Thursday, January 29, 2015
Why Seriously Thinks Mobile Games Are Key To Hollywood's Future
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In the mobile age, what is the key to connecting and engaging with users, and where does Hollywood's creative content fit into the mix? According to LA mobile game maker Seriously (www.seriously.com), mobile games are the best way to engage with the mobile generation. We sat down with Seriously CEO Andrew Stalbow--who previously had been EVP Strategic Partnerships for Rovio, and also was key to Fox's content deals with Angry Birds--to hear more about the company, how it sees mobile games converging with Hollywood, and what it hopes to do with its first title, Best Fiends.
Where do you see Seriously fitting into the mobile games industry?
Andrew Stalbow: We're building mobile games, that are designed to be developed into bigger entertainment properties. We're one hundred percent focused on making a creative difference with what we build. We have an incredibly talented, creative team, which is based out of Helsinki, Finland, where our content development team is--people who have worked at companies like Disney; Rovio, which is behind the game Angry Birds; Naturalmotion, which develops Clumsy Ninja; and other companies. They are super talented people there. We've added to that, with some amazing, outside creative talent, such as Heitor Pereira, who was the composer behind Despicable Me. He composed our music, too. That's making a very nice, creative difference.
What's the connection between Seriously and Hollywood?
Andrew Stalbow: What we're seeing, is audiences have shifted very fast from traditional content like media, televisions, and movie theaters, and have moved to mobile very quickly. We've got a situation in the U.S., where the average American spends an hour a day playing games on their smartphone and tablet. The average Millennial spends approximately five to six hours a day consuming content and engaging with their mobile device. You've got a situation, where Youtube is considered to have bigger celebrities now than Hollywood. Everyone now has a content consumption device in their pocket. Audiences have moved very quickly to mobile, and I think that mobile is a brilliant platform on which to build a next generation brand. We believe very strongly that the next generation of brands in entertainment will be mobile first, and we want to be on the forefront of that shift.
You were at Rovio before - how does a startup like yours capture the kind of success that Rovio had, what was the key there that success?
Andrew Stablow: Right now, we are focused on taking this one step at a time. What we've built, with a very small team, is an incredible engaging game. When we built this, we didn't focus on the money, we focused on the story, the characters, and creating a really beautiful world that was fun and addictive. We built our first product, Best Fiends, solely focused on retention and engagement. What we do know, is that people come back to the game regularly, and they stick around for a long time. Tomorrow, we'll be announcing a million daily active players, and we're seeing approximately 400,000 games played a day. For us, it's all about building the app as a platform for our property, launching the game on iOS and Android, launching on Amazon Appstore tomorrow, and continuing to build it out with new updates, content, characters, and features. We have a really great, experienced team of people who have done this before.
Speaking of your team, how difficult has it been to run a cross ocean business, split between Helsinki and here?
Andrew Stablow: I've been working with Petri, my co-founder, for the last four or five years. First, when I was at Fox, we did a deal with Rovio for Angry Birds Rio, where we integrated the Rio movie into Angry Birds Rio. At that time, I got to work with the guys over in Helsinki. The truth about Helsinki, is it really is the mobile games capital of the world. There are people like Rovio, Supercell, and Fingersoft, and a really, really great community of developers and great creative talent there. We thought that, if we could marry what is happening in Helsinki in mobile games, with what we can do here in marketing and business development in the entertainment capital of the world, we'd have a pretty good combination to address this space.
What's the biggest success you've seen so far in what you are doing?
Andrew Stablow: The greatest thing we're seeing is the retention and engagement. We soft launched in late summer, in New Zealand and Canada, which are reasonably small markets. We did that, to make sure the game worked, technically, to see if people liked it. In the business that is called Day One and Day Seven retention. That is, how many people come back one day after they download the app, and how many come back seven days after the download? When we saw the numbers, we were really amazed and encouraged by what we saw. When we launched globally last year, first on iOS and Google Play, the number not only held up, but grew with the launch. In 2015, I think you'll see us provide a lot more content, and a whole lot more creative publishing, interesting partnerships, and new platforms. There is some really fun stuff coming. Our opportunity, is to keep the update cycle, and take this to a whole other level. This is not a product, it's a service. We're committed to build this in a big way.
Given your perspective, having been on both sides of mobile and Hollywood, what do you think the biggest issue Hollywood has right now in this area?
Andrew Stablow: I think there is a business model question. The biggest issue I think that Hollywood has right now, having worked on both sides, is that I don't think you can build a business model on scarcity. It's not what people expect. People today are in the constant engagement business. If you see the Youtube stars, they are continually communicating with their audience. I think that's the big opportunity for a next generation brand, to build themselves up on a mobile platform, and then iterate, add more content, add more levels, and understand their audience and innovate on that. Scarcity in a world of unlimited content choices, many of them free, is pretty tough. My view, is that you need to build IP that feels like it could be a Pixar or Illumination or Blue Sky movie, but start first with a fun, engaging, mobile game. That's a great way to build IP for the mobile generation.
Thanks, and good luck!