Speaker Spotlight: Chris Hainsworth on how mobile monetisation has gotten harder

Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #4 kicks off on November 9th

Speaker Spotlight: Chris Hainsworth on how mobile monetisation has gotten harder

Pocket Gamer Connects Digital has returned once again, set to bring together some of the finest voices in the games industry and beyond.

PGC Digital #4 takes place on November 9th - 13th. To give you a taste of what to expect, we'll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.

The conference spans across five days and will feature a broad selection of tracks, talks and speakers, as well as various fringe events and a new and improved meeting system. For more details on PGC Digital and to book a ticket, head to the website.

Today's spotlight is on Chris Hainsworth, CFO at Rowan Glade and seasoned business adviser with over 15 years of industry experience. He's worked alongside several gaming start-ups, and will be heading to PGC Digital #4 to share his insight with a presentation titled 'business lessons from game company catastrophes'. Tell us a bit about your company?

We are a business advisory firm focused on the games industry. We’ve helped successful mobile and XR studios, and have fifteen years’ experience of media and entertainment finance, covering M&A, company and project finance, sales and publishing.

We help entrepreneurs build their companies through seed and series A and B, by assisting with general strategic advice, financial modeling, lean accounting, robust management reporting systems, business partnering with monetisation, analytics and studio management teams.

What does your role entail? 

Initially it’s helpful to take an overview of a client’s business.

For pre-seed companies this overview may focus on strategy and setup.

For companies with projects in development, I spend time with studio managers reviewing resource plans, costing alternative strategies and evaluating margins. This gets really interesting when companies have grown beyond one team, and are balancing considerations of ‘own product’ versus ‘work for hire’. For established companies there may be potential to add value through strategy tweaks, cost savings, improvements to management information, and efficient tax claims.

For companies with live products it’s important to have a clear understanding of how LTV and CPI are behaving, and crucially to ensure there’s integrity in the data. I work a lot with the monetisation teams to get the financial models clear, and with the analytics team to verify data integrity.

There’s also high-level CFO stuff like advising on financing opportunities, providing commercial input to contract negotiations, and managing external accountants and auditors.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

My obsession with games actually started in the 16-Bit era - so classics like Dungeon Master, Populous, Lemmings, and Gauntlet 2! I also loved the heroic coding feats of early 90s European demo crews who pushed so many limits. Miracles like full-screen parallax scrolling and the chip music of Jochen Hippel.

After completing my accounting training, my career focused on film, which to me then was the most important mass art form. I’ve helped acquire and sell all kinds of film companies from distribution through VFX, I’ve developed and financed films, and managed an independent distributor through the challenges of digital.

I began to dip my toes in the water again with games like Journey and The Last of Us, and found they were capable of delivering the kind of feelings I’d associated uniquely with film.

The games sector is hugely valuable, with strong growth prospects, and immense public good benefits from the innovations and culture.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

Write, and talk to people as ways of developing your thinking and taste. Observe the patterns that connect commercial success with gameplay that is satisfying for you. Game jams are fantastic.

Make tailored approaches to people whose work or values connect with you somehow - whether new entrants or old timers, people are often willing to make time to chat.

Develop your commercial awareness by studying the trade press. Read the many great games industry business blogs.

When you get an opportunity to join an established company, ask all of the questions.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

Mobile has clearly got so much tougher. Three years ago user acquisition felt deceptively simple. Now there’s so much complexity it’s hard for small developers to get a grip on their CPI and marketing spend.

There is also proliferation and splintering of genres, which can be a help and a hindrance when seeking out relevant benchmarks.

The emergence of so many UA funders is an encouraging example of the sector’s innovation.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

The industry seems resilient in light of lockdown. That’s a huge blessing and inspiration.

Developments such as Google Stadia and Apple Arcade seem to be functioning as R&D experiments rather than the game-changers some had anticipated.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

Business-wise - more private and institutional investors wising up to the sector’s scale and potential; some opportunistic consolidation plays as publishers and developers in lockdown-afflicted economies struggle.

The pessimist in me has been looking out since March for signs of a softening in revenue growth, with demand for entertainment products hit by shrunk disposable incomes. I’m also curious as to how Sony and Microsoft are viewing forecasts and production plans for their new consoles, when even early adopters may be more cautious than usual with their discretionary spend. Nevertheless, at a time when film studios are holding back premium launches like Bond, gaming has the opportunity to extend its reach further into the leisure economy.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

I love presentations by game developer entrepreneurs whose clarity of purpose is matched by their down to earth business sense.

I also love the brilliantly hosted investor track. The panels provide great deal insights, M&A trends, and a periodic check-in as to the likelihood of blockchain and XR gaming ever making it back onto the mainstream investment agenda.

Want more?

The full conference schedule will be live very soon. Until then, we have a bunch of reasons to come along to PGC Digital #4 right here. You can also check out our other track rundowns and coverage of previous Pocket Gamer Connects conferences ahead of the event itself.

Register for Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #4 today!