With a career steeped in all aspects of game development, Brian Koenig brings an unprecedented level of industry expertise to his role at Tapjoy. Past roles at LucasArts, Sega, Havok and Playfirst helped define his nuanced approach to product management.

There aren’t many mobile careers more diverse than Brian Koenig’s. His game development expertise spans frontline development tools and market intelligence, making him one of the most well-rounded professionals in the space today. In this installation of Tapjoy Talks, we sit down with Brian to discuss his important role in developing some of Tapjoy’s most powerful solutions, as well as what he’s learned from a career in the game dev trenches.

Tapjoy: As a Senior Product Manager at Tapjoy, what are you responsible for and what are you currently working on?

Brian Koenig: I’m responsible for the development and success of Tapjoy’s dashboards. That includes both our customer-facing tools as well as the internal ones our team uses to manage and measure millions of mobile ads every day.

For the internal dashboard, a big part of my job is collecting actionable feedback from our team. I spend a lot of time looking for big and small efficiencies I can introduce that add up to major time savings so the team can focus on delivering value to our customers.

On the external dashboard, I monitor how our customers are using it as well as the overall health of the ecosystem’s segmentation and monetization functionality. We focus on solutions that help our publishing partners free up engineering resources, which we know are limited for games companies.

TJ: Why is the Tapjoy Dashboard so important for app developers and marketers, and what makes it different from other platform’s dashboards?

BK: Our dashboard brings together a valuable blend of analytics, marketing, and predictive tools. Combined, these solutions deliver insights that empower our customers to build tailor-made monetization models that help publishers hit their targets. Our tools go beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach to app monetization and let publishers tap into the full potential of the freemium publishing model by building one-to-one relationships with their users.

TJ: How many developers take advantage of the dashboard’s full capabilities?

BK: We see publishers getting value out of the platform at all levels of sophistication. At the most extreme, we’re seeing some very talented designers and monetization managers build dynamic models capable of adapting to each individual user’s behavior in order to deliver the ideal balance of value and engagement. Our predictive modelling tools allow our customers to take this to the limit, building systems that will hold off on things like showing ads to users if it looks like they’ll convert a few weeks into the future.

TJ: What kinds of metrics or KPIs should developers be tracking most closely, and how does the Tapjoy Dashboard help them get to the insights and metrics that matter most?

BK: Retention is the most important metric, by far. As UA costs continue to rise, attention is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity. When you’ve got it, you need to make the most it. Every session is a new opportunity for publishers to derive value from a user, but once they’re gone, it’s very difficult to get them back. Monetization metrics are obviously crucial as well, but they’re not everything, and publishers rarely stand to benefit from pushy conversion tactics. They instead need to look for ways of deriving value from their entire user base, either through IAP, subscriptions or advertising.

TJ: We’ve seen a trend where mobile ad products that were initially meant for branding, like videos and rich media, are now blending brand advertising with direct response by adding calls to action at the end. What is Tapjoy doing to enable this trend?

BK: Over the past year, we’ve invested a lot of energy in improving the overall ad experience, with a special focus on the end card. Couple that with our powerful data science engine and the end result is a great user experience that helps drive branding metrics like awareness and recall while also delivering exceptional engagement and conversion metrics.

TJ: Prior to Tapjoy you were a Product Manager at the market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. How much crossover do you see between Tapjoy and a market intelligence firm?

BK: There’s definitely a lot of overlap. Ten years ago, the challenge was getting accurate data and storing it efficiently. In the current era of Big Data, the challenge is making data insightful and actionable. At the end of the day, all of our customers are making decisions. It’s our job to give them the actionable data they need to make the most informed decisions possible.

TJ: You also spent some time working on product development for the mobile games developer PlayFirst. How did that experience shape the work you are doing today, and what tools does Tapjoy offer that you wish you had back then?

BK: Running an indie mobile studio, and later managing games at PlayFirst, I saw firsthand how competitive the marketplace is and how challenging discoverability can be. It can be extremely difficult trying to run a business where only a small portion of your customers are willing to pay for your products.

I wish I had Tapjoy’s Future Value Map (FVM) and user targeting featureset back then. The FVM’s ability to segment users based on future LTV is really cool, and being able to deliver vastly different user experiences to different cohorts with minimal code-side development is a game-changer.

TJ: What are some of the most common mistakes that developers make when integrating rewarded ads into their app?

BK: There’s a perception that rewarded ads are best for midcore, sim-strat games, and while that genre certainly works well, I’ve seen huge success with rewarded ads in casual games, simulation games, and even narrative-based apps. So it’s a huge mistake when these types of developers don’t focus on rewarded advertising.

TJ: What advice do you have for app developers who are just getting started?

BK: Embrace lean methodologies and get your app into soft-launch as quickly as possible. Fail early, fail fast.  Tailor your monetization strategy to your game’s unique style and user base, and remember that the top-grossing rankings only reflect IAP revenue when conducting revenue analysis (so don’t ignore ad revenue). Finally, don’t forget to account for UA costs in your business model; hoping to get featured is not a marketing strategy.

TJ: Now the most important question, what’s your favorite mobile game?

BK: I’m a big fan of Design Home. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to put down, plus the game has a great multi-stream monetization model that makes full use of IAP, rewarded ads, and sponsored game content.

Thanks Brian!

Our newest Mobile Champion, Fumiyuki Kojima, Senior UA Manager at MagicAnt, chatted with us about promotion logic, how rewarded video has positively affected their business model and differences between UA in North American and Japanese markets.

Tapjoy: Hi Fumiyuki. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your role at MagicAnt?

