You can watch a video of the full interview below, which covers the formation of Game Insight and how it cracked ads as a successful revenue stream, below.
“Ads are the last thing I’ll ever do”…or so thought Anatoly Ropotov, CEO of famed developer Game Insight.
Since his early days as a developer, Ropotov has repeatedly shown the resolve to make bold moves and see them through. His career spans 18 years across a myriad of countries and game genres.
He developed early web casino platforms, transitioned to making Xbox Live Arcade titles and then found his footing as EVP of Product for Astrum Online.
While working for the Hamburg-based MMO development shop, he focused his time on hard-core titles, such as Legend: Legacy of The Dragons and monetising via ads was the furthest thing from his mind.
Ropotov’s position on ads was that the experiences were poor, that brand inventory was lacking and that the technology wasn’t always stable. He dismissed them as simply not a fit for the kinds of games he makes.
Just as he was getting comfortable in his executive role at Astrum, he became transfixed by the rapid growth of social platforms like Facebook in the US.
“I’d never seen anything like it, I gave up everything I knew to be a part of it," he said. He quit his job and moved back to his hometown of Riga, Latvia to found innoWate, which later morphed into Game Insight, now based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
I personally spent six months product managing our ads initiative so ads wouldn’t suck.Anatoly Ropotov
His company gained worldwide attention for its early success with the city-building and hidden object genres. Titles like Mystery Manor drove tens of millions of dollars in revenue strictly from in-game purchases.
Over time, however, the company went as far as publishing third-parties and was stuck in a rut of building familiar titles. Anatoly took a chance and went back to his roots. He refocused Game Insight on in-house development and expanded into first-person shooters (FPS), long seen as a risky genre for mobile.
Enter ‘Guns of Boom’. Launched in April, 2017, the title debuted to rave reviews (including a nine out of 10 from Pocket Gamer) and raised the bar for the entire genre on mobile.
The key to success was having the courage to kill off “must have” elements of traditional core games, such as tapping to shoot, jumping, crouching and climbing ladders.
“I cried when we removed some of these features, but the success we saw further emboldened me to reevaluate ‘sacred cows’ across the company.”
Making ads work
Ropotov then went against his and the industry’s bias by taking on rewarded video for core games. He set out to create a better ad experience, find the right partners, and where needed, develop his own technology to make ads a viable second revenue stream for Game Insight.
A mainstay in builders, idle, and casual genres, developers in core genres like FPS, RPG and strategy had been hesitant to mix in even rewarded video due to fear of cannibalising IAP revenue from highly valued players. Ropotov wondered: “Are our competitors making a bad, costly assumption? Let’s find out.”
“I personally spent six months product managing our ads initiative so ads wouldn’t suck."
In addition to crafting thoughtful UI and rewards loops, Game Insight partnered with trusted UA networks like Facebook and a leading brand-focused network in HyprMX.
I’m done predicting what I’ll never do, because in this space there’s so just much space to play.Anatoly Ropotov
Since it’s introduction Game Insight has seen retention improve by as much as five per cent and revenue grow by a million dollars a month, according to Ropotov. The company now includes plans for rewarded video in all genres.
As ads evolve so do the requirements to manage them. Ropotov has taken another leap by tasking a special internal team to develop a next-generation ad platform that will be fully revealed later in 2018.
When pressed for a lesson that he can share Ropotov notes: “I’ve learned that keeping an open mind is the first step towards taking smart risks that can make your career or company leap forward.”
As he heads towards his third decade making games Ropotov relishes his role not only at Game Insight, but in mobile games as a whole.
“Our industry is always evolving, and I enjoy playing a small role in that. I’m done predicting what I’ll never do, because in this space there’s so just much space to play.”