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目录

Neil Young谈公司业务运营及手机游戏发展前景编辑本段回目录

ngmoco首席执行官Neil Young在最近采访中深度谈论了他们的相关业务,他们所面临的竞争以及他对于跨文化游戏和下一次大发展的看法。

neil-young(from businessinsider.com)

neil-young(from businessinsider.com)

能否跟我们快速介绍下ngmoco以及它是如何发展到今天的样子?

DeNA在2010年收购了ngmoco,2011年我们开始发展这个集成平台(Mobage)以及ngcore技术(游戏邦注:Mobage为开发者提供的跨平台游戏开发引擎),与众多第三方游戏开发者签约并重组我们的第一方工作室,以利用DeNA在日本创造手机社交游戏的专业知识,同时结合我们对于智能手机的了解而进一步发展。我们在8月份发布了这一平台并在Android平台进行迭代。并且我们最近也发布了首款iOS游戏。所以现在我们已经拥有了一个良好的基础,能够推动着我们今后的进一步发展。如今在我们的平台上已经有45款来自不同开发者的游戏。各大开发者可以瞄准Mobage平台,并选择Android和iOS平台发布游戏——这是一种跨平台策略,也就是不管西方还是日本开发者都可以在此发行他们的游戏,所以这也是一个跨越国界的平台。

你所提到的45款游戏是否同时面向Android和iOS系统?

大多数游戏是面向Android,因为对于iOS我们仍然处于测试阶段。现在我们已经有三款面向iOS的游戏,并且它们与运行于Android Market的游戏拥有相同的代码。而今后我们将尝试将更多游戏推向iOS,让更多游戏能够同时适用于这两大平台,但同时也有一些游戏只适合其中一个平台。举个例子来说,《Tiny Tower》作为2011年iOS年度游戏,但是在Mobage这款游戏却只针对Android平台。因为这款游戏已经拥有自己的IP了,而我们则不希望与其iOS版本展开竞争。但是也有一些游戏同时适用于这两大平台。

iOS游戏更倾向于使用免费增值模式,而Android游戏则更注重广告模式。你们的平台是否支持这两种模式?

从很大程度上来看这是基于不同游戏而言。Android是一个虚拟商品大平台,玩家可以在此使用统一的货币,如可以在多款游戏中使用Moba-coin进行消费。但是苹果iOS却不允许玩家这么做,更确切地说,它明确了以产品为单位的模式。我们拥有商店管理和货币管理系统,同样地,在我们的平台中也拥有健全的广告平台,所以如果开发者希望能够在此通过广告而盈利,我们便能够为他们创造这种可能性。如果去比较Android与iOS,你会发现前者的盈利方式不如后者成熟。也就是你现在所看到的Android的发展等同于iOS在1年前的发展。我们仔细思考了Android系统是否能够转变成以虚拟商品为主导的免费模式,并且在2009年夏天当我们首次尝试免费增值模式时,人们甚至都觉得我们疯了——因为那时候的畅销游戏排行榜中从未出现过任何一款免费游戏。不过现在,这些免费游戏却随处可见了。

Android是从去年6月份开始实行IAP功能,可以说它在这方面的发展才刚刚开始。

在技术方面我们还存在着很多不足。显然,苹果iTunes拥有一个强大的数据库。而Android虽然允许用户记录自己的账单或者使用Google Wallet,但是Google Wallet却远不如iTunes有效。iOS用户能够比Android用户更轻松且更直接地开账单。所以这是Android系统应该不断完善的功能。

谷歌高管Andy Rubin最近宣称现在共有800多款不同的Android设备,对于开发者来说这应该是一种巨大的负担吧。

Neil Young:的确,这对于我们来说是个巨大的挑战。nacore框架的一大目标便是为开发者明确这些信息,也就是创造出我们所说的“白名单”,“灰名单”以及“黑名单”。“白名单”完全适用于ngcore技术;对于“灰名单”我们则会保持软件的正常运行并且在用户设备的软件得不到优化时通知他们;但我们不会支持“黑名单”中的内容。如果你选择使用ngcore技术,你便能够确保游戏可在“白名单”和“灰名单”设备中运行。而这些信息能够帮助你明确市场上那些对游戏开发者来说至关重要的内容。

似乎这对于游戏开发者来说非常有帮助,因为他们可以不需要自己去研究该支持哪些设备或如何支持这些设备。

的确,这点非常重要。不同设备中也存在着许多细微差别,以及一些非常关键的差别,如屏幕分辨率,内存容量以及处理能力等。所以如果你使用了ngcore技术,你便能够获得这些信息;你将能够访问我们在过去几年里所创造的第一方游戏数据库。你可以基于JavaScript明确游戏逻辑,利用Mobage所提供的所有框架,创造出能够同时运行于Android和iOS的应用,并与这两大平台上的最优秀应用产品进行竞争。

你是否认为让开发者更轻松地面对Android系统是你们网站的一大吸引力?

