An Interview with Pavel Prokonich, CEO of Herocraft about Mobile Development
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Over the years, we have worked with some great mobile publishers, one of which is Herocraft.
We thought our readers would benefit from the great insight and experience of the company’s CEO Pavel Prokonich. Enjoy!
1: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, both personal and professional.
I’m Russian, 31 years old, married, I have a son. I graduated from The Kaliningrad State Technical University and I’ve been heading HeroCraft for, if I’m not mistaken, 8 years.
2: When and how was HeroСraft started?
It was 2002 when 5 students decided to make games together with minimal initial capital of 20 000$ earned by our founder Andrey Petrov. It was the rarest occasion of a successful ‘garage start-up’. The future company founders rented a flat and started 5 first projects: Ball Rush, Top guy (Gouvernator), Robo, Kamikaze and Dragon&Dracula. All of the projects were successful and had sequels. The latest one is a platformer Dragon&Dracula which was released in 2012.
Now, ten years after, we’re going to celebrate our anniversary on December 17-th. Our company is several times larger now and employs over 100 staff members in offices across Europe. It has an additional presence in the UK, Spain, Turkey, China and some other countries. HeroCraft is currently distributing worldwide in 15 languages. Our games are launched on mobile carriers all over the world. HeroCraft has ‘Top Developer’ status on Google Play and is a Top 5 Nokia Store Publisher having racked up more than 50 million downloads with titles such as Yumsters and Farm Frenzy.
3: How will this change in the coming years?
Speaking first about the Google Play it’s important to divide its audience into those customers who are willing to pay (whether through premium price points or freemium models) and those who will never be willing to pay for content. The developer should be concerned about monetization of both groups of players, utilising advertising revenues and other methods that don’t place the financial cost directly on the end user.
Apple on the other hand led the way for Android and the other App Stores. It’s not an overestimation to brand the AppStore “the store-front of the modern game industry” but with one reservation: it’s the store-front of the new, post-computer era. Established retail models for PC and Console gaming are making way for App Stores and smaller bite-sized content, operating systems are converging across devices and as such iOS will continue to grow in this sector. Just take a look at how gaming demographics have changed since the 1980s. What was once a niche market occupied by tech-heads, geeks and predominantly young males has grown into a massive media industry hard on the heels of music, TV and cinema. Now in recent years the market gender skew is at its narrowest ever, the age range is at its widest ever and revenues from the sector as a whole are at their highest ever.
4: What are your thoughts on Apple’s latest legal battles against Samsung, and as an extension, Android?
I personally feel it’s a shame that social convention seems to dictate that the struggle for market share doesn’t just take place in designers’ offices and engineering studios but also in the courts. Nowadays it’s common practice and an integral part of protecting one’s interests at all costs. Apple has to react to the growing influence of Samsung on the smartphone market as a whole and they react both with new product launches like the iPhone 5, but also by means of aggressive litigation against their competitors. Legal wrangles are just one of a number of fronts in this war and the victory on this particular battlefield doesn’t promise a long-term triumph. Apple will perhaps manage to protect its market position with legal barriers in the USA, but any impact on the spread of Android as a platform will be minimal, such sales injunctions will slow it down across some regional markets but nothing more.
5: Will Windows Phone/8 reach its potential or will it disappear in the coming years?
We do hope that Win8 will become one more key figure in the mobile device market. It’s obvious that Microsoft increased its efforts to create its own successful Mobile OS and we believe that they’ll be successful in the long run. The success of Win8 can become a perfect tool for the realisation of HeroCraft’s cross-platform approach to gaming.
6: What are five tips you would give any mobile developer just starting out?
First and foremost, to make great games. As an industry we speak a lot about monetization, virality and retention and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, to create interesting, fun games.
Secondly to find a suitable publisher, which I think is a little like finding a spouse. Don’t try to find the one who’s perfect, or who your friends tell you is perfect, but the one who’s perfect for you! For me, the necessity of working with a reliable and experienced publisher is self-evident for the vast majority of game developers.
Learn from your mistakes. Yes, everyone who does anything makes mistakes. There’s no practical use in attempting to avoid or hide from your mistakes so try to benefit from them. In computer game terms, every time you die in a game makes you slightly better at it the next time!
Respect users. I just can repeat Google’s mantra “don’t be evil”. No matter how badly you wish to accelerate the income you must never get it unfairly. Users aren’t statistics for you to drill down into, they have feelings, and when you treat them badly or are dishonest towards them they won’t come back. Play fair with your users and you won’t go far wrong.
Enjoy your job. Games, like food, cooked up with love, are always much tastier. If you don’t love what you do it can become a laborious task. If you don’t love making your game, chances are people won’t love playing it either!
7: How do you find development across different platforms?
Development across varying platforms can definitely bring its challenges. HeroCraft aims to organize its work so that all of the peculiarities are taken into account in the very architecture of development.
As one of the bricks laying in the foundation of our development system we use the Marmalade SDK which allows us to port our projects to iOS, Mac, bada, Android and Win without huge cost implications.
It’s not all plain sailing though and I’m not the first to bemoan the high level of fragmentation on Android. The problems it causes in relation to visual effects are clear but the solution is less so. HeroCraft started as a J2ME developer where the fragmentation problem was equally prevalent. That’s why we try to keep the maximum possible variety of device models and adapt our games to specific device recourses. Development on iOS is comparatively much more pleasant work for us from a technical perspective.
Conversely the main peculiarity of the bada platform is the vast differences in technical capacity across devices. Those games which are easily ported onto wave series devices are a lot tougher to get running smoothly on m series devices for example.
8: Tell me your thoughts on monetizing apps. Do you view it as a major challenge and how do you overcome it?
Over the last few years at least half of all dialogue, both internally and industry-wide, concerning mobile games, touches on the question of monetization. I’m not going to underestimate the importance of the topic. The new era requires new approaches and more open dialogue with our users. Currently we see an overwhelming interest in the freemium model. The extensive use of this model, sometimes, mindlessly, can cause a number of negative side-effects. We’re seeing an increase in dissatisfaction among users who feel tricked into costly in app purchases once they’re hooked, a huge impact on traffic and data, a more competitive marketplace which squeezes out some talented developers, and some developers refusing to use this model at all.
We shouldn’t be obsessed with whatever pricing model is en vogue and experiment in consultation with those customers who are using our apps. I’m sure that we’ll manage to find new mutually beneficial pricing models that are comfortable for both users and developers alike.
9: What are yours and HeroСraft’s plans for the future?
HeroCraft is in a period of considerable growth, we’ve made some key changes to the way we do business, with the goal of leading the company to new heights. I hope that I’ll be able to assist HeroCraft to become one of the key figures in this new era for our industry.
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
In addition, to sign up with inneractive and start monetizing your free apps now, click here.
Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.
There are no comments on this entry.
There are no trackbacks on this entry.