Speaker Spotlight: Rovio's Sophie Vo on making the most of user research in early stage development

Pocket Gamer Connects London 2019 will take place on January 21st to 22nd

Speaker Spotlight: Rovio's Sophie Vo on making the most of user research in early stage development

Pocket Gamer Connects London 2019 will take place on January 21st to 22nd. To give you a taste of what to expect, we'll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.

For more details on PGC London and to book a ticket, head to the website here.

For today's Speaker Spotlight we have Rovio Entertainment executive producer Sophie Vo, who will host a talk discussing how the company makes the most of user research at the early phases of development. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sophie Vo: I am a creative product lead with over 10 years of experience in the mobile games industry. In my professional journey, I have worked in Paris, Berlin and Helsinki since 2016, where I joined Rovio as an executive producer.

My mission is to make games perfectly tailored for a core audience, which offers a fresh and unique experience. I am currently developing a new game with a self-organised team, taking that player-centric approach.

What topics will your session cover?

As the market is maturing and we make games for a more granular audience, user research has become a more prominent part of F2P game development.

How do we make the most of user research at the very early phase of development, when we know little about our audience and the shape of the game we want to make? How to get reliable insights that can lead to critical decisions on the direction of the game, at an earlier stage than soft launch?

In my talk, I will share the takeaways on the new game I am developing: how user research revealed that we were going in the wrong direction at very early stage, and which methods we used (PlaytestCloud, face-to-face live interviews, beta tester groups...) that any developer can decide to use tomorrow, at a low cost.

Tell us a bit about the company.

Rovio Entertainment Corporation is a Finnish, games-first entertainment company, that creates, develops and publishes mobile games and acts as a brand licensor in various entertainment and consumer product categories. The company is best known for the global Angry Birds brand, which started from a popular mobile game in 2009.

What does your role entail?

I have two main goals as the product lead:

  1. Deliver a great game that translates to a commercial success.
  2. Create the environment and mindset for the team to perform at their best.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I have played games since I'm a kid (my first console was Atari!) but never considered it as a career track.

With the rise of mobile phones as a platform for games and later on with the F2P, it was a great opportunity for me to get into it with my business skills. It is amazing to work on something you are competent in and feel passionate about.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

Understand first the industry and market trends (what is the meaning of games in people's lives nowadays?), and then the different positions that exist in the industry.

Because games are now a mass market product, there is a place for many professions in the industry. Tthere are not only jobs needed for design/art/programming, but also business, HR, marketing, user research, product management, BI, etcetera.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

The F2P mobile market is maturing and consolidating into key categories such as match-three, Build and Battle, Puzzle RPG.

But it also is interesting to notice emerging types of games such as narrative and battle royale games. There is definitely a wide demand out there, as more and more people play and pay in mobile games.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

More consolidation from the market and higher standards for the new games to be released. Good is not enough, we must aim for great!

That means knowing more your market and audience and going deeper in understanding how that translates in the design decisions.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

When I started in my career, I was working on games for Nokia java phones with a premium business model.

I witnessed the rise of F2P social network games 10 years ago - I also made games on the Facebook platform - and then the consolidation towards F2P on mobile. It is a fast-moving industry that evolves with the technology.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

Meeting new people from the industry and catching up with my gaming peers!