是的。说到底,最终将会出现许多中间件解决方案支持开发者从iOS转移到Android,无论是代码库还是尚未具体化的HTML5,我认为终会出现一种机制促使开发者们发生这种转移。我认为Mobage所带来的真正价值在于用户和盈利,即那些能够在虚拟商品领域创造出巨大盈利的用户。如果将这点与产业内部的专业知识结合在一起,开发者便知道如何才能够更有效地优化软件而获得盈利;功能类型也能够改变收益的百分比,即从0.5%变成2%,或者从2美元的交易额变成12美元,而这正是该平台所具有的真正价值。

拥有越多游戏,你们就需要用更多知识去武装自己。

事实上我们也拥有自己的第一方工作室,并且我们在日本也展开了一定规模的研究,以此获得的大量专业知识能够直接服务于我们平台的开发者。

说到日本,你们是否会帮助开发者进行游戏的本土化处理,或者说在某些情况看来,这种帮助是必要的?

这是取决于不同游戏而言,在日本,一款游戏是否成功主要取决于游戏机制和游戏主题。反过来说,如果你的游戏在这两方面都做得不好,那么再强大的本土化策略也无济于事。制定软件的本土化策略需要着重考虑语言和文化两方面内容。我们也是基于这两点去帮助开发者。我们可以为他们提供本土化服务,或者我们在各地的工作室也会为这些开发者提供更加全面的帮助。就像我们在智利收购了一家工作室Akatama,以帮助《Tiny Tower》转向Android平台并将《僵尸农场》引进日本。我们的巴基斯坦GameView工作室拥有300多名员工,并且致力于帮助开发者将自己的游戏引向国外。我们获得了许多能够推动开发者进行游戏本土化的重要设备。

有哪些日本游戏是你想要将其带到Mobage平台上?

我刚刚参加了一个会议,在那里我看到了30款来自日本的游戏正准备进入我们的平台。利用ngcore框架以及我们所拥有的本土化SDK,我们能够帮助这些开发者更轻松地将其本土应用推向Mobage平台。

所以DeNA才会对开发者说“我们能够将你们的游戏带到美国市场“?

是的!我认为这一点对于日本开发者来说便是最大的吸引力。ngmoco能够对西方开发者说道“看,我们非常了解日本市场。我们在日本拥一个大规模的网站,所以我们能够将你们的游戏带到日本玩家面前,这些玩家也都愿意为购买软件中的虚拟商品而花钱。”在日本,DeNA也可以说:“看,我们与其他公司的不同之处在于我们拥有ngmoco技术,这样我们便能够明确西方市场真正需要的是什么,并与你们分享所有正面和负面的意见和反馈,帮助你们创造出真正有利可图的软件。”

在你们的网站上很少看到约会类游戏。

撇开文化差异而再次观察真实的人类行为,你会发现日本和西方的社交游戏玩家具有惊人的相似处。所以真正的挑战在于如何创造社交表层。约会,恋爱或者陷入欲望等都是真实的人类行为。根据不同的文化我们对此的处理方式也不同。日本具有独特的文化;而我们却很容易忽视日本不同于世界上其它国家的特殊体验。可以说我们在此所面临的真正挑战是关于语言和文化,而专业知识则是可以转变的内容。

