On 9 June 2015, the Israel Mobile Summit will take place in Tel Aviv.
This year the big focus is games and monetization and one of the keynote speakers is Eric Seufert, VP of User Acquisition at Rovio.
The founder of the summit, Ofir Leitner, sat down for a short interview with him.
Ofir Leitner: Eric, you've been around in the mobile game industry for quite some time. Can you start by telling us what is different about working at Rovio? What's keeping you busy these days?
Eric Seufert: One of the most interesting things here at Rovio is working with a whole portfolio of games. We put a lot of thought into bringing users not just into a single game but into the portfolio and optimizing the user journey from that perspective.
With just one or two games, UA is pretty much just a matter of feeding some concrete, well-defined inputs into an equation and setting bids based on the output.
At Rovio, there are many more considerations - performance within the portfolio, brand equity, etc. - that make my job really interesting and challenging.
As VP of User Acquisition, at what phase in the game making process does your role kick in?
It actually starts really early in the game development process, certainly not only when a game is ready to run advertising campaigns - in fact I work with game teams from the concept phase to optimize user acquisition.
Costs will probably go up steadily, since mobile advertising costs are tied to monetization levels, and we've seen an increase in LTV.Eric Seufert
We cooperate very early and use market data to validate different decisions that need to be made that affect how broad the game's appeal is.
Ultimately everyone at the company wants the same thing: to make big, great games. So it makes sense that the user acquisition teams and the game teams would work together from the very beginning of the development process and bring their disparate skills to bear in achieving that goal.
I gave a presentation at the Nordic Games 2015 where I basically made the case that this kind of marketing influence during development is no different than what more general consumer tech companies call achieving "product market fit".
It's using data to make sure the product is actually addressing what customers/potential customers want.
We've seen both ads that show the actual gameplay, while others don't focus on it or even show it (i.e. Game of War's Kate Upton ad) - which type of ads do you think works better?
I think that the closer an ad is to actual gameplay, the more engaged the users that click on that ad will be once they get into the game.
People are more likely stay if their in-game experience matches what they saw in the ad, as opposed to being lured into the game by something else.
Baiting and switching doesn't really work for freemium products, since it's pretty easy to just delete an app and go download another one.
Everyone is talking about the rising prices of user acquisition, where do you think we're going?
I don't see any dramatic changes coming, since in the end these prices are driven by supply and demand and those two factors aren't changing drastically, at least in the developed world.
Costs will probably go up steadily, since mobile advertising costs are tied to monetization levels, and we've seen an increase in the life time value that game companies can attain as players get more comfortable with in-app purchases and companies get better at implementing freemium.
And with UA costs going up - how do you think that small studios should approach UA?
I think they should follow a strategy that is consistent and sustainable. I wouldn't make huge bets that can jeopardize the company. It's all about creating a pipeline of improvements and feature additions that would allow developer with each release to spend a little more on marketing.
Israel is one of the most exciting tech hubs in the world and that's true especially in the mobile games space.Eric Seufert
Of course another way is to create something viral and unique. One of the best examples of that nowadays is Crossy Road - they've made great headway by having very simple gameplay with a unique aesthetic.
Can you think of other examples, maybe from the history of Rovio itself?
The original Angry Birds is also a good example – it was quirky and unique enough to go viral.
But Rovio is a big company now, so its growth strategy is multi-faceted.
With so many ad networks, tracking companies and other monetization players that look quite the same - how do you choose who to work with?
On the surface, they all look the same, but when you dig deeper there are differences in the sophistication levels of the different networks and in the insights they provide. Some allow you to access your data very easily, whereas with others access to data is still very limited.
The quality of a network's business development team is also a differentiator. And in the end we go with the companies that perform best.
This is your second trip to Israel for the Israel Mobile Summit. What was your impression from the first time and what do you expect from this trip?
Israel is one of the most exciting tech hubs in the world and that's true especially in the mobile games space. The last time I was there I learned a lot from other game developers and publishers.
Generally speaking, Israeli game publishers are hyper-analytics driven, and so am I. So it was great to meet with a wide range of people in Tel Aviv last year and see the many different ways companies use analytics to improve gameplay, improve marketing conversion, improve free-to-play economies, etc.
I learned a ton last year about how different companies are using data to build better games, and I'm sure I'll learn just as much this year.
Eric Seufert will deliver one of the keynotes - 'Launching a free-to-play game: goals, strategies, and pitfalls' - at the Israel Mobile Summit.
You can find out more details from the website.