Speaker Spotlight: Funday Factory's Emil Kjaer on keeping your developers happy while building branded games and managing stakeholders

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

Speaker Spotlight: Funday Factory's Emil Kjaer on keeping your developers happy while building branded games and managing stakeholders

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.

In today's Speaker Spotlight we're talking to Emil Kjaehr, product manager at Danish mobile games start-up Funday Factory.

With a background in programming and game design, Kjaehr has worked on branded games for three-plus years at Funday Factory, involved in developing and launching multiple titles for toy companies like LEGO and HAMA. 

Before working at Funday Factory, Kjaehr described himself as an indie developer and enthusiastic game jammers. Could you tell us a bit about your talk?

Emil Kjaehr: Building branded games, managing stakeholders and keeping your dev team happy in the process.

Could you tell us a bit about the company?

Funday Factory was established in 2011 and has since then grown to a studio of more than 40 people. With a combination of work-for-hire and co-production partnerships, the mobile games we’ve developed have garnered well over 100 million installs.

We’re currently working on our own IP in addition to a strong co-production with SYBO Games.

What does your role entail?

Basically, I spot (and chase) storms. The teams I work with are the people who actually go in and attempt to capture real lightning in a bottle. As a product manager, I guide the teams to define KPIs, plan launches and support on live ops, and attempt to identify market trends in time for us to react.

During the live ops stage, I oversee experiments in both UA, monetisation and retention, and work with the teams to define areas with potential for growth and high ROI.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

The creative draw of games is crazy appealing to me. The chance to work with a combination of some of the most interesting creative fields in the world and wrap it all in a singular coherent package is a rewarding and fun challenge - you can start out in one area.

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

Be willing to relocate; there are so many schools out there that will provide a solid foundation, but there’s no guarantee that the job you’re looking for is close to where you currently live.

Also, be nice to people, it’s a small industry and people like to work with nice people.

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

Overall I think that the slow-mo explosion of battle royale shows that there’s still plenty of room to find and define new game genres in the industry as a whole, which is just super inspiring and a good reason to never stop experimenting and trying out new things.

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

I like to make dramatic predictions, so here goes:

  • In 12 months everyone will still be confused about blockchain-based-coin-games, most of all myself.
  • Facebook will quietly shut down Oculus, and this phase of VR will start to die - it’ll return five years later with more affordable hardware, but that doesn’t matter because by then AR/MR pushed by Google and Apple will own the field.
  • Hyper-casual games are going to slowly turn into more polished casual titles as graphics and meta increase to retain players, and the portfolio effect is harder to enforce - full circle.
  • AR/MR won’t pick up speed due to limited real-life users and different hardware, the business case for developers just isn’t there.
  • Mobile games will continue to grow and outpace the PC/Console market.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

It’s never been so easy to make games, and it’s never been harder to get exposure and sustained player growth. On PC, Steam owns everything.

On mobile it’s all Apple, Amazon Google and Facebook - and in order to get exposure or break into the algorithmically driven top charts, you need to have a cash flow that can compete with some of the largest studios in the world.

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

I really look forward to talking with devs that have live ops experience, as that's something I'd like to understand how to adjust scope and production size within.

That, and the parties. I really look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones!

Find out more about Pocket Gamer Connects London 2019 on the website.