对于我来说日本产业最惊人之处便是手机业务的发展,而这也是今天的美国产业所面临的薄弱环节。

的确是这样的!美国当前的手机业务发展类似于日本在本世纪中期的发展状况。拥有90%的手机渗透率,超过40%的3G覆盖率,较低成本/可支付/固定的话费套餐,而用户对于手机设备的要求是(撇去应用和划屏)除了能够用手机打电话,还可以发信息,玩游戏,听音乐,拍照,购买商品或服务,并且这些服务都能够与自己的账单或信用卡账单绑定在一起。正是这种独特的可用性和性能改变了日本用户的使用模式,推动着媒体服务业务在接下来7年里从一种小型业务——小于我们在西方市场的手机业务,转变成真正强大的业务。这也是我们为何选择将公司卖给DeNA的重要原因,即希望能够利用该公司之前的经验和知识,帮助我们在今后5年里发展成为更大规模的业务。

不只在美国,欧洲和中国也掀起了智能手机热潮。但是似乎在日本,智能手机的发展更加迅速。

确实是这样的。大约在两个季度以前,智能手机的发货量真正超越了功能手机。现在对于大多数运营商来说,尽管他们可能仍然在运行功能性手机,但与此同时他们也专注于智能手机的发展。并且这些智能手机大多属于Android设备。现在,日本的运营商包括DoCoMo,KDDI以及Softbank都在使用Android系统,只有Softbank(日本第二或第三大运营商)代理iPhone运营。所以这是我们的一大机遇;如果只看发达国家,这些地区的人口就是日本的10倍左右;而如果你再结合使用率和产业发展规模,再乘以西方世界的一些数值比例——就算假设我们的用户消费不及日本人狂热,你也还是会发现这里其实存在一个规模巨大的产业有待发掘。这也是我们对于这个市场的看法。我将其比喻成一场马拉松,而不是短跑。尽管冲刺时间很重要,但是如果我们公司能够明确一个长期定位,这会更加有帮助。

你是否满意自己于过去几个月中建立的各种开发者合作关系?

当然。我们拥有两种竞争者。一种是面向相同市场的竞争者,如木瓜移动,一种则是暂时还未面向相同的市场但却拥有相同的虚拟商品或免费模式业务,如GREE以及Zynga——虽然现在它们真正关注的是Facebook或网页领域,但是我相信在不久的将来他们也会转向手机平台。

很明显,如果这么做,像Zynga也会将自己的平台理念带到手机平台上。

说的没错。我们存在于这个市场中,并且熟知这个市场,ngmoco的传统也是这个市场中慢慢形成的,所以我认为这是一种良性的发展。而我们的开发者似乎也意识到了这种价值所在。

GREE表示将在春天或夏天发布他们的重组平台。

这应该是指添加了虚拟商品层面的OpenFeint。而如果你希望能够有效地整合平台,第三方生态系统以及第一方工作室,你就需要先确保能够利用这三大内容创建一家非常成功的公司。

问题:你的第一方工作室能够帮助合作者明确自己可以做什么。

Neil Young:是的;我们为第三方合作者创建代码,我们也尝试着与第三方生态系统分享更多相关内容。这不仅是从技术角度告诉你该怎么做;而且还从盈利/用户留存角度告诉你该怎么做。

包括市场营销,品牌化等内容?

是的,我们将与开发者分享任何重要内容,因为这些都至关用户获取和盈利,我们有必要予以重视。

你是否认为那些与你们共事的开发者需要市场营销和技术援助?

如果从整体来看,市场营销主要是关于PR和沟通,这是开发者所不擅长的;如果是传统的产品营销,开发者也并不精通;而在这个领域的市场营销主要是指用户获取,即要求开发者通过各种不同的渠道获取用户——这更是一种难以达到的目标。你必须努力以低于用户终生价值的成本去获取用户,想办法调整用户的终生价值,努力压低用户获取成本(因为你需要考虑到自己所购买或面对的规模)。我们花了许多时间在思考如何做到这点以及如何在更多不同的游戏中实现这一点。而我认为我们能够在不同程度上帮助开发者去推动这三个领域的发展。关于PR,我认为在这个世界中,只要你创造出一款优秀的应用,你便能够通过口头宣传模式轻松地提高应用的知名度。我想现在的产品市场营销不再那么重要了,不过随着游戏越变越复杂用户也越来越难以捉摸,也许市场营销将会再次变得更为重要。最后,用户获取是一种基本内容。除非你的软件拥有极其强大的用户留存率,否则你将会发现自己很难保持用户增长。

是否因为用户获取成本正在逐渐抬升?

