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13 June, 2018

Casual Connect London Social Casino Track Wrap-Up

Casual Connect London Social Casino Track

2 weeks ago, yellowHEAD attended Casual Connect London where we, Marina and Merav, were privileged to emcee the social casino track and welcome some of the brightest and most experienced minds from the industry, some of who we are proud to personally work with, including The Stars Group, Product Madness, and Whow Games.

1. Lessons from Real Money Casino: How Game Developers Can Apply Best Practices from the Casino Industry to Maximize LTV in All Games

Lloyd Melnick – Director of StarsPlay, The Stars Group

Lloyd shared with us and the audience what lessons and best practices from Real Money Casino can be applied in the Social Casino space to maximize lifetime value.

Lessons from Real Money Casino

According to Lloyd, the social casino space is the most consistent and profitable area of mobile gaming. But, to a degree, this success has led to complacency.

Since the social casino industry is not that hit-driven as mid-core and casual games, it’s relatively “easy” to make revenues. There’s also not that much innovation. So, rather than innovate, companies have been successfully tuning or largely copying existing products.

When you look at social slots, for instance, the products haven’t really changed a lot.

New features are changing, and so have VIP monetization strategies, but there hasn’t been a huge need for drastic changes. Bingo is still Bingo and Poker is still Poker.

While this strategy continues to grow revenue in the space, social casino games are no longer attracting new players.

So, he suggests looking at Online Real Money Space. Why?

  • Real Money Sports – $22B market
  • Real Money Casino – $10.6B market
  • Real Money Poker – $1.7B market
  • Social Casino – $4.5B market

There’s no reason why we can’t be learning what’s going on in the Real Money Gaming field to get product inspiration.

New social casino verticals:

  • Sports bet – 50% of RMG – this is very difficult because it’s event-driven and thus does not work well with the social games mechanic, creating a habit to return daily
  • Live dealer
  • Virtual Sports

New mechanics:

  • Spin & Go
  • Jackpots
  • In-play betting
  • In-game quests and challenges

New audience: Men

While Social Casino players are 73% female with an average age of 39, the RMG audience is 65% male, with Real Money Casino about 55% male.

Lloyd also talked about offer-driven User Acquisition applied in RMG that allows to get really motivated new users into your game. The most common practices are:

  • Free money welcome bonus
  • Spin to Win
  • Triple winnings initially
  • Instant bonuses
  • Different levels of starting coins

One of the strongest RMG best practices is leveraging aspirational events, e.g. PokerStars Players Championship, Sunday Million, etc.

This also includes live events, but it is important to understand that they are not revenue centers – they are profit neutral and their main goal is to build excitement for the brand.

2. Game Economy Prediction

Guy Bard Sade, Co-Founder & CEO of Simpool 

Guy gave an interesting talk on a case of how using game economy prediction system, Simpool, helped GamePoint’s bingo game maximize its performance in quick iterations.

Game Economy Prediction

Game economy design for a new game is complicated. Changes in the economy of a live game hold risks to the game performance.

Why is game economy a challenge?

  1. Cost = time + UA
  2. Uncertainty
  3. Risk of wrong monitoring

With Simpool, Guy and his team managed to simulate millions of users and generate data themselves in order to allow them to test 100X more hypotheses.

As a result, GamePoint introduced the level progression in the game that led to more DAU, higher short/mid-term retention and more engagement.

3. How to Fix Your Social Slot

Guy Hasson, Social Slot Advisor specializing in popularity 

Guy has vast experience in advising over 30 companies with slots apps. At Casual Connect London, he held an engaging and very interesting talk on the common mistakes game developers usually make in their games, depending on the stage they are currently at, and gave actionable insights on what to fix.

How to Fix Your Social Slot

Stage 1: The Concept

Common mistakes:

  • Not understanding how games of luck work and thus:
  • Using Royals A Q J
  • Creating too few slots
  • Creating too many slots
  • Not understanding that players don’t play to win (the devs tend to cheat in the beginning and give you big wins, which creates a problem once the players start losing but expect to win)

Guy advises the following ways to fix the above:

  • Make sure that the base is strong (the game theme, high-quality graphics, T3 Math Model)
  • Make sure your economy understands how people pay

Stage 2: The Launch

The status:

  • Little money
  • Need better KPIs
  • Spending money on UA
  • Looking for investors

Common mistakes:

  • Your games have high ROEs (rate of exhaustion)
  • Creating gamification that doesn’t work or works the wrong way
  • Thinking more slots will increase KPIs

How to fix these:

  • Create an economy that squeezes players who want to pay and leave
  • Using T3 Math Model in all slots has created has created leaps in retention and monetization
  • Add basic gamification that increases monetization and retention

Stage 3: The Successful Slots

The status:

  • Positive KPIs to keep the app afloat
  • Need to increase retention and monetization to compete with the big guys,
  • but no matter what you do, retention and monetization don’t go up significantly

What companies at this stage really need, according to Guy, is to double the income from the players who are already paying.

