Glass, other upcoming wearable (iWatch?) or to make PC games.

The mobile gaming market is expanding across the world, so what's your advice for developers looking to make their games a hit in new territories?

For territories well served by the mobile platform holders, it's simply a matter of localising the game's language and metadata, producing something that Apple/Google want to feature and having a decent paid marketing channel where you want to launch. My experience tells me that localising content or trying to second-guess the taste of another country is a waste of time.

Make the game you want to make, try to make a profit in your safe territories, and hope that it travels.

What are you most looking forward to at Pocket Gamer Connects?

I like these events because I can mingle with purely mobile people, so you don't feel like a second class citizen to people making games with more bump maps.

Which mobile game has made the biggest impression on you this year?

Definitely The Blockheads by Majic Jungle. It's the best F2P game I've ever played.

And finally, in 140 characters describe what you think the hot topic in mobile gaming will be in the next 6 months and why that's the case.

The big get bigger. We'll see follow-up games from Supercell and King that prove that mobile isn't special - success breeds more success!!

Grab your tickets for Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki here! and keep up-to-date with new speakers via the website.

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.