实际上用户获取成本出现了小幅度的下降;因为在第四季度它们已经上升到最高值,所以在第一季度会出现稍许的回落。用户获取主要是关于如何获取那些能够带来高盈利的用户以及能够长期留在游戏中的用户。所以用户获取的目标选择非常重要。我们的平台已经成功吸引了上百万的用户,而这些用户能够帮助我们将那些厌倦了某一款游戏的用户带到另一款游戏中,如此一环连着一环,我们的用户获取成本便能够得到进一步的压缩(因为在这里只需要耗费我们最初投入的成本)。

这些用户已经熟悉了你们的网站,你将不再需要向他们进行介绍。就像如果我玩过你们网站的一款游戏,你便能够很容易得到我,是不是这样?

没错!我们正是基于这种方式(即了解用户的一切游戏信息)而创建起这个网站。举个例子来说,你曾经是《We Rule》的玩家,并且你已经厌倦了这款游戏,而因为我们了解这一点所以我们能够往你的Android设备中发送一个推送通知,当你打开这个推送通知后你将被直接带到Android Market页面而尝试新的应用。我们知道所有的信息,知道你玩过哪些游戏。如果用户能够选择前往Android Market并浏览一款游戏,或者了解一款更适合自己的游戏,这便是另一种有效的目标选择方法。

随着应用商店中出现了越来越多应用,使得推荐功能也变得越来越重要,而你是否也将选择一个值得信赖的推荐来源?

现在,用户使用这些应用的门槛变得更低了,我们也发现许多用户都是从尝试开始体验应用。他们在了解了应用后会抱着“我要试看看”的想法,并最终深陷于应用中。所以现在你应该从开发者的角度去思考新用户的想法。

你能否说说对于新iPad的看法?

Neil Young:这真的是一个惊人且强大的演变过程。我真的很期待苹果在电视平台的发展。苹果不仅重塑了手机,掌上游戏,还重塑了掌机和电视游戏体验,这是一个非常激动人心的过程。Ben Cousins负责运营我们在瑞典的工作室,作为《战地》的执行制作人他组建了一个专业团队正致力开发平板电脑游戏。我们认为平板电脑有机会重新塑造用户在起居室的游戏体验。这是一种非常强大的装备,用户能够随身携带平板电脑并持续相同的体验,并且它也可以用控制面的形式出现在用户的起居室中。如果你知道苹果的AirPlay并拥有足够的远见,你便能够深刻感受到这种强大的发展。所以我真心欢迎新iPad的到来。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Steve Peterson)

ngmoco CEO Neil Young: “People thought we were crazy”

By Steve Peterson

GamesIndustry International sat down with Neil Young, CEO of ngmoco, at GDC for an indepth discussion of their business, the competition, cross-cultural games, and the next big disruption.

Q: Give us the quick sketch of ngmoco and how it got to where it is today.

Neil Young: DeNA acquired ngmoco in 2010, 2011 was about getting the integrated platform stood up, the ngcore technology framework stood up, third-party developers signed to the platform, and a complete retooling of our first-party studios so that we could take advantage of the expertise that DeNA has developed in building mobile social games in Japan and combine that with what we know about building smartphone games. We released the platform in August and have iterated through that on Android. Last week we released the first iOS titles. We’re at the place now where we’ve got a good foundation to be able to build and grow. There’s 45 titles live on the platform today from a whole host of different developers. You can target the Mobage platform, deliver your game on Android and iOS, which is sort of the cross-platform strategy, and you can get carriage on the network here in the West or carriage on the network in Japan, which is the cross-border piece of the equation.

Q: When you say 45 titles, are they on both Android and iOS?

Neil Young: Mostly on Android, because we are literally still testing on iOS. We have three titles on iOS live right now, and they essentially run the same code base that is live on the Android Market and has been live for a while. But we’ll roll out more titles on iOS, and we’ll have some titles that are available on both platforms, and others that are just available on one or the other. For example, Tiny Tower, which was last year’s Game of the Year on iOS, is exclusively available on Mobage on Android. That’s an example of a pre-existing IP, we’re not going to do a competing iOS version. That will just live in the Android space, but there are other titles that exist in both places.

“When we first moved to free-to-play in the summer of 2009, people thought we were crazy”

Neil Young

Q: There’s a difference with iOS titles tending more toward free-to-play largely, but Android titles are often ad-supported. Is that supported by the platform?

