00:00 Greg Posner Welcome to the Player Engage podcast where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and HelpShift. Here is your host, Greg Posner. Good morning, good afternoon, and welcome to our podcast. Today we have with us Mark Val, the head of growth at Photon Engine. In the dynamic world of multiplayer gaming, Mark has carved a niche for himself. He currently steers the growth engine at Photon, reaching over 1.4 billion players monthly with their leading services. Before diving into the vibrant gaming universe at Photon, Mark had lent his expertise to PlayFab as a mentor as well as a mentor at Startup Bootcamp. He has an impressive track record of setting up successful teams, creating infrastructure, and raising public awareness in new terrains. Mark, I’m excited about our conversation today and be able to talk about all the analytics, but is there anything I missed about your intro that you want to share or talk more about?

01:37 No, it’s all good, Greg. I mean, obviously we have long decades of experience left and right, but you know that sums it up for the last five years. Cool, yeah. I want to dive into this because ever since I started understanding the behind the scenes world of gaming, PlayFab keeps popping up. I even tried to create my own game using my own Unity engine that I was using and it just boggled my mind on how you actually connect multiplayer services. Now you’ve kind of dabbled with both of those. So starting off with kind of that hard-hitting question is, what to you, if you were starting a company, are the most important analytics that you want to be measuring about an audience to help set yourself up for success?Mark Val Sure, I mean, there’s the obvious retention, conversion, and K-factor. So I call it the home run. So let’s say the first thing you want to do is have good retention, obviously. But the second thing you want to do after that is improve your conversion rate to pair if you have a free-to-play game or ads-based game. And after that is to improve the amount you will generate from each of the players. And then the fourth one would be to actually grow that game. So to make sure that you have as many eyeballs as possible and you know your overall funnel regarding acquisition to how much you can have on little TV. And then you start to have something. But otherwise, like, you know, an analytics thing in general, you can go all the way to the rabbit hole of understanding the behaviors of your users and end up with 56 different high O of behavior patterns that will monetize in different ways. Yeah, so those are some to look at. Obviously, if you’re going premium, well, you have to do very good soft launch. Hopefully, you will have to test your things very well and create the bugs and make sure that you are up to the standard of the current industry. But as we have seen just a few days ago, you can have it, you know, with Battlebit, you can have a game that doesn’t have Tripoli graphic and all these things, but the fun is there. You can still be a small team of four and be the number one selling game on Steam today. So I’ll say that it’s really about execution before anything. I mean, like another thing is one thing, but in the end, it’s you want to make a good decision. It’s your guts to start with.

03:33 Greg Posner And then after that is how your support is talking to you regarding like, does the game fell? Is there a QA to do? Do the community enjoy what’s going on right now in the game? Do they progress well? And then essentially, it’s the sum of the three that will give you the right decision, bound led with data and analytic. So I wouldn’t say that. I think one GPI is the answer. It’s really what you do with it. So you bring up user attention. We talk about that a lot and just taking a step backwards, right? You’ve had a lot of experience with player information, player data, player who they are. We talk a lot about building communities on this podcast, right? And the importance of it. And a lot of times people talk about discord and they talk about your network and your Reddit. But you guys are helping connect multiplayer players playing together. And in that there’s a whole nother logic that has to make sense, right? Because yes, you have a community, but you need to you need to match like players, right? If I’m playing Call of Duty and I just pick up the controller for the first time I’m playing an expert, I’m immediately going to leave. So I feel like you guys are taking a look at community from a different side of it to make sure that you can match up against like players. But even before diving into that, you mind giving maybe an elevator pitch to people that are listening to the podcast? What exactly is Photon Engine doing?