Solutions to fix this:

  • Increase payments of paying players by tens of percents (e.g. limited offer right after the purchase – double the offer, and so on)
  • Incentivize top-paying players to pay even when they have too many coins (give them a status – ex. “you’re now a member of the Billionaire club”)

Stage 4: A Top 10 Game

The status:

  • Great KPIs
  • A lot of money is coming in, but very little of it is profit
  • TONS of money is spent on UA
  • It’s hard to stay on top

The fixes:

  • Virality solutions – reaching more people with less money

– Messages

– New technology

– Influencers

– Real world events

– Virtual events

  • Thinking outside the box

Avoid mistakes:

  1. Give your players a home
  2. Give your players a warm place to be
  3. Give your players friends

4. Building a World-Class Ad Creative Team

Joraynee Sarno, Head of Creative, Product Madness 

Joraynee has 14 years of experience in advertising and 8 years in performance marketing. He started at Product Madness in 2010 and shared the path of creating a strong creative team from a typical start-up organization to leading and managing the team in the Aristocrat family of companies.

Ad Creative Team

Creative Lifecycle:

1. Launch

2. Creative Hacking

  • Finding winning elements
  • Storyboarding
  • Ad copy creation
  • Discussion about potential A/B tests

3. Creative Fatigue

4. Creative Evolution

  • Using compelling parts of the ad
  • Repurposing the ad by breaking it down to 3 categories = short & effective:
    • Game premise
    • Game challenge
    • Game rewards

5. Scale and Stability

Best Practices:

  • Find harmony between quality & velocity
  • Agility in creative ad types
  • Mine data to surface internal creative trends and make data-driven decision
  • Rethink winners and revitalize them to build deep relationships with the UA team
  • Experiment, Fail, Learn, Renew

5. Gaming Ad Creative Quiz panel

Mark Beck, VP Strategy, Murka

David Jumper, Sr. Director of User Acquisition, Disruptor Beam

Elizaveta Kostyukhina, Head of User Acquisition, Supersolid Games

Joraynee Sarno, Head of Creative, User Acquisition & Marketing Collateral, Product Madness 

UA and Creative experts from 4 leaders in gaming got together for a type of jeopardy for ad creatives. In this game show format, the participants were shown creatives side by side and had to vote on which they thought performed better.

For example, the participants voted on two Star Trek videos from Disruptor Beam that were a/b tested for different color palettes.

Gaming ad creative quiz panel

Other elements tested included concepts (holiday/seasonality/gifts), theme (cowboy vs. King Kong), standard vs. zoom element, and more.

Some of the feedback the participants provided based on their experience included:

  • Video works better than video carousel as an ad format (at least for casino) – Gram Games
  • It’s easier to display slots in video format; specifically, zoomed in game play in social casino works well – Murka
  • Ad placement has great effect on performance – Product Madness
  • “Bling” performs really well – Supersolid Games
  • What works today will probably fail tomorrow – Disruptor Beam

Key takeaways:

  • Your creative can make or break your user acquisition success
  • Keep a/b testing!

When asked about the next generation of creatives, Murka, Disruptor Beam and Product Madness all agreed that HTML5 playables will come after video. Disruptor Beam expressed their anticipation for VR on Facebook Messenger.

6. How KamaGames Grew Its Revenue by 64% in One Year

Andrey Kuznetsov, CEO, KamaGames

Andrey discussed the fantastic growth that KamaGames achieved last year and how they managed to be able to report some hugely impressive numbers, such as a 63.4% increase in gross revenue, 30% increase in ARPPU and the player base crossing the 100M threshold.

KamaGames - Andrey

KamaGames has 8 social casino games, of which Texas Holdem Poker is the #1 top grossing app in iOS in 101 countries and in Android in 45 countries.

The company has done extensive research and testing over the past 8 years in order to find ways to increase their most important KPIs.

Andrey emphasized that KamaGames changed the rules of the game by making poker casual. One of their key objectives was to just make it more fun.

They accomplished this with several additions to the game, including:

  • Party modes – Players can play with 10 to Ace cards only, with jokers, with a clone of someone else’s cards on the table, etc. The main goal behind this – to have players stay until the end of each hand. This has greatly increased retention.
  • Added events – They find that 51% of players play two or more social casino games. This has contributed to 30% growth in ARPPU and an increase of 6% in number of paying users.

7. Complexity of the European Market

Tobias Edl, Head of New Business Relations, WHOW Games 

Whow Games is the fastest emerging social casino in Europe. In this session, Tobias discussed the challenges faced when entering the European market, including the complexities in each country (legal, language, culture, demographics, etc.) that must be taken into consideration, and why success in one country cannot necessarily be copied to another.

