10 min read
Jun 2, 2023
Interviews: A Journey into Mobile Gaming - Vertigo Games
The Path to Success: A Journey into Mobile Gaming - An Interview with Vertigo Games
In this interview, we had the opportunity to sit down with Murat Sayin, CEO and co-founder of Vertigo Games and the creator of the popular game Critical Strike. We delved into the challenges game developers face when growing their user base and how Vertigo Games has creatively overcome these obstacles, leading to their success as a game studio. This article provides insights into their journey, the challenges they've encountered, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in the mobile gaming industry. Our discussion covers a range of topics, including the limitations of targeting capabilities, innovative approaches to monetization, and the significance of having the right talent and capital.
Background and Founding Story:
We had the pleasure to talk to Murat Sayin, one of the co-founders of Vertigo, along with his brother, Ali. Their journey began when they were just 18 years old. At the time, Murat was pursuing a degree in Computer Science while Ali had a background in pharmaceuticals. Balancing studies and work was challenging, but they were determined to explore their entrepreneurial aspirations.
‘I was very young and didn’t have an entrepreneurial background, but it was the golden age of mobile stores, we saw an opportunity and we took it.’
Initially, their revenue came from advertisements, and Vertigo operated as a lifestyle business. However, they quickly realized that they needed to scale and expand their horizons. They found that the gaming industry presented an opportunity that didn't require massive capital like other consumer products. In their search for untapped genres, they discovered that shooter games had little presence in app stores.
‘This was before PubG Mobile was introduced. The market was free to be taken’.
Recognizing the potential, they swiftly developed a game with just two people in three months. The positive feedback received encouraged them to invest further. Over the past two years, they have been dedicated to launching and scaling their game, establishing Vertigo as a prominent player in the shooter game market.
Biggest Opportunities in Mobile Gaming:
According to Murat, one of the significant opportunities in mobile gaming lies in approaching user acquisition in more creative and non-traditional ways that have not yet been established.
‘With the constraints imposed by Apple and, to some extent, Android on user acquisition (UA), this pressing challenge also presents an opportunity for companies to find innovative solutions for user acquisition. It is a great opportunity for organic growth through social media and other channels. A good example is the use of minigames and other ‘out-of-the-box’ creatives.’
Murat emphases the importance of diversification in the growth models and building strong gaming communities. He also mentions the potential of hybrid monetization to increase revenue and user engagement.
‘It will be interesting to incorporate a blend of different approaches to maximize our earnings. For example, we can offer in-app purchases, while also displaying advertisements during gameplay or providing rewarded ads and other offers.’
Murat also highlights the significance of creating social interactions and organic growth within their games. By fostering strong gaming communities, such as through active Discord channels, organizing tournaments, and facilitating global chat, they enhance the player experience and encourage viral growth.
Murat brings attention to two primary challenges in the mobile gaming industry. First, the limited targeting capabilities in UA due to platform changes, particularly on Apple's side. Second, the lack of accessible capital, especially in the current climate, poses a hurdle for gaming companies looking to expand and scale their games.
‘One of the challenges we face are investments, especially when dealing with VCs. They are more cautious and subsequently contribute to decreasing valuations, offers, and ticket sizes. We're also witnessing layoffs in several gaming companies. Furthermore, the public markets are experiencing a decline with lower multiples. As a result, private gaming companies and startups are directly impacted, leading to tipping valuations.’
Life of a CEO:
Being a CEO is not an easy feature, even more when managing a new mobile gaming business.
‘Well, there are a few priorities on my plate right now. First and foremost, we're on the lookout for some seriously talented folks to join our team. We've got big plans, including acquiring new games and developing our own exciting projects. So, we need to attract top-notch talent, especially those who may have been laid off recently. There's some real talent out there, and we want to snag them as soon as possible.’
Keeping your company afloat and on top of the market in the mobile games industry is never an easy feature, with such a large rotativity of games and saturation of the market.
‘We're working on publishing some fresh new games. Take, for example, this shooter title we're currently working on. We're aiming to launch it sometime this year. I've got my hands full with everything related to publishing, from the development side to marketing and art. It's quite a task, but I'm organizing every step of the way. Efficiently using our marketing budget is another key priority. Being an independent company, we need to make sure every penny counts when it comes to user acquisition. If we're not careful, it's like burning money. So, I'm focused on finding smart ways to allocate our marketing budget to get the best returns.'
But game production and user acquisition are not the only challenges to be faced.
‘Now, there are some other bits and bobs to handle, like revenue reporting and finding new ways to monetize our players. We're always on the lookout for fresh methods to make the most of our player base. It's an ever-evolving process, but we're up for the challenge. We're quite profitable as an independent company. However, having a flexible funding option, providing extra fuel to our growth is a definitive advantage.’
‘We have talked to many of the companies out there, offering capital help for game developers, as well as investors. But we decided to go with Sanlo because they offered us more money than what our next app store revenue would've been. So that's a pretty sweet advantage, you know?’
It is clear that having flexible capital, with fast delivery, is a major advantage for company growth, but it is not the only important factor when deciding the best way to go. Sanlo, being a technology company that relies on data and AI for its performance, matches developers' pace and empowers them to discover their own rhythm and follow their own path.
‘The most important thing for us is that, with Sanlo, we don't have to provide access to our app store accounts. This is a major advantage and it was a key motivator to our decision to work with Sanlo. When you provide access to those accounts to another company, you're not getting your hard-earned cash directly from Apple and Google. It's coming from some other company, taking value away from your company. It's like you're not getting your own money from your own players, incurring some trust issues.’