04:54 Mark Val Sure. So Photon is the number one service provider of multiplayer service worldwide. We’re mainly focused on Unity. So we provide all the topologies and the engine types that you can dream of regarding how to build a multiplayer game today. It’s free to use. Anyone can go and register and try out our services. And then we have, you know, thousands of live games worldwide. We cover everything all the way to China and we continue to innovate. So our goal is to always have like the latest tools regarding multiplayer. So now we’ve launched not too long ago Fusion, which is a new product that supports easily up to 200 players. We can go way higher than that if you want to in a full first person shooter sister. It’s game. And then we have Quantum, which is a deterministic platform. We use a different way to do to do net code. And it’s very easy to actually build something with that. And now it’s free for everyone to use. So, so, yeah, so that’s how that’s how we operate. But what you were referring to earlier is matchmaking. So matchmaking can be seen at multiple levels. First thing you want is to when you launch your game is to make the people play. And usually when you have a multiplayer game, you don’t have enough players to create meaningful match. Let’s say even if you have a four versus four. Right. So the other thing about it is 16 versus 16 or Android player map or something like that, because you can have problems to get those users without spending money. So one thing to be done at the start is to integrate bots. Obviously, those bots will go away with time, but bots will make it possible for your players to try out the game on the first play rather than wait for players to come. And once you have enough players and the bots just goes away with time, then you can use the same bots in the future if a player leaves and don’t come back or there’s a disconnect you’re placing with the bot, which always great so that there’s an even match. Right. Even if it’s a AI. Regarding matchmaking, there’s multiple aspects to it. It’s a very deep subject. But if we go just scrap the surface, you can have helo scoring or you have different type of bell curves. So a bell curve has, you know, let’s say you have zero and then you have like 50 and then you have 100. And let’s think you let’s think you have like 3000 levels. So you will be matchmake with someone that is somewhere in that bell curve. And obviously the one that are closer to you have a bigger risk to be to be matchmake with you. And then if you don’t find enough, then you have expansion. So we have expansion of that bell curve to find more players. And that’s purely based on scoring or rating. If you want to do it properly, you have to also integrate behaviors, which I’ve talked a bit about earlier. So that could be. Well, that’s his 10 game today. Or that’s his first one. He is part of a clan. He’s always participating. He’s someone who’s will always give stuff to his colleagues. So those behaviors are all different, which will create different type of gameplay. Some players just like to kill everyone on the map. Some people just like to finish the map. So those behaviors are important to take in place and that will create a better match in the end. You have to also calculate how many times that you lose, how many times that you wins in the last 10 or 20 game. Someone who always win is as boring as someone who always lose. So you have to make sure to give him a challenge to that group or that person. And when I say group is when you’re matchmake, like you are four, eight or 16 players in a group and you want to be matchmake with others, then obviously that bell curve gets a little bit crazy.

08:42 Greg Posner So there’s more to that, obviously, but, you know, scratching the surface there. It’s kind of a fascinating topic because I have found myself over time getting bored with certain games because as I get older, I’m actually playing games on easier because I’m more interested in invested in the story. But then the game gets boring pretty quick because it’s too simple. These rules that you talk about, right? And I’m going to call them rules and it’s probably not the right term for it. But like, are those pre-built into the tool? Is that stuff you have best practices upon? I just remember myself like the last few times I played Siege, my own teammate would kill me. And it’s just like, all right, this is a frustrating experience. Why is this happening over and over again?

09:18 Mark Val Well, you obviously you can have like static segment regarding like, you know, like of play or things like that. But but in the end, you will have threshold are dynamic, which is that data sets gets updated. And based on those data sets, then it will change. Obviously, you can you have elements that you cannot very much change, which is like you are here physically on the world. This is your region. Right. So but essentially like it goes very much into like details of play, which is like you can, you know, as the same as you can do, estimate the value of ponderation of how a player will spend money in a game. You can do the same of how much can have fun in it. So you can risk sometimes as part of your algorithm to propose to match that are too hard right now for this player. But based on cycle traits or other behaviors, it might be exactly what he is looking for right now, a challenge. So actually, like knowing perfectly communities requires, you know, some a lot of work to analyze the cycle traits and to have the players fill out forms so that you understand more about their habits and what they do. But ultimately, like, you know, at the base is still the same, which is either you know, score rating or similar. There’s two match to smart match. You can look at Xbox. There’s a bunch of white papers about that as well. But the behaviors themselves are really depending on your game. I mean, like if you’re making like a cooperative train game where you have to conquer a map versus a first person shooter, don’t get me wrong. But there’s other things to, you know, target between the two, something with the RTS and the click per seconds and other things like that. So I would say that every game style and gameplay will have its own unique set of elements to track. But those are core to the gameplay and the community. And obviously, there’s no gameplay or community that are the same.

11:31 Greg Posner So there you go. These behaviors are interesting to me. And I’d like to take a second to kind of understand it right because it helps if we talk about that quite a bit as well. But the behaviors usually get passed to us from our from our customers, right? They already have that information saved somewhere. Where do customers capture this data? Is it a play fab? Are they doing it directly on photon? Are there other tools that you know? Like this is complicated stuff like you or maybe it’s not as complicated as I’m making it. But where are companies capturing this type of data typically?

12:00 Mark Val Sure. So usually starts with the basic stuff, which is like event driven data based on to either progressions or other elements. Very few are making cohorts. OK, so meaning that one week varies from one week to another or maybe of course that lasts two months or 28 days, depending on your target profile. Regarding like the tools themselves, I don’t think yet there’s the ultimate tool. For example, in play fab, there’s a lot that you will get for tracking your events and data. There’s not that much to well, you have the tools to consume and interpret that data, but you don’t have the wires in between, right? Which is like here’s what you have to track or and whatnot. Obviously, there’s templates and other elements. But as I said multiple times, very, very games are so different from one to another. I think that if you look at the open source services like Game Analytics and others, like it’s getting more and more in that direction where they will offer you elements to track that, you know, track a large part of it easily. But you will well first before you go all the way down to the to the funnel of tracking, let’s call it like that. You have to make sure you have a successful game, right? And that you are making money. So if you’re making money, you’re going to hire proper data scientists who will have his own set of tools and graph. Maybe he’s going to use Looker from Google. Maybe he’s prefer to use some synapse and data lake from Azure. I don’t know. So and then use some power BI after that to share the dashboard and other things. I think right now there’s no like one one tool fits all. So, yeah, it’s interesting. I kind of noticed that gap a while ago and I thought someone would solve it. I mean, well, it’s been 20 years before working on that. I mean, like I think where it gets very hard is the GUI, like how do you present that data sets and how will you do that? And that if you mess up or have data that you want to remove from the equation for whatever reason that it’s easy to clean and revert and other things like that. And, you know, the size of those data sets, which has billions of tracks every day, depending on the size of the game. Yeah, it’s not easy. So now, but it’s cool.

