Interviews

MAQL Europe on how its expertise and MarvDev fund could unlock $200 ARPPU for your game

Looking to be perfectly formed with you

MAQL Europe on how its expertise and MarvDev fund could unlock $200 ARPPU for your game
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Not too well known outside of Japan, publisher Marvelous AQL is now targeting the wider free-to-play market.

It set up its European division, based in UK, during the summer, and has revealed one of its local lines of attack: MarvDev is a new partnership program for indie and small developers of free-to-play games.

We caught up with MAQL Europe's CEO Harry Holmwood to find out more.

Pocket Gamer: There are lots of partnership programs available for developers. Why should they look at MarvDev?

Harry Holmwood:What we've heard from a number of developers is that they've signed up with a publisher, heard little back, seen very little uplift in terms of user numbers and had to give away a chunk of their revenues for the privilege.

I think our main attraction for developers is that we're not about aggregating large numbers of games, and hoping for the best. We don't want thousands, hundreds, or even tens of games each year. We'll focus in on a handful of great titles, and work closely with the developer to make them a success.

It's tempting for people to think that spending money on marketing is all you need to do - that's only part of the equation. The truth is, you can acquire a million users for a game but, if they play it once and never come back, or keep playing but don't want to pay, you're just throwing money away.

As a Japanese company - at heart a development company - we can draw upon many years of experience in the F2P and social mobile space. The market there is more mature than in Europe and North America, with ARPPUs north of $200 not uncommon for top games.

What we're seeing is that, although the games we like may differ cosmetically, in terms of pacing or even genre, the underlying social mechanics seem to work worldwide - in other words, deep down, we all like the same things.

So, what we bring to developers is focus - you won't be one of a hundred titles we're working on - and expertise - drawing upon the knowledge and experience we've gained in Japan and other territories.

Plus, of course, a commitment to really get behind the right titles in terms of marketing, PR and user acquisition.

Will MarvelousAQL be the publisher for games released via MarvDev?

Generally yes. We'd prefer to free up the developer from having to spend their time on publishing activities. Typically they want to make games, not spend time on user acquisition.

There may be situations where the developer prefers to handle that themselves though, and that could be done too.

It's just for F2P games, but do you have any restrictions on which platforms and what sort of genres you'll support?

We're pretty open. While we'll be focusing on iOS and Android, we're open to browser games and other platforms.

The key ingredients for us will be: is the game a unique concept instead of another 'me too' title? How well did the developer execute on the game? And finally, does it have well-integrated monetisation mechanics instead of having that added as afterthought?

How early in the development process should developers get in touch with you?

That's the beauty of the MarvDev program - it's super flexible. We can work as a marketing partner - providing monetisation expertise and user acquisition funds for a finished game.

Or, we can come in earlier on in the process, potentially as a co-funder for the right projects. We'd work out an arrangement that helps balance the risk on both sides.

What exactly do developers get from MarvDev: cash for development, marketing support, game design help?

Yes, yes, and yes. Our EU team would assist in all these areas.

Design help is perhaps the most important, but easily overlooked, thing we can bring. It's telling that the first person I hired in Europe was Ben Andac, a game designer with experience in both western and eastern games development, followed by our head of marketing Mike Hawkins, who most recently headed up Kabam's European marketing operations.

Combining expertise in design with marketing is key to success in such a crowded market - there's no longer any real separation of the two.

What's your approach in terms of which geographic markets you'll be targeting, and how will be deal with that in terms of localisation support etc?

Initially, we'd test the game out in a smaller English-speaking country such as New Zealand, and measure monetisation and other metrics. This gives us the opportunity to see how the game performs on a daily basis, and the developer would recent constant updates from us about how the game's performance.

Once we've had a chance to make any improvements, we'd be ready to roll out across the English-speaking world, as well as localising into other languages.

Depending on the game, we might localise into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and possibly other languages. We've got good relationships with key localisation teams, so expanding to other markets is a pretty straightforward process.

Do you have a number MarvDev in mind in terms of how many games you'd like to release through MarvDev in 2013?

We're looking to follow the small and focused approach. There are some partners out there who cast the net wide, and support upwards of 100 games or more, but at the cost of a deep relationship with the developer.

We'd much rather focus on doing a brilliant job with only 5-10 amazing titles, instead of attempting to become another massive player in the market.

There are a lot thirdparty platforms and networks available to developers - GREE, Chartboost, PlayHaven, Tapjoy etc. Will you be offering any preferred choices for your MarvDev in terms of which of these they should be using?

We're platform/network agnostic, and will put our marketing spend wherever the best return for our developer.

As every game is different, it doesn't make sense to commit to one platform or network upfront. We'd much rather explore and test several, then optimise accordingly.

When should we expect to be playing the first games published under MarvDev?

We're ready to go now - so ideally, we'd love to be providing marketing support for finished games with the next few months.

Thanks to Harry for his time.

You can find out more about MarvDev via the Marvelous website.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.