Since we last spoke in April, what have you and Nitro Games been up to?
– We’ve been up to a lot. On a high level, we’ve prepared our portfolio for launches & updates, and started to roll out these new things in Q4. At the same time we’ve further developed our data and user acquisition pipelines to a new level. We’ve also been working more and more on eSports and all things related to that.
Recently, you were one of the speakers at World Football Summit. It’s a rather unorthodox venue for a mobile gaming company. Can you tell us a bit about the event and why Nitro Games decided to go?
– This event was spot on for Nitro Games. The attention we got there was beyond our expectations, in a positive way. The reason why we were there is eSports and Heroes of Warland. Heroes of Warland is our upcoming new game and we’re exploring opportunities on eSports with it. When it comes to eSports, Spain and the Spanish speaking market are very important. Obviously, football is “the” sport there, which has helped to build this culture of following sports with passion and the whole ecosystem around this. It seems that pretty much all the big football clubs are one way or another tied into eSports these days, with most having their own eSports teams and so on. After all, the difference between a football match and an eSports match is not as big as one might think. Actually, they’re super similar. In both cases you have a few sports stars in the spotlight in the middle, but what’s actually more interesting is the similarity in things happening around that. There’s obviously the audience, ticket sales, merchandise, following their favorite teams etc. Then there’s the commentators, the broadcasting side of things, sponsors and various connections to things happening online (pre-match and post-match). So a lot of business around the actual game.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges to get esport into the mobile?
– There’s quite a few of these actually. Firstly, there’s the whole concept of gameplay session. On mobile we’re used to playing wherever we are, and often in short sessions. This means that we need to consider the fact that there’s a big unpredictable component in network quality, since we need to connect players with each other in real-time wherever they are. Then there’s the question of is it fun to watch and how that affects the game design on the small screen. Then there’s the important question of player-to-player communication, as players don’t have keyboards to chat, voice chat eats away precious bandwidth etc. Then from ecosystem point of view, we need to consider how to give visibility for sponsors, how to broadcast things (bandwidth again) and so many other things.
Overall, we’re confident that we’ve taken these things into account with Heroes of Warland and the related reality TV show “Heroes & Superstars”. It’s going to be interesting to see how things develop forward from here.
How do you feel about the competition in the mobile esport genre?
– There’s not much of it on mobile to be honest. There are some companies and games, but overall the eSports on mobile is not there yet. We’re also seeing a big difference between western markets and what happens in Asia. Basically, in the western markets, there are few mobile games exploring eSports, while in Asia it seems that it’s game publishers exploring eSports with their portfolio. In Asia it seems more common to have an event where a particular publisher has several titles from its portfolio being played, while in western markets the eSports events are often tied around a particular game. In any case, we believe that the time for interesting developments in mobile eSports is right now and we are happy to be in position where we have the ability to explore these new opportunities.
Should we expect more esport content to be released from Nitro Games? Is esport your primary focus going forward?
– That sounds like the logical path forward. However, it obviously depends a lot on how things develop with eSports on mobile overall. Historically, new things in seem to happen faster on mobile, compared to other platforms, but we don’t know yet if that’s the case with eSports. But we’re definitely on that path as a company, since we focus in building competitive multiplayer games on mobile.
When speaking of esports, we obviously have to talk about Heroes of Warland. Why do you think this game potentially could be “the one” to create a new genre and make esports mobile?
– Let’s get one thing sorted out here first; eSports is not something any game can create, but it’s something driven by the players and fans. Because of this, our approach with Heroes of Warland has been very player driven. In addition to our typical early stage user testing, we’ve also co-operated with eSports teams and professionals, eSports leagues, sponsors and so on, to ensure that they have been heard during the design and development of the game. Thanks to that, we feel that we have a solid game here that hopefully matches these expectations from various stakeholders around the eSports ecosystem.
– We’ve also paid a lot of attention ensuring that visually the game is fun to watch. It’s not just about awesome visuals, but about how the levels are designed from the spectator point of view, the introduction of hero characters that makes it easy to see who’s doing what and what type of actions can be expected from each hero. And this all in matches that take few minutes each, to make the game mobile friendly also from session length point of view.
One of the keys for a successful PvP game is to have a big enough player base. How do you plan to attract players? What should investors expect regarding UA costs going forward?
– We have a completely new approach to marketing with Heroes of Warland. In addition to UA and performance based data driven marketing, we are exploring various ways of working with influencers and building the audience organically. One example of this is “Heroes & Superstars”. It’s a reality TV show, produced by Gamingzone Entertainment. In this show 12 eSports and sports superstars are split into teams that compete against each other in various activites and playing Heroes of Warland. This show will go live, both digital distribution and traditional TV, in 6 episodes in connection with the game launch. In addition to this we have other activities with these superstars outside the game that help us to build visibility and buzz around the game.
– Also, the game by itself seems to have viral appeal. We are seeing organic downloads already during soft launch and also user created content online (such as Youtube videos). From UA point of view we’ve seen lower CPI’s than with our previous games. Overall the marketing plan for Heroes of Warland is bigger than anything we’ve done earlier, and we are excited to see the results of that.
Along with the Heroes of Warland reality show, you signed an agreement with Huawei. How did this partnership take form? Could you elaborate on the “co-operations” you mentioned in the press release?
– This partnership is a result of our continuous business development activities. We believe that by simply going out there and telling people what you’re about to do helps us to find the parties who share similar ambitions that then develop into partnerships.
– We just announced that Heroes of Warland is now available exclusively in Huawei AppGallery. This is the appstore pre-installed on Huawei and Honor devices. In addition to this we are promoting the game together in Huawei eco-Connect event in Rome. Fatal1ty and BorasLegend are also there doing a live demonstration of the game at the eSports stage. Both are superstars who also appear in Heroes & Superstars. We’re planning more actions together moving forward, and we’ll talk more about those as they happen.
In October, Nitro Games managed to raise over 47 mkr from big names like Ludvig Strigues (Spotify) and Ola Rollén (Hexagon). For a smaller sized gaming company, it almost looked like the perfect capital raise. Could you tell us something about the process? Going forward, what will you be using the funds for?
– We are indeed happy with the capital raise and the investors who joined, both existing and new names. We had Partner Fondkommission advising us on this round and guiding us through the process, so that obviously helped to make it smooth process for us. Moving forward majority of the funds are planned to be used in marketing and scaling-up activities for Heroes of Warland.