Last week, Google and Deconstructor of Fun hosted a get-together for over a thousand senior figures from across the mobile games business.
During the day of panels and talks at Istanbul’s Divan Kuruçeşme, Google’s Alpagut Çilingir had the tricky job of following straight-talking consultant Eric Kress’ spicy summary of the current market.
After all that, Çilingir’s pragmatic suggestions for ways to get through trickier times were perhaps the balm the crowd needed – the message, broadly, was: don’t panic.
Later, we sat down with Çilingir to probe further, because as Google’s director of retail, apps and gaming, it’s his job to help developers grow their business. And after a turbulent few years, he says it’s time for a rethink.
“We need to reset our mentality and start with a blank page saying, okay, what I experienced over the past two years is probably no longer relevant,” he tells us.
“What’s the new normal? It’s actually a no-brainer. You just need to be a bit more prudent, which is basically down to how well you can analyse your data, so it’s not like this spaghetti approach where I have a bunch of money and I just throw it out there and hope it sticks.”
“Forget about the past two years, forget about the COVID area. This is the new normal and this is how you need to act.”
Noting the flurry of factors making business more difficult right now – macroeconomic pressures, increased UA costs, fiercer competition for screen time – Çilingir says developers and marketers with games in the market already should diversify and de-risk, especially those operating in a single genre.
As cited in Çilingir’s talk, the data suggests that are several growing niches like MOBAs, hack and slash, auto chess, melee arena and soccer management games. Declines in team battlers, 4x strategy, action RPG/MMOs, shooters and builders mean those genres are less fertile ground.
“Does that mean creating a new game? Does that mean acquiring a game? Does that mean partnering with somebody?” Çilingir continues. “It can mean a bunch of different things, but you need to be able to break out of your shell and look into these different genres, because there are still pockets of growth.”
Brand power can lower your user acquisition cost too, he says, before urging developers “to be wary of your revenue model.”
“If you’re super dependent on in-app purchases or in-app advertising, that might not be the right thing to do,” he says. “You need to have a balanced portfolio because different users react to purchases or advertising in different ways. And that’s probably more of an art than a science.”
The same principles apply to launching a new game, too, though Çilingir acknowledges that breaking into the big time with a new title is tougher than ever.
“The data says yes, it’s getting harder for a new game to crack the top 100 lists, that’s a fact,” he says. “It is doable, but it’s not as easy…I think that’s the mindset shift. I think gaming is probably coming to an inflection point that not everything is going to work.”
What is working right now is the mobile game development scene in Turkey. With its combination of hyper-competitive founders, plentiful talent and a relatively low operational cost, Çilingir urges Turkish developers to embrace cooperation, diversification and a more global outlook.
“My worry is focusing on a single genre,” he says. “If we’re all doing say, match three, then it’s going to be more difficult for me to cooperate or toss around ideas because I’m always afraid that you might end up copying me. If I’m doing a shooter and you’re doing match three, then I’m probably not as afraid because the likelihood that you can come and copy me is going to be limited. I think we’re going to get there. I think we’re going to evolve.”
“This place deserves a wider scale in the global scene,” he adds. “We need to bring these networks together. We need to bring in developers from other countries and we need to bring Turkish developers and VCs and strategic investors together.”