LILA Games CEO Joseph Kim told us about the concept of the studio's upcoming game B.L.A.C.K., shared the company's approach to gaining audiences and making profit, and spoke about the future plans of the company.
80.lv: Please, introduce yourself and your team. Could you give us a little bit of background about who makes up your team? How and when did you start working? What were your aims? What projects did you previously work on? Which of them are you most proud of?
Joseph Kim: I’m Joseph Kim, the CEO of LILA Games. We are working on a super innovative FPS shooter game for mobile and PC. Our co-founding team has a lot of experience in building #1 top-grossing games for mobile platforms. Paul Leydon, our Chief Creative Officer, and I met when we worked at FunPlus working on the game King of Avalon which also wound up becoming a #1 title. We met our last co-founder Avinash Pandey when he was at June Gaming and the CTO there having worked on Mask Gun the #1 FPS shooter game developed out of India.
The company started in October of 2020 during our initial seed round of funding. However, Paul and I worked for about a year before then trying to determine the kind of company and product we wanted to make. We seek to build a world-class game development team out of India. The market here is still early and we’re missing a lot of expertise in specific functional areas, but this is similar to the situation in China when Paul and I were at FunPlus. We have super ambitious plans for our company and our new game. We are crazy bastards and we realize that life is short so want to do everything we can to make a difference in terms of the kind of company that we build and to try and build a genre-defining game.
80.lv: Could you tell us about the recent round where you received $10 million. What do you think of the market and its volumes?
Joseph Kim: The current Series A round of $10M includes investors from our Seed round BITKRAFT and Galaxy Interactive. In addition, we had a number of new angels join our round including Ryan Wyatt former Head of YouTube Gaming and recently now the CEO of Polygon, Thomas Vu former Chief Creative at Riot and an Executive Producer on the Netflix hit Arcane, and Tanay Tayal, a godfather of gaming in India and co-founder and CEO of Moonfrog.
The current market environment for investment has been really positive and we feel very fortunate for the gaming industry. Although we felt the fundraising process, this time for Series A, was difficult compared to our seed round we should consider that relative to other times historically and what other entrepreneurs who had to pitch to over 100 investors had to endure, we definitely feel very fortunate
80.lv: As far as we know, the funding will go towards developing your debut title, a mobile F2P shooter game called B.L.A.C.K. Please tell us about it and its concept. What are its core mechanics?
Joseph Kim: The ultimate objective is to create a really unique game experience that would really appeal to our target audience. We come from building hit 4X games and so we also leaned into our strengths taking the core elements of those games – social design, designing for emotion, and consumable-based monetization – and applying those to the shooter market where we have less experience.
The majority of the shooter market is either battle royale or team death match by sub-genre, so another key departure for us was to focus on a differentiated gameplay mode. Currently, there are a number of companies like Netease and Tencent trying to adapt Tarkov-like extraction mode, and session-based gameplay models to mobile. Regarding innovation, that’s basically where our similarity ends with other game companies and from there we go into straight-up crazy land.
80.lv: The commercial success of games is one of the crucial points. What is your approach here? What will you do to gain audiences and make a profit?
Joseph Kim: Shooters on mobile have been the fastest-growing segment over the past 3-4 years. As a start-up, we wanted to be in a space that was developing quickly and in which we believed major changes were possible so that we could compete based on speed and innovation. Shooters are also unique in that they are one of the few game genres that generate massive organic audiences on mobile. Runners, 2D racing games, bubble shooters, and IP-based games are other examples. We want to develop a game therefore that has the Hollywood notion of a strange attractor to draw audiences to the game. Further, the mobile gaming market is characterized by an auction-based user acquisition model. This means that if a game company can figure out how to generate a meaningful monetization advantage against its peers, it should be able to clear the market via out-marketing its competitors.
The best example of this was Game of War vs. Kingdoms of Camelot back in the early days of mobile. Game of War introduced a lot of Chinese monetization mechanics like VIP systems, gold banks, and sales strategies that enabled the game to generate a 30%+ LTV margin advantage relative to Kingdoms of Camelot. From there, it literally just fully captured ad inventory and priced out its competitors.
Releasing a Game During Pandemic
80.lv: What do you think it is like trying to release a game during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? What is your approach to teamwork? And what is your current working model in the post-COVID world where lots of companies switch to remote or hybrid models?
Joseph Kim: Releasing a game during COVID-19 from a market perspective has been one of the biggest boons to gaming I have ever seen. We’ve seen numerous examples of game companies that were not profitable shift to profitability and many game studios and game developers gained small fortunes from the upturn in gaming due to the pandemic. From a development perspective, it’s important to note a key difference between new game development vs. live operations.
I personally don’t believe you can be as efficient or effective in new game development in a remote context. Not that it’s not possible but it’s just not as effective as on-site in the office. Or at least, I have yet to see this model work. Having said that, I do know of a few studios with hit games who are strong proponents of remote development, but it’s unclear how much of the product-market fit phase was done remote vs in person. Further, as I mentioned, I am not saying it can’t be done but that the more complex the game, the less efficient it is remote vs. in-person.
LILA Games' Roadmap
80.lv: What's your current roadmap? What did you plan for 2022? What will we hear again from you?
Joseph Kim: The main objective for 2022 is to scale the team. We spent all of 2021 building out our core team which was incredibly difficult. However, ultimately we want to build as strong of a core team as possible. That means people who share our core values and who have high potential to learn and grow. I’m hoping we have more to share in 2023 and I’d love to share more about our company and game development updates throughout our development process.