Fumiyuki Kojima:Hello, sure– after graduation from university, I joined a foreign exchange company as a promoter. I was responsible for User Acquisition, and after that I entered into the mobile app industry. At MagicAnt, I’m responsible for acquiring new users as a Senior UA Manager. I have been working in UA for about 10 years in different industries.

TJ: You earned a degree in Music Management from Nagoya University of Arts. How did your education in the creative arts prepare you for what you’re doing today?

FK: I learned music composition using a personal computer in Nagoya’s College of Music. I believe this background instilled an importance and focus on overall balance that stretched far beyond musical instruments. Even in my personal hobbies, like stock investing, I use these skills to predict timing, stock discounts and promotions.

TJ: Tell us about MagicAnt and what makes it an awesome company to work for.

FK: MagicAnt is a company specializing in casual games. We create mobile games catered to a variety of players regardless of geographics or demographics. Apps released by MagicAnt are created under the common theme that  anyone can play. The representative one-stroke series, 1 LINE, won the #1 spot in the app-store across multiple countries, including the US. We are very proud that users around the globe interact with and find joy in our apps.

TJ: How has MagicAnt managed to stand out in the world of puzzle games?

FK: MagicAnt expanded ‘Fits’ in the Japan market at first. These apps generate revenue through advertising and yield high profitability. Triggered by this, we established a promotion logic, believing that increasing active users would lead to maximizing earnings. With my experience in Fits, I explored titles such as “1LINE” and “Fill” starting in Japan, as well as globally expanding.

TJ: Can you explain the promotion logic at a high level?

FK: Promotion logic is simply driven by “LTV per install > eCPI* per install”. Cost per Install is determined by calculating multiple factors such as LTV and promotion influence to organic installs. For example, when an app’s LTV is 50 yen (approx: $0.5 USD), if organic install is one for one install via advertisement, it would be calculated as LTV 50 yen * 2 = 100 yen (LTV $0.5 * 2 = $1.00USD). Hence, we would determine that one install via advertisement would cost 100 yen ($1.00USD), and CPI should be below 100 yen ($1.00USD).
Those values differ per country, we set appropriate CPI for each country, and promotion is ramped up as long as it is LTV > user acquisition unit price. Furthermore, most of budget is used for video advertisement, and ASO (App Store Optimization) is not necessary carried out. As ASO is not a definite solution that we cannot predict when the logic would change, we would rather construct solid promotion logic. *eCPI: CPI that includes natural inflow that increases via promotion effects.

TJ: As a Japanese developer, how difficult has it been to break into the US market? Any advice for other eastern developers looking to attract western audiences?

FK: We did not know how much LTV could be earned because we did not know much about the US market, which proved difficult to understand. In both North America and Europe, the amount of LTV each country (by app) offers differs so heavily that it is very challenging to estimate. Meaning that advertisements, even at a small scale, are crucial. When breaking down global barriers it’s important to analyze data from each country while simultaneously clarifying priorities on advertisement styles based on performance.

TJ: What are the major differences between UA in Japan and UA in North America?

FK: Promotion logic is exactly the same. However, North America has a much larger market compared to Japan, so a certain number of installations can be expected. The number of new users when we won the top spot in US ranking was 150,000 – 160,000 per day for iOS. The US market is a must, because the gap in installation volume between Japan and North America differs so heavily. It is also necessary in order to maximize the number of active users and sales. With the universal simplicity of apps we produce, effective creative is relatively similar across the globe.

TJ: What advice would you give American developers looking to acquire users in Japan or Asia?

FK: Social games are very popular in Japan– it’s hard to win in the ad space in casual games with low LTV. Therefore, understanding how we can make creatives with high CVR is essential to acquiring most users.

TJ: How effective have rewarded video ads been for MagicAnt? What have the quality of the users been like?

FK: Video ads are necessary for simple puzzle games like MagicAnt produces. Banners were a difficult vehicle to deliver messaging in games with still images, which then plays into continuous misinterpretation of content. The last thing we want to do is cause confusion for the user. However, with videos, we can deliver messaging and information about the game in a creative & engaging way. This then leads to higher retention rate (RR), increased LTV and there is less interruption between the video ads and actual experience.

TJ: What KPI’s do you track most closely? How do you ultimately measure success?

FK: What we continuously focus on is LTV and eCPI. Advertisement earning is the main criteria for MagicAnt as our apps are primarily casual games. We continuously try to improve those two factors to achieve higher LTV with the lowest unit price possible. To increase LTV, we focus on retention rate and Average Revenue Per Daily Active User. To decrease eCPI (to get the most out of our user acquisition budget) we focus on increasing conversion rates. The higher conversion rates drive more impressions at lower CPI.

TJ: Can you share your experience working with Tapjoy on the ad-monetization side? Plus anything else you are looking forward to working on?

FK: The best part of working with Tapjoy is that they understand our audience and the casual game environment well enough to properly advise on how to maximize and expand globally. By implementing Tapjoy’s SDK for ad monetization, LTV is increasing for countries with good earnings. We then reinvest these earnings to strengthen and drive business flow. Because of Tapjoy we are expecting a higher install rate & scale.

TJ: Can you share the top ad-earning countries?

FK: The top three countries for earnings are Japan, US, and UK. Countries that expanded unexpectedly are Korea and Taiwan with “Fill”. Although this is a perceived value, I believe that Korea likely has interest in puzzle games on the premise that they aide aptitude and intelligence efforts. Also, Korea has existing famous app companies like “BitMango” so they are familiar with this developing trend.

TJ: To sum up, can you share us your future plan as global apps publisher?

FK: For our future goals, we would distribute our titles and portfolio globally, in hopes that anyone can play at any time.

Thanks so much for chatting with us Fumiyuki — and to our dynamic partners at MagicAnt. Stay tuned to the Tapjoy blog for more insights from Tapjoy Mobile Champions!