Recent years have shown a huge shift in how we play our games and with the accessibility of mobile and a growing catalogue of free-to-play titles it is important to see how the industry has changed so far and where it could be heading in the future.
We spoke to Rovio's Luis de la Camara about the changes in the games industry over the last 16 years and what is in store for the future of mobile gaming.
Firstly, can you please introduce yourself and briefly explain your role within your company?
My name is Luis de la Camara and I am the VP of Marketing at Rovio. I lead a team of 60 marketers focused on growing our games business, covering areas such as Product Marketing, User Acquisition, Community, UX Research, Player Support, Platform Partnerships and Marketing Creative.
What would you say has been the biggest change in the industry since you entered into it?
I joined the games industry in 2006 starting off in console gaming and then joined mobile free-to-play in 2013 so a ton has changed over these 16 years.
What has remained true throughout the years is that focusing on building the best product for your target audience is the most important part of any strategy.
I would say the biggest changes I have witnessed in my career are the new business models that appeared, primarily mobile free-to-play, which now makes over half of the games industry's revenue and this new recent model of play&earn. This has meant that I have had to adapt my marketing approach over the years, where in console it was very hype building through PR to now much more data-driven performance marketing.
Did you see the abovementioned change coming? If not, how did you adapt to it?
When I took my first job as an intern at EA I never would have imagined that games as a service and free-to-play models would become the leading business model in the industry. In fact, when I left university I chose to focus on marketing rather than finance or accounting because I thought it would be more creative and less mathematical.
So little did I know at the time that marketing was going to become so numbers driven, but as any good professional you just need to adapt and continue to learn. The best thing about this industry is that there is never a boring day, and what worked well yesterday does not mean it will work today or tomorrow. There is truly no exact formula for launching a successful scalable product.
Thinking back over the past couple of years, what is the biggest hurdle you've faced?
The biggest hurdle is really what I just mentioned. Just because you have been successful with one product doesn't mean you will be on the next one, or even on the same game you might be finding great performance in your campaigns and then the performance drops and it's a struggle to get it back to where it was, and vice versa.
That's why you need to build resilient teams that are naturally curious and want to constantly challenge the status quo.
I want to work with folks who are hungry to try new things, who are collaborative, enjoy their work, care about our players and have a product focused mindset.
Many app/game developers have moved away from in-app purchases in favour of subscription models. How do you feel about the current state of monetisation in the industry?
While I think some subscription models can work, I still feel that for the next few years microtransactions and incentivised ads are going to continue to be the main driver of revenue for mobile games.
At the end of the day mobile free-to-play offers such a wealth of free and fun content that I feel it's hard to find a better model. I think what we should try and figure out is how we can convert more non-spending players into spending players, and features like season passes have shown some traction in convincing more players to spend money in free-to-play games.
Also I believe that as our games in this space get better, more polished and deliver more content, players will be willing to spend more money in these games.
Where do you think the mobile gaming industry is headed in the next few years?
I think there will be a few key trends in mobile gaming over the coming years, some which we are already seeing.
First of all, games that have been around for several years and have shown steady DAU and revenue will grow even further as companies scale up the game teams around them.
A second trend will be more console-like experiences which we have seen already with the likes of Call of Duty Mobile or Genshin Impact, and this will bring more console first gamers into mobile free-to-play as well as bring more cross-platform experiences. Also, like any mature market we will continue to see massive consolidation, and I wouldn't be surprised if ten years from now the industry is primarily made up of a handful of big companies.
One last trend that I am curious to watch unfold is if there will be a hybridization of the free-to-play model with the play&earn model, and if this will ever become mainstream.
Technologies like AR and location-awareness are becoming increasingly mainstream. Which, if any, technology excites you most?
I would say the technology that excites me the most is actually cross platform play paired with cloud gaming. So I am not referring to Stadia or anything like that, but more that in the future you will be able to play high-quality games across several devices with little to no friction.