14:23 Greg Posner I’m wondering if, like, as you’re talking around thinking can generate of AI start to look at some of these common themes and try and make connections between them that or make at least suggestions. Right. It’s again, taking a look at a big data set and trying to find insights in it, which I think is one of the hardest things to do and anything you can do to help enable it. It shows you positive stuff.

14:43 Mark Val Yeah, I mean, like, well, generative AI, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t say generative AI. Well, generative AI, I wouldn’t is really not ready to have the full end to end meaning like you let AI ingest and interpret the data, create some creative or change some element of the game and then update the whole thing. No, it’s not there yet. Regarding like AI that that tries to create a report for you automatically. Well, yeah, it’s there. I mean, like, here’s the thing is that if you look at chat GPT or most of the creation tools or what is offered in analytic and they have some sort of AI or co pilot or something, the result is very convincing. Meaning that it’s very good, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. Right. That this is the thing that you have to do or release. And and I think that’s where the that’s where it stops.

15:51 Greg Posner Which is that you as individual should be able to assess, interpret, interpret and have a result by yourself. And the AI is more like like a good colleague that you can learn from, but doesn’t have the definitive answer. You might have it sometimes. Right. No, get me wrong. And you will learn from the as well. Definitely. But I you know it just way it’s too. It’s not there yet. Just simple ideas, maybe, maybe sooner or later, but the current approach, which is like the sum of all conversation and whatnot. It doesn’t let creativity run into new things very much. Right. It’s always something that worked before. Do you guys find yourself dealing with a lot of your customers or their customers on this court? Is that a big channel for you guys? Yeah, so we so we use discord extensively, actually. So so what we did, we actually close our web forum in favor of discord, simply to have more of a form of a community. And that is real time. And so we have a public discord that anyone can join everyone. Anyone that has a photon engine account can go there. And then we have a private discord as well, which we call the photon circle. And those are customers that we select and are part of that. But now it’s actually open to everyone now as well. And then gaming circle members will have access to our tech team. So our engineers are on this court as well and answering questions right away. And then what we did on top of that is add the Stack Overflow of most questions asked and have the answers directly there and then have the content of the Stack Overflow shared to other people. Yeah, you know, like, but but discord is really much about being in charge of your community. You know, if I go back like 10 years ago, you know, you still had multiple games launching with just a website and that’s it. So so then what was happening, you had all those third party community that were being built up. So so then you lose the conversation. It’s not yours anymore. So it’s very important to keep your community very close to you, both in SaaS service and gaming, simply because that’s where you’re going to have all of your intake of what is good, what is wrong, and, you know, have some genuine ideas about what to do next as well. Do you find that your users are providing best practice to one another in the public face discord or yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, it’s always those, you know, we talked about behavior and cycle trades earlier. And one of them is some individuals really like to help others like for them. It’s rewarding and it’s resourcing the bigger your community, the more you can have those to go to go back into the forum days or, you know, any RC or other type of communities, then you will end up to have moderators that moderate the content just for free just because they’re not as good as you. Because they want to be part of the community and mingle more. So, so on that end, yeah, people do help each other. I mean, like, I think every human should help each other. Right. I mean, like, if you see someone who has question and and and you have the answer, it’d be great that you take like, just a minute to answer back. Yeah, that’s why I think it’s the community has to grow by helping one another. And we see that a lot in our, in our we have slack channels that are public facing as well where companies always want to disclose what company they’re working for. But they’re more than happy. I mean, they’re all customer experience or customer service people at the end of the day. So everyone wants to be able to help their customers. Right. And we see a lot of knowledge share and we also I mean, like when we look at our roadmap, our roadmap is reset. But but when we see specific types of feedback, or people come into us with specific types of feedback, we’re not going to be able to help them. Right. But when we see specific types of feedback, or people come into us with specific type of questions, we take that serious and talk about how we implement that because we think we know everything. But until you start talking, I mean, this is the role of a product manager, right is do user stories, interview the your customers get an understanding of what they want and need. And it’s fun to just be able to sit back and watch two customers solve a problem together. It’s something I wasn’t even thinking about before.

