The excitement around the online and mobile game spaces seems to ebb and flow, the volume of games being produced continues to grow. And contrary to popular belief, revenues in the games sector continue to grow, with mobile gaming still posting double digit year-on-year revenue growth in most markets.
France also has had a strong track record of success in the sector, with several French success stories emerging in recent years. Dotemu, who achieve success converting vintage video game hits to mobile versions, announced last year the sale of the company to a private investor. The sale was a highly successful one for various reasons, and enable them to launch their latest venture in the mobile game publishing space, Playdigious.
I recently caught up with cofounder and CEO Xavier Liard to get an update on how things are evolving with their new venture as well as their plans to become the mobile game sectors ‘go-to’ publisher.
So explain to us the motivation behind Playdigious. How did it come about and why?
Back in 2007 I established with Romain Tisserand a video game company called DotEmu. We had the focus to license and re-launch good old video to nowadays platforms. Over a period of 7 years we worked on very nice projects such as Final Fantasy VII on Steam, Metal Slug, Double Dragon etc and at some point we felt like DotEmu needed a strong financial investment to move on the next stage. We evaluated several options and finally had a great opportunity to sell the company a decent flat price while ensuring the whole team and our company spirit would remain as is. So in September 2014, DotEmu was acquired by an entrepreneur family and we helped them to take over the company. Fortunately it went very well!
After selling DotEmu we had the time to think about the next step. We evaluated the current market trends to evaluate how we could fill a gap today and in the future. Also since we have a strong technological background we wanted to find a business where we can try out technical innovation to make the difference. In June 2015 we established Playdigious to bring a new alternative to game developers where we focus on publishing and they focus on making great games.
What is your focus going forward? What do you aspire for Playdigious to become?
We are currently focusing at sourcing high quality Premium games from the PC/Console world to port and publish on iOS, Android, Smart TV and Apple TV to get back as quick as possible in the market. We are also sourcing existing Freemium games that have a large user base but not maintained/updated anymore because the developer have other focus. By aggregating such free games we will build the foundation to finally publish brand new Freemium games in 2016. We are also working on secret R&D projects.
Our goal is to become a top rated Publisher esteemed by game developers, distributors and players.
I see that you’re moving more into freemium games? What’s driving this change? Can you tell us more about the types of freemium games you’re working on (eg casual, MMORPG ?)? In which markets will they be distributed?
We made the choice to focus on the mobile market because we believe that it is where there is the biggest possible growth. At first, as a core gamer I didn’t like Freemium games but nowadays I am playing a lot of them especially on my phone. We are shifting to the Freemium marketing simply because this is what players are looking for and where the revenues are. ( 92% of revenues came from IAP)
However we will always keep a Premium line because we believe that even if it is a small market there will always be people enjoying such games especially with the rise of Smart TV.
In terms of editorial choice we will pick games that span the market, going from hardcore, especially for Premium, to mid/casual games for Freemium. Quality and high rating would be our priority before anything else. In terms of markets it would be worldwide on any iOS and Android devices.
In which markets are you present today? What new markets are interesting to you?
With the numerous App Stores available it is easy to reach almost every country. However being efficient worldwide is another story. Thanks to our previous experience we have a good knowledge about where are the best opportunities especially out of the major App Stores. There is for example subscription based services running on Android in Brazil and Japan or local deals on Smart TV. The Asian market in general is very challenging but very strategic. The Chinese market alone will most likely surpass the US market by the end of the year. However, it is almost impossible to efficiently distribute directly games in China and finding the best Chinese partner is the key.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing game developers today?
By working on numerous projects over 8 years we experimented a lot and saw the market trend evolving. It is more and more challenging for indie or small games to be successful not to mention on mobile. As for freemium games, the market pressure is so strong that managing to get over the million-download milestone is a big challenge or requires very high marketing costs. We noticed so many excellent games failing, soft launched games with great potential that won’t ever come out worldwide or outstanding F2P games from Asia not getting the visibility they deserve in Europe and USA. We have the feeling that today mobile market is almost binary: Total failure or big success.
What’s the environment like in terms of deals, fundraising, etc?
The mobile market and especially Freemium market is certainly where the highest return on investment is in the video game industry. The marketing costs skyrocketed especially because Publishers can have a direct control between how much they pay in marketing and how much revenues they get from that. So theoretically if the balance is positive there is no marketing budget limit, it could be way much higher than the game development cost. Fundraising and acquisition in the Freemium market is very active (Supercell/SoftBank etc) and this is part of our strategy to take advantage of it.