As our interview series continues, we’ll be discussing how new technology influences the video game industry. Michael Borras, Chief Executive Officer at Socialspiel Entertainment, gives us an honest opinion not only on how mobile, VR and AR trends influence video games, but also on how the world might look in 2030.
Beaglecat: What is your one tip for fellow companies in your area that would like to expand their services at a large scale?
Michael Borras: Planning! Having plans upon plans (for product, sales, marketing, and above all, revenue) for growth both as an organization, as well as for the products you are developing/selling, is always one of the greatest challenges any startup will have to face. Founders need to constantly focus on where their revenue growth will come from, which means your ORG will also have to grow. Therefore, having multiple plans from the beginning will always help. Choose the one you feel has the best growth potential and stick to it, making adjustments naturally along the way for whatever may come up (and believe me, a lot of things will come up to make you shift gears or alter your course).
Also, I can’t stress this enough, always have money in the bank. If you’re a product-focused startup, raise as much money as you can as often as you can. If you can’t raise money in your area (common problem for startups based in Austria), then look elsewhere. Europe in general, but especially Central Europe, is an extremely unfriendly startup environment for funding options. Look East, look West, but don’t waste too much time in your local region if the financing opportunities just aren’t there.
BC: What are the technologies that could influence the development of your product/service/solution in the foreseeable future? And what are the fields that could be influenced by your company?
M.B: Socialspiel is firmly in the mobile, free to play games industry. A very, very crowded, volatile market that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s an extremely hit-driven OR niche-driven industry. There are no in-betweens. Either you have a hit game, or you have a game that particular niches go crazy for. If you can’t make a hit, and trust me, you have probably a 1 in 1000 chance of actually achieving a top 50 grossing hit, then try to focus on strong niches which your game, art style, and story might be attractive to.
Finding that niche success, or hit game means you influence an entire industry and will shake it to the core. Every game developer and publisher looks at the top 100 grossing mobile games every day and adjusts accordingly. If you’re lucky enough to be on that list, there’s a great chance many, many developers are analyzing your game to determine what your secret sauce is, and are adjusting their strategies accordingly.
Now, technologies, naturally mobile phone innovations, are a big, big deal. Larger screens, smaller screens, smart watches, VR, AR, all of these topics are moving at a tremendous clip, so fast that most developers are feeling a time crunch for releasing their games. The time from production to launch is just too long for most complex games. In that time, technology and trends can change 10 fold. So, it’s always a bit of cat and mouse. What Apple will do next is always a big concern!
BC: How much does your customers’/clients’/consumers’ feedback matter in how your product/service/solution turns out?
M.B: Tremendously. Traditional marketing and PR is dead in mobile games. Customer Support and Community Engagement is the “new marketing.” We have to constantly be engaged with our game community, whether that’s via social media, forums, email/ticketing systems, in-game chat, or whether that’s constantly releasing new content on a weekly basis in-game. Live Operations is the life-blood of any mobile free to play game’s success.
BC: In your opinion, how will the world look like in 2030?
M.B: Well, I’m no marketing executive pretending to be a “futurist” or whatever the f-ck they call themselves at TEDx these days, BUT I’m actually very positive about the future. I think 2030 will be an exciting, exciting time to be alive. “Millennials” though often derided by the older generations in mainstream media, are some of the first to be raised by the internet, and quite honestly I believe they are effecting major social, political and economic change from the ground up. Save for the outliers, generally you’re seeing a progressive movement towards economic, political, racial, and sexual equality, which will certainly take a long long time to achieve, but those discussions are happening, and you’re seeing the older generations’ hate, bias, and inequality slowly breaking down and melting away (at least socially for now).
I truly believe 2030 will be relatively unrecognizable to older generations today, as the internet generation breaks down borders, barriers, and preconceived biases politically, economically, and socially. We’re going to experience major industries being disrupted and some destroyed entirely, from electric and autonomous transportation (thank you Elon!), to travel, entertainment, and games (thank you Netflix and hello virtual reality), to even the traditional idea of going into an office to “work” (thank you internet and hello augmented reality). I’m excited and very hopeful for the future!
Michael Borras is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Socialspiel Entertainment, a developer of free to play mobile games exclusively published by the Asian gaming powerhouse Nexon. Prior to that, he was the co-founder of the Pan-European local search community Tupalo, led localization and QA at Rockstar Games, was a music producer big in Japan, and founded his first startup in the USA at the age of 15. When not at work in Vienna, he can be found collecting tattoos, vintage skateboards, and donuts in and around Los Angeles.
Founded in the Summer of 2010 by a team of ex-Rockstar Games veterans, Socialspiel Entertainment is an award-winning games studio focusing on AAA free-to-play mobile and browser games. All of our titles are exclusively published globally by Korean games giant Nexon, who in addition to being our exclusive publisher is also a strategic investor and advisor.