Speaker Spotlight: Solid Bash's Matthew Zoern on embracing innovation in game development

'Why limit a game's experience to just one platform? The future is about extending the gameplay experience across devices.'

Speaker Spotlight: Solid Bash's Matthew Zoern on embracing innovation in game development

With over 20 years of experience spanning the USA, Canada, and Europe, Matthew Zoern has consistently driven business development, innovation and top-quality game production. Collaborating with industry leaders such as Atari, Electronic Arts, Lego and Sega, Matthew has been instrumental in groundbreaking projects across platforms, including F2P, mobile, MMO and AR/VR gaming. 

Zoern is one of more than 250+ expert speakers delivering 29 conference tracks at Pocket Gamer Connects London on January 22nd to 23rd.

In this insightful speech, Matthew Zoern, with his vast experience in the game industry, addresses the current shifts and transformations within the game sector. He emphasises the need for a more organic, flexible approach to game development. Matthew will explore how a diverse skill set and direct-to-market strategies are becoming crucial in an industry facing financial constraints and decreased game launches.

Through this perspective, he will discuss Solid Bash's pioneering methodologies and the importance of focusing on the core game loop from an early stage, which can lead to more engaging and successful games.

We asked Zoern to tell us more about their talk, entitled 'Embracing Change & Innovation in Game Development: A new era of Flexibility & Creativity', as well as get their opinions on the latest industry trends. If you could give other mobile games companies one piece of advice, what would it be?

Matthew Zoern: Actively engage with your audience and welcome their feedback. It's common in our industry to stick to the basics. Leaderboards, daily activities and other standard features are essential, yes, but there's so much room for creativity within these frameworks.

Don't be hesitant to share your game with people, even in its early stages. A lot of companies worry about revealing something new and different, but the truth is, your game's uniqueness will often come from how you reimplement these standard elements. Think about it this way: if every game needs a leaderboard, what can you do to make yours stand out? How can you turn a simple task, like ticking off a daily checklist, into an engaging and fun experience for your players?

So my advice? Don't just follow the crowd. Look for innovative ways to apply the systems that work in the mobile or casual market. Test your ideas often and not just with closed groups. Involve your community directly. Their insights and reactions can be incredibly valuable in shaping a game that's not only fun to play but also stands out in a crowded market. Remember, at the end of the day, it's the players who make your game a success. Their feedback is gold.

Fusion can result in unique game experiences, sparking fresh player interest and engagement.

What’s the most important key performance indicator (KPI) for you - and why?

For me, the most important key performance indicator (KPI) in mobile gaming is Average Revenue Per Daily Active User (ARPDAU). This metric is crucial because it combines two vital aspects of game success: the number of daily active users (DAU) and the revenue they generate.

Think of it like this: if you know your ARPDAU, you can gauge the health of your game's monetisation strategy. For instance, if you have 100 daily active users and an ARPDAU of $1, you're making $100 a day. But if your costs are $200 a day, you immediately see that you need to improve your ARPDAU or attract more paying users to cover expenses and turn a profit.

In simple terms, ARPDAU tells you how much value each active user brings to your game on a daily basis. It's a snapshot of both engagement and monetization efficiency, which are key to sustaining and growing your game.

And if I had to choose a second key indicator, it would be retention. Retention is all about keeping players engaged with your game over time. The longer they stay, the more opportunities you have to increase their contribution to your ARPDAU. Both ARPDAU and retention work hand in hand to paint a clear picture of your game's performance and potential for long-term success.

What is your biggest aspiration/goal in mobile gaming?

The drive to innovate and push boundaries. It's not just about creating games; it's about doing something new, something different, and achieving success through innovation.

For me, it's always been about exploring and advocating for new technologies and figuring out how to blend them into gaming in unique ways. The excitement lies in seeing where these new technologies can take us and how they can transform the gaming experience. There's a huge opportunity here, and it's thrilling to think about the possibilities.

So, I aim to constantly ask: What new technologies are out there? How can we leverage these to create something truly distinctive? It's about staying ahead of the curve, embracing change, and using innovation to craft games that are not only enjoyable but also groundbreaking.

What do you think the next big disruptor in mobile games will be?

I think the next big thing is already emerging: platform-agnostic gaming. And on that note, I think seeing mobile games as a genre can be problematic. Mobile isn’t a genre; it’s a platform. Look at the Steam Deck. Look at the Nintendo Switch. These, in my opinion, are crossover devices. They’re considered consoles, but they’re mobile in their approach. Everything now is becoming platform-agnostic.

For a long time, gaming was divided into console and mobile categories, but now we're seeing a blend. This shift is exciting because it opens up new possibilities for game developers and players alike. In our studio, for instance, we focus on launching games across multiple platforms, including Steam, console and mobile, embracing a platform-agnostic approach.

The idea is to let people play games wherever they are. Mobile devices today are powerful, often more so than devices like the Nintendo Switch. Why limit a game's experience to just one platform? The future is about extending the gameplay experience across devices. A player might engage in short gaming sessions on their mobile during the day and then continue their adventure on a console or PC at home in the evening.

The key is creativity and research. Understanding what works in both casual and console game markets is crucial. We need to figure out how to merge these experiences in a way that's meaningful for the core game, keeping players engaged and making the most of their free time. It's about leveraging each platform's strengths to enhance the overall gaming experience. This is where I see the next big disruption in mobile gaming — creating seamless, cross-platform experiences that resonate with the evolving habits and preferences of gamers.

What developments do you think have been undervalued by the mobile games industry?