20:36 Mark Val Yeah, that’s right. And I would say like, what you just said now is more important than knowing what’s your number one KPI. Right. This to actually have the soft skills to be able to engage with your community, and not be afraid that that says something is on fire somewhere. Maybe it could be your servers or something else, then you are genuine enough to, you know, go straight to your community and say, Hey, sorry, we know that this is happening. We’re going to take care of it. Usually the fire will go down slowly, just because you said that it’s not fixed yet. But you’re talking to them. Right. And, and that’s retention, like really sticking care of your people. I mean, like, wherever you go, if people are taking care of their customers, they’re gonna come back. Yeah. And that’s not just companies, right? Brand advocates. And that’s what you’re talking to build up those brand advocates, they’ll help build your communities, they’ll make everyone strong. And it’s this ongoing cycle of just keeping your customers happy. And that leads to user attention. Yeah, it’s empowering your users. It’s UGC. It’s all that.

21:41 Greg Posner So a little bit about you, Mark, right? You have this awesome background, you’ve worked with some fun companies, you’ve learned about players in the background. But how do you how do you get there? You go into school thinking I want to learn about players in the game or how did you get to where you are? Well, um, well, for me, it’s very passionate about multiple things. Right. So I’m an engineer myself, so I can build pretty much anything I want. And I’m creative person as well. So I like to explore new things. And third is that I love science in general. So then it touch, I touch a lot of physics, I touch a lot of human behaviors to psychology. I love progress and other elements. So obviously, anything that will make the brand I’m working for, or people I know, or my colleagues better, I will try to talk to them about that. So analytic per se is is very much especially in gaming and free to play, you know, we have so many different vertical, right? So if you talk to the user acquisition guys, or if you talk to people working in gambling, or if you talk to, you know, folks who work only in Asia versus here in the West, you will have so different discussion. So to me, is the sum of it like is the sum of all of that. But it’s just, you know, I think what is very important is to know where to give effort to it. Why do I say that is simply because like, obviously, there’s those that really something with no tracking at all, and they just hope that things will go okay. Then you have the opposite, which is people that spends a lot of time on the analytic framework, and then they are stuck in creating the content. So I think it’s the right balance. So all the basics regarding like, how many do you had, how many people came back home time spent the your retention or your key factors or slash virality, all of those are important, like, but when it but when you go down to knowing the 56 behaviors or so was talking about earlier, this is when you have a successful game, right? So, but to start to, to get going, I would say is to look just have how heads works. Right? So, as in general works with attribution. So you attribute the eyeballs to the creative, to the publisher, and money flows from one hand to another, just knowing that this is like the basic loop of tracking very much gives a lot of value to the content. And it’s a lighthouse to your meaning regarding what you’re going to provide to your customers. So, yeah, so, so it’s both technical and soft skills and understanding of behaviors that we’re on a finite planet. And that the internet has been flat for more than 20 years, right? So what I mean by that is that everyone can access your content, maybe not from China, but they find ways. And, and from day one, you should aim for going global. It means, culturalization, globalization, you know, we have to know the major holidays worldwide. Right? So, so there’s a lot of things to know regarding like, how will you take data in general, and put it to your advantage? And thank you some notes. I love that. Right? You know, you said your background is science and engineering. And I took note of that. Right. And at first, I was like, it’s so weird that you’re kind of a public facing figure here with an engineering background and a science background. I typically think that’s behind the scenes. And then I start thinking about it. And you’re monitoring these user flows, these user tendencies. And as an engineer, when you’re building a product, and you have to start understanding where are people clicking? What are people doing? How are they reacting to this stuff? It gives you kind of this edge, you know, all right, well, I can just fix this at myself, or I can move this button, or I can do this. And, and I can really make that perfect experience. So it seemed weird at first to me on how those connect, but it does make a lot of sense. Maybe the the outgoing personality side is still kind of a strange one to me, because most engineers I’ve met before are more quiet and reserved. There’s all kinds of people. Well, the big difference with me is that, um, so my first company was the end of the 90s. And so I was making websites and whatnot. And an interactive experience, which we used to call multimedia. And, and I very much like to do those. And I very much didn’t want to work for someone else. So, so I had to become a public facing person and to, you know, engage with customers and create a brand and sell it to be able to do what I like. So yeah. I remember those, those days of Dreamweaver front page in school and trying to learn how to build a webpage for people. That’s a great skill to have back then. And Dreamweaver is still there today. I mean, it’s a, it’s a very old tool. Um, and sometimes I miss those days because it was like, like, it was really down to the core of programming rather than now there’s like frameworks and all these things everywhere. And, and people talk about frameworks instead of programming language. And I’m like, this is just so weird. Anyway, I’m eating, I’m buying the hype very big. I truly think that generative AI is the next big leap in technology. Similar to how the 90s was for the internet and people who were, I’m just gonna say younger at that time and learn to go and run the technology made the most of it. And I see people who are willing to give The different tools doesn’t just have to be chat GPT, but like all these other AI tools for images for sounds for like, I think this is gonna be the next big step. And what are people gonna do with it? I’m not sure I know there’s a lot of products coming out and a lot of them are not fantastic. It’s first movers advantage, but I see this as being a big step similar to how that was in the 90s for you.

