Q&A: Brendan O'Kane, OtherLevels

Person-SmartphoneIt’s one thing to attract mobile gamers; it’s quite another to keep them. But when a game is dependent on advertising support for its existence, keeping them is of the utmost importance. 

Brendan O’Kane, CEO of analytics and retargeting company OtherLevels, says the buzz for mobile gaming in 2013 will be engagement, determining how long and in what ways a gamer interacts with a title. OtherLevels has been working with HalfBrick (the maker of successful titles "Fruit Ninja" and "Jet Pack Joyride") to determine which messaging tools (including language choice, location and other nuances) work best with different audiences. While O’Kane could not address specifics of those tests (which are still ongoing), he did speak about what will be important for the mobile gaming world in 2013. 



Q: What do we expect to see in the mobile game market 2013?

A: The big drivers are to try and maximize the engagement and lengthen the engagement time. For the game companies, it will be to retain the users, and to move the users between different games within their portfolios. The whole mobile focus through 2013 will be to try and make sure you retain your audience, grow your audience and keep them engaged.

Q: How can you do that? What are the best ways to engage mobile gamers?

A: You do need to introduce them to new titles, and you need to bring those new titles to their attention. And secondly, when they’re playing an existing title, you need to make sure they’re participating in all the activities they can within [that] title, whether that’s through new levels, or in-game promotions or new experiences. Within one game, you want to make sure you have them engage in the maximum experiences possible.

Q: How often do you need to bring new games or other experiences to market?

A: My view is that the high-quality game companies only bring their titles to market when the title is ready. The audience has very high expectations. The companies don’t rush to market. The result of that is you want to lengthen the engagement period when you do have a successful title. Something like "Fruit Ninja" is a title that continues to re-attract people. That creates an underlying opportunity for a new audience. You can then introduce them to other titles which might be very attractive. There’s no automatic frequency. But you don’t want to go long periods [between introductions] to keep the audience engaged. 

Q: Do things change in terms of the target when it comes to keeping gamers engaged?

A: It depends on the demographic and the game, and there are games now adding increasing amounts of sophistication. So you can bring people to different levels, and ensure the audience is aware of that. You want to guide them on their journey. A lot of activity is giving them in-game opportunities to encourage them to return.

Q: How do you go about measuring engagement in the mobile gaming space?

A: The most important thing is to see beyond the number of minutes or the percentages. It doesn’t give you the subtlety of understanding how that links to behavior. A casual user could be engaged with me for 15 minutes, but that’s a great outcome if they get a message and open it later. For us, it's about measuring the outcome that goes way past the playing. It’s much more than what they do in the game. It’s about measuring the outcome that gets the audience member much more engaged with the brand and the game. 

Q: How do you go about knowing what to look for before you begin creating or launching a game? 

A: For our biggest game clients, we actually talk with the game producers about determining what they want people to do. We want people to be getting to this level in the game, and we want them to experience a new element of the game. Once you know [those things], you can build backwards to shape the messaging campaign to build to those parts. 

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