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We talk to Huawei's Dr. Jaime Gonzalo ahead of Pocket Gamer Connects

"The games industry is blessed with many talented contributors, and will continue to be for many years."
We talk to Huawei's Dr. Jaime Gonzalo ahead of Pocket Gamer Connects

With the next installment of Pocket Gamer Conncts less than a fortnight away, it's time to get excited about the brilliant speakers we have lined up for you in Helsinki on the 27th and 28th September

Dr. Jaime Gonzalo is VP of Huawei Consumer Mobile Service in Europe, and is responsible for the Product & Business Strategy, Go-to-Market and Performance of all Mobile Services in the region. The main mission of this team is to optimize the user experience and engagement, across all verticals included in the Huawei Mobile Services ecosystem: Apps, Games, Search, Ads, Cloud Storage, Movies, Music and Phone Customization.

Prior to this position, Jaime worked at Google, as Head of Google Play Apps & Games in EMEA in 2015-2016, coordinating all Play Store activity for titles such as Clash Royale, Candy Crush and Hearthstone. From 2009-2015, he served as Director of Business Planning & Operations at Electronic Arts Mobile at a global level, participating in the launch of top successful games such as FIFA, Need for Speed or The Sims.

From 2005-2009, he was Mobile Distribution Manager at Activision-Blizzard, working with top popular franchises such as World of Warcraft. In 2004-2005 Jaime was a Producer of Mobile Games at Gameloft.Jaime holds a PhD “Cum Laude” about Videogame and Digital Content Business, an MBA in the INSEEC Business School of Paris, and a double Bachelor Degree in Science from the Universities of Spain and the Netherlands, having performed his Engineering University project in Bosch-Siemens. He is also a member of the Mensa society.

Pocketgamer.biz: Please give us a summary of what you’re speaking about and why it’s important.

The mobile phone industry stopped growing around 2016. The addressable audience has peaked, but mobile content keeps blooming at a rate or around 6,000 new Apps per day. As a consequence it is increasingly hard for content to reach users.

This bottleneck can be solved from two perspectives:

- The Orc style, through strength: Over-bid your competitors.
Many Content providers are trying this solution, which is causing CPIs to skyrocket.

- The Elf style, through wisdom: Smartly growing the ROI.
This involves sophisticated Attribution Data analysis skills, and thinking outside the mainstream mindset.

That´s where the low saturation ecosystems, such as AppGallery, come into play.

1) Hundreds of millions of monthly active users, several tens of millions of them in Europe, illustrates the strong potential of such relatively unknown channels.

2) Considerably lower CPI rates, as a consequence of the lower saturation, make the onboarding much smoother.

3) Its high value audience, as a consequence of the Huawei premium brand user segment, makes this pond a very interesting one to fish in.

4) The connection of the Services Ecosystem, and the Hardware, allow a constant connection with the user, that translates into highly relevant first party data, that very few -if any- of the other ecosystems can offer.

5) But above all else, our jewel of the crown in terms of pride, is our dedicated care of our partners. Instead of receiving delayed replies from a bot, you will have real humans probably sitting in your same country, making sure that all your questions and KPI targets find a satisfactory answer in very short delays.

Where are the next big opportunities in the mobile games market? 

There has been an important division of opinions in terms of the most suitable business model for mobile for a long time. Some defend that Free-to-Play was the best way, since it attracted a huge user base. The downside is the low conversion rate, high churn rate, and the endless cycle of acquire-retain while looking desperately for whales.

Others defend that real gamers, those actually spending handsome budgets during the year on gaming content, seldom enjoy free-to-play or pay-to-win experiences. Some reports describe a trend in which "gamers" are gradually moving away from Mobile for this reason, and back into PC.

Maybe Mobile Games can find a solution to bring back the fun to the gamers, that PC and Console never lost, instead of focusing on highly volatile massive audiences of casual users, for a more sustainable and stable business model.

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

Some might think that "Revenue" is the king of the KPI, because that´s what ultimately dictates the ROI balance. However, in digital/mobile environments, "Revenue" is often a consequence of other earlier stages in the funnel, and not an immediate effect or a quick win out of the blue.

As such, I´d say that DAU (daily active users) could be a much better indicator of the stability of a business model, and the potential of the product towards the future. This applies to F2P, Pay to Download, Subscription, E-Commerce business models, all of them. Obviously, combining this KPI with more advanced ones like "retention on Day 7", make the forecasting exercise much more solid.

What is your biggest aspiration/goal in mobile gaming?

The seamless gaming experience. The possibility to detach the gaming experience from the need of a specific device. The fact that games can "follow" the gamer to wherever he is more comfortable to play. This could happen in front of his TV, or while resting in the garden. That obviously requires advanced Device connectivity, along with portable gaming-compatible devices.

But I don´t think we are that far from that kind of experience. Nothing that some smart-glasses with HarmonyOS-like integration into all other Smart-devices, following our Super-Device capabilities, would not solve. The challenge is that, besides Huawei, very few companies are able to build something like that.

What do you most admire in the mobile games world?

The passion and the perseverance.

I remember that one of the elements that most surprised me when I first entered the Gaming industry, was the fact that Sundays felt too long. I was looking forward to Monday to arrive, so that I could go back to the creation of gaming content.

Maybe time is able to dilute this feeling, and we learn to enjoy our weekends, but even so, I believe very few industries are able to generate this kind of feeling. And that explains why, despite the life of a Game Developer not being always easy, so many professionals keep passionate about it, and driving their creativity into building fun gaming experiences. Because they (or I should say, we) would unlikely be happier in any other industry."

