Question: You primarily launch games on iOS and then on Android. Do you think that model is going to change as Android’s market share grows, or are you still going to be focused on Apple first?
Paananen: For the foreseeable future, that’s going to be the model we follow. The one thing that all of us have learned the hard way in this industry is to never say never, but right now that feels like the right approach.
Question: Is that because the ecosystem is better, or is it because you earn more money from iOS users than Android users?
Paananen: I think it’s a combination of all of those things. We have less fragmentation on the iOS platform. And yes, it’s not a secret, but in terms of revenue the market is slightly bigger on that side. But as I said, that’s been the approach so far. It’s something we’ll continue to think about as far as what’s the right order.
Question: It looks like Angry Birds has hit a peak and has sort of gone down on the top-grossing lists. How do you deal with that possibility in the future?
Paananen: It comes down to the philosophy of how we design good games. As I say, our goal is to design games that people will play for years. We’ve had our games on top for, in the case of Hay Day, almost 18 months. We don’t see any signs of slowdown. But again, it’s the games industry. It’s extremely hard to predict. We’re humble enough to realize that it could happen to us. But the only thing that we can do—We don’t worry about it too much. The only thing we try to focus on is making sure that these games become better and better for our players, every single week, by releasing updates and new content and listening to the users. We’re going to do that as best we can. That’s all we can do.
But I do think that games like ours are part of this new culture of gaming. Games have almost become part of your everyday life. Lots of our players say that in Hay Day, they check their farm before they eat breakfast, and then it’s the last thing they do before they go to sleep. These games have become part of their everyday routine. Our average player plays nine times a day, in both games. That’s an average. Active players play tens of times a day. These games are almost like Facebook, a service you check in on many times per day. They become part of your life. As long as we can keep these games a relevant part of our players’ lives, they’ll have a long lifespan.
The other thing that makes people come back to these games is the social nature of the games. We’ve noticed this best in Clash of Clans. The number one reason people come back to the game isn’t the game itself. It’s the other people they’ve met through the game. It’s a strange thing, but the other players draw you back into the game.
Because of these two things – how people consume these games and how we’ve designed them, and more than anything, how they’re so social – those are the reasons we continue to believe they’ll have a lifespan of years and years.
Question: Why did you make a multinational and multicultural work force a priority?
Paananen: For two reasons. One, it’s so much more fun to work in an environment like that, with people from different kinds of backgrounds. Two, it makes a lot of business sense. When you’re trying to develop games for a global market, it’s incredibly helpful to have people from different cultures who can give feedback on the games. When you localize the games you can talk about everything. It makes a lot of sense.
Question: How much do you earn from each player of, say, Clash of Clans, on average?
Paananen: We don’t actually disclose that type of revenue KPI. For us, as I say, and every other free-to-play game, the vast majority of players play for free. There’s a small group who decide to pay for games. That’s a beautiful model, because if it’s done right, it’s a win-win for everyone. The people who don’t want to pay don’t have to, yet they can access and play very high-quality games for free. And then of course the people who want to pay can choose how much they pay. If it’s done right we believe the free-to-play model is the winning model, both from a developer’s perspective and from the consumer’s perspective.
What’s so important when you design for that model—I’m sure you’ve heard about the concept of play-to-win. That’s the one thing that you want to avoid. The key thing about free-to-play games is that they have to be fair. It must be possible to play the game without ever paying. That’s one thing we’re very proud of. In both of our games, there are quite a few users who haven’t paid a dime, and yet they’ve been quite successful.
Question: In Asia, it seems like this “pay to take a turn” model is quite popular. Do you have to make entirely different games for different markets?
Paananen: That’s what some people have suggested. We would be foolish to start changing our games for a local market. No matter how much we change them, they’ll never be as good as the local games. So we think of it the other way. We didn’t change anything beyond localizing the game. This is our game, what defines our game, the soul of our game. If you start to change the soul of a game, it won’t be good in anybody’s opinion. So we’ve kept the games intact and just localized them. That’s definitely going to be approach we’ll follow, in line with our vision of becoming a truly global games company.