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What happened at Game Product Managers & Developer Forum Montreal?

The rise of gaming companies and developers in Montreal

This past October, ironSource hosted our fourth Game Product Managers Forum, this time in Montreal, Canada at Auberge Saint-Gabriel, located in the quaint Old Port. Lately, Montreal has been getting a reputation for being one of the world’s top online gaming hubs - in fact, Google Stadia just announced that they’d be opening their very first game development studio in Montreal. 

Thirty product experts from all the big studios in the area attended GPM Forum Montreal, including Square Enix, Gameloft, East Side Games, Wattpad, Ubisoft, Roofdog Games, Outerminds, Mistplay, Ludia, Kongregate, Riposte Games, Gogii Games, Eidos Montreal, Behavior Interactive, and more. 

Here is a brief recap of everything we talked about. 

Behavioral Economics in Free-to-Play Games

Paula Neves, Product Manager at Square Enix

Paula Neves kicked off GPM Forum Montreal with a lecture on behavioral economics in free-to-play games. Behavioral economics, as Paula explained, “looks into the cognitive, social and emotional factors that influence our purchasing decisions.” In fact, it’s argued that all behavior is shaped by our environment. 

Paula shared a handful of examples from various studies and books on ways in which human behavior is often predictable. As a game developer, the question to ask is: how can you apply behavioral psychology to different elements within the free to play game space? Paula listed multiple strategies for doing so, including: decoy pricing, anchoring and priming, the endowment effect, analysis paralysis, social validation, and more. Paula noted that social validation is something we see often in mobile gaming - for example, app store ratings, number of reviews, and number of downloads often persuade users to download specific apps over others in the app store. 

Paula also joined ironSource LevelUp for a podcast on the same topic. You can listen to it here

Using Data to Rethink Our Live Ops Strategy

Cristian Radulescu, Director of Design & Monetization at Gameloft 

Cristian Radulescu focused his talk on the live ops strategy that led Dungeon Hunter: Champions to amass 3.7M downloads globally and $6.9 million in revenues. He zoomed in on bundles, gachas, and events, showing how his team uses data to inform their decisions. 

There were several takeaways from his talk. First, Cristian noted that game developers should consider ‘perceived value’ as a data point when assessing the performance of bundle offerings, as knowing how your community feels can be make or break for your strategy. Next, told us how his team used data to find the optimal difficulty level for in-game events. Essentially, they analyzed the time needed to reach the last milestone of an event using a heat map, and chose the difficulty level based off of these results. Finally, Cristian highlighted the importance of identifying progression walls for optimizing game events. For instance, he found that the reason gamers weren’t progressing past a certain milestone was because the incentive wasn’t appealing. After improving the reward, the wall disappeared. 

Key Considerations in New Game Development (Vs. Live Ops)

Joe Kim, Principal at GameMakers.com

Joe Kim based his lecture on the book “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, relating the book’s concepts into new game development. Joe said that creating something new, like a game, is like a process that goes from 0 to 1. But adding something more familiar, like optimization or reskinning (essentially, live ops) is like going from 1 to n. If 0 to 1 isn’t done correctly, or isn’t done at all, it can have a significant impact on a studio’s ability to survive or grow in the gaming industry. 

Next, Joe dove into the four fundamental claims on maximizing the potential for a successful new game development outcome. They are:

  1. New game dev vs. live ops skills
  2. Good pre-production
  3. Iterators vs planners
  4. Knowledge of a secret

Based on these four fundamental claims, Joe argued that new game development requires a fundamentally different skill set than for scaling or live ops. Do you agree? 

You can also watch Joe's recap of the event in the video below

Ad Monetization Strategy for Improved User Satisfaction

Yevgeny Peres, VP of Growth at ironSource

The key to finding the ad monetization strategy that is the most enjoyable for users is constant testing and iteration. The first step, according to Yevgeny, is asking the right questions: Should you follow best practices? Show ads? Show banners in Japan? Show interstitials in the 1st session? Turn off a placement? Reward 2 gems or 5 coins? Show an ad on the main screen?
Next, test these questions and measure everything, including ad revenue data, in order to make smart decisions. 

Yevgeny listed several metrics to monitor user satisfaction, including, retention, ratings, # of sessions, length of session, and ARPU. Ads that are implemented into the core loop in the game and not added on as an afterthought, Yevgeny argued, can significantly improve user satisfaction metrics. Specifically, rewarded video can be used as an engagement tool when placed properly - for example as a chest reward multiplier, daily reward multiplier, reviver, pre-level booster, etc. 

Live Ops: How we Maximize our Longtail

Elin Jonsson, Producer at East Side Games

Elin told us that East Side Games’ live ops strategy for Trailer Park Boys consists of strategically timed events with new content and smart introductions of new characters within that content. For ESG, it was crucial to develop tools that would help cut back design time for each content release. 

New characters (including celebrities like Tom Green, Sebastian Bach, Steve Jessup, and Chris Jericho) boosted ARPDAU and kept users engaged. The real-life celebrities utilized social platforms to stream content and push events to the players.

You can read a more in-depth article on East Side Games' lecture here on LevelUp.

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