Interview

Miniclip's James Russell on iOS UA environment changes and the volatility of crypto markets

Miniclip's CPO on 2021's challenges and opportunity

Miniclip's James Russell on iOS UA environment changes and the volatility of crypto markets

As 2021 begins to fade into memory, we're taking a look back at the events that have defined the last 12 months in mobile gaming.

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 2022.

James Russell is the chief product officer at Switzerland-based free-to-play games outfit Miniclip.

What do you think was the biggest news for the mobile games industry in 2021?

It’s been an eventful year to say the least. On the business side, we saw some big IPOs earlier in the year, and a continuing wave of consolidation in the industry. And at Miniclip, we’ve also welcomed several great new studios into the family.

As an industry, the UA environment changed a lot with iOS 14, and there’s constant drama around the payments outlook. But the last two years have been like nothing else for one reason; the pandemic continues to impact everyone’s lives across the world, and it has been a difficult time for so many people. I am very conscious of how lucky we are as an industry to be able to continue creating games and entertaining players despite all of this.

While there’s a lot going on in the mobile industry, it’s impossible not to mention the rise of blockchain gaming, and NFTs in general

Which mobile game do you think had the biggest impact on the industry this year?

In previous years, there has often been a standout game to highlight. But in 2021, I think there have been so many interesting new games, as well as growth in existing live titles, that it’s hard to highlight one in particular. This speaks to the diversity of the games produced, the diversity of audiences on mobile, and the diversity of experiences that people around the world want from mobile games. From social open worlds to shooters, from RPGs to Match-Three, and from hypercasual to kids’ games, this really is a medium for everyone in the world.

What is your top and/or favourite mobile game of 2021?

I am very proud that we have seen our flagship title, 8 Ball Pool, continue to grow and prosper in its tenth anniversary year, hitting a big milestone of one billion downloads. The popularity of the game keeps growing, and we’ve continued to improve the player experience and game performance with new features and content. It’s really exciting to see 8 Ball Pool go from strength to strength. We have passionate teams working tirelessly on the game, and an incredible growing audience around the world that is playing more and more each month. It’s a huge privilege to be part of it.

In terms of your company, what's the thing you're most proud of during 2021?

I’m very proud that Miniclip has been one of the top 10 global publishers on mobile this year, despite the continuing presence of hyper-casual publishers in the charts, and the fact that we have not moved into hyper-causal ourselves.

It’s been a big year for Miniclip in terms of new game launches. It isn’t easy to build, launch and grow successful games on mobile; we’ve had our fair share of challenges too, but I think our studios have done a great job building and releasing more quality games this year than ever before, all while working from home. I am especially excited about Pure Sniper and Cricket League, both globally launched in November.

the pandemic continues to impact everyone’s lives across the world, and it has been a difficult time for so many people

What do you think will be the biggest trend over the next 12 months?

While there’s a lot going on in the mobile industry, it’s impossible not to mention the rise of blockchain gaming, and NFTs in general. Although future volatility in crypto markets may disrupt this temporarily in the future, there is no doubt this is something that cannot be ignored.

There are many different views on this space, and it will be interesting to see how things develop, but I think the most successful and enduring projects will need to provide authentic, meaningful reasons to be blockchain-based and provide meaningful long-term tradable ownership value for any associated NFTs; a real and authentic value proposition. It’s going to be quite a ride.

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

I’m excited to see how our recently launched games evolve over the next year, and of course about the new titles we have in store for launch in 2022.

I am also hopeful that the wider situation improves so we can safely work together physically again, as well as travel. There are so many new colleagues and new studios within the Miniclip family that I haven’t met or visited, and I am very much hoping to be able to make those visits in 2022 and meet them face to face.

You can check out all of our 2021 in Review interviews here.


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