With mobile gaming in Korea continuing to grow, it’s no wonder companies like PlayDog have embraced the potential to reach a global audience. With games like Monster Busters, Link Flash, Ice Slide, and more, PlayDog have been growing on an international level.
We spoke to Seungkyu Kim, PlayDog’s New Game Task Force Team Manager, about the process of building successful games and creating a team culture that thrives on new and exciting challenges.
Mobile On The Go
Kim’s rationale for the growth of mobile in the faster-paced and more connected world we live in is a familiar one.
“I didn’t like traditional games that much,” Kim said, “because I had to make time to enjoy them.” He explained that having to stop working, or traveling, or avoid meeting friends just to have time to play the latest console and PC titles.
“Mobile games are different,” he said. “You don’t have to make time to enjoy mobile titles, you can play games whenever you want to play.” Kim explained that mobile games have the potential to enrich moments, rather than demanding their own, and can change things like boring travel time into exciting playtime.
“I want to make people enjoy themselves any time when they play our games,” Kim said.
Style & Movement
Anyone familiar with PlayDog’s titles will recognize the unique focus on movement and animation almost as a character itself. “We think of movement as the most important expression on mobile games,” Kim said, “We’re chasing our own style with that feeling.”
Kim said the small finger gestures, like flicking the screen or a slight tap, can cause huge ripple effects. “The right movement can make users feel like magicians — like their finger is a magic wand,” he explained.
This approach to reaching users where they’re enjoying themselves first led PlayDog to create Facebook games first before moving to mobile. “We usually launch our games on Canvas first,” said Kim. Currently, they have six titles on Facebook and mobile, and one on Facebook only.
The inspiration for those seven titles comes from many places, but for his part, Kim says his love of travel informs the motivations and environments that show up in PlayDog’s titles. “Travel helps me think outside the box,” he explained.
“If you go abroad, you will always face totally new environments,” Kim continued, “As a traveler, you act in a very different way from a resident. That’s the point where you can really start to draw inspiration from.”
“I try to find out how I’m behaving differently,” he continued, “Then I think of stories that incorporate the ‘how and why’ that can attract the interests of gamers.” As the company develops a title, PlayDog keeps the details in mind, said Kim. “Lots of details should be carried through,” he said, “The process of carrying those details usually works as the origin of creativity.”
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
PlayDog has a team of about 50, and it’s safe to say that without the team and the culture that has developed in the company’s Gangnam, Seoul office is an important part of the company’s creative strategy.
“All of us are innovating thinkers and relentless doers,” Kim said.
“When hiring, we seek the qualities that enable us to make top-notch games that are original,” he said. “Our goal is making great games that have never existed before in the market,” it takes a special person and a special team to do that, Kim explained.
Part of fostering that creativity and culture is team building and company team building. “We always try to find new and fun entertainment for the team,” Kim said. “We’re firm believers that only joyful people make joyful games.”
The company has a trend of attending overseas workshops and conferences together as a team, rather than just sending one or two people. “This lets us create and share great memories,” Kim said. “These memories make us happy, and the happier we are, the easier it is to create ideas that make users happy!”
Growth, Monetization, & Continued Engagement
Mobile continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing, and PlayDog has been a part of the mobile games scene for some time.
“At first, it was really easy to obtain users because there was relatively little competition,” Kim explained. “We used lots of marketing agencies and a variety of content, and it all seemed to work well.”
As mobile grew and other companies entered the space though, Kim says the traditional marketing they had been doing started to perform less effectively. “Some partners and agencies have developers new tools that can help us, especially look-alike audiences.”
Look-alike audiences are customer profiles based on user behavior data that allow ad networks and marketing agencies to target ads to users who “look” most like users who are already enjoying a given app.
“Look-alike targeting has served us well,” Kim said, “Overall users who are acquired by look-alike targeting monetize very well and show good performance,” he explained.
When it comes to monetizing those users, PlayDog focuses on user experience first. “If monetization harms the user experience, we don’t do it and look for another way,” Kim explained.
Monetizing is still very important though. “Monetizing games becomes much more important the longer they’re available,” Kim said. “It gets harder to just acquire new users because competition continually increases,” he explained. “You have to have a huge budget for more users, but that can be tough, especially for a new studio,” he continued.
“Revenue made by monetizing games is good seed money for marketing,” Kim smiled.
What of the balance between user experience and monetization though? “Fortunately, there are some points that users are happy to engage with monetization,” he said.
“If they can get extra chances to play our game continuously, through engaging with a video ad for example, then they view that monetization point as a big reward,” Kim explained.
Watch-to-continue is one of the most effective examples of rewarded video that continues to satisfy players in many apps. The positive association rewarded video creates with in-game advertisement is one that’s still gaining footholds in Korea, though it has exploded in other regions as both users’ preferred method of ad engagement, and many
Keeping those users engaged is the next step in a mobile app’s healthy life cycle. PlayDog keeps users engaged with new content and in-app rewards.
“We update the apps with new content at least once a month,” Kim said. “We also provide regular in-app rewards, and also have daily or weekly missions that can only be played during a given time period,” this type of limited time event has been shown to improve long-term retention.
The Key to Success & The Future
Although PlayDog is based in South Korea, they consider Western countries their main market.
“The key for any company wanting to enter the mobile games market is confidence,” Kim said. “We were initially worried about the different sensitivity between Western and Eastern countries at first,” he explained, “As we improved, we gained confidence and continually make big hits now.”
That success is bringing forth more company growth, and more titles. “We have 2 more casual games scheduled for first quarter 2018,” Kim said. “They’re completely different than the Monster Busters titles, with creative rules, characters, themes, and stories.”
“Those new titles will provide users with totally fresh experiences and I’m convinced they’ll be game changers in the casual market,” Kim said.
To facilitate that success, PlayDog is growing. “We’ve gained a lot of know-how in how to satisfy users,” Kim said, but continued that they’re never done improving their skills and they still need more! “We’re looking forward to doubling ourselves both in qualitative and quantitative ways!”
Keep in Touch with PlayDog
The team at PlayDog keeps things open when it comes to communication, giving them plenty of time and resources to focus on creating great mobile games.
Instead of updating single Facebook page, their individual games each have their own fan page, with the latest news.
You can find their full roster of titles and a list of their current job openings on their website, too!
About Publisher Spotlight
The AdColony Publisher Spotlight series showcases the finest publishers in mobile gaming. To nominate a publisher to be featured, tweet to @AdColony. To feature your studio, just fill out the Publisher Spotlight Questionnaire.
Join the Conversation
What’s your favorite Monster Busters title? Tweet us at @AdColony. For the latest AdColony mobile news and updates, follow @AdColony on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect on Linkedin.