Neil Young: Really by the title, it’s more of a title-by-title decision. It’s a full virtual goods platform, on Android it has a unified currency, you can buy Moba-coin in one game and use it in another game. Obviously on iOS Apple’s rules don’t allow that, so it’s on a product by product basis. We have store management and currency management systems, we also have a full ad platform inside the platform, so if developers want to monetize their applications through ads then they can do that. If you look at where Android is versus iOS, the Android ecosystem from a monetization standpoint simply isn’t as mature yet as the iOS ecosystem. What you’re seeing in Android is many of the same things that were happening in iOS maybe 12 months ago. We think over time more and more of the Android ecosystem will move to virtual-goods-powered free-to-play. When we first moved to free-to-play in the summer of 2009, people thought we were crazy. There weren’t any titles that free-to-play titles in the top-grossing charts. Now it’s hard not to find free-to-play titles.

Q: Android just did in-app purchase in June of last year, so it hasn’t been around that long.

Neil Young: There’s still things on the technology front. Apple obviously has a big database in iTunes. Android is allowing users to tap directly into their carrier bill or Google Wallet, and Google Wallet’s just not as well-formed as iTunes is. Customers on iOS are just more comfortable billing directly than Android customers are. That’s just a function of where the Android ecosystem is in its development.

Q: Andy Rubin of Google announced recently that there are 800+ different Android devices; that’s got to be tough for developers.

Neil Young: That definitely creates some challenges. One of the objectives of the ngcore framework was to abstract that from developers, so we have what we call a white list, a gray list, and a black list. The white list is fully supported by ngcore, the gray list we let the software run but we inform the user the software might not be optimized for their device, and then the black list we don’t support. If you target ngcore then you can be assured that you’ll run on the white and the gray list without too much difficulty. That gives you really good coverage over the market that matters to all game makers.

Q: That makes it easier for game makers because then they don’t have to do their own research on which devices to support and how to go about supporting them.

Neil Young: It’s not trivial, as well. There are a lot of subtle differences between each of these different devices, and then some really meaningful differences, like screen resolution, the amount of available memory, or processing power. So if you target ngcore, you get that abstraction; you get the ability to access all of these libraries that we’ve been building our first-party games with over the years. You can author your game logic in Javascript, take advantage of all of the frameworks that Mobage has to offer, and you get an application that can run on Android and it can run on iOS and is competitive with some of the best products on the platform.

Q: Do you feel that that ability to make it easier to support Android for developers is one of your strongest selling points?

Neil Young: I think it is one of the strong selling points. In the final analysis, what’s going to end up happening is there will be many middleware solutions that will allow developers to move from iOS to Android and whether those are code libraries or the always exciting but never quite materializing HTML 5, whatever the solution ends up being, I think that there will be mechanisms that allow developers to move around. I think the real value that Mobage ultimately brings will be access to audience and monetization, an audience that does monetize in the virtual goods realm very well. When you combine that with the knowledge and expertise that we have inside the organization, that we make available to developers in terms of how to optimize their software to monetize most effectively, the type of features that can change the percentage paying from half a per cent to two per cent, or from $2 a transaction to $12 a transaction, that’s where the real value will ultimately lie.

Q: The more games you have, the more knowledge you have to draw on.

Neil Young: The fact that we have first-party studios and we have this business in Japan that’s been doing this at some pretty considerable scale for some time, that’s just a wealth of expertise that we can deploy directly back to developers that come to the platform.

Q: Speaking of Japan, do you help developers with localization, or is that even necessary in some cases?

“When you strip away the cultural differences, and you look at the actual human behavior, it is shockingly similar between what social game players do in Japan and what social game players do in the West”

Neil Young

Neil Young: It really depends on a product by product basis. The number one thing to be successful in Japan is to have the right game mechanics, and the right theme. If you get those two things right then… Let me put it the other way: If you get those two things wrong, there’s no amount of localization that’s going to help. Then localizing the software, both from a language standpoint and from a cultural norm standpoint, is important. We help developers with that. We can either connect them with localization services, or in some cases for intellectual property that we’re closely partnered on, we have studios that will help do that work with the developer. We have a studio in Chile, Akatama, that we acquired, that has helped bring Tiny Tower to Android and helped bring Zombie Farm to Japan. We have GameView studio in Pakistan which has about 300 people and does a lot of work to help developers move their titles abroad. We’ve got a lot of facilities that are able to assist developers.