There are many countries in Europe and they’re completely different from one another. Unless you have a huge title, you have to take each country on its own. This is a really hard challenge.

Just consider the number of languages across Europe – there are over 150 (!) with 24 languages used in parliament alone.

Complexity of the European Market

European countries vastly differ not just by language, but by culture as well. This diversity is celebrated, as in the annual Eurovision song contest. Some examples of cultural differences include the siesta in Spain, and a preference of cash over credit cards in Germany (something that needs to be considered when it comes to mobile payment – Apple Pay has yet to make it to Germany for example).

Top takeaways:

  • Localization is key (for example, Father’s Day is a different day in every country, so promotions for this event should take place at different times, accordingly)
  • Cultural differences are larger than you may think
  • European payments are not 100% based on the Euro
  • There’s an income gap among European countries
  • A country with a strong economy doesn’t automatically feature the best internet infrastructure (Germany for example has a much larger average income than Bulgaria, but is really lacking in coverage and download speed)
  • Every country in Europe has its own legal system

8. When Gaming Becomes Gambling

Dhruti Gore, Associate, Harris Hagan

Tom Edmonds, Associate, Harris Hagan

Dhruti and Tom are associates at Harris Hagan, where they deal with all aspects of gambling law. In this session, they discussed the cross-over between video gaming and gambling, specifically referring to the UK and touching on loot boxes, ‘skin’ gambling and social casino games.

There is increasingly an overlap between gambling and video gaming, and a grey area in between.

gaming and gambling overlap

Gambling may include betting, lottery, or gaming (casino games). Gaming is defined as playing a game of chance for a prize.

Where do the overlaps occur?

  • Betting – betting on sports
  • Skins betting – wagering on game items; sweepstakes

Loot boxes – if it’s not a real money prize or something that can be exchanged for real money then it’s not gambling.

Skins betting – if you’re offering anything that can be interpreted as gambling, it’s much more likely to get attention of the gaming commissioner.

Tournaments – a tournament organizer needs a license if the tournament is considered gambling.

The bottom line for gaming is that if it’s a complete skills game without a real prize, then it’s fine, and if it includes an element of chance, but the element of chance is really insignificant, then it also doesn’t matter. The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Does this game have an element of chance?
  • If it does, is it significant and actually has an effect on the game?

The gambling commission has stated that the majority of tournaments in relation to eSports don’t fall within the gambling sphere.

The question that arises is should eSport tournaments be considered a sport? If so, it would completely fall out of the sphere of gambling. There are different views on the matter, but Harris Hagan doesn’t see this changing any time soon.

Head to Head – this is likely to be considered betting.

Betting is defined as the making and accepting of a bet on the outcome of a competition.

You need a license for betting activity.

Though the underlying game may be a skills game, not a game of chance, this falls under the definition of betting and you need a license.

Head to Head

Takeaways:

  • If you’re going to offer loot boxes, make sure things can’t be traded in the real money marketplace
  • You have to get a license from the British gambling commission
  • For social casino games, don’t have rewards which you could cash out for real
  • Everything has to be considered on a case to case basis

9. Graphs, Triangles, Cliques, Connections

Michael Leznik, Head of Data Science, Product Madness

Michael oversees all scientific-related analysis at Product Madness. In this session, Michael discussed the subject of virality. With a bit of humor, Michael started by saying that, while virality comes from the word “virus”, there’s nothing bad about it. It works and it definitely helps you make money.

How? Well, quite simply, you are getting many downloads that you are not paying for – free money!

In marketing, virality is described by the K-factor – “an average number of people infected by one patient.”

Virality - Product Madness

While we can’t really know for sure what will become viral, we can give a sort of “push”.

Formal approach to making something viral:

  • Easy to access – this is something to consider in product design
  • Attractive content – if it’s easy to use and has attractive content, there’s a good chance it will become viral
  • Easy transfer to each other
  • Sharing has meaning – there’s something behind the share (for example, “Here’s a present from me to you. Let’s play together!” – this is not people just bugging their friends)
  • Using existing communication channels (ex. Facebook)

How can we measure virality?

Again, with the K-factor:

k-factor=i*c, where i is an average number of invitations sent by one user, and c is an average conversion from received invitation into registration.

What is a good k-factor? Greater than 1. This means that it’s growing, and growing for free (for any install I’m making, can I actually make 3 or 4 more?).

Michael discussed more methods of measurement, including GraphChi to track virality, and triangle counting to calculate cliques (a clique is a group of people where everybody is connected directly to everyone else).

Takeaways:

  • There needs to be a connection. As Michael said, “if they’re not talking to each other, they’re in quarantine and not infecting each other.”
  • You have to remember – virality dies down, as any virus dies down.

That wrapped up the social casino track! We personally learned a lot from these amazing speakers, and would like to thank the Casual Games Association for the opportunity to introduce them. Looking forward to seeing you all at future Casual Connect events 🙂

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