28:06 Mark Val Yeah, I mean, like, for those who understand all of the verticals, like these tools are like magic. When I see this is that I have understanding of design have understanding of flow and then to able to composite everything together in a meaningful format. Being able to if it generates code to be able to parse and arrange and debug and iterate on that generated code. So by the means it does like it just to come back to what I was saying earlier. Yes, it’s true. It’s like both for creating 3d models or animation or sound taken image and have a 3d character being generated out of it. It’s extremely impressive, but still you have to understand what is the result. You have to understand what you have. But it’s like, you know,

28:55 Greg Posner obviously, if it’s an image, fine, you have 2d picture, you have a way file or mp3, whatever, keep finding the other file. But if you have something that is dynamic, you have to understand that’s impulse how things are connected together. So so you still have to do the learnings about what they are and how to use them. Otherwise, it’s just information that spit out. And but it’s a view. It’s a nice way to learn, I guess. Right. But I would say that for anyone. Today, it’s still very important to understand what is a buffer and how to use it. So yeah, so yeah, it’s fine. This kind of this kind of ties into the second point you made earlier that wrote down the internet being flat, you know, back to the days of the 90s, when you were learning to use or you’re building websites, right? Coming across that knowledge on how to do that, and how to build this stuff wasn’t as easy as going to Google and say, how do I build a website in Dreamweaver and then watching a YouTube video. Now, we all have access to the same videos, the same content online. And I’m not going to say it’s going to be a race for who’s the most talented or not. But this concept of the internet is flat plays perfectly into this because it’s a fair, it’s a fair game for everyone here. I mean, that’s right. It’s an interesting place to be in.

30:10 Mark Val Well, I have this, you know, like a week ago, there’s this guy who from Germany, who published a video, I think was on Twitter, and then went on TikTok, YouTube, everywhere. And he’s just holding a camera walking in this flat. And then it just changed the world he’s in that every five to 10 seconds. Here’s, here’s the thing is that the edge of creation just could push like further away. So this summer 2022, I think, I think, was the year where I was like, Oh, we’re going to see a new content that we didn’t talk was possible to be created by one or two individuals with AAA quality and all these things. And everyone’s going to be stunned about it. Like, wow, this is great. And with like everything, at one point, there’s going to be like a lot of them. There’s going to be like 30 of those a day and then you’re going to be like, Oh, my God. Okay. So, you know, like this cycle has been happening ever, like, since, you know, music tapes, like, so, which is like, now it’s all about, you know, rock music. And then after that, it’s all about metal. And then after that, it’s all about hip hop, you know. So in the end, it’s, it’s not necessarily at first, it’s very impressive, but at one point is assembling and then it becomes more like a, like a culture, like a, or a movement that goes in a certain direction. I mean, as we go with technology, you know, like just to go back a little bit. Okay. So when I say the world is flat and you say anyone has the same chance to learn and execute very much reflect what century we’re in right now, which is the century of self, right? It’s like me, myself, and I look at me, look at what I can create. I’m a good person, the material individual. Right. And, and both into like who do you project as an individual as part of communities? So where I want to go with this is that as the same as I was saying with moment and time in the past, that really define cultures and generation, technology and culture. technologies are a big accelerator of those. Right. Creativity is the part that makes people dream. Right. And a bore to be able to create a culture that’s unique. Right. And as I was going to before I said, let me go back a little bit with the technology that is up and coming now. It makes that reality. Well, we’ve seen the real and first multiple times. Right. But what I mean is that the first step is to create a culture that’s unique. Right. And then the second step is to create a culture that’s unique. Right. And as I was going to before I said, let me go back a little bit with the technology that is up and coming now it makes that reality. Well, we’ve seen the real and first multiple times. Right. But what I mean is that the first time that you can have a mass market product, which is going to be the quest tree with full past, true and colors, similar to what we saw with Apple vision. And then you’re going to then you have a whole other medium. Right. So that medium that reinterprets what is your surrounding and making it yours in the sensory of self. Wow. Like soon enough, like people are going to create their own world like really crazy. So and be inside of it. But that still means that you have to stay to the edge of technology and be the latest one to do it. As soon as this second wave, which is like the first wave is going to be a bit whatever second wave is going to be more about personalization of that content. Fine. And then we have those new mediums are coming. If you put everything together, you still have to offer something that is genuine and original. So by any means if you want to create.

