Interview

1,700 staff, 20 games in development, 8 acquisitions, 2 billion dollar games: Playrix's stellar 2019

Head of marketing Alexander Derkach drops some stats

1,700 staff, 20 games in development, 8 acquisitions, 2 billion dollar games: Playrix's stellar 2019

As 2019 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 2020.

  • Alexander Derkach is Playrix's head of marketing 

PocketGamer.biz: What do you think was the biggest news of 2019?

Alexander Derkach: One key event was the launch of the subscription services Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.

It’s still too early to draw any conclusions though and the role of these services in the global gaming ecosystem is still being defined. There is a noticeable trend however, as each platform works towards keeping users within the closed ecosystem of its own services.

Personally speaking, I was really excited about the release of Call of Duty: Mobile. It shows just how powerful the franchise is while also proving that the general public is ready for hardcore mobile projects — if they’re high quality ones.

Of course, I have to mention mergers and acquisitions, which really picked up in 2019. Strong teams are coming together while the industry continues to mature and expand its global reach. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

What are you most proud of from 2019?

Once again, this year was the company’s best ever. We say that every year but it’s always true! Our team expanded significantly in 2019 — we now have 1,700 people and we plan to keep growing.

We’re also actively working on mergers and acquisitions; eight game studios from Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Croatia and Armenia have already joined the Playrix family.

The smart investment approach also resulted in partnerships with Vizor and Nexters, which has drastically increased our footprint in the regional market as well as allowed us to expand our expertise and sort out a number of issues.

In August we jumped ahead of King and Supercell in terms of revenues.
Alexander Derkach

As for products, in 2019 we released our fifth mobile title - Wildscapes - and we currently have about 20 projects in different stages of development, some of which will be released or soft-launched next year.

Our live ops and marketing teams have also been successful, which our App Annie rankings demonstrate better than anything else. In August we jumped ahead of King and Supercell in terms of revenue, and we’re holding our ground - that wouldn’t have seemed possible even a year ago.

I’m honestly amazed at how much we’ve accomplished this year. And we have even bigger plans for 2020.

Which mobile games have you played or enjoyed most in 2019?

When you work in game development, it can be hard to separate professional interest from personal interest in games. It’s part of my job to try out most standout titles in the market but I rarely play any one game for long.

In my own time I prefer triple-A console games. I think games as art have survived mostly as console projects. In 2019, I was most impressed by Death Stranding and The Outer Worlds.

I still love playing Gardenscapes and have beaten almost 2,000 levels. There’s something about swapping match-3 pieces that acts as a nice cognitive trigger and helps me think.

What do you think the biggest trends will be in 2020?

The mobile games market is still in search of the next big thing. Developers experiment a lot but they also copy a lot of their own products. When that happens, the winners are those who have strong live ops and marketing.

It’s been a while since we saw an innovative idea that went viral. That’s partially why the most downloaded titles are still hypercasual projects.

I don’t want to believe that this will be the future of game development, but I doubt 2020 will be much different. I do think that as a counterweight for the hyper-casual trend, 2020 will bring more hardcore titles.

Mobile devices already have the technical capacity for that and generation Z plays a big role in this as well — given how plugged in they are to mobile platforms. Big franchise titles should move to mobile platforms too.

When it comes to mobile releases from industry leaders, it would be great to see quality as well as quantity, and something that’s a game-changer. Hopefully, Playrix will have one too.

If you had one New Year's resolution for the mobile gaming industry, what would it be?

What else can I wish for the gaming industry and players all over the world other than high quality games?

We’ll do our best to make sure at least one of our projects shakes things up in 2020. Have a Happy New Year!

You can check out all our 2019 in Review articles here

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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