Live from BIG Festival: Day one of Latin America’s biggest gaming event | Pocket

BIG festival – THE games expo from one of the fastest growing mobile gaming markets in the world – is go! With the kick-off today there’s four days of games and expert speakers to look forward to, and we’re live on the show floor in São Paulo, Brazil to being you the latest and up-to-date-est!

Day one of BIG went a long way towards showcasing the passion Latin America has for gaming, and the focus companies worldwide are giving to this fast-growing region.

Game makers from all over the world have taken to São Paulo to showcase their games, and with some true icons of the industry, such as Final Fantasy IV lead developer Takashi Tokita on the line-up, it’s clear that the organisers are going all out to showcase not just Brazil’s potential as a gaming hub, but also the passion of their own local gaming scene.

We’re here at the festival to bring you the latest news right from the floor – from talks to meetings to big announcements. Stay tuned for just a selection of what the festival has to offer.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the first day of the festival.

MENA and the social game revolution

The MENA region is one we’ve given a lot of focus to at, and for good reason – the region has a rapidly evolving gaming scene, with mobile gaming at the forefront.

In his talk from the show, Nine66’s Ricardo Flores spoke about the region’s growth with a focus on Saudi Arabia, the region’s gaming powerhouse.

Flores notes a strong preference for social gaming within the region, which rules the roost in terms of monetisation. The implementation of social features in-game have a strong effect in increasing player retention, while offering additional players to build a sense of community, and even competition. Players aren’t just willing to spend money for features such as exclusive emojis or chat options, but to upgrade their game to open up additional features, or even subscribe to the game, paying a regular fee to help them curate their social experience.

What makes Saudi Arabia such a powerhouse in the mobile space? Flores reported a 131% mobile subscription penetration and an internet penetration of 95.7% – well above the global average of 53.6%. These factors combine to make mobile the first choice for gamers in the region regardless of income levels, which is echoed in the country’s recent moves to become a global hub by investing in the mobile gaming market.

Great news from Finland 

The ancestral home of mobile gaming is going strong, even right here in Brazil.

Rovio and Supercell are on hand, highlighting not just the country’s place in the market, but its continued power and potential.

The panel Game Changers: Finland’s Industry Insights saw Fingersoft’s CMO Markus Vahlota, Business Finland’ Alessandra Leone, and Huuuge lead game designer Claudio Lins discuss the country’s place in the games space.

Finland has the highest number of gaming companies per capita in the world, with over 60% of gamers listing mobile as their preferred platform. But it’s not just global powerhouses like Rovio and Fingersoft that are driving momentum but a huge variety of independent studios creating games with mobile in mind.

Their panel explained that Finland has a supportive games ecosystem in place, with myriad successes paving the way for the next generation of industry superstars.

This ecosystem has seen Finland become an international hub, attracting top talent from all around the world. In fact 30% of the country’s gaming professionals are foreign nationals, and this diversity allows Finnish game makers to create games which resonate with players all over the world, regardless of cultural background.

The country also boasts a strong emphasis on work/life balance. TIme and time again we’ve heard stories crunch time and unhealthy working environments putting stress on the employees, resulting not just in burnout but lower quality products. We’ve written previously about Fingersoft’s shift toward a six hour workweek, and Vahlota spoke about the results this had for the company’s workforce – employees were empowered to make healthier choices and explore new hobbies, while maintaining 90% of their original salaries.

This highlights Fingersoft’s place as a company which puts a strong focus not just on creating hit games like Hill Climb Racer, but on putting the employees first.

RINGing in the changes

We had the opportunity to sit down with RING president Márcio Filho to discuss the vibrant games scene of Rio De Janeiro – one of the country’s biggest hubs for the industry.

The first thing that struck us about the Rio games scene is how varied it was. Marcio took us through games on a variety of platforms and from different genres, from AAA RPG’s to quirky sidescrollers to mobile spins on the classic party game “I Never.”

Brazil is a country on the rise in the games space, and is quickly developing into a major hub for the industry worldwide with Rio De Janeiro leading the charge, with over 1000 employees working in over 100 companies in the state alone.

At present, RING has released 52 games, with a further 160 games in production, and it’s only a matter of time before the country’s game developers are elevated in the public consciousness across platforms, and associations like 

We’ll be speaking to Marcio in more detail regarding Rio’s gaming scene in the coming weeks.

Evergreen your mobile apps

CleverTap senior director of Global Gamin Solomon Ruiz-Lichter took to the stage to discuss the steps game makers can take to help them achieve evergreen status.

Ruiz-Lichter states that monetisation should be treated as secondary to building a positive relationship with the consumer. By doing so, they can reduce churn by fostering long-term retention and a passionate, engaged playerbase.

He laid out several key tips that developers should keep in mind to help them achieve the coveted evergreen status, where their apps continue to do well years into their lifecycle:

• Optimising first-time user experience – by doing this, a game can make a positive first impression on a recently-onboarded user. Consistent A/B testing past the original soft launch is key to success here, as it allows game makers to consistently see what’s working and what isn’t.

• Lower the barrier for the first in-app purchase – by doing this, new players are encouraged to make the transition into being payers. Developers can use feature flagging and analyse first-time purchases from other players to help guide first-timers more effectively into the purchase ecosystem.

• Contextual offers and game personalisation – Personalising in-app messaging depending on game state can encourage players to spend money in-game.

• Sustainable advertising – Solomon Ruiz-Lichter highlights the importance of optimising ad cooldown periods. Through testing, players can determine what ad cooldown period is most effective for different segments. The option of an ad-free experience – either permanently or via a subscription – can open up additional revenue streams. Feature flagging can also be used to “tease” the experience, allowing non-subscribers to experience the game ad-free prior to their decision to make the purchase.

Growing your mobile game in 2023

Goolge’s Leandro Baer Barbosa and Luana Andre Assumpção took to the stage to discuss what game makers can do to scale effectively.

Barbosa noted that while it’s easier than ever before to create and publish a new game, it has become more difficult to effectively stand out from the crowd and reach new audiences. As such, developers need to maximise discovery. In the Play store, optimising the description, title, and icon can help to make a title more appealing to consumers. The core goal is to create a feedback loop. For example, creating an engaging and entertaining game can lead to positive word of mouth, and encouraging users to leave a review can help bring the game to wider audiences.

Meanwhile, revenue generated by the game can be pumped back into the company through purchasing ads or generating new content, either helping to reach new audiences directly or by enriching the gameplay experience.

Assumpção noted the importance of defining the business model to mor effectively scale, and highlighted the importance of one key approach “The secret is to really think like a player.” By identifying the player’s first steps after download, the developer can effectively predict which approach would be best. For example, in a Match 3 game, a tutorial of ten levels will result in players becoming active users, making churn less likely.

She calls these markers – events in the app which act as success indicators.

Assumpção also noted the importance of understanding that markers can change, and what indicates a game’s success is different depending on its phase. While a game’s early days will be defined largely by UA strategies, a successful game well into its life cycle will instead measure success in terms of revenue related KPI’s such as return on ad spend and average revenue per daily user.

However, the most important thing was identified as the creative itself. “If you have good creatives, the performance will be better. 5-35% of the result will depend on what you advertise or divulge in your creatives. 50-80% of the results are based on apps.”

That wraps our coverage for day one. Stay tuned for more reports from the floor in São Paulo, including one of our very own taking to the stage…

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