33:52 Greg Posner If you want to win, you always have to create something new. So it’s interesting. A few things you said that make a lot of sense in the last one resonates real quick. Kind of being unique for lack of better words, you have to create something new is I have a five year old and I get bored of telling him stories. So every once in a while, I’ll go to chat, GPT and say, write a story about Iron Man and Spider-Man. And after a while you see the stories are exactly the same. So you have a couple words here with a couple words there. It’s kind of like that honeymoon period of this is awesome. That’s like, OK, this is the same thing over and over again. It’s great. First step for technology. Right. And you’re talking about the kind of stages of technology, right. With the Quest 3 coming out with full 3D pass through. And I’m not necessarily sold on the VR hype. I like where it’s going. I keep telling people I actually believe that if it was going to blow up, it would have done it during COVID when we were all locked down anyway. But I would love for it to work. We used to call it or I guess Gartner has something called the hype cycle. And I think that’s kind of where you were starting with this generative AIs like the hype cycle. We’re at the top right now. Everyone’s hyped up and they’re all creating stuff that probably may not last for long, but something will come of it. The question is, what is it going to be? And we’ve seen this for Web 2. We’ve seen this for the Web to begin with. People dream of what’s going to come. And I think we need to get through this first period of time and see what comes of it. And that’s where we are dropping back in the Quest. Quest 1 was for enthusiasts. Quest 2 opened it up to the public.

35:19 Mark Val Quest 3 will hopefully be more public facing and adopt a bigger crowd. Also, the device change a lot. To me, I’m bullish on when the glasses are that big. So that’s the obvious. So sunglasses are 50 gram on your nose. Regular glasses like the one I’ve just showed you is like 30 gram or something. And then you look at the Apple vision and then, OK, you have like alpha kilo on your head. Like, OK, well, and, you know, like for myself, I’ve built a startup using HoloLens 2016. And after a year of having the HoloLens on my nose, I was like, I have to sell the startup. Like, really, like I just could not bear any more of having that thing on me. I just wanted to throw it on the wall. So a lot of it has to do with quality of life. And then the other one is quality of service, which is if it breaks, where do you go to repair it? So you want something that is cheap so that when it breaks, it doesn’t matter. You can buy a new one. So there’s a lot of product fits to get there. But for anyone who has two VR under house with kids, there’s a very high chance the two VR is going to get used every single day. So because there’s just so much content, you know, going from rec room to gorilla tag. And then if you go to older than you have those poker VR game, you have fishing games, you have shooters and you have all those residents evil that’s going to make you cry. So I mean, like the immersion is really hard to beat. And if you go back again, like 10 years ago, you look at VR headset, you had a large buck in your face. You had a full thing, which is gigantic. And now with Equestria is getting very thin. And it’s the same as with the first cassette players. You had this huge thing with double D batteries. And after a few while, you have like those CD players that has two batteries that can last for a whole week.

37:20 Greg Posner So you have me thinking back. I don’t know if you had the virtual boy. Yeah, I remember the red one. Yeah, right. It was just mind boggling. It was just a bunch of pixel art or like 3D lines that just kind of play tennis. It was a cool experience.

37:35 Mark Val I like it too. I always wanted to buy it. And then every time I was trying it, I was like,

37:42 Greg Posner Not worth it, but cool experience. I mean, we’ve been talking about technology and we’ve been talking about that. One question I always ask and I haven’t asked yet is what games are you playing now if you do play any games?

37:52 Mark Val Oh, yeah, sure. So I’m a big gamer. So I’ve lost another ArtCore character at Diablo 4. So Diablo have been playing ArtCore since ArtCore exists. I don’t play any other mode because I love the trail. The same why I very much like Battle Royale game that I like Warzone and Tarkov and other extraction type of games where you can lose all your loot, but you can always save it if you do well. On mobile, I play just too many games because of our customers. So I play pretty much everything that comes to me. But otherwise, recently I have, which one did I just install like a week ago just for fun? It’s a Rush Arena, which is funny because now, you know, like if you go back like 2016, you know, you had a match tree game. You had a mystery game. You had, you know, all of the genres were pretty much what it is. And then 2017, 18, and you start to have like Cross, which is like Gardenscape. So you have to do match tree, you have to do quest, you have to do cleaning, you have to do a bit of Farmville left and right. So this mix of casual genre being mixed up and nowadays is taking those mechanics and just like putting bare to the minimum in terms of mechanics, but trying to put a Lord on top of it. So that’s a longer story and there’s arcs and other elements and then the seasons and the community that goes to it. And I find it super fascinating that gameplays are extremely simple. Can have such depth. Right. So anyway, so if you compare this game, I just talk about which is what’s the game again? Rush Arena versus Diablo 4. The amount of time to execute these two are so different. Right. Really, the amount of content in Diablo 4 is crazy. But that’s what you get for a premium game. And then when you pay for what you pay nothing for free, that’s what you get. So yeah, so it’s so I think it’s very important to see both. But at the same time, like now you have like the finals that’s going to get released on steam. There’s some preview and those are free to play. So I think it’s free to play. So it’s interesting to always see those mechanics like taking a look at the mechanics. So you have, you know, 40 million people playing every day. I think it’s still a case. I’m not sure. But then you have a very small amount of the players that converge to pay or just 10 margin. But that’s because they have such a large crowd and they make a ton of money with that, even if they have small conversion rate. So when you have like a premium title with Blizzard, they know they’re going to sell them. But then you have like a very small amount of the players that converge to pay. And then you have like a premium title with Blizzard, they know they’re going to sell a million copies and they’re going to put it at launch at 80 bucks and then 129 bucks for like ultimate package or something. And they sell all of it and they make all their money in the first 48 hours and of course going to make way more money with all of the merch and other things on the side. So where I want to go with this is that the business of gaming is like super wide. Very few talk about that. And the business of gaming is actually not talked about very much. So and how to leverage brand through cross media and how you leverage your merge. I saw games that saw that sold like 100,000 copies of a game. Yeah, not good. But their merch, they sold like gazillion amount, right? And they made way more money with merch. Some people way more money than ads with ads than if it was premium.

