Nai Chang of Wooga: “One of the key parts of success is understanding your players”

Wooga’s managing director gives his thoughts on building the hugely successful June’s Journey and the studio’s presence at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki

Nai Chang of Wooga: “One of the key parts of success is understanding your players”

Hidden object titles have been around since the dawn of mobile games, and for one studio they’re more popular than ever, fueling an expansion of the company both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wooga is the developer of the hugely successful puzzle game June’s Journey. Combining hidden object puzzle games, island and city building and story-based content, the game has earned more than half-a billion in revenue. Now, Wooga are set to appear at PGC Helsinki 2023 on a recruitment drive, as the studio continues to expand.

We spoke to Wooga's managing director, Nai Chang at Gamescom 2023 to gain some insight into the success of June’s Journey’s. So how are things going for Wooga?

Nai: We’ve been doing very well. Over the last couple of years we’ve been growing very steadily and very sustainably. We’ve hit a couple of milestones. Last year we passed more than $500m in lifetime revenue for June’s Journey, and we’re on course to go beyond that.

Product-wise, June’s Journey has over 60% market share in the hidden object space so we’re doing very well in the product and business side. Organisationally I think we’re also doing very well. We’ve had a restructure to focus on our live games as well as our new games and we’ve grown the company from 200 employees in 2020 to a little over 300 in the past three years.

In terms of Wooga itself, what do you think makes it stand out in the industry?

On the organisational side I think the main thing that we pride ourselves on is the people and the culture. We have a very strong sense of culture, and what I mean by that is is not talking about what the culture is - but just the fact that everybody understands the importance of having an aligned culture, the same value systems, ways of working and ways of thinking that we have so that we know how to treat each other equally in the workplace.

I think that’s been part of the key things that’s made the company very stable as we went through a lot of changes globally over the past few years. We’ve remained stable throughout.

So obviously, your flagship title is June’s Journey, what do you think has made that game so successful?

So our product vision for the company is to be the player’s choice for puzzle and casual games. For a casual audience we know from all the studies and player feedback that we’ve had, that the two most common use cases for when people play casual games is, one, before they go to bed to relax and the second is passing time on a commute. The common theme across both of those things and what they did before was story or narrative. People used to watch movies or TV shows, or they used to read a book.

This kind of deeper player immersion and player fantasy is lacking in the mobile market, so this is what we tried to do. June’s Journey is the first example of our big success in this. We took a hidden object core - which is a proven game mechanic - and we added a deep level of story in terms of character development and what’s happening to the characters in the game, and we presented it as part of the progression.

So, what this creates is a desire for people getting attached to characters and wanting to know what’s happening to them in the story. That helps build engagement over the years. So this is part of the key to success - giving our players the entertainment and building curiosity for them to want to know what happens next.

And these are qualities that you imbue into all your games?

On the product side we focus on story-driven casual games, and June’s journey is the first very successful version of this. Its prequel Pearl’s Peril is also an example of this, but June’s Journey took it to the next level, and this is what made us stand out on the product side. And then this is also what contributes to this success is that we take the core that’s very strong and then we build on top of it. So based on the different player types we have, and their motivations and why they play, and what they want to get out of a gaming experience, we build up the features, and we build more content that caters to their needs.

For example, we built social systems because we know from research and talking to our players that they want to have collaborative gameplay and features. We know that they want to discover more about the story, so we build these side events to help them to learn more about the characters and the world.

So I think one of the key parts of success is understanding the players, and building what matters to different segments of them, because the playerbase is not uniform in terms of what they most enjoy. So we try to cater towards all the key aspects for different groups in different ways.

Wooga will be at PGC Helsinki 2023 in a few weeks, what do you think of the event?

Helsinki is one of the gaming hotspots in Europe and we're joining PGC Helsinki as a sponsor this year. Such big events are a great opportunity for us to look for talented people to join Wooga.

Want to know more about Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2023?

Check out the event's website here to get your tickets and find out what's on, what's where, where to stay and everything you need to know.

See you at the show!

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.