Oliver Kern from Lockwood Publishing on the dangers of all-you-can-eat subscription models

"It's not a great model for developers"

Oliver Kern from Lockwood Publishing on the dangers of all-you-can-eat subscription models

Oliver Kern is a noted growth hacker and mobile marketing guru and has helped app companies ranging from indies to market giants like Rovio and Wargaming.

In his more than 20 years in marketing and advertising he has marketed hundreds of casual, core and MMO games in the online and mobile space.

Currently he serves as Chief Commercial Officer at Nottingham-based Lockwood Publishing, the creator of the virtual 3D world AVAKIN LIFE. Next to that he is board member and board advisor for a number of mobile games companies.

Previously he worked for many years as a consultant in mobile marketing where he kickstarted mobile UA for companies such as MAG Interactive, flaregames, EightPixelSquare and Hutch Games and worked with great teams at ProSieben, Rovio, Wargaming, Next Games and others. Before that he held leadership positions at iQU, JAGEX and IPlay/Oberon Media.

We caught up with Kern to talk about innovation in the gaming industry and the dangers of all-you-can-eat subscription models. Can you tell us a bit about Lockwood Publishing?

Oliver Kern: Lockwood Publishing is the developer and publisher of Avakin Life, a huge 3D virtual world on mobile, where players explore, create and meet others. The studio has grown to over 130 people and we just now opened an office in Lisbon, Portugal.

What does your role entail?

I have been working with the team for many years on the commercial side. This means I do some BD and am building out our capacities in Marketing, User Acquisition and Country Management

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I worked in a creative agency and when I wanted to have a life and stop working 80 hours a week, the only industry that was interested in crazy creatives was the games industry. That is now about 20 years ago and I love it every day.

Especially in Marketing, I feel in mobile games we are at the forefront and way ahead of many other apps and digital businesses. That said, product still needs to be amazing. Cause - to quote David Ogilvy, an agency dude - "Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising."

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

Games is the most interesting form of entertainment and we need smart, proactive and humble people. Smart because you have to adapt quickly to change and humble because as things change quickly you don't know anything. And finally pro-active: Many companies operate in small agile startup environments where anyone can make a massive impact. So being proactive is key.

My further advice is: don't become an indie just because you can't land a job at the company of your dream. You have to try harder, but it's key to learn from great people and there are enough out there. Once you have learnt from them, there's still enough time to do your own thing, if that's what you want to do.

What are your thoughts on the industry over the past 12 months?

There has been an insane amount of consolidation happening. Most large studios have realized that it's lower risk to take something that is generating revenues and expand on it, than spending time and a large budget on a new game in a market that is constantly changing.

In terms of games and game design I have seen little innovation. As an industry we are perfecting the same game mechanics that have been around for a long time. I hope we will see something exciting and new in 2020!

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

I think the "all you can eat" game subscriptions will fail. It's not a great model for developers, so content will become a problem. Further to that "gamers" will prefer to buy specific titles they love and the wider audience of people who just enjoy playing games can't value such an offer properly.

That was the case 15 years ago and, I believe, it still is. For Discovery, Marketing and UA it will become harder than ever, so in my opinion, the games that will win are the ones with a strong social component and content that is generated and shared by users. With that these games are able to create and grow vibrant communities.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

Completely. I used to market shareware like "Bejeweled" for $20 after 1 hour for free. And the exciting thing is, it will continue to change.

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

Pecha Kucha, some of the talks around live ops, distribution and marketing and meeting old and new industry friends

At Pocket Gamer Connects London 2020, Oliver Kern will be leading a session called "Stop believing benchmark metrics for your game". For more information, and to book your tickets for the event, click here.