Miniclip's CEO Saad Choudri spoke about mobile games' accessibility, told us about the company's user acquisition strategy, and shared what it is like to release a game in a post-pandemic world.
My name is Saad Choudri, I am CEO of Miniclip. I first entered the video games industry 15 years ago at SEGA. I moved to Miniclip in 2011, before progressing into multiple C-level roles with a more commercial and strategy-based focus.
Being a hugely passionate gamer, I’ve been fortunate to grow my experience with Miniclip over the last 10 years doing something I love. This is why it has been such a dream job for me, and I am humbled to have been appointed to the role of CEO at the end of 2021.
I have been involved in multiple projects that I am proud of while at SEGA and Miniclip. We’ve had fantastic partnerships with developers, some lasting for 10 years, and most recently our acquisition of SYBO, the creators of Subway Surfers.
What Makes Mobile Games Successful
We started making mobile games in 2010, opening a new studio in Lisbon to focus on the development of mobile experiences for our players, with some of our biggest games, such as 8 Ball Pool, Agar.io, Carrom Pool, and Soccer Stars, being developed there.
One of our biggest achievements since then has been the growth of our number one game, 8 Ball Pool. Having started its life as a web-based game, we released it on mobile in 2013 where it became the most downloaded mobile pool game only a year later.
Miniclip has grown exponentially since achieving this, enabling us to hit the milestone of four billion downloads on mobile, with our current and future focus very much on this platform as we continue to grow and welcome new studios to our group.
When it comes to what makes mobile games so successful more broadly, their accessibility is a key factor, and we saw the popularity of mobile gaming grow massively throughout the pandemic, with a report from LoopMe and IDC finding that 75% of the increase in mobile gaming activity is set to remain as we continue settling into the "new normal". And while more than half of households own a gaming console, mobile gaming actually makes up 52% of the total global market.
We always try to ensure that monetization is conducted in a balanced way that doesn’t harm the environment of the players. Audience KPIs are really our main driver, so we’re careful not to ruin the relationship with players in any way by turning them away from our games.
Keeping on Top of Trends
It helps to have a great network of contacts in the industry so it’s always good to catch up with those who work in various disciplines within mobile gaming and hear about any new or interesting trends.
Monitoring and reacting to trends are vital parts of mobile game development which help with creating experiences that we know players will enjoy. In order to do this, we’re constantly monitoring wider industry trends both from our competitors and, of course, across social media more broadly.
In terms of current trends, as the mobile games industry continues to grow, we predict that we’ll continue to see more investment from traditionally console-focused studios that are starting to see the value in mobile games.
Play-to-earn and Web3 models lend themselves well to mobile games, but I think it will be some time before they become ubiquitous. We have seen the industry move from premium, subscription, and free-to-play to ad-supported models over the years and there is a combination of these models that we are all engaged in. It is an exciting road ahead as we see which model will become the dominant one over the next few years.
User Acquisition Strategy
User acquisition is one of the most important parts of making a successful mobile game, but while many studios can successfully acquire users, retaining them is a different challenge.
This is particularly evident with hyper-casual games, for example, with many users dropping off just as quickly as they arrived, impacting overall MAU. This normally happens when a game offers shallow gameplay loops that players get bored of quickly.
We ensure we make games that players will want to keep returning to and ensure that our user acquisition strategy supports this. Given the challenges in UA since IDFA deprecation, it is ever more important to ensure you are keeping hold of users within your game for longer. Our approach has always been to prioritize audience engagement over everything else. This is why we are proud of reaching 70m daily active users.
Starting with a committed player base ultimately supports monetization, and we would much rather have a slightly softer monetization mechanic with better retention metrics. However, our portfolio is varied, and we support multiple monetization models – some of our titles monetize through serving to advertise whilst others are more focused on in-app purchases and subscriptions; then there is a mix where it is 50/50 Ads & IAP. Therefore, we do think about this early in our game development but are also flexible enough to pivot to other models if we find a game that suits a particular monetization model.
Releasing Games During the Pandemic
We've always operated internationally at Miniclip, with offices across Europe. So, whilst the transition to fully remote working was of course a challenge, we were already familiar with working with teams virtually across different areas and time zones.
Moving into a post-pandemic world, we've made sure to adopt a fully hybrid model for our staff. We're actively recruiting for both office-based and remote positions across all areas of the business, and we know we'll need to be flexible with the demands of our existing staff and prospective candidates to attract the best talent in the future.
We do think that as a creative industry, being together to build new experiences is important so it is vital that we continue to have an in-office presence. So, despite embracing a hybrid model we are investing in offices and making sure when our people are in the office, it is the best environment it can be.
After summer, we’ll be focusing our efforts on the development of games exclusively on mobile, ensuring we’re giving all our players the best experiences possible. We can’t reveal any specifics at the moment, but we have a full roadmap in place and plan on releasing at least eight titles for the rest of the year.
As part of our focus on mobile games development, Miniclip.com evolved this summer from a web gaming platform into a destination for potential partners, prospective candidates, and studios to find out more about us. Agar.io and 8-Ball Pool will still be available for fans, with the rest of our most popular titles available on mobile only.