Publisher and developer IGG Inc. just turned 12-years-old and started new European operations as they reach out to new markets and audiences by expanding while implementing a more localised approach. We recently caught up with general European manager Enric Cabestany and UK country manager Jonathan Jones in London to learn about their arrival in Europe and their strategy moving forward.
Just as it's been the norm with other highly-successful mobile-focused publishers, the IGG (which stands for "I Got Games") brand might not be as recognisable as some of the games they make and publish. But on top of being there for a good while, the company has already developed and released more than 20 titles not just on mobile, but also on PC and the web. And it seems that other than building on their strong mobile position, more platforms and somewhat "unexpected" things might be around the corner.
"We have some very, very exciting projects up and coming", admits Jones in the video interview below. "Some things you may expect from us, some things you may not, it's an exciting time at IGG right now. I can't tell you much I'm afraid."
IGG's development arm is as strong as it gets, as according to the UK manager, they have "around 20 studios constantly working on new things, a lot are under wraps now, but we have a few things coming hopefully maybe by the end of the year (...) they're constantly working on new things, they have some great ideas and we're excited for the future".
"We have some [studios] in China, Belarus, Canada, Austin (Texas), South-East Asia," lists Cabestany, with a quick look at their official site also revealing offices in Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates... "and maybe something else is going to come really, really soon as well (laughs)".
Although during their early years IGG leaned more towards MMORPG and social apps, it's their F2P multiplayer strategy games on mobile which laid the foundations for a worldwide success over the last decade, now reaching around 20 million monthly active users. And of those, it's mainly 2013 tower defence Castle Clash (with around 8 million MAU) and 2016 RTS Lords Mobile.
"Lords Mobile is a real-time strategy game. It's got elements of SLG (Simulated Life Game) as well, we've got hundreds of millions of players around the world; we're top in the revenue charts on Google and iOS," describes Jones. "It's a game that brings people around the world together, there's a big element of community. People love to play with each other, they love meeting new friends, they love building their guilds up and attacking other players. There's many different activities for them to do, there's PvP, PvE... it's a game that will keep everyone busy; people coordinate their lives around it, they live Lords Mobile, they breathe Lords Mobile".
The twist here is that Lords Mobile can also be played competitively between teams, and it recently got its own massive tournament in Hong Kong as a testament to what it might end up being in the esports scene. The idea was for Asian teams to become the Lords of Lords Mobile, and it got "huge numbers for the livestream", says the UK manager. We asked whether this was something that we could expect to see in the West? "It's something we're definitely looking into. We have plans, we're looking into ways to make it happen, with feasibility and that kind of thing, so again we'll keep you guys posted [...] The competition we did in Hong Kong just shows you that we have a product where it can work".
Of the 480 million registered players worldwide and the aforementioned MAU of nearly 20 million, it's important to keep in mind that IGG revenue largely comes from Asia (49%), with the rest coming from North America (26%) and Europe (21%), something that might change in the future with the company's new localisation strategy.
"Europe's been a big market for us ever since we first started," points out Jones. "We have teams working with the local languages - we have English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, all working to sort of localise their market, to make it accessible for their players. We're doing activities and marketing stuff based on local interest, just to make it more appealing to local people, more attractive. [...] We're looking to build [on] it, to expand it, to make it accessible for everyone".
Cabestany also had some interesting things to say about what he believes to be the key to their financial success within the constraints of the free-to-play model:
"The first thing is to engage the users. It's not just bringing users in; as soon as you bring users through all the apps and so on you need to retain them. As soon as you get them: play [with] them, engage them, socialise them, and they start spending some money in the game. Then is when we see if a game is interesting and financially good. The second thing is, of course, we want most of the users [to] socialise between them and we want them to viralise the game. As soon as they can make it with their colleagues and mates, it's the best for us".
The goal is nothing short of ambitious: "becoming a global leader in the gaming industry". With that being the case, from now on IGG plans to keep on growing, to attack new markets and to try new things. And it looks like licensing of other media is not out of the question either, as according to Cabestany "brand partnerships are something we're looking for. Cross promotions are something we're exploring".
With the new European structure being established, the esports plans being built on top of the success of Lords Mobile, the company's dev force becoming one of the biggest in the world, and new games (and perhaps platforms?) being announced soon, IGG's expansion will be interesting to keep an eye on in the near future.