Q: Do you see some of the Japanese titles that you want to bring over here?

Neil Young: I was in a meeting just before this, and there are 30 titles from Japanese developers that are readying to come across to the platform. A blend of ngcore-powered frameworks and also we have a native SDK as well that we’re making available to developers so that they can easily move native applications into the Mobage framework.

Q: So DeNA is saying to developers over there “we can bring your titles to the USA.”

Neil Young: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the great selling points for developers in Japan, and ngmoco for developers in the West, to be able to say “Look, we have experts in Japan. We have a big scale network in Japan and we can deliver your titles to that audience, and it’s an audience that pays a lot of money for virtual goods inside software.” In Japan, DeNA can say “Look, we can differentiate ourselves from another platform company because we have ngmoco, and these guys really understand what works in the West, and we’ll candidly share with you their opinions and feedback about what is or is not going to work and help you build software that can be successful.”

Q: Dating games, not so much over here.

Neil Young: If I can summarize what I’ve learned in a single sentence: We are all humans. When you strip away the cultural differences, and you look at the actual human behavior, it is shockingly similar between what social game players do in Japan and what social game players do in the West. The challenge is making that social veneer work. Dating, or falling in love, or falling in lust, or whatever it is, that’s actually fairly human. We just deal with it differently culturally. Japan is definitely unique; it is very easy to dismiss the experience of Japan as not being relevant in the rest of the world. My experience so far, now being part of a Japanese company, is actually the experience is really relevant. The challenges often are language or cultural, but the inherent expertise and knowledge is very transferable.

Q: To me the compelling thing about Japan is the scale of the cell phone business, we’re just doing a tiny part of that business in the US.

Neil Young: Exactly right. If you look at where the US is today, it’s analogous to Japan in the mid-2000s. You had mobile penetration into 90 per cent plus of the population, 3G penetration above 40 per cent, low-cost or affordable or fixed rate billing plans, and devices that from a user’s perspective – you know, strip away the apps and the slidey screens – in addition to making phone calls, their telephones could send messages, play games, listen to music, take photos, buy goods and services, all seamlessly connected to your bill or a master credit card bill. It’s that unique blend of usability and capability that changed the usage patterns of users in Japan, that drove the media services business there from a small business, a business that’s smaller than our mobile business here in the West, into a really big business over the following seven years. That’s one of the main reasons that we decided to sell our company to DeNA, to try to take advantage of the knowledge of a company that’s gone up through that ramp, in an industry that’s gone through that ramp, so that we can 5 years from now be looking at a scaled business that’s doing billions of dollars of revenue and is mapped to what has happened in Japan.

“Our view is that tablets really have the opportunity to reinvent living-room play experiences”

Neil Young

Q: It’s not just the US, but Europe and China and other countries. And it looks like Japan is quickly adopting smartphones.

Neil Young: It is. About two quarters ago smartphone shipments exceeded feature phone shipments. Now for most of the carriers, while they still carry feature phones, they’re really focused on smartphones, and those smartphones are really dominated by Android. Right now Android is carried by DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank, and the iPhone is only carried by Softbank in Japan, which is the number two or number three carrier. There’s a big opportunity for us; if you just look at the developed world it has about 10 times the population of Japan. If you combine what I was talking about from a usage and industry scaling standpoint, multiply that by some percentage of the Western world, even if you assume we’re not quite as rabid as Japanese people can be, there’s still an incredibly big business to be built there. And that’s how we view it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important at times to sprint, but it’s most important to get the company to a position where we can succeed in the long term.

Q: Are you pleased with your progress in signing up developers to the platform over the last few months?

Neil Young: Yes. We have competitors, some that are in the market, like Papaya, and some that aren’t yet really in the market with anything virtual-goods relevant or free-to-play relevant, which is GREE, and Zynga, which is really just focusing in the Facebook space for now, or the web space for now, but I’m sure at some point they’ll try to figure out how to scale the mobile platform.

Q: It seems obvious that they’ll take their Zynga Platform concept to mobile at some point.

Neil Young: You would think. We’re in the market, and we understand the market, the ngmoco heritage was born in this market, so I think we’re in pretty good shape. When we talk to developers they recognize the value in that.

