TabTale targets youngsters with its mobile apps.

Above: TabTale targets youngsters with its mobile apps.

Image Credit: TabTale

GamesBeat: Do you see some advantage in being one of the earliest movers to get critical mass here?

Schliesser: Obviously, yes. It helps us with cross-promotion. If you look at free-to-play in kids, if they’re doing 10 cents in revenue per download, that’s huge. Translate that into what you can buy. Even if you buy incentivized downloads, it’s going to cost you at least 50 cents. There’s no economic viability in buying any kind of user acquisition. You need a good portfolio, good traction, and good relationships. Unless your releases resonate well with your users, you have no chance of building a business or sustaining that business with these economics.

If we get to two dollars per user, that means something’s wrong. It means that either we went too consumable or that parents are really paying a lot. That’s going to break down. There are limits up front when you’re working with kids in the free-to-play model. You need to be really smart to be successful.

It helps that we came very early and built the platform. Everything sits on the platform. When we update, it updates across all of our portfolio. When we update for iOS 8 or 64-bit, now all of the portfolio is updated. All these parents are getting the value that they paid for, even if they downloaded three years ago. We’ve built a maintenance team to make sure that all of our apps are complying with all the new technology.

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GamesBeat: Are they at the point of doing live operations?

Schliesser: You can look at it in the same way. In a big game, you add content and do live operations all the time. We’ve cut our gameplay into series, into smaller pieces. Kids love downloading new stuff, experimenting with new stuff. But with live ops, we make sure all the content is working. We roll out new features with our platform. The portfolio management team can decide which games those apply to, so we can give more value to users. It’s just a different mindset. Instead of running and updating a big game, we have a huge amount of small games or scenes from a bigger game that we’re updating all the time.

GamesBeat: Is there an age where you think the kids’ area ends?

Schliesser: It depends. With boys, around six years old, they start playing all the arcade games, the super casual games. They play the runners. They play RPGs, even if they don’t understand all the concepts involved. They play Clash of Clans or whatever. With girls it changes a little bit. They start moving into super casual around six or seven, but we still have large demographics of girls around 10, 11, 13 years old. They still come back to the kind of activities we’re providing.

GamesBeat: I have an 11-year-old daughter. She plays the ones that go viral, like Flappy Bird or Trivia Crack. I wonder if there are some viral titles that come from the kids’ category.

Schliesser: The way the kids’ category is structured, you have three divisions — one to four, five to seven, and eight to 11. There’s not a lot of crossover, games going outside those areas. We’ve had a few examples, though. We had a game called My Newborn Baby that went a bit viral. It got 10 million downloads over about 10 months. At peak it had more than 300,000 downloads a day on Google Play. When a game like that gets up in the charts and converts well, people just keep downloading it. It can stay a longer period of time. But that doesn’t happen as often as it does with the super casual games.

GamesBeat: I suppose your titles can spread among parents in a more viral way. Could that be an opportunity?

Schliesser: Parents influence the very youngest ages. There it’s not viral so much as brands. Parents recognize those. I don’t think parents are so much into, “Hey, did you see that game?” They’re more proactive. They’re task-driven. “Do I need something for math? Do I need something for language skills? We have a five-hour road trip coming, so let’s find something to occupy the kids.”

Kids see other kids playing games and get a suggestion for what they can download. They want to check out new stuff all the time. They don’t like the long-lasting games. They won’t play Clash of Clans for a year. They’ll play for maybe a month, burn out, and continue with other things. This is how a certain age group of kids operates. Parents, though, operate on a different kind of reasoning. They tend to be opportunity-based. They’ll do more searching, looking at the top charts, going by brands. Virality with parents is a lot lower.

This GDC display greeted attendees moving from registration down to the expo floor.

Above: This GDC display greeted attendees moving from registration down to the expo floor.

Image Credit: Gavin Greene/GamesBeat

GamesBeat: Do you think you’ve learned anything useful here at GDC?

Schliesser: It’s been interesting. We had a rule in the past when we started the company, that we needed to find a justification to go to events like this. Traveling is expensive. But if we can get one great message out of an event, that’s enough. Up to now, at every event we’ve gone to, we’ve found at least one thing that changed our perceptions about some major business thing.

Here at GDC we’ve had more opportunities. I’ve seen at least two interesting lectures that will change something about how we work, our strategic plans. There were also some very good meetups. We had some Google meetings and meetings with networks. We’ve found some other great companies operating in familiar spaces. We’re not doing one-off games. We’re more about mass production. Now there are more players like that. We have some really interesting thoughts about what we can do better in 2015 and 2016.

Sometimes, when you’re cut off from the day-to-day operations of the business and come here, you have time in the evening to talk about a lot of things and rebuild some business strategies. A very interesting process has occurred here for us. We’ll see how we do going forward. It’s been a good event for us so far.

GamesBeat: I wonder if virtual reality is an opportunity for you at some point. It’s a few years away, but is it something you’re thinking about?

Schliesser: I’ve seen VR and AR kids’ books and things like that. Right now, though, I can’t imagine — I don’t see it. Something needs to click. The technology is there. It has very interesting applications, obviously. But someone needs to be the genius that needs to find the right trick that says, “Hey, everyone can use this in a very easy way.”

On some fronts we’re very innovative, but VR is a front that will take massive amounts of development. We’re waiting for that to become more interesting first. We are big believers in the future of 3D printing, though. We already have a game taking advantage of that.

TabTale makes a game based on the Winx brand.

Above: TabTale makes a game based on the Winx brand.

Image Credit: TabTale

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