2022 proved to be a challenging year for the mobile games industry, with fresh regulatory changes, macroeconomic challenges, and a normalisation in the market following the unprecedented ‘Covid boom’ leading to many companies reporting losses in financial reports or announcing layoffs in an attempt to maintain profitability.
Despite these issues, some companies in the sector have seen sustained success, with SciPlay among them. 2022 saw the company outperform the rest of the social casino genre, and reach an historic high in the number of paying users.
We spoke to SciPlay CEO Josh Wilson regarding the company’s success over 2022.
Tell us about your work at SciPlay
My name is Josh Wilson and I am the CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of SciPlay. From the early days of free-to-play games on CD-ROMS to the birth of social gaming on Facebook to the launch of the App Store and now the rise of DTC platforms, I’ve been a part of the simultaneous evolution of both SciPlay and the industry at large. It’s been an extraordinary progression and an exhilarating ride.
I have been with the company since 2001 and held many positions since its early days when it was Phantom EFX. I worked my way up the ranks starting from an engineering supervisor position to director of online gaming to VP of products and operations to Chief Operating Officer and ultimately to CEO.
Tell us about your performance throughout last year. What do you attribute this success to?
SciPlay outperformed the entire social casino market in 2022. It was a phenomenal year for us.
We grew revenue 11% for the full year. We achieved a number of records including growing our payers and our average monthly revenue per payer. We now have the most payers in SciPlay's history. Our leading game – Jackpot Party Social Casino – which has been around for 12 years – is now the number one social casino game in the US.
Our success has been fueled by a combination of innovation, capabilities, and investments. We have industry-leading execution, robust live-ops, an undisputable data-driven product roadmap, a scalable platform, unparalleled technology and extremely talented teams.
How did you overcome 2022’s challenges?
In 2022, we carefully kept our finger on the pulse of the market and the economy and navigated smoothly through some tough industry dynamics. Our strong execution and ability to adapt enabled us to stay on course and focus on delivering the best possible experience for our players. Our talented teams are very focused and continued to innovate on our strong evergreen franchises.
We also made the right investments that helped fuel our record performance in 2022. We invested in our existing teams and added new talent. We implemented and optimised The SciPlay Engine across our game portfolio. We doubled down on AdTech and developed an innovative UA solution. We delved deeply into data science and fine-tuned our games to better serve the individual player. We conceived and applied robust, dynamic, and impactful LiveOps in our games. All of these strategies paid off immensely.
You acquired Alictus last year for $100 million. How does this tie into Sciplay’s long-term goals?
We acquired Alictus in March of 2022 as part of our long-term vision of sparking the world’s passion to play. Alictus has an extremely experienced ad monetization/in-app business model and tech. We knew in order to continue growing SciPlay long-term we were going to have to figure out how to build out an AdMon tech and get it into our core fundamentals. With Alictus, we’ve been able to leap forward in that area almost overnight. Alictus has a huge audience, and inside of that audience is a good portion of our core demographic. This gave us the ability to cross-pollinate and really understand how to activate these players across multiple verticals. Alictus has developed several hits including FadeMaster 3D, Master Doctor 3D, Theme Park 3D and Candy Challenge. These and other Alictus titles have helped us enter and get an edge in the extremely-competitive hypercasual market.
In addition to its great roster of games, Alictus is also a great cultural fit for SciPlay. They have a very unique way of developing games led by a heavy data-driven approach of prototype testing. Their approach melded perfectly with SciPlay’s data-driven approach.
Alictus brought the AdMon, a wider audience, and a multi-game accelerated development process. SciPlay has the retention, the LiveOps, meta building, and long-term player engagement. Now we are blending the two together and the future results look really promising.
What is the single biggest challenge facing the mobile games industry today?
UA – especially for new games – is absolutely the biggest challenge facing the mobile games industry today due to the deprecation of the IDFA. It’s much more difficult to acquire target audiences and optimise UA campaigns on iOS. That makes it even harder than ever for developers and publishers to launch and sustain successful new games.
When Apple changed their IDFA rules, SciPlay changed its marketing strategy and its approach to new game launches. UA is something that has to continue, but the market has shifted so much that it’s imperative to think about it differently. We invested in our ASO team, our growth team, our AdTech team. We changed the way that we target people and who we target. We redefined how we look at spending money and then redefined it for the current market rather than what the market used to be. And because of our execution, we were able to take a step ahead of everyone else. We were able to beat the projections that we had. And we're going to continue being super focused on every investment dollar we make for UA and retention.
Our main focus is on our core franchises right now as those titles are driving our growth. Of course, we consider new games, but SciPlay is not going to launch a new game just for the sake of launching a game. We will make sure that if we bring a new game to the market, it will have long-term sustainability and be a positive addition to the entire SciPlay portfolio that delivers an amazing player experience.
I do believe the mobile market as a whole will acclimate to this new environment and move forward but it requires being nimble, new ways of thinking and reassessing the relationship between the app/company and the consumer.
What can we expect next from SciPlay?
SciPlay will continue to spark the world’s passion to play on our journey of being a player-first focused company. Our consumers will continue to get the most fun, engaging experiences while playing our games. According to data.ai, Jackpot Party is now the number one US social casino game and Quick Hit Slots is the fastest growing social casino game. We have a couple of new titles coming down the pipeline. And we are launching our Direct-to-Consumer platform which will allow us to deepen our relationship with our players.
Photo by David Garb