Nexon M is the mobile arm of Korean game publisher Nexon, and it’s expanding its mobile game footprint with some topflight titles by proven talent. Big Huge Games’ DomiNations, created by Brian Reynolds and Tim Train, has performed very well since it’s launch two months ago. At E3 Nexon M took the wraps off of Shiver, the new studio co-founded by EA and Zynga veteran John Schappert, who showed off their new real-time mobile strategy game Beasts Vs. Bots.
“Beasts vs Bots brings real-time strategy gaming to mobile. It features all of the mechanics you love from full-featured core PC RTS games: base building, strategic combat, individual troop control, and real-time PvP with back-to-back battles,” said John Schappert, CEO and co-founder, Shiver Entertainment. “Gamers have been yearning for real-time battles on mobile and Beasts vs Bots delivers — from innovative touch controls to five-minute battles to an expansive and rewarding base-building experience with your chosen faction.”
The general manager of Nexon M, John Robinson, spoke with [a]listdaily about the company’s view of mobile games and how to market them in a rapidly changing market.
The E3 show is dominated by sequels and remakes, but the games you’re doing all seem to be different from each other and brand-new IPs. Is that a conscious choice for Nexon?
We’ve been really happy our portfolio is original IPs. We like core games a lot, that’s what we play in the studio, that’s what we like at Nexon. It’s what we’re good at helping developers with, so our portfolio is always going to skew more towards those types of games.
It seem like mobile games are transitioning away from being mostly casual games to games that have a deeper appeal with deeper gameplay, while still trying to be accessible to a large number of people. Is that what you are seeing?
I think it’s definitely not mutually exclusive. Like with DomiNations, there’s some core mechanics and some core game play that I don’t think anyone would say is casual. We already have seven million people playing the game, and we’re hoping that will be 50 or 60 million in the next couple of years. One of the things we want to do is make sure these games reach the broadest audience possible.
There are so many mobile games competing for people’s attention these days. What do see as the most important way to break through the clutter and get people to download and play your games?
It’s telling a story. Tim [Train] and John [Schappert] just did a great job with each of their games there [DomiNations and Shiver, respectively]. We don’t think about just putting our games in the App Store and just doing a bunch of user acquisition. It’s the brand, it’s the story, it’s doing something that’s totally different than what other people are doing. We think that helps our games stand out in the market.
One of the things that’s stood out in the PC and console game market in the last few years is the rise of influencers as a key part of the marketing strategy. Are we going to be seeing that with mobile games as well?
Absolutely. For DomiNations we now have someone who has an Instagram account named DomiNations Tom. It was started on the game on day one, just showing his progress in building his own community. We’re starting to see that with a lot of great games, and it’s great to see that with DomiNations. The community itself is building a following.
Building a community for mobile gamers is more difficult than for a PC game, isn’t it? How do you see that evolving?
I think it’s totally evolving. Community as we see it today is mostly YouTube, a little bit on Twitch, on Instagram, Facebook. It’s native to mobile, it’s just where people are spending their time. They’re not necessarily going back to their PC and logging into the forums, but rather behaving as they would normally. DomiNations and the other games are now just a part of that on each of the other channels. The way we think about community is that wherever our fans are is where we want to be. We’re not going to dictate ‘Here’s the forum, here’s where you should go.’ We’re going to find pockets of our fans whether it’s on Reddit, YouTube, or Instagram. We’re going to be there to give them more information on the game and give them a better experience.
It feels like there’s plenty of room for innovation not only in mobile game design but in mobile game monetization. Is that the way you see it?
Our monetization design philosophy is we only focus on retention. Full stop. Because we think that if you build games that people are going to love to play for years to come, our business will do just fine. If you look at some of the games out there that have had the greatest success, like some Nexon games in Korea, or League of Legends, or Hearthstone, I don’t think anyone would say they are heavily monetized or over-monetized. They are building great communities that have a lot of fun. That’s certainly where we take our inspiration.