GamesBeat: Tell me a little bit about Tank Domination. Wargaming hasn’t done a really great mobile version of World of Tanks yet. It seems like that presents an opportunity.
Chumachenko: The idea behind Tank Domination, of course, was based on the popularity of World of Tanks and tanks in general. Being a successful mobile company, we knew we were able to create a mobile experience for players who like that. We have everything we need to do that.
Part of our strategy now is moving new hardcore games into production. Tank Domination was meant to be one of those games. We just recently launched on the iPad and iPhone, and it’s doing great. We’re going to work on this game and push it a lot.
As I say, free-to-play games are a service. When we launch the game, the work’s just started. We’re just on our first step with Tank Domination. Now that we see we have a lot of interest from players, we’re going to put a lot of work into the game. We’ll be adding a lot of content in 2014. We have a big team working on it every day to make it more interesting and more successful.
GamesBeat: What sort of advice would you have for independent developers in the mobile market?
Chumachenko: There’s always a place for talented people. Even if the competition feels like it’s crazy in mobile, as it’s growing around all these big players and big budgets, I still believe that miracles can happen. A few people can make a great game, something very addictive.
I’d advise people to try something new. These guys have more opportunities to create new game mechanics. At some point, though, you have to think about business as well. There’s a point where the indie developer has to deal with the realities of business, not just dreaming about that miracle.
GamesBeat: I’m curious about how you’ve handled some difficult challenges. I remember Mystery Manor had a kind of player rebellion over some rule changes you made.
Chumachenko: This is one of the harder parts of operating a service. It doesn’t matter if you’re a game developer or in e-commerce or something else. Sometimes you’ll do something that makes your users unhappy. It’s important to learn from it. We all mistakes, and those mistakes eventually make us better. I hope we’ll be better at understanding our users in the future.
GamesBeat: How concerned are you about the rising cost of user acquisition? What’s your way of dealing with that?
Chumachenko: The most important thing that every developer should think about now isn’t the cost of user acquisition, but the stickiness of their games and their retention of users. That’s more important. What happened last year with the cost of user acquisition—All developers have been very grateful for Facebook and the way it’s made acquisition better for us. Facebook is a big player now in mobile traffic. That helped slow that growth in costs. We also have a lot of organic traffic.
In general, in the industry, the cost of user acquisition has been growing, but this hasn’t been as much of a pain for us. It hasn’t been as big a problem for us this year.
GamesBeat: It seems like once you have a large amount of your own traffic, you can cross-promote, and that reduces costs a lot.
Chumachenko: Yes. We also have a special division that works on that kind of cross-promotion.
GamesBeat: The King IPO has people excited about a lot of financial benefits coming into the game industry. Do you feel that way as well? Are you thinking about an IPO of your own someday?
Chumachenko: Yeah, we’re excited. It’s a great day for the whole team there. I hope the IPO will be very successful, because it matters for the whole industry. Earlier game industry IPOs haven’t gone as well for us. It’s made the business less attractive to venture capital and private equity funds. If King’s IPO is more successful, that’ll be good for everyone.
As for Game Insight, we’re a private company, and we have no plans to go public. In two or three years, though, a lot of things can change. We’ll see.
GamesBeat: How do you feel about console gaming these days?
Chumachenko: The console game industry is still a very closed-in industry for developers. We’re not looking into the space. We’re always looking at new opportunities, but for us, mobile and social are the high priorities. We’re not about to go console.
We’re very successful in our local market in Russia, but our games are also available in around 200 countries. We’re very global. Looking at the console market, it’s still very local. It’s more about the U.S. market. In Russia the console market is very small. It’s just not our market.
GamesBeat: How do you hope to make Game Insight better-known?
Chumachenko: The simple answer is great new games. At the end of 2013, we decided that we were going to focus very much on a few titles in the coming year, trying to make them more successful than our previous efforts. Running Shadow is a very good example. We’ve made a big bet on that game.
GamesBeat: Do you see any particular obstacles that you have to overcome?
Chumachenko: Nothing special, I think. The hardest thing to overcome is yourself. The next game always has to be bigger than the previous one. That’s what I think about every day.