Trends in casual gaming: my takeaways from Casual Connect Kyiv 2012

I've spent the last three days in Kyiv, Ukraine attending Casual Connect Kyiv 2012. Besides presenting on controls in touchscreen games, I met a lot of great people from the Ukrainian and Russian game development communities, as well as thought leaders in the industry. Here are a few interesting points, quotes and trends from the conference:

The big trend:

  • • You cannot fight the trend towards free-to-play games, it's taking over the market, segment by segment.

On Marketing:

  • • Most big companies are spending their money on paid user acquisition/CPI, this leaves a gap for marketing stunts to acquire users at low or no-cost, look for strategic marketing partnerships
  • • Answer tweets/facebook messages in the persona of your game characters (e.g. the Bad Piggies reply to people on Rovio's social media accounts)
  • • It's way easier to get to top 25 in smaller territories first, then target the US later.

On technology:

  • • Have your programmers create tools that enable game designers to modify the game without programmer intervention - e.g. let the game designer modify parameters in an excel file which is read by the game.
  • • Programmers naturally write defensive code while game designers want to stretch the boundaries. This conflict is a good thing.
  • • Try to build a game engine that you can reuse in multiple games, which will get better and better over time.
  • • Never rewrite a game from scratch, your "crappy old code" actually contains a lot of institutional memory and smart bug fixes.
  • • The development of a modern mobile game is never finished.
  • • Unity 4 supports export to Flash Player, using Stage3D; so you don't need the Unity Web Player. Also has dynamic fonts on mobile, a new animation system, and lots of other cool stuff!

On game reviews:

  • • Try to find out what kind of games specific game reviewers like before sending review requests to then
  • • In iOS6, search ranking is affected by third-party reviews
  • • A short video showing the gameplay/functionality of your app is essential

On Cross promotion:

  • • Cross promotion is the cheapest way to market your apps & CTRs are very high: use all your advertising space: like splash screens, loading screens, notifications.
  • • Having tons of connected games makes a big and powerful business; the closer the match the better cross promo works

On Monetization:

  • • Consider providing incentives for people to watch ads (eg provide virtual currency for watching a video ad unit)
  • • Price segmentation: always offer low and high priced versions of items to maximize revenue
  • • Provide new items or levels on a daily schedule (for example, unlock one new level a day for a whole month)... keeps people coming back
  • • You must segment your users, treat paying and non paying users differently. Paying users should get free bonuses to encourage more purchases. Non-paying users should get more ads.
  • • After 30 days, if someone didn't spend money in your game, 95% chance they will never buy anything in lifetime of game
  • Retail marketing budgets are much larger than e-commerce budgets, and can be accessed with the right partnerships

On Engagement:

  • • Levels are a retention strategy. Don't sell them, give them away and sell ancillary items (hints, upgrades)
  • • Create "moments of absolute joy" which can be shared
  • • Look for points in the game where engagement drops off and offer bonuses at those points
  • • Work on the "core compulsion loops" of your games, it's what keeps players coming back
Matt Mayer

Matt Mayer is a founder at ReignDesign. Matt is from the UK and was based in Shanghai for ten years. He is now living in Bangkok, Thailand.

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