We are well into the build-up for Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki here at Pocketgamer.biz, and with an action packed convention to look forward to we are highlighting some of the guest speakers who will be connecting with over 1200 games industry professionals in the Finnish capital on September 27th and 28th.
Today we’re talking to Mark Val, the Head of Growth at Photon Engine, focusing on Gaming Developers and Founders. Photon Engine are the leading multiplayer gaming service for online developers reaching over 1.2 billion players monthly.
Previously, Mark led Microsoft Azure PlayFab engagement initiatives for game developers and publishers. Prior to Microsoft's 2018 acquisition of PlayFab, Mark helped grow the live game operations and game services' cloud for games in Europe and abroad as a general manager. Mark has built studios for Unity Technologies and Ubisoft and mentored multiple gaming studios.
Mark will be at our Pocket Gamer Connects event in Helsinki to discuss how the quest for fun and the right gaming recipe can produce a game with 230 million monthly players. Multiplayer mobile games are taking over the industry and Mark maintains that physics is and always will be the most effortless input to drive easy onboarding in games.
What’s the most common mistake you see being made in the games sector?
I've been repeating myself for the last decade, and games are still being launched without any prior soft launch. Make yourself a release schedule. Validate your core loops with new players and make sure your infrastructure can scale. Double or triple-check everything with real live players from different regions.
Every week, either when I was at PlayFab or now at Photon, there is a studio launching a game that fails in the first hour. Not only mobile games but also console games. I've seen VCs cry at ad spending on a broken game at launch, games with trace logs in the GUI or games APIs pointing at the development environment. Seriously, don't launch a game on peer pressure but only when it is ready. It will spare you so much trouble.
What game has been on your phone the longest?
I play around four games at a time and install about 80-100 a year on my phone. But there is one OG of gaming that never went away. Polytopia is a turn-based strategy at its finest. Once you beat Crazy mode with all the tribes, you will finally be ready to play Multiplayer. Otherwise, I have been following Little Legends since its launch six months ago, a Multiplayer match three game, but they are falling into the P2W trap.
The developers are excelling at constantly balancing by adding new content, but it is still far from a mainstream casual competitive game. Seeing games evolve and using live game operations to trigger clans or new players are fantastic moments of learning when communities unite with pitchforks or start inviting all their friends. If you love a gameplay and the developers are doing weekly updates, there is a high chance that you will learn something along the way.
What key trend should we be paying attention to in the next 12 months?
Multiplayer games are on their way to taking over 100% of the top 100 grossing charts. From 12% five years ago to 78% today, it is evident that the trend will continue. Collaboration and competition between players add fun and dopamine that can't be obtained in a single-player game. Sharing emotions with your friends and family creates bonding that lasts forever. Covid showed that we couldn't live without being connected to others. We are meant to play and have fun as groups that help each other individually.
What was the fundamental appeal of the mobile games industry that brought you to it?
Having the world in our pockets at our disposal is augmenting our everyday life. We are all cyborgs using the device to learn, communicate, have fun and share the love. Never before have we been closer to all being united. Producing Flash applications and games on the Nokia N95 was jaw-dropping in 2006 and still is today, but we are getting closer and closer to the next wave of communication devices which will reside on our noses, in front of our eyes at all times. Never before has our brain been augmented as it is about to be. Games and culture will be quickly intertwined. Be ready!
Can people get in touch with you at the event? What sort of people would you like to connect with?
I will be part of the Multiplayer track and want to know about every team or individual passionate about innovation, multiplayer, psychology and business.