Interview

2015 in Review: Kobojo's Mario Rizzo on replacing UA with community focus

2015 in Review: Kobojo's Mario Rizzo on replacing UA with community focus

As 2015 begins to fade into memory, we're taking a look back at the events that have dominated the last 12 months in mobile gaming.

As such, we've asked the industry's great and good to give us their take on the year, as well as predicting the trends that will dominate in 2016.

  • Mario Rizzo is the president and CEO of Kobojo, which released its JRPG-styled premium game Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey in 2015.

PocketGamer.biz: What was the most significant mobile games news of 2015?

Mario Rizzo: For me the most significant news was the acquisition of King by Activision.

The market on mobile is moving into consolidation, and you can see even people that believed mobile games might be a passing fad are now accepting that they are here to stay and are making significant investments in the sector.

How did the focus of your business change in 2015?

The focus of our business changed considerably in 2015.

For the first time, we focused on creating a product with Japanese partners in order to enter the market in Japan.

As an EU, Western focused company this was a big shift for us to move away from what we "know" of western gamers, and begin to learn what it takes to succeed in Eastern markets.

What do you predict will be the most important trends in 2016?

My goal is to reduce our dependence on acquisition marketing to maintain a strong player base
Mario Rizzo

For me, I believe we are reaching the end of the current cycle in mobile games and I am waiting to see who comes up with the next "big" change for the mobile market (I am guessing it will be a game as opposed to new hardware).

The top 20 grossing charts have been pretty static for the most part in the past year with the same names (more or less) appearing with variations of successful products. I believe this year we will see a new entry that will shift everyone in a different direction (much like what Supercell did with Clash of Clans).

I am excited to see what that new direction will be. My guess is, based on where investment money has gone, it will be something in the realm of competition or eSports on mobile, as nobody has really cracked that yet.

What was your favourite mobile game of the year?

My favorite game last year was Terra Battle from Mistwalker. I think what they did with the gameplay was very elegant, and the 2D art was beautiful.

Terra Battle - Elegant design and a clever marketing campaign

I was also impressed with how they conducted their marketing campaign in order to create a brand, a community, and drive download goals much like a crowdfunding campaign without spending a ton on acquisition.

I think this was a great first mobile product from what is traditionally a console studio.

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

My New Year’s resolution is to focus on more innovative ways to drive our player communities and increase retention within our games.

My goal is to reduce our dependence on acquisition marketing to maintain a strong player base without needing to burn a lot of cash every month.

While I would not enforce that on everyone, I do think the CPI for acquisition is getting out of hand, and we need to look for internal solutions to reduce our dependence on large marketing budgets for outside agencies and networks.

You can check out all of our 2015 in Review interviews here.

Former Editor

Ric was formerly the Editor of Pocket Gamer and the Deputy Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He still pops up time to time to review games.

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