As developers decide which platform is best for their latest masterpiece we are increasingly seeing that perhaps it isn’t about which platform players game on but, instead, how many places they can enjoy it.
Cross-platform gaming isn’t just about being able to play with friends on a different platform but also about taking a journey you started on one device and continuing it on another, a concept that could spark massive change throughout the gaming industry.
We spoke with AppsFlyer director of product Adam Smart after picking up the win at the recent Mobile Game Awards for best analytics/data tools on all things cross-platform, Apple’s privacy regulations and what opportunities the latest tech opens up.
Pocketgamer.biz: Tell us what’s new with AppsFlyer. You just launched a new cross-platform measurement solution. How does that work?
Adam Smart: With PC and console advertising, they generally allocate a marketing budget and announce a title. From that announcement, they will then raise marketing awareness up until the game launch… And then the marketing sort of cuts out. It's all about getting the copy sold at launch. Mobile is very different in the fact that they realised that by not having an end of the game, you don't lose players.
So there's these two different types of gaming and that's been very apparent in the marketing aspect because you can't do the mobile style of game - where there is no end - if you're doing the marketing after the launch. So being able to run this style of mobile marketing on console and PC really opens up the types of games that can be created. That's essentially what we're doing. We're enabling that movement.
The concept of cross-platform is an interesting one. This idea that you can stop playing at home and continue your journey on mobile. What do you think about this method of play?
It’s phenomenal. If you look at some of the most successful games recently, such as Genshin Impact, which has been massive, you can play it on multiple platforms. It's easily accessible, you can play it on the train, you can then come home and play it on your PC, you can continue it, and it becomes part of people's lives.
I think the expectation towards games and gaming is changingAdam Smart
I gave a presentation in Korea recently and I spoke about my daughter. She turned to me the other day and said, "Daddy, why can't I play Roblox on the PlayStation?" She wanted to play it on the TV, and she's nine, so it took quite a long time to explain that they hadn't built it for the PlayStation…
You sort of forget that her generation has been brought up with Disney+, with Netflix, with Apple TV, and everything is so easily accessible and quick that they don't have the same patience. I think the expectation towards games and gaming is changing because of that, it needs to be accessible and available on everything because that's what people want, and I think that is driving some of this change.
We are seeing cross-platform gaming becoming increasingly popular, how crucial of an element do you see it being to have a hit game?
It's coming, but I wouldn't say it's this definitive factor on whether your game will be successful. I think there are very different takes on multi-platform. It's not always that you can play against players on PC and Switch. It's the fact that you can still play the same game but you can take it somewhere else, or you can use it on your TV, or your computer. You are allowed to serve up a different offering that's tailored to the device.
What makes AppsFlyer's new service different? Why should people use it?
We are really encompassing all platforms from PC and console. So when we're talking about PCs, we're talking about native PC, we're talking about Steam, we're talking about GOG, we're talking about the Epic Store, it's really catering for all different platforms.
One other company does that. There's Gamesite, but they don't have the mobile element. So I think we bring the added value of having an established mobile side and we understand that attribution isn't the same for all companies. You can have a lot of company's specific logic that goes into determining what an install is, what a reinstall is, what a reactivation is, that varies from company to company and I think we understand that, and we give ways of being able to work with the data to accommodate that.
Is AppsFlyer a service for newer and perhaps smaller companies or just larger scale businesses?
It honestly depends on how the company is set up and what the goals of the company are. If you're running any form of advertising, other than just Facebook or Google, then you want to establish where the installs and the value is in those campaigns you're running.
I talked to a fantastic company of three developers from Manchester who built up a huge game base from just the three of them and now they have started a whole host of user acquisition, so you don't have to be on the scale of Activision Blizzard to be able to use us. We're accessible, we have a lot of indie developers using us and we’re actually becoming very useful for investors. For VCs it's helpful to be able to give them some indication as to the performance or the monetisation of your game. It's very useful for VCs who are now actually asking for some sort of MMP data to be able to see how your game is performing.
Can you tell us a little about how AppsFlyer works with SKAN on iOS and how things are changing?
There are two clear paths at the moment, you have the probabilistic path and the SKAN path, and both are available at the moment. We don't have any notion of Apple's thought process towards probabilistic and there's lots of talk that, yes, it can be taken away at some point. There's also lots of talk of if some companies are using it, then it's tough to compete without using it. You have the drive for people to use probabilistic and also maintain the SKAN set up in the background. So really, it's kind of created more work for companies to balance the two different methods and to keep them to keep the numbers aligned as best you can.
How do you feel about the app store opening up with all of the European Regulation talk? We also have Apple's WWDC soon, what are you expecting them to announce?
The very notion of what they're doing, I don't feel is by choice. Legal rulings have made this happen, partly due to the Epic case and everything else that's been going on behind the scenes. I don't feel it’s something they want to do in terms of opening up the stores or opening up to third party stores and I also question the effectiveness of doing that for the consumer.
It certainly opens up a lot more grey areas. This is something that's been available for Android for a long time, being able to just go and get an APK installed on your device, but it could have anything in it. They're not necessarily verified like they are from an app store from a reputable company so it does open up question marks as to whether we are going to start to see more crime as a consequence of this, which is something that I have to say concerns me.
For me, the story is more about this movement of the free-to-play model coming from existing mobile companies and moving over into console and PC.Adam Smart
Privacy features a lot in AppsFlyers work, what is your attitude towards privacy and your stance with the likes of Apple?
You have to think about it from both sides and I think AppsFlyer understands the user side and the business side of that, and we want to try and enable that movement. It's not just Apple, Google is doing this, Steam is very focused on privacy for users, and I think the privacy aspect is becoming more and more important as people understand the issues surrounding it.
How do AppsFlyer users that are already part of the service feel the benefit of this new multi-platform service you just launched?
It's already available for existing developers or prospects or anybody who wants to come and use it. It's all on the knowledge base of how to work with SDKs from AppsFlyer.
For me, the story about this isn't necessarily about AppsFlyer, it's more that this movement of the free-to-play model is coming from existing mobile companies and moving over into console and PC. I believe that idea is going to become very successful over the next period of time. I think when we start to see more free-to-play games that have good IP and are well built games, I think you're going to have a lot of people opting to start playing the free-to-play games over the costly triple A titles and beginning to spend money within them.
I think we're going to start to see this movement within those games - that there'll inevitably be some middle ground between mobile games and console games. It will be exciting to see how that diverges, where that meets, and how that looks.
Do you think we are going to see more of these bigger games having some type of mobile element?
Certainly. It seems the logical path to me. You have so much time outside of these games where you could potentially be monetising those users and in terms of a company's performance, that’s necessary. Having people within a game for extended periods means they are potentially more likely to spend money. I think these ideas are just starting to be understood more and I’m excited to see where it goes.