GamesBeat

Facebooker-turned-game dev Tam stays calm in the mobile storm (interview)

GamesBeat: Is there something about the charts that you would say is instructive now as to what defines success on the charts? If you get to number one and you last there for two weeks, but then it starts going down, is that a big disappointment? Would you rather have 10 games in the top 100?

Tam: That’s a very good question. You have to look at it through the lens of what game you are producing. Some games have longer or shorter shelf lives. Some games can draw a lot of users in a short time, but can’t retain them. Some games draw a very small set of users, but they can keep them for a long time and monetize that way. It goes back to what your strategy is – what games you want to make and what goals you have for them. There’s not one clear answer, like, “If you hit this many weeks and stay in this range you’re successful.”

Also, it has to do with how much money you invest into it. If you invest a lot of money, even if it stays there for a whole year, you might still lose money. If you invest very little money and it stays there for a short time, you might still be in the game. It depends on your initiative, your strategy, and what kind of purpose you’re trying to pursue.

Over the years, you can see that there are certain apps that can stay for a long time. We’ve produced many of those. iMobsters and the World War II games that we produced in 2009 were on the top 100 grossing list in 2012, even three years later. That’s amazing, when you think about it. That’s tens of millions of dollars worth of franchise. It’s important to realize that you can do that on mobile. It’s possible to create a very long-lasting franchise.

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GamesBeat: Blizzard gave a talk at DICE a while ago about all the games they cancelled, that they never announced. There were many duds. Everybody’s going, “Oh, that’s why they do a StarCraft every 12 years.” They’re very hard on themselves. But I’m not sure how it works in mobile, whether that would be impractical.

Tam: We have our own fair share of games that we kill or games that launch and we decide shortly after that we’re not going to spend more resources on them. At the same time, we’ve done a good job at, one, spotting the opportunity, and two, once we realize that it’s not going anywhere, then we kill it off and move on to the next thing. We’re making free-to-play games. We’re making games as a service, not something where you ship it and you’re done. That allows us to do something relatively quickly, test the waters, have people try it out, and then if we don’t see enough traction we can move on. If we see a lot of traction we can double down on it.

GamesBeat: It seems like a lot of things that are successful these days, even in mobile, are where they have a community. In Clash of Clans, it’s your clan. You feel like it’s your community and that’s why you keep going back to it. You think of Blizzard and Valve in the PC and console space. They’ve built the most loyal communities over time.

Tam: Community within games is a known thing. That’s been proven for a long time. More important, what we find now, is the social aspect of gaming. Maybe you call it community, but generally I call it the social aspects. We find that a socially connected user within our games is seven times more likely to spend and three times more likely to come back to our game than a non-socially connected user. That may speak to the community that you’re talking about, but it also speaks to having a good understanding of how social can impact games. People are starting to understand that.


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