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Here's what we discussed at Game Product Managers Forum in Helsinki, Finland

Finnish game companies and game developers

ironSource in partnership with Deconstructor of Fun recently hosted Game Product Managers (GPM) Forum in Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki is home to some of the most successful gaming companies in the world and has been since the early days of the app stores. A big part of this comes from the rise (and fall) of Nokia, which was the biggest company the country ever produced. In fact, senior attendees at GPM Forum spoke about their time there and how they then went on to the usual suspects (Rovio, Supercell) before moving to their current gaming studios. The unique culture in Helsinki was especially telling when attendees greeted each other with a firm handshake, small hug, and strong hello - welcoming each other as old friends rather than potential rivals. 

At GPM Forum Helsinki, we had seven hours of sessions, Q&As, and strong discussions on everything from the pure business side of gaming to in-depth product to conceptual areas and what is going to happen next in this vast landscape. Here’s a glimpse into what we discussed. 

The Mobile Gaming Market

Paul Barnes, Managing Director EMEA at App Annie

First up was Paul Barnes from App Annie who talked about the mobile market as a whole, which at a macro level was a great opening for the day. Specifically, we discussed games genres, emerging markets and global changes, upcoming trends like the rise of 5G, and the impact of subscription and streaming-based models will have on all of us in the space.

Guild Mechanics in Casual Games

Wilhelm Voutilainen, Game Analyst at GameRefinery

Next was Wilhelm Voutilainen from GameRefinery discussing guild mechanics in casual games, which itself was an eye-opener. 

We all know the success and value of guild mechanics in building social environments and increasing retention in more mid-core and strategy based titles. But to see the way that casual and puzzle game developers like Playrix have adopted the model into this area and seen positive results shows that this super important in-game feature has a wider potential reach. 

We discussed the option of a much more simplistic version being applied to hyper-casual, but the jury is out on exactly if it would work (and even if people would take the time to test it). 

You can read a more in-depth version of Wilhelm’s lecture here

Ad Monetization as Part of Product Strategy

Nimrod Zuta, VP Product at ironSource

After that, we had a short break followed by a riveting session by ironSource’s own VP Product, Nimrod Zuta, on ad monetization as part of product strategy. 

The forum was impressed with Nimrod’s opening statements, which mirrored their own beliefs that developers need to build the game with rewarded video as part of the core loop of the game. 

The industry and users are incredibly comfortable with this as part of their experience and as we found out later from a client case study, if rewarded video is removed, there can be a backlash from users and complaints on the app stores and to the customer success teams. 

Crafting a New Game from a Product Perspective

Johannes Peltola, Game GM at EA

We then went into a small break followed by a session by Johannes Peltola from EA on crafting a new game from a product perspective. 

Key points centered around the importance of ideation and the “seed to sapling to oak” ideology. The ideology dictates that before you have a great game, you need a great idea, and only then can you cultivate the idea through optimization and additional support into a finished product and a potentially successful game. 

Also, Johannes said to remember that when you’re creating a new game, the three questions you should ask yourself are: 

1) Are you ready for a new game? 

2) Do you know the path to Green? 

3) Are you properly warmed up?

Soft Launch - This is How We Do It

Sonja Ängeslevä, Product Lead at Zynga

After another small break, we went into the final two talks of the day, the first by Zynga Product Lead Sonja Ängeslevä on soft launch best practices from a product perspective. 

The focus from product is obviously much more technical than the normal marketing focus, but the process itself is clearly logical. Early stages are incredibly important and you should focus on key areas like verifying feature ideas, managing risk, making sure there’s a market fit, getting peer feedback throughout, focusing on opportunities and bottlenecks, putting gates in place, and getting channel insight. Once all of this is done (and it won’t be easy), you should have a perfect storm to take you from the conceptual stage to soft launch to hard launch.

From One Hit Title to Two Hit Titles

Niki Vasenius, Senior Product Manager at Rovio

Last we had Niki Vasenius, Senior Product Manager at Rovio, going over how to double up on success, from one hit title to two hit titles. This session focused on one of Rovio’s initiatives, which was a test to see if they could replicate global success using a winning format from another game and applying a new creative edge and potential IP. 

The original game was Angry Bird Dream Blast, their second-biggest title. They wanted to see if they could make it work with a new design. The new game christened Sugar Blast is currently in soft launch and seeing surprisingly good results, leaving them with the big question of “can we do this with our other titles?”. 

Rovio concluded that:

  • The core audiences are different between Dream Blast and Sugar Blast
  • The visual theme of the creatives and game is the biggest factor affecting audience
  • The novel core does work with older players as well
  • The assumption that the core is too complex for older player segments can be debunked
Ending the day

The day ended with closing comments by our friend Mishka Katkoff from Deconstruction of Fun, summarizing the success of the day. 

At a nearby bar, we talked for another three hours about industry trends, upcoming launches, games that define us as players and why we got into this business ( the love and passion of gaming was the most common answer) over a few well-deserved drinks and food. 

General feedback from the forum was that the event was a huge success and was both very enlightening and enjoyable. We hope that this will be the start of hosting many more throughout Europe. Until then, John out.

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