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

I think the moment that User generated content, as we see in popular Video-Streaming social platforms, becomes interactive, that will be a strong disruption on mobile.

And even more so, when this happens in a fully immersive environment, such as VR. For example, attend a concert from your favorite group, and be able to jump on stage to play a guitar/instrument game together with them. Or just sit and enjoy the show, together with your friends joining remotely, 360 degrees around you.

What is the single biggest challenge facing the mobile games industry today?

Addressable audience stagnation, while content keeps growing fast. This means fighting to acquire and retain the limited number of gamers willing to spend for a game like yours.

What leaders/pioneers in games do you find inspiring?

The current reality of games is the consequence of several shining-star moments. And then others that follow. Some of those stars were able to disrupt the market at the right time. And even if their contribution or specific product faded from the mainstream audience usage, it remains as a key element that allowed whatever came after they left.

Some examples could be SEGA and Capcom setting the ground of the future platform, fighting and beat-em-up games, SquareEnix and the Final Fantasy series for immersive RPG, Blizzard and the RTS and the MMORPG, EA and the sports leagues, Riot and the MOBA fever, Rovio and Supercell and the Mobile era waking...and in my particular case, FromSoftware and the Souls games.

Luckily, the games industry is blessed with many talented contributors, and will continue to be for many years.

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

The games industry is very tough in terms of how to reach success. There are incredibly talented developer teams, that spend endless hours and effort in creating a very nice product, that for random reasons outside their control doesn´t become a hit.

The potential success window for a game is relatively small. Games have a time where they can survive, and they can find themselves in an obsolete status very fast. On the positive side, we have strong gaming communities, able to recommend hidden gems to many gamers, that help to bring a second chance to those great products that didn´t win the fight in the 1st Round.

What’s your favourite ever mobile game?

I play many mobile games. But usually I play them for a while (sometimes days, sometimes years), and then I uninstall them eventually. Two games are however resilient to abandon my mobile devices:

1) Solitaire, helped by its ability to run in offline mode, and design unrelated to grinding or Free-to-Play elements.

2) Saint Seiya Awakening, probably due to nostalgia factors, although the game is one of the most sophisticated I have seen on Mobile.

I also loved the series of the Room, but after the story is finished, it´s not that appealing to play them for a 2nd time, since most puzzles have already been solved.

What game from another company do you wish you had worked on? 

I wish I would have worked on any of the Souls games, from FromSoftware. I think the storytelling, visual design, sound effects, game mechanics, were rather revolutionary. And still are, from what we see in terms of industry performance of Elden Ring.

What key trend should we be paying attention to in the next 12 months?

Gaming integrated in Social Video streaming platforms. Not to mistake with Game streaming subscription services, very different beasts.

What role do NFTs play in the future of games?

This question is sensitive, because some people have become fanatic defenders of everything related to Blockchain, NFT, Crypto, etc.

In my humble opinion, Games success trends are usually about fun, experience and ergonomics.
If you make a game funnier to play, comfortable, and expanding the overall satisfaction to levels beyond its preceding generation, you are up for a sustainable business.

Beyond those 3 dimensions, hypes tend to be temporary. More a marketing story than a real game changer. There is potential in interactive immersive environments, through VR and Metaverse (if this is actually a thing yet). But only if they improve the above 3 factors.

Is hypercasual gaming here to stay?

It will stay in the sense of gathering huge bored audiences, that don´t want to commit to deep game storylines and investment. The risk of hypercasual is the signs of fatigue to Ads that we start to see in younger generations. There is a chance that in the future, we decrease our tolerance to Ads even further, and we start blocking any kind of Advertising content.

From my humble individual perspective, I look forward to that day. Both as a parent as an individual, I see much lower value in Ads, than in communities of trusted advisors with similar likes, more organic influencers.

Tell us your thoughts on ONE of the following: the metaverse, Cloud-gaming, Cross-platform games, Play-to-earn games.

Cloud Gaming, in the sense of Games Streaming Subscription was one of those hypes that several industry players made thinking probably more on forecast projection, than on actual gamer psychology.

For example: Every gamer knows that gamers have a 'collector' instinct. This is what makes games like PokemonGo so successful. This means that access to a huge library of games for a limited time will not necessarily be as appealing as owning your few favorite games forever.

I like looking at my collection of games. Even those that are too old to run on modern PCs. Maybe Cloud Gaming services could succeed, but only when being oriented at non-true-gamer audiences. Same as Hypercasual games.

When not making/selling/playing games, what do you do to relax?

My experience developing games was a consequence of a deeper fundamental passion: I love creating stories and fun. So when I´m not actually working in the games industry, I´m designing classic roleplaying games adventures, creating animation videos for my kids, inventing new disguises and painting our faces, or writing novels.

Almost any kind of creativity oriented to be shared, would be a delight. Even composing music, although I was not really gifted for that.

What was your first-ever mobile phone?

A silver color SONY with a wheel on the side. It had a black and white screen, and I envied my friends with a Nokia because they had the Snake game in them, and I didn´t have any.

What sessions/speakers (apart from your own) are you planning to attend?

I would like to attend Indie game developer sessions. Having worked for so long in multinationals, I have lost a bit of the feeling of the indie world, which I remember very healthy and enriching.

Can people get in touch with you at the event? 

I´d love people to get in touch. I´m always eager to learn new things.

What is one way attendees can prepare for your discussion?

I would recommend watching any of our previous keynotes online about our Huawei Mobile Services. There are several accessible from mainstream video streaming platforms.