Sertac Picakci is the VP of product at Masomo, a Turkey-based developer owned by Miniclip. He has also held roles at Zynga, Tilting Point, LEDO Interactive, and in EA's mobile division.
At Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #2, Picakci will be giving a talk on how Masomo took its original IP, Head Ball, and turned it into a multi-million dollar business when it created Head Ball 2.
Ahead of the event, we spoke to Picakci about the trends he's seen over the last 12 months, and what he thinks the future holds for the industry.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about Masomo.
Masomo is a company located in Turkey. Our flagship title is called Head Ball. Currently employs 80 people. Masomo was acquired by Miniclip in March 2019.
What does your role entail?
My role is VP of product. Based on this role I create the vision and roadmap of products under Masomo umbrella. PnL responsibility of the games, managing game teams (total of 45 people), overseeing performance of various departments (marketing, data, community etc.) are also part of the role.
Why did you want to work in the games industry?
Games have always been a passion for me and I wanted to leverage this passion to be a job. I always wanted to know what has been going on in the kitchen, so wanted to get in the industry and become one of those chefs who are cooking the dishes.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?
As someone who has been a Product Manager for years, my top three pieces of advice would be;
1) They should love playing games. It shouldn't feel like a burden to play games. Otherwise it will be super difficult to succeed in a business like this. The more you play, the more understanding of this business you will have and therefore will be able to create better benchmarks for your projects.
2) While playing those games always question the reason behind those design decisions. Things like at which point you run out of currency and/or energy in the game.
Why did the designers choose to make you run out of resources at that point in the game? How did they balance the game economy? How much you can progress in the game if you would spend $1? If you were the Product Manager / Game Designer of that game what would you do different?
Asking those questions to yourself, deconstructing those games and creating benchmarks is crucially important to improve yourself in this industry and also pass those interviews.
3) If you want to enter the games industry as a Product Manager, Game Designer or Live Ops Manager having great Excel skills are very important. Most of your day will be spent working on Excel sheets in order to create economy models, charts, data analysis etc. It will maximize the efficiency of what you are doing. So doing some investment in improving your excel skills will definitely have a great outcome.
What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?
In the last 12 months there has been two things defining the success in the industry at a very high level;
User Acquisition Operations: Producing those winner assets, lowering your CPI (Cost per Install) and reaching out to new untapped markets and/or audiences means a lot for you to run a profitable business.
As marketing costs are the biggest cost item in your PnL it is very crucially important to spend your budget as efficiently as possible. Additional investments in UA operations that are done in the last 12 months will yield better from now on.
Live Operations: Games that are built on super strong and flexible live ops infrastructures are in a very well position when it comes to satisfying players' needs. Game companies who invested in setting up those infrastructures and hiring Live Ops Managers are in a better position versus the others.
Having a great Live Ops system bundled with great Live Ops strategy that is tied to your core loop will be the biggest way of keeping your audience and monetization active all the time and increase your profit margins.
What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?
I can think of 2 major trends in the next 12 months;
More player-centric approach to game design and live operations : As the competition is getting higher and higher you most of the times find yourself thinking about increasing the monetization and get the most out of your players' wallets.
It's started to change but we will see more significant changes in how the game developers approach game design by being more player centric. We will see that roadmaps will be more evolved based on player feedback rather than KPI pressure. Companies that can afford this kind of approach will win the hearts and play time of players.
Live Ops and UA Operations will be tied together more and more. As the Live Ops becoming more flexible and robust, UA teams will need to be more inline with those activities.
This means updating your marketing materials and value proposition much more frequently than before. This trend will impact both new players and re-engagement campaigns.
How has the games industry changed since you first started?
Top 3 changes are;
First of all competition has increased significantly. Cost of getting your game discovered has increased a lot and therefore getting higher profitability margins are becoming more and more difficult. Keeping your game's LTV increasing at the same rate of marketing costs increase has become the biggest challenge.
Second change is that games have become a living organism. Just like a human being if you don't drink water for many hours then your body starts acting abnormal. Mobile free to play games have become something very similar.
If you let your game stay the same for just 24 hours then you start some engagement / monetization metrics start going down. As players' expectations increase the need for a better live ops strategy became a mandatory thing in free to play mobile games.
Third change is that fortunately more and more people are playing mobile games. The market is still growing and it is creating new opportunities. New and better mobile network infrastructures enabling us create better experiences for players. For example; real time multiplayer game experiences increasing the social aspect of the games significantly.
Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?
I am looking for more business / game design / product management related talks and presentations that are more focused on real learnings and how we can benefit from those learnings and implement in our games.