Interview

2015 in Review: Superweapon president Amer Ajami on building a community

2015 in Review: Superweapon president Amer Ajami on building a community

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.

  • Amer Ajami is the President and co-founder of California-based studio Superweapon.
  • In 2015, it released its debut title Dawn of Steel in conjunction with flaregames. In 2016, the game is due to launch on Google Play and the Windows Store, as well as being published in China by NetEase.

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

Amer Ajami: Seeing the staggering amounts of money companies like Supercell, Machine Zone, and King spent on marketing.

Not just to get new players or reactivate old ones, but suffocate the competition by eating up as much ad inventory as possible.

Between the three of them alone, the number is probably well over $1 billion spent annually, which is a significant increase from the year prior, and also probably means that their revenues didn’t grow at the same rate that their marketing spend (or dev budgets) increased.

How did the focus of your business change in 2015?

We saw a sharp rise in CPI in traditional marketing channels in the last few months - more than just the seasonal trend around time of year.

We’re relying less on traditional ad networks and more on working with influencers on YouTube etc.
Amer Ajami

We know the space we operate in (strategy/action) is very competitive, so we started diversifying our marketing by thinking more broadly about how to find and engage with players.

We’re relying less on traditional ad networks and more on working with influencers on channels like YouTube, Twitch, and Mobcrush; focusing more on community outreach; and doing what we can to keep our existing players happy.

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

eSports is about to get very serious on mobile.

We’ve been nibbling at it around the edges, but there will be more developers - the likes of Super Evil Megacorp and Turbo Studios - who will jump head first into making games that are built from the ground up to support competitive play as a sport and include tools for easier streaming, commentating, telestrating, viewing, etc.

Blizzard already announced that they’re upping next year’s Hearthstone Championship purse to $2m, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see prizes of mobile tourneys approach that of desktop/console tournament purses very quickly thereafter.

What was your favourite mobile game of the year?

Can I list two? I’m going to list two.

I’m not much of a fan of infinite runners, but I loved Alto’s Adventure by Snowman. It had a simple and elegant aesthetic, great atmosphere, and its Goal system kept the game challenging and fresh for weeks on end.

My other favorite was a more recent game: Lara Croft GO by Square Enix Montreal. I feel that team really understands how to make a great mobile game, especially the single-input control scheme.

Lara Croft GO was a 2015 favourite for Ajami

I loved how linearly they ramped the difficulty from the start to the end of the game, and I loved the art style - especially the environments.

More than anything else, though, I thought the music was the best executed part of Lara Croft GO.

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

My resolution this year is the same one I have every year: play more games, especially ones outside of my comfort zone.

Follow fewer trends and forge new ground more often.
Amer Ajami

I’m constantly worried that I’m not getting enough exposure to a great new game that some indie team is working on, and playing a wide breadth of games is the best way to do that.

The resolution I’d enforce onto the industry is to follow fewer trends and forge new ground more often.

There are tons of derivative games and me-too apps out there - we need fewer of those and more innovation and experimentation.

Treat your players with respect, and if you’re worried about things like increasing your users’ retention, then rely on good ol' fashioned fun mechanics in order to do that.

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

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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