You probably recognise the name Netmarble because of major titles like Lineage 2 Revolution, Marvel Contest of Champions, Blade & Soul Revolution, and many more than we can't fit in here.
But something that Netmarble's EMEA arm is exploring is the hypercasual market - a far cry from its typically large-scale, retention-heavy games listed above.
To find out more about the publisher's push into smaller games, we spoke with Netmarble EMEA chairman Baris Ozistek about what it can offer hypercasual developers, and what the next step is for the market as a whole.
PocketGamer.biz: 2019 was a busy year for much of the mobile games industry. What were the last 12 months like for Netmarble EMEA?
Baris Ozistek: 2019 was a milestone for Netmarble EMEA. As you know, we have always known for our most popular MMORPG games, and 2019 became the year when we began to work with indie studios all around the region and started to publish hypercasual games.
Now, we have added a new genre called hypercasual 2.0, where our main focus is on life time value and retention. So we combine our strong muscles in MMORPG with hypercasual genre and these two strengths create hyper-casual 2.0.
Hypercasual games have firmly cemented themselves as one of the most popular genres of recent years. Why do you think mobile gamers have taken to them so quickly?
It is not difficult to understand why hypercasual games have been shaking up the top app charts for almost 3 years. In conjunction with social media’s huge effect, there are several reasons why users love them so much.
Our goal is to be #1 worldwide hypercasual publisher in 2020Baris Ozistek
First of all, they can be controlled easily and this makes it so comfortable for players. There is no need for extra effort to build complicated strategies and to understand the game structure. Besides, goals are clear and simple. Playtimes are so short that users can play them on the bus, subway or while waiting for a friend in a café. In such a fast and mobile world, our minds would like to get rid of the rush with daily satisfactions.
We can easily get bored of doing the same things every day and prefer to consume everything as fast as we can. And with the primitive instinct we have, we can get satisfied with small goals and achievements. Hypercasual games take this satisfaction feeling to further with their relaxing design and structure.
The main goal here is to avoid stress and frustration so that the user will be able to simply have fun in short sessions. Plus, this genre appeals to everyone including women representing 55 percent of the market.
Which games do you think are the best examples of the hypercasual market, and which ones have you found yourself playing the most?
I strongly believe the potential growth in hypercasual market and I really appreciate it. However I have always been an MMORPG gamer as I like games which are deeper and I can engage wih. So my favorite game has always been Lineage 2 Revolution.
Do you think there is still room for larger, more involved mobile games even as the hypercasual market dominates the App Store charts?
Hypercasual 2.0 fits into the larger and more involved mobile games definition here because of its storytelling structure requiring much more commitment. We combine different mechanics, different scenes and create a bit more complicated small worlds while protecting the hypercasual soul for sure. So, players will find many reasons to go back to the game and experience online features.
Publishers have two choices; they need to catch the trends very quickly and publish hypercasual games constantly or publish more complex hypercasual gamesBaris Ozistek
What do you think is the next step for hypercasual games to grow in 2020?
The trends in the market are changing very fast and game companies adapting to these changes always win. When we observe the data of the games staying in the top charts, we see that they usually stay there for a few months until players switch to a better or just a new hypercasual game. Hypercasual games are consumed very fast due to their simple and uncompetitive nature.
So, publishers have two choices; they need to catch the trends very quickly and publish hypercasual games constantly or publish more complex hypercasual games, which we call hypercasual 2.0, so that the success can be more sustainable. I see players' expectations from hypercasual games increase and successful hypercasual gamers will evolve to hypercasual 2.0 by adding some RPG features.
Netmarble EMEA is actively seeking casual and hypercasual developers to work with. What are you looking for in a developer when working with them as a publisher?
We would like to work with developers or indie studios who are passionate in game industry, creative, innovative with a high technical capability and high quality and do not only focus on simple game design.
What can Netmarble EMEA offer to indie developers that other publishers cannot?
Netmarble is the master of RPG games. A new era is beginning in hypercasual genre which we call hypercasual 2.0. We share advanced know-how development and game design support with the developers who are willing to create the next big hit hypercasual games together with multiple RPG features.
You spoke about publishing in the Middle East and African markets at PG Connects London 2020. What's one major obstacle developers might face in those markets?
MENA region should be analyzed very well if you would like to take your place in this market. Mobile penetration is very high in MENA and as entertainment options are very limited they follow all the trends in the digital world. Cultural localization plays a key role here in terms of language and lifestyle. You need to understand the region and its daily life dynamics properly to publish games in MENA.
What is one change you want to see in the mobile games industry in 2020?
Hypercasual gamers will expect more deep and variety content which will result as a significant shift in hypercasual games. I expect to see that game studios with high capabilities will survive and grow.
What are your goals for Netmarble EMEA in 2020?
We have two focus areas. Firstly, we’ll keep servicing our blockbuster titles such as Marvel Future Fight, Lineage 2: Revolution, BTS World, King of Fighters All Star for sure. Secondly, Netmarble EMEA is leading the hypercasual business and our goal is to be #1 worldwide hypercasual publisher in 2020.