Losing your freedom and independence when it comes to the app stores is certainly an issue. It also messes with your company's valuation in a significant way. Becoming too dependent on third parties and only getting the payment for the next month also limits your growth.
‘With Sanlo we have non-dilutive financing, unlike some other options out there. We don't have to give away any shares, which is a major win. Plus, the fees aren't too hefty considering the risky nature of this business. It gives us some breathing room.’
Key benefits of the funding
Securing quick funding as a game business brings a multitude of advantages. It allows for swift execution of development plans, enabling timely releases and capturing market opportunities. With speedy access to capital, game businesses can scale operations, expand their reach, and invest in effective marketing strategies to maximize exposure and user acquisition.
Faster funding also facilitates the ability to adapt to evolving industry trends, respond to market demands, and stay ahead of the competition. Ultimately, access to funding empowers game businesses to accelerate growth, enhance their products, and establish a strong foothold in the dynamic and highly competitive gaming landscape.
‘We have put that funding to good use. We carefully crafted our marketing strategy to make the most of it. You see, when you receive financing, the key is to utilize the funds efficiently and quickly. Sanlo was a great support, as we got the money right at the beginning of November, which was the prime time for everything. That wouldn’t have been possible with other funding options. We wasted no time and went all out on user acquisition growth campaigns during that period. We managed to exhaust the entire credit in just two months, November and December. The funding had some serious impact for us. Using it within a short timeframe like that proved to be incredibly effective. If we had stretched it out over six months, it wouldn't have been nearly as efficient. But by utilising it swiftly, we were able to make a profit during those months and experience significant growth in both our revenue and user base.’
Using the funding wisely can make a significant difference, especially for an independent company. It can make or break the growth prospects of the business.
‘It's important to note that we focused solely on user acquisition with the funding. Sure, there are other ways we could have used that money, like hiring new talent or acquiring games to expand our portfolio. But in this case, it was specifically allocated for user acquisition efforts. However, I'm definitely open to the idea of collaborating with Sanlo again in the future to acquire games that align with our portfolio. It's something we have in our plans, and it could be an exciting opportunity.’
Why strategy is crucial – what to avoid
In the game business, the wrong strategy can spell disaster and break a company. A poorly planned approach can result in missed opportunities, wastage of resources, and failure to capture the target audience. Inadequate market research and misjudgment of player preferences can lead to the development of games that fail to resonate with players. Ignoring emerging trends or failing to adapt to changing technologies can quickly render a company outdated and irrelevant. Moreover, ineffective magnetization models or pricing strategies can cripple revenue streams and hinder sustainable growth.
‘When it comes to strategy roadmap, I've noticed several common mistakes made by newly funded gaming companies. One of the key errors is relying on initial success metrics that are achieved by targeting the golden cohort, the best users, at launch. It's a trap many fall into, thinking that these metrics will hold true as they scale. However, the reality is quite different. While you may have high retention, engagement, and monetisation with a small user base like 1000 players, it flips when you reach a million users. The mathematics behind Lifetime Value (LTV) and Cost per Install (CPI) change drastically. Your LTV may be less than half of your CPI, leading to a significant gap. This is a common mistake, yet some companies secure VC funding based on these misleading metrics, as even the VCs trust in the golden cohort concept. It's crucial to account for Cohort Churn Lift (CCL) metrics as well, as they paint a clearer picture of the true performance.’
In a highly competitive industry, where player expectations are constantly evolving, a misguided strategy can erode player trust, damage reputation, and cause irreparable harm to a game business. It is crucial to carefully craft your strategies, continually innovate, and stay in tune with the market to ensure your success and longevity.
‘Another area where companies stumble is the misuse of marketing funds. The challenges in the mobile gaming market, including user privacy thresholds and restrictions, limit our ability to measure effectively. As a result, some companies end up burning money in user acquisition without setting proper ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) targets. Superficially, everything seems fine when you only look at gross revenue, but in reality, it can be misleading. At the end of the day, if you're burning through excessive funds without a solid plan for sustainable growth, it becomes a significant mistake. Short-term growth might seem promising, but if you continue to operate at a loss in the long run, for example, over a year, it's a detrimental path to follow.’
Keeping your company afloat in such a competitive market is not an easy feature.
‘To avoid these pitfalls, it's crucial to develop a strategy that goes beyond initial success metrics and considers the scalability and sustainability of the business. Considering cohort analysis, LTV, CPI, and setting realistic Roth targets can provide a more accurate understanding of the company's performance. Moreover, smart allocation of marketing budgets, focusing on efficient user acquisition with proper ROI evaluation, is essential to avoid unnecessary financial strain. By addressing these aspects, gaming companies can navigate the challenges of the market more effectively and position themselves for long-term success.’
As we can see the future of mobile gaming is in great hands. With their visionary approach and dedication to delivering unforgettable and immersive gaming experiences, Vertigo Games will continue to shape the future of the gaming industry and Sanlo is proud to be a partner in their path to greatness.
About Vertigo Games
Vertigo Games is an innovative and dynamic mobile game development & publishing studio of midcore real-time social multiplayer games, located in Istanbul, Turkey, that has made a significant impact in the industry. With a passion for creating immersive and captivating gaming experiences, Vertigo Games has become synonymous with quality and innovation. Creating adrenaline-pumping shooter games, Vertigo Games consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the gaming world. Their commitment to excellence is evident in their attention to details, stunning visuals, and engaging gameplay mechanics. Their first title, Critical Strike, launched in 2017, has seen an impressive success, with over 50M downloads in Google Play alone. As a result, Vertigo Games has garnered a loyal and dedicated fanbase who eagerly anticipate their next release.
Explore their website at https://vertigogames.co/ to discover their captivating world of gaming.