Igor Gurenyov: “Small, inexperienced, and low-budget developers shouldn’t do UA by themselves”

Written by Tappx
Created Jul 26, 2023

There’s always a lot going on in gaming. Especially now. With AI developments, high competition, user saturation, privacy concerns, and a long list of other factors some developers, user acquisition, and monetization experts can feel overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve wanted to talk to a professional with extensive experience in the industry. Igor Gurenyov has worked as a game lead and designer and has expertise in data-driven growth and product management. 

Hi, Igor, how are you doing?

Hello, I’m good. Happy to be here 😉

As we said at the beginning, there’s a lot happening in the video game industry. Do you see it as a challenge or an opportunity?

I mean, it’s obvious that the whole tech industry is in crisis right now. But as it was always, crises always bring challenges and new opportunities with them. I tend to be an optimistic person in general, so I see it as a good moment for reconsideration and re-evaluation of most business strategies, especially in entertainment.

You’ve recently attended many conferences and events, and we have seen some ideas you highlight. For example, you say that hyper-casual is not dead and very far from it. Why, could you explain it to our audience?

Sure, it will be my pleasure to do so. I think it’s obvious to everyone that there was a huge bubble in hyper-casual during COVID times, big publishers gave funding almost blindly, which attracted inexperienced and sometimes people with questionable business ethics.

It is not something unique, we already saw something similar during the gold rush period in the 19th century, the .com bubble in the early 2000ths, or the indie-apocalypse which is more related to the gaming topic in 2014-2015. As Sergey Martsinkevich from Azur Games said at recent HGC Summit in Warsaw, we all live under market rules and it was unwise to think that the hyper-casual industry functions differently. It’s all about supply and demand, and at the moment we have more supply than demand.

But as we already saw, big publishers (giants) already pivoting from hyper-casual to more advanced and expensive types of products which actually opens new opportunities for smaller players.

This crisis will eventually end if you are truly into hyper-casual philosophy, and for me, hyper-casual is exactly a philosophy, not a business model, you’ll be able to grant an advantage over pessimists who are switching their strategy from one buzzword to another.

And with this philosophy, even when you compete only with yourself against typical production methodologies you have much more chances to find and deliver profitable products. Especially, when even casual companies started to use hyper-casual concepts in their marketing and FTUE.

At the moment, there are more hyper-casual supply than demand.

What about high competition? If we take into account that gamers have many options and are also saturated, how can we be optimistic about the future of the industry?

There always will be new options to enjoy and consume gaming content, but when we start looking at core principles and use cases of hyper-casual it became very clear that it doesn’t go anywhere yet. People still play hyper-casual games during their commutes, while staying in queues, or during coffee breaks at work, schools, and other places.

These types of games continue to introduce non-gamers into the gaming world and help them to develop love, passion, and skill to enjoy more difficult projects.

On the other hand, now it is very important to think long-term and establish enough depth for your games, which is the main challenge for everyone in the market right now.

So, yes. It is still a very competitive industry, but the rules are not set in stone and always changing. Everyone, at the moment, is still in more or less equal condition and needs to constantly rethink their strategy.

Maybe AI will be a little help in the future? What do you think could be its biggest contribution to gaming?

It definitely helps, but as with every new tech or solution you should be smart about it. I don’t think we are at the moment when AI can provide much help with pure creativity (ideation, game design, user experience) but it has already proven itself in working with huge data models, analytics, and budget optimization.

I wish one day you could enter to chatGPT description of your game idea and it provides you with some playable and editable Unity or Unreal project, but we all understand that for now, we are very far from it.

Don’t think that AI will help create a product and find answers instead of you, try to understand what is the least creative aspect of your pipeline and automatize it with AI. That would be my suggestion.

AI can help with huge data models and budget optimization, not with creativity, ideation, game design, and UX.

By the way, what is a successful game for you, Igor?

This is a very good question and depending on the genre and market answer will be completely different. AAA, indie, mobile, CCG, role-playing, and board games exist under different rules and it will take many hours to describe the differences and definitions of success for all of them.

But I think on a high level it all can be described in one sentence: Profitable and recognizable product with franchise potential. Take it or leave it. 😉

What about expanding to console and PC markets? Would you advise that to mobile-first companies to do so or not?

It is hard to advise it to anyone without knowing their story, goals, and capabilities. If you are small you should focus on what you can and can’t do. What are your strong sides and what you are lacking. If you are big and successful then you probably could figure it out on your own and don’t need an external opinion on that matter.

But, I can say one thing: Almost everyone came to this industry because of their desire to make games for platforms they loved and enjoy as gamers first. And now we are seeing how some big players porting their successful hits to consoles and PC.For example CrazyLabs with their Dig Deep, AMAZE, and products on PS, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. Or SayGames and Estoty with their My Little Universe on Steam and Johnny Trigger franchise on other platforms. 

For now, you can’t compare profit numbers with the classical performance marketing approach on mobile. But this is only beginning, at some point mobile publishers realize developers’ desire to actually be on these platforms and the first who adjust their strategy to it will win a huge chunk of talented developers.

In my eyes, classical consoles and PC research & development are a bit outdated. How many cases of CTR, CPI or A/B tests do you know from indie or AAA developers? It is a rhetorical question 😉 And that’s where hyper-casual expertise will come in handy. For example, recently AppsFlyer launched their hub for games, a new solution which brings the best mobile approaches to big platforms I think this is awesome and opens so many opportunities in this dimension.

So, it is definitely worth looking into it, I would say. 😉

You were recently with our colleague Linh Le at Games Summit Warsaw. What was your main learning about monetization at that panel?

It was a great panel and I’m very happy that we could bring experts with very different experiences and perspectives to it.

We covered many topics and explored many aspects of monetization and how to maximize your revenue. But I think the most important one is very basic: You should always focus on one thing at a time and have a clear understanding of what type of product you have. It is impossible to be an IAP-based product, with a focus on diverse AD placements and Subscription. Keep your focus and move from one feature to another step by step.

Any favorite channel of user acquisition you can recommend to anyone starting their strategy?

There are so many channels that you can use right now and you always should consider your personal goals and abilities. But if you are small, inexperienced, and don’t have a big budget and a huge UA team behind your back, then you probably shouldn’t do UA yourself, just find a partner who can help you with it and focus on the product. In any case, Facebook still is the best first option for you.


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In your opinion, what are the main challenges currently facing the video game industry?

I wouldn’t be the first to say this but nowadays we are competing for people’s time. Time outside of work, time with their friends & families, and other activities. And this time is limited and with more technology and inventions coming into our lives this time continues to decrease.

The pace of our lifestyle keeps increasing and it became much harder to squeeze few more hours to enjoy some new book, movie, or game. That’s the reality we are living in.

Video games compete for people’s time with friends & family, technology, and entertainment.

And any tips to meet those challenges?

Don’t try to copy others, use them as inspiration and come up with your own version depending on what problem you trying to solve. Steal as an artist or how they usually say? 😉

Thank you Igor for your time. We’ll be in touch to keep unraveling the industry news.

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