Welcome to #designed4devs, our interview series where we highlight the brains behind some of the industry’s most innovative & successful apps. This month, in honor of the Euro 2016 Championships, we caught up with Josh Blitz, co-founder & CEO of Cosi Games (makers of the massively popular Pelé: Soccer Legend).
Pelé: Soccer Legend crossed the million-download mark in both the Google Play and App Stores less than four weeks after its launch. So we asked Josh for some background on the game’s success (and what it’s been like working with a true soccer legend).
1) How important are championships like the Euro 2016 or COPA America when it comes to driving downloads & DAUs?
It’s definitely great. There are always club football games and fans, but these big national championships make it feel like the entire world is interested in football. Every two years, there’s this climate where people are more alert, more interested and hungry for everything about football. So when they see a game like Pelé: Soccer Legend, or another game that features football names and brands they’re seeing everywhere, something ticks in their mind and it increases conversions. But even without a name like Pelé, I think it’s much easier to get fans to download a football game right now.
2) Do you see revenue spikes because of increased player engagement? What kind of metrics do you measure?
Yes. It all comes down to DAUs — so the more downloads we get, the more revenue we’re making. We measure ARPDAU, of course, but also notice that eCPMS tend to be higher in general during these tournaments. That’s most likely from the interest from brand advertisers.
If you have a high-quality soccer or football app, the climate makes your inventory more valuable to them. Big brands know that fans are playing your game, and so they’re willing to pay for that.
3) How do you integrate ads in a way that keeps the user experience high? Did you design Pelé: Soccer Legend with ad monetization in mind?
With this version of the game, yes, but that wasn’t the case with the original.
We launched the first game around the World Cup 2014, and it was designed to be a paid game. We incorporated some ads, but the ad units and strategies have gotten so much better since then. We also know that many users don’t want to spend money — or can’t — and so this new game was built to integrate ads from the onset.
We chose rewarded video because it’s a great way to work advertising into the game’s core loops. When a player gets stuck or misses a free kick, they can watch a video to continue moving forward in the game. When a player runs out of hearts — the game’s energy mechanic — they can choose to wait or watch a video. We also incorporate interstitials and the Offer Wall, but we find that rewarded video really works best for both players and the advertisers.
4) Having Pelé’s voice shouting out “Goal” definitely helps the user experience, too. How did you start working with him?
We were working on a football game right before the World Cup, as I mentioned. And it was a great game — but we just knew that there was no real way to cut through the clutter and get people to download “Josh’s football game.” We needed to attach a big name to it.
Keep in mind, that this was before the success of celebrity games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, so the model was unproven. But we knew that getting a well-known soccer player would be the key to really building something amazing and breaking through.
We looked at the roster of stars at the time and decided that we’d be better off going with a legend that everyone respected — someone timeless. Of course, we realized that was Pelé and then we went to sign the license shortly thereafter.
5) What’s the experience been like working with him?
It’s been amazing. He’s been involved in a really big way, from including his voice in the original game to helping us with mechanics. We were working on early gameplay, as an example, and he pointed out that the player was just taking right foot shots. He said, ‘I shot with the left foot and headers,’ — and so we worked to incorporate that.
He’s also doing a ton of charity work and promotional events, and all of that publicity is definitely great for the game.
5) Last question. Any advice for game developers that want to work with celebrities or licensed IP?
First, is to choose your partners wisely. We’ve been really lucky with Pelé — but working with celebrities or licensed IP partners is not always easy. You have to decide whether the extra effort it may take to get approvals or move forward with development is worth the amount of value they bring to the table.
But perhaps more important than that is the need to be sure the game works first! It’s all about the mechanics — it should be fun to play even without the IP. So really be careful and get the gameplay down before looking for IP to license or a celebrity to partner with.
Want more insight? Josh shared specifics about monetizing Pelé: Soccer Legend with us for Pocket Gamer, or check out our list of the Top 11 Football / Soccer apps for your own entertainment. And stay tuned for our next #designed4devs interview.