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31 July, 2019

CEO Xin Li uses his passion for gaming to push Babeltime to the next level

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Xin Li is a man that turned his passion for gaming into a career.

After majoring in software engineering, he landed himself a job at Google. Yet, he felt like his technical skills were not being used to their full potential.

A friend of his in China was looking to expand his gaming company into the US and offered Xin a position.

Xin has always been a gamer, primarily playing strategy games like World of Warcraft and StarCraft 2 as well as tower defense games like Plants vs Zombies.

However, he felt the main issue with the tower defense genre was that if you wanted to play one of the premium games, you had to pay.

This paved the way for the team to create their free-to-play midcore, tower defense game: Realm Defense.

Now Xin is the CEO & CTO of his current California-based company, Babeltime. The company may be small, but it allows for all employees to place their focus on the game.

Along with administrative tasks, Xin keeps well-maintained communication with both his employees and his parent company, Double Crown Beijing.

What have you found to be the best-performing media channels for your app marketing?

Organic traffic is our largest channel. We are running Google ad campaigns, but it’s a very minimal amount.

Since we have a very large volume of organic traffic, it pays off. Otherwise, we would need to invest more in paid.

I estimate that about 90% of the users are organic. We currently have over a hundred thousand active users.

Google Play is really strong, so we did a lot of work to make it our main traffic source. It has a lot of metrics that we can track. For example, you can look at your game’s performance, crash rates, reviews, play time, retention and a lot of other things.

This data is recorded by Google and taken into account when they rank your game amongst other games.

The sea of casual gaming is vast. How do you differentiate yourself and stand out in such a competitive environment?

In this genre – the tower defense genre – a lot of games are pay-to-play, which doesn’t always get the best quality out there in terms of both graphics and stableness.

We have the most content in this genre with almost 300 levels, compared to other popular tower defense games that only have around 20 levels. We offer a lot of content for free.

Even though we have in-app purchases, almost everything can be downloaded for free if you are good and spend some time. I think we are pretty unique in this combination of the user and the purchasing decision model.

There are endless ways to be creative with your campaigns. Typically, what kind of approach do you take to building and testing your creatives?

We test them one by one. Since we found that the icon has the largest impact, we test the it first, then the screenshots, and then the video.

We will never test two things at the same time, so we can always figure out what moves the needle.

We leverage our in-house team, as they have everything (the original assets), and yellowHEAD provides us with very useful feedback.

But testing is an on ongoing project with your users.

On a personal note, when you’re not working on growing your user base, what is your passion?

I like to play games and I try to read.

I will not read books that are completely new. I like to read books that people have already reviewed.

I don’t have a very specific favorite genre, but I think Sci-Fi is my favorite genre. I love Chinese Sci-Fi books.

Have you ever read Spin written by Robert Charles Wilson? It has won the Hugo Award in 2006. It’s a great Sci-Fi book.

As for games, what I play today is very different than what I played five years ago. I think I lean more towards casual and slow-paced games nowadays. I like Hearthstone a lot.

Before that, I played a lot of RTS (real-time strategy).

That’s why we chose this genre, because it is one of our favorite genres.

Is there anything new that you know today about mobile marketing / casual gaming / etc. that you didn’t know a year ago?

A year ago, I would not expect that Fortnite would go mobile, and I think live streaming played a really big part in its growth.

It’s so fun to watch battle royale games like Fortnite.

I know a lot of streamers that played other games, but since Fortnite came out, it’s all they play.

It’s kind of a free marketing platform. So, when we decide on what game to work on, we need to think about marketability. And streaming is definitely a big part of that.

What is your golden tip?

The gaming market is different than it was a year ago. Nowadays, the quality of the game is more important than ever before.

You cannot create a low-quality game and try to have a very strong marketing team to sell it. The game must be a very good game from the start. I think people should care more about the quality than ever before.

Not to say marketing is not important. It’s very important, but it will not make the games good.  

Many games are so similar to each other, that you have to differentiate yourself. It is becoming more and more competitive.

I think every company should focus on what they’re good at and not focus on surpassing each other.

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