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News  27, Jun 2014

How can you succeed in game publishing? Here are some key lessons

Former gumi Asia Business Developer Samuel Chan talks to e27 about exploiting market inefficiencies and winning the mobile game-publishing business

With three massive title launches, a couple of consultation stints with game developers and publishers, alongside more than a hundred app promotion campaigns under his belt, former gumi Asia Business Developer Samuel Chan pondered about the answer to the inevitable.

How much does mobile app marketing matter in the build up of a successful game? More importantly, when do we wrestle the big guys in an increasingly competitive marketplace that is the mobile ad industry we know of today?

According to Chan, who now has a publishing startup called HyperGrowth, there’s no easy way to bringing an app to the market. Game publishing is a persistent and often hard-to-master cycle that sees many different functions entwine and intertwine each other.

These include, and aren’t limited to, budget management, deals and negotiation, partnership management, financing, and data crunching. Add to that a long list of campaign management skills like multivariate testing, app store optimisation (ASO), a/b testing, and post-install optimisation,you can see why it’s tough to break through.

Tough, but not impossible. Indeed, the very top publishing teams track and monitor a mobile app campaign by media sources, by quantifying each media sources and building rigorous models to test against their hypothesis. In short, they are ruthlessly efficient, logical, and opportunistic.

Chan shares with us the five starting lessons and tips in succeeding in game publishing:

Image credit: Gumi Inc

Also Read: What Google’s I/O means for mobile gaming’s future

1) See it in numbers
Chan believes that app promotion and game publishing begins with quantifiable data, “The more we are able to quantify, the better we get at identifying opportunities, exploiting market inefficiencies and building sustainable user acquisition plans. At the very least, game studios and app developers will need to evaluate and quantify the average lifetime value (LTV) of each new acquisition.”

“App developers need to understand the average revenue per user (ARPU), average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU), average revenue per paying user (ARPPU), percentage of paying users (PPU), and their contribution to referral installs (k-factor),” he added.

That’s a lot of acronyms, but as game developer Witching Hour said before, these terms are required to understand why your published game isn’t getting traction in the first place.

2) Scientific and methodical
Chan suggests that developers should be as scientific as possible and ask themselves at what exact point do they quality a media source as “good” and when do they discontinue acquiring from said source. “[Figure out] what is a reasonable threshold for each campaign we launch in this specific country, based on what historical data has taught us. Again, assign actual numbers, document your processes, revisit past campaigns and study your mistakes.”

“Chances are, you will identify inefficiencies and areas to improvise. These [acts of diligence] will save you lots of app promotion budget in the long run,” he said.

3) Every market is a summation of demand and supply
While Australia and Canada are hot markets to test launch a mobile app or game, Chan advised against it as the cost of acquisition is extremely imbalance across many of the established markets. “[Because of this,] demand is excessive compared to the finite pool of ad inventory supply. To ace in your app promotion or go-to-market strategy, you’ll want to keep user acquisition cost low while attaining the highest possible value from each installs.”

Also Read: Hong Kong’s Animoca Brands goes public on Australian Stock Exchange

4) True value of installs
Chan said that this ties in with the previous point. He said that the value of every install takes into consideration three things: initial cost of acquisition, lifetime value of said acquisition, and  contribution to referral installs and organic discovery.

“In many cases, cost of acquisition is grossly overvalued while the two other factors almost ignored. An astute awareness of all three factors put you in a position to capitalise on such inefficiency and execute campaigns with convincing efficacy,” he said.

5) The market doesn’t need another tool. It needs a workflow.
For Chan’s final point, he said that there must be a tracking and attribution system before a game’s first install had been delivered in any paid acquisition campaign. This is followed by a post-install tracking system to inform the advertiser and end user of the in-app events that happen after the event.

How likely is one media source able to contribute the players that complete 80 per cent of the game tutorial? How likely is another source able to deliver players that make repeated in-game purchases within the game in its first 24 hours of session time? These are the questions a developer and publisher need answers for, Chan stressed.

“Today, the marketplace has no shortage of such tools, independent tools that does what they set off to do well. Tools won’t give you the differentiation factor you need. Workflows will,” he concluded.

Jonathan Toyad

Jonathan Toyad

If you want an elaborate answer on who would win in a fight between Ultraman and Godzilla, Jonathan Toyad is your man. A six-year veteran in the game journalism industry, he did words and videos for outlets such as GameSpot, GameAxis, IGN and Stuff.TV. Fears coyotes and scorched earths.

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