I believe augmented reality (AR) is a technology that has been somewhat underrated in the mobile games industry. While virtual reality (VR) has gained a lot of attention as the next big thing, AR holds significant, yet underexplored, potential. Reflecting on my experience, which includes working with AR technologies in collaboration with Lego over a decade ago, it's clear that AR has not been leveraged to its full potential in gaming.

The challenge, in part, has been integrating AR smoothly into our daily lives, making it a seamless part of our routine. Once we crack the code of integrating AR, it could transform the gaming experience. AR is, in many ways, a step towards the evolution of VR. Although I'm confident that VR will eventually become a major player in the game and tech industry, it still has a considerable journey ahead.

In contrast, AR is closer to becoming a practical part of our daily gaming experiences. It's an area ripe for innovation and could be a game-changer once its integration becomes more user-friendly and widespread.

What’s your favourite ever mobile game?

It has to be Marvel Strike Force. What really sets this game apart for me are the incredible characters and innovative gameplay mechanics. They've done a fantastic job of introducing new types of gameplay elements, which create engaging and meaningful interactions. Even though the game involves a lot of repetitive actions, it never feels monotonous; each session feels fresh and different, thanks to the high-quality execution.

I was so hooked on Marvel Strike Force that I played it consistently for about two-and-a-half years, never missing a day. Even now, several years after its release, it's still performing well, which speaks volumes about its enduring appeal.

What game do you think offers something new, and exciting that hasn’t yet hit the mainstream?

There's a gem from the past that stands out: the PSP game 'Patapon’. This game blended music and rhythm with strategy and action in a way that was innovative and captivating. The gameplay revolved around using drum beats to control characters and units. Each button press represented a different drum sound, and players would create attacks and movements by forming rhythms. This created an immersive gameplay experience where music and action were beautifully intertwined.

Despite how revered it was among those who played it, Patapon's concept hasn't been replicated in the mainstream game market. There's a huge opportunity here to explore how audio can be integrated more creatively into gameplay. The market's appetite for such an audio-centric gaming experience is uncertain, but the uniqueness and engagement of Patapon suggests there's potential.

Games like Patapon remind us that there are always unexplored avenues in game design, waiting to be discovered and brought into the mainstream.

What game has been on your phone the longest?

It's a close call between a few favorites. I've had 'Doom', 'Giant Boulder of Death', and 'Tiny Wings' on my phone for what feels like ages. Each has its own unique charm and appeal. All have kept me hooked for countless hours. I can't quite recall which one I downloaded first, but they've all been mainstays on my phone for a long time.

The mobile space evolves at a much faster pace than console and PC gaming, but is there a console or PC trend that you think has potential within the mobile space?

The evolution of mobile gaming has indeed been rapid, but one trend from console and PC gaming that has great potential in the mobile space is the adaptation of first-person shooter (FPS) games. This genre has had an interesting journey. I remember back when a game like 'GoldenEye 007' was a big deal. Initially, playing an FPS with a console controller seemed almost unthinkable, especially for those of us used to the precision of a mouse and keyboard. But over time, it became the norm, and players adapted to using controllers for FPS games.

Now, we're seeing a similar transition in the mobile space. Games that were traditionally played with a mouse and keyboard, like 'Fortnite', are being adapted to touchscreen devices. This transition is making these games just as enjoyable on mobile as they are on console and PC. It demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability of game design, as well as players' willingness to embrace new ways of playing.

This trend is part of the larger movement towards platform-agnostic gaming. The focus is shifting from the platform to the game itself; it doesn't matter whether you're playing on a console, PC, or mobile device, as long as you can enjoy your game. This is a significant shift in the game industry, and it's exciting to see how traditional console and PC gaming elements are being effectively integrated into the mobile gaming experience.

What do you enjoy most about working in the mobile games industry?

What I really enjoy about working in mobile gaming is its dynamic and evolving nature. While I have a broader passion for the gaming industry as a whole, mobile holds a special place for me due to its long-term engagement potential. In mobile gaming, you're not just creating a game and moving on; you're developing something that grows and changes over time.

In the past, game development often involved spending a couple of years on a project, releasing it, and then maybe doing a few bug updates. But with mobile games, there's this wonderful opportunity to continually evolve the game. It's about creating an ongoing relationship with players, keeping them engaged with new content, features, and updates. This continuous development process is exciting because your game can transform and adapt in ways you might not have anticipated.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you can pass on to others?

That came from one of my former bosses, during my time at Webkinz. He was incredibly successful, ranking among the top millionaires in Canada. The advice has stayed with me ever since.

He said, "If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and whom you trust implicitly. Work together with them."

This advice is simple yet profound. It emphasises the importance of building a team with diverse skills and knowledge, which enables you to achieve more than you could alone. Trust and collaboration are key components in this formula for success. 

Meet Matthew Zoern at PG Connects London

Not only will you have the chance to see Zoern take part as a speaker at the show, but you can also arrange to meet them at PG Connects London or make touch via LinkedIn. Our online organiser MeetToMatch is free to all event attendees, connecting you directly with more than 2,500 decision makers from the global games industry.

As well as the 29-track conference schedule, the two-day event also features a series of side-events like The Very Big Indie Pitch, Publisher SpeedMatch, Investor Connector and a host of other networking opportunities all aimed at helping you level up your skills and business.

Book your tickets now!

Managing Editor

Steve is an award-winning editor and copywriter with nearly 25 years’ experience specialising in consumer technology and video games. He was part of a BAFTA nominated developer studio. In addition to editing, Steve contributes to,, and, as well as creating marketing content for a range of SMEs and agencies.