Q: GREE is talking about springtime or summer for the launch of their retooled platform.

Neil Young: Which will be OpenFeint with a virtual-goods layer. But being able to combine those three pieces, the platform, the third-party ecosystem, and then first-party studios, you need all those three things to build a very successful company.

Q: Your first-party studios can show partners what they can do.

Neil Young: We do that; we make code available to third parties for them to use, we try to share as much as we possibly can with the third-party ecosystem from our first-party studios. It’s not just show what you can do from a technology standpoint; but it’s also show what you can do from a monetization/retention standpoint.

Q: Marketing, branding, everything else.

Neil Young: Everything necessary to give developers at the end of the day what they need, which is access to audience and monetization, and we’re very committed to do that.

Q: Do you feel that a lot of the developers you work with need marketing assistance as well as technical assistance?

Neil Young: If you think of the overall umbrella of marketing, there’s PR and communications, which developers tend to be not great at; there’s traditional product marketing, which developers tend not to be great at; and then in this space there’s user acquisition, which is the science around acquiring customers through different channels, and that’s very, very hard to do. To buy customers at a low enough cost of acquisition that’s lower than the lifetime value of the customer, to be able to tune the lifetime value of a customer, to be able to drive down the cost of acquisition because of the volume at which you’re buying or the way in which you’re targeting those channels, that is non-trivial. We have very, very smart that spend all day every day thinking about how to do that and doing that across a large number of titles. I think in each of those three areas we can help in varying degrees. PR – in this world, if you’ve got a great app, I think it’s quite easy for that app to transmit through word of mouth. Product marketing is I think a little less relevant now, but as the games get more sophisticated and the customers get more sophisticated, product marketing will become important again. User acquisition is really essential. Unless you have a retention rate in your software which is infinite, you’re going to find it hard to keep growing your audience or at the very least maintaining your audience so you can say you’ve got this money coming in every single day assuredly.

Q: Because acquisition costs keep rising.

Neil Young: Actually, they’ve come down a little bit, they tend to peak historically in the fourth quarter, and first quarter they’ve come down a little bit. It’s more how do you get a user who’s going to be highly monetizing user and is highly likely to stick around? The targeting of that user acquisition is really important. And then for us, where we’ve got many many millions, tens of millions of people inside our network, being able to introduce a user who may have lapsed out of one game in the network to another game in the network, and connecting them together, further drives down the cost of acquisition because that’s a cost you’ve already incurred.

Q: They’re already familiar with the network, you don’t have to re-introduce them. It’s much easier to get me if I’ve already played one of your games.

Neil Young: Exactly. We’ve built the network in such a way that we know all that information. You might be a player of We Rule who had lapsed out of We Rule, and because we know you’ve lapsed we can send you a message in We Rule that we’ll send as a push notification to your Android device, when you launch that push notification it will launch We Rule in its referral mode and it will refer you directly to the Android Market so you can try out that new application. We really do know those things; we do know what you’ve played. If a user has a choice of going to the Android Market and browsing for a game, or being introduced to one that is appropriate for them, then that’s another method of targeting.

“Tablets really have the opportunity to reinvent living-room play experiences”

Neil Young

Q: Those recommendations become more important as more apps appear in the store, and you’re going to want a recommendation from a source you trust.

Neil Young: The friction for getting into these applications is so low right now, we find many users do just try. They’ve been introduced to it, they say “Oh I’ll just try it,” and then they get into it, now you’ve captured from the developer’s standpoint a new customer.

Q: Any comments on the new iPad?

Neil Young: It’s awesome, a strong evolution. I’m really looking forward to what they do with TV. That has the ability to complete the loop for Apple. They’ve disrupted phones, they’ve disrupted handheld gaming, and then to disrupt consoles and television viewing, that’s going to be pretty exciting. We have a studio in Sweden, run by Ben Cousins, who was the EP on Battlefield, and he is assembling an all-star team, and they are building something pretty cool for tablets. Our view is that tablets really have the opportunity to reinvent living-room play experiences. They’re powerful enough that you can take the tablet with you and continue an experience that is essentially exactly the same, and they’re also used predominantly in the living room as control surfaces. If you just see what Apple’s doing with AirPlay, and imagine a couple of steps forward, it’s going to be pretty cool. I’m excited about the new iPad.(source:gamesindustry)

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