41:49 Greg Posner And that’s the thing, right? So all goes around. But for me, I like to play things I haven’t seen. Yeah, that’s what it is. You mentioned two games popped in my head as you were talking there on two different topics. One was Among Us because that game came from a studio that had very few developers. No one heard about it. And the game just blew up. It was I think it was a little before COVID. I don’t know. Right. But like everyone played that game. And I don’t think it scaled as well as it was. Five years ago now for five years. A little before. But like this is to your point where it was a non AAA studio. They threw together this game. They probably made more money in selling their little space guys than the actual game itself. And that’s it’s cool to see what they did with the VR. Like I didn’t try the VR one, but it looked really cool. I think a fun experience. I feel like it was a little late to the game, but like it was a cool experience. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s hard to do proper VR as well. So, yeah. So Shell Games took the Among Us VR project and did it very well. So I’m happy they made it happen. Regarding like, you know, what happened with Among Us. If you are able to empower community to invite others to create fun and they have fun. So I think it’s a 100% chance they’re going to invite more people. It was one of the few games that got that so right. Like we would literally have people over and there’d be eight of us sitting in a room and we’d all have our phones out. The only other game we’ve ever really done that with was like the Jackbox games because we’re all in the person together. But like Among Us had such an amazing formula to just suck people in.

43:39 Mark Val Yeah, that’s right. And it’s using some behaviors of humans, which is trust. And do I trust you? I don’t. And then you have the soft skills approach to it, which is like, no, it’s not me. And which is, you know, are you sus? I mean, like now in every schoolyard they say, oh, you’re sus. So, I mean, everyone knows exactly what it means, where it’s from and what is the mindset behind it. And that is because of a game. So being able to pull those barriers to psycho traits that is across a large portion of the population triggers those moments where you’re like, oh my God. So, you know, the high effect is for everyone. You know, it’s the same like us for a service, we provide multiplayer service. For us, the haha moment is when, you know, like developer registers download one of our samples and go in unity compile it. And then he has character moving on the screen. Okay, cool. And then double click again on the build. And then he has two windows and then he’s moving here. It moves there and he’s like, oh my God, let me try with my phone. And then he moves on his phone. It moves on his screen. It’s like, aha, okay, now I can do it too.

45:05 Greg Posner So that’s the thing is that when you are able to bring people to a point where they feel very a lot of satisfaction is 100% chance that your retention goes very high. So these aha moments are interesting. And they make a ton of sense from photon, the type of content you have the ability to monitor. Are you able to help provoke or help expose some of these aha moments based on just the data that you’re able to see?

45:33 Mark Val Not at all. So when we make aha on our side is when there’s a hockey stick, there’s a game that was like in the Amazon and then it reached the moon. So why is because we are not tracking anything about the players. It makes it very hard to make aha moment. But when it comes to my desk and I play the game, I do have a aha moment and tell them. But what I mean by this is that we don’t have any tooling to do that. And it is precisely why photon is good, actually. Let me explain why. To be able to activate data understanding like I could do it at PlayFab. I could do that PlayFab. You need cloud safe. You need the full progression and the history of a player. We don’t have anything about that in photon because we have 100% focus in delivering the best product for multiplayer. And that side of things, we do provide a matchmaker. But we will not provide all the stack of a cloud safe solution that needs to run in real time because I know it’s freaking hard to build and to do it right. And if we will do that at photon, we will have to spin another company and make them independent of us. And then they could and then we’ll have a really beautiful dashboard. I mean, it will make our product better because in the end, when you sell hammers and screwdrivers and saw, that’s what we sell pretty much. You can only assess the quality of the work once the house is built. So meaning that it’s very hard to I can give you videos on how to hammer properly. Right. No problem. But what will you hammer? I don’t know.

47:37 Greg Posner Right. So that’s the thing. It’s the. Yeah, I get it. Right. You’re saying and I forgot what it is like. You can’t see the full picture until the full picture is actually complete.

47:47 Mark Val So you’re just providing tools to help create this picture and then you guys see how everything’s actually operating together as a whole. So we do give best practice regarding what what or how to implement some game mechanics. But the total execution will be up to the person on the other side of the screen. And that can only be tracked with game tracking.

48:10 Greg Posner Oh, yeah. Yeah. Cool. I think that’s all I have for you today, Mark. Is there anything that you think we want to discuss that we haven’t yet?

