During Mobile World Congress, our co-Founder and co-CEO Horacio Martos gave an interview to Spanish national newspaper, La Vanguardia, which was also published by Cinco Dias and Expansion. Horacio talked frankly about what makes a game successful and why it is that Social Point games enjoy such strong retention and longevity. We’ve translated this interview from the original Spanish, so that you can savor a little Social Point secret sauce, courtesy of our CEO.
What does a game need to have to be successful?
There’s no one, unique answer to that question. When you’re developing a game your main objectives are to make it attractive to play, and have your players come back and play it every day. And standing out from the crowd in iOS or Android app stores isn’t always easy – the user has hundreds of games to choose from. And not all of them live up to their promise.
What is Social Point’s strategy to capture user attention?
We aim to make high quality, innovative games that will surprise the user and offer them something original. Our target audience are players from around 12 to the late forties and beyond, who are looking for games that are easy to manage at first, but that increase in complexity and offer more challenges as you advance through them.
Games to engage the player?
That’s the idea. Gaming studios quite often forget the basics – it’s about making sure your products are fun and that people will want to spend plenty of time playing them. At Social Point we make the kinds of games we like playing.
And what kind of games are they?
Basically, action and strategy games.
Horacio Martos: We make the games that we like to play.
At the end of the day, a game’s success depends on the user experience?
Absolutely. The user should feel progressively deeper engagement with your game through things like increasing difficulty or social competition. Our games allow players to compete against each other which helps build ever-increasing and loyal communities around them.
Your games are free to play?
Yes. We’ve opted for the F2p model which means that the player can start off playing and then decide, as the game advances and its full potential becomes clear, whether they want to pay into the game or not.
Do players pay?
That depends and it changes from one geography or culture to another. Our market is totally international; we make games for the whole world, which are then localized and adapted according to the needs of specific markets. The goal in terms of monetization is that the player will repay the “free” experience by making his or her investment in the game. In some markets, like the US, players are much more accustomed to this. And we’re seeing traction in Japan with Dragon City too. Players really appreciate it when the game is well made.
You started off making games for the web, and now the bulk of your offerings are for mobiles. Is there a big difference between these platforms?
The mobile game is essentially the same as the web version, although mobile does allow you to leverage the constant advances in technology to update the game and improve gameplay. It’s true to say that mobile is the present and the future in the world of gaming; although that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel with each update. Real innovation comes when you think about how to leverage technologies like 3D or tactile panels, for instance. And then there’s the fact that more and more people are carrying a mobile device around…
Does the typical mobile video game have an expiry date?
I think that a well-made game which can attract a solid and loyal fan base is looking at a life span of between four and five years, if the developer commits to maintaining it and improving it continuously. Dragon City, our first game for mobile, was launched in spring 2013 and is doing better than ever. Mobile games enjoy a much longer lifecycle than games on other platforms, like PC or consoles, which have to launch new versions virtually every year to avoid becoming obsolete.
So this is a strategy that pervades day to day life in Social Point?
Absolutely. This company is full of talent, youth, creativity and originality. Everything in the company is geared to flexibility, taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them, and improving every day. We work in small groups of 10 to 15 people, each of which has complete autonomy to take their own decisions and the agility to handle any development issue. In our house, there’s no room for bureaucracy.
So, not an altogether typical model of a Spanish company?
Maybe, but I think Social Point is a great example of what a Barcelona-based business can achieve when armed with the right talent – both national and international – and a focus on creativity, innovation and agility. We have taken this unique mixture of elements and turned Social Point into one of the most profitable businesses in the city.
What do Social Point’s future challenges look like?
We believe that the future of gaming over the next few years will be mobile, so we’ll be developing games that are attractive for the mobile market. Beyond that, if and when other platforms start taking off – I’m thinking of smart TVs or smart watches – we have the knowledge and the experience to adapt to new technologies. For now, we’re planning on building out our portfolio of games. We launched two titles last year, and this year we’ll be launching four more. So it’s all hands on deck!
Spanish readers, here’s the full interview with Horacio Martos in La Vanguardia.