Nordeus: You can skip the US and still achieve global success

GDC Next: Primary markets don't always pay off

Nordeus: You can skip the US and still achieve global success

Nordeus is an anomaly as mobile games go, and its head of business development Nikola Cavic spelled out exactly why in a talk at GDC Next.

"You can achieve global success by ignoring the primary markets and focusing on the rest of the world," said Cavic, speaking on stage at the LA event. "We've done it, other developers can do it, and so can you."

Nordeus 'ignored' the United States with its primary push for Top Eleven, hit over 11 million monthly active users, ranked in the top 5 for revenue in 104 countries, and has blown the doors off the typical success model.

And it managed all of this by targeting nontraditional markets.

Think globally, act globally

The main factor that drove Nordeus to consider emerging markets over primary markets like the US was the cost per install.

"In primary markets - the US, UK, Germany, France, and Italy - the CPI is at the very least $1.50, but the costs have escalated. It's not uncommon to pay $2-5 per users," added Cavic.

"But in secondary markets like Spain, Brazil, China, and Saudi Arabia, it's less than $1.50 CPI," he continued Cavic, noting that "half the world isn't even on the map [of primary and secondary markets], and the CPI there is well below even the costs of the secondary markets."

Speaking as why Nordeus chose not to focus on the US - where the CPI is much higher - Cavic concluded simply that there's "more benefit in having more customers with a lower lifetime value than a smaller pool of customers with a higher LTV."

This is contrary to the approach that many in mobile have, where, he claimed, "every developer's dream is to succeed in the US and crack the top 100, so they'll create games for the US market and expand from there."

He concluded: "The reality is, most of the developers don't have a strategy for the rest of the world. This is especially true in the US, since the domestic market is so large".

Diminishing Returns

Cavic never argued that the average revenue per paying user is higher in the United States was higher than it was in, say, Turkey.

But the returns Nordeus saw from US players - only two times higher than emerging markets like Thailand and Turkey - were wildly incommensurate with the higher cost per install, which is in the neighborhood of 6 or 7 times higher in the US.

Concluding his advice to those looking to go global in a big way, Cavic didn't mince words.

"Can you afford to ignore half of the global market if you want to achieve global success? I don't think you can."

Talk to me

Of course, key to speaking to these emerging markets is making sure that your game actually speaks to the players that it's localised for.

"Make some effort to have content that's relevant to the localised region. Customers will recognise that you made the effort to reach out to them, and they'll be more loyal as a result."

And this customer loyalty is part of what's driven the success of Top Eleven from its Facebook days onward. "There was no 'invite friends' spam", noted Cavic. "Players were driving the growth in an organic way by inviting friends on their own."

Top Eleven is currently available in 40 languages with support documentation available in 13 (which will soon expand to 20), so it's in a position to speak to players across the world.

While not every developer has the resources for extensive localisation projects like these, Cavic wrapped up his thoughts with a bit of advice.

"Just localising the description of your app, which takes one hour of work, can lead to 50 percent higher download rates."

Matthew Diener
Matthew Diener
Representing the former colonies, Matt keeps the Pocket Gamer news feed updated when sleepy Europeans are sleeping. As a frustrated journalist, diehard gamer and recovering MMO addict, this is pretty much his dream job.