48:19 Mark Val Is there anything you want to just plug? Well, do I have anything to plug? Well, yeah, sure. So so, you know, like if you go back like five years ago, right. And you so that’s thousand eighteen. And you look at the top one hundred great one hundred games on mobile that were multiplayer. Yeah, that thing like ten of them or something. And now it’s like over 70 percent. Right. So why why are they up there? You know, because it touched with every single thing we’ve talked about before. Like the intrinsic value of multiplayer is that it creates a community right away. It means that if you have a global chat or if you have a local chat or if you have clans or if you even better have a tool for people to create content in your game, that could be their own emblem. It could be a landing page or an area for the clan where people can visit afterwards. There is a hundred percent chance again that your players will come back to see what happened in there simply because, you know, it’s the Ikea effect, right, which is that if you spend time in building something, it raise in value to the value you bring to a multiplayer game as individual in a game that you like. Right. It makes it that there’s a very high chance that you’re going to find people that have similar mindset than you, that you are going to enjoy talking with them and bonding happens. And then the brand takes over after that. Right. So and then obviously, like with time or industry, found out that PPP monetize more than just, you know, corporate game or single player game because of all the psycho traits that falls into that. So by any means, I would say like you have to think very much about implementing some sort of elements that brings players together. And the real time aspect of it is where pretty much everything is heading now. And it’s also much cheaper than before to run these things. So we used to say it’s hard. It’s expensive. Like those two are not true anymore. It’s easier than before. It’s as cheap as running PlayFab, for example, or cheaper even. So if there’s one thing to add is that it has to be something to consider. And as for us, like one of our what has been growing the most is not gaming, actually. It’s B2B. So we’re talking about, you know, Daimler or NASA or other huge international companies. Doctors, surgeons that are using multiplayer in real time to for education or for doing real groundwork. And the fact that you can be multiple eyes and ears and brain on a problem at the same time makes it so faster. That’s the same as a processor. You stack them. You’re just faster. So I’m pretty sure that in 10 years from now, real time will just become boring because it’s everywhere. So a bit like, you know, if you compare back in the days, HTTP to billboard, right? It was like, oh, that new thing. It’s super complicated. There’s all these languages, the JavaScript. What’s that? Right. And then now it’s omnipresent that people don’t even think about it.

52:25 Greg Posner And while it’s the same for real time and multiplayer in general, so you have to accept it and do it. That’s what I want to say. The two things I really like there are, again, the same thing we hear time and time again, is build your community, build your community, build your community. If you build a good community, they will build your game basically, or the people playing your game. The second thing I know you mentioned a few times was psycho traits. And it’s just fun to think about, you know, someone that’s playing homescapes is not the same as playing Call of Duty. That’s not the same as playing Pokemon Go yet. There’s an urge in each one of those players to go purchase, right? And one of them is I’m going to go purchase and then I’m going to go play Call of Duty and shoot people. I was going to go catch Pokemon. So like there’s overlapping traits here. And once you start analyzing your audience, which you probably won’t wait till you have a decent enough size audience, you can really start to get a better understanding of what are those little things that make them make them do what they’re doing. And it’s an interesting thing to be able to watch and learn.

53:21 Mark Val Yeah, definitely. And, you know, if you take games like Gardenscape, who has like 10,000 levels and whatnot, your level 1000s, pick a random one. And my level 1000 will be different. Right. And that’s the beauty of it is that the customization in those type of games can be very much individualized. But when you have like big war faction, let’s say you have like a conqueror type of game where you have a map and there’s like seven factions that are battling for castles. And then it’s real time. You can be attacked at any time. And you hear that someone from the other clan or someone in your team had a super useful item for half the price all of a sudden, just like that. And you don’t. You’re like, whoa, okay, that’s weird. So so you have to be careful on how to use certain tricks as well. You’re going to like and how to, you know, leverage your community community in certain ways. There’s things you can do with a small community that you cannot do with a global one. You can certainly not do with fanatics. Right.

54:37 Greg Posner So you have to be careful with communities. It’s a beautiful domain, isn’t it? It is. It is. And I love being here. Mark, it was great having you on the show today. I really appreciate this conversation. Everything from from player analytics, the photon engine, about play fab, about old school gaming, which I’m a big fan of. So I really appreciate it. Everything about Mark will be on our website.

55:01 Mark Val You can learn more. Mark, again, anything else or you’ll be at Gamescom this summer in Cologne. Then I’ll be at Unite in Amsterdam. I’ll be also at Unreal Fest in New Orleans and at MIGS in Montreal. So if you want to meet me in person, those are the plays I’m guaranteed to be in. Otherwise, you might see myself somewhere else.

55:23 Greg Posner And thank you for listening. Yeah, thanks. And I’ll leave it, Mark, with saying you’re going to be on Unreal Fest. That Unreal tournament was the first best online game. That’s what got me going. And I hope you have a good time there. And thanks again for jumping on today. It was a pleasure, Greg.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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