Season 1, Episode 1

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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. All episodes of the podcast can be found at Buzzsprout. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.


Host

Tony Morelan Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers

Instagram - twitter - LinkedIn

Guest

Jong Woo Samsung Game Services

In this episode of POW, I interview Jong Woo, Vice President of Games Services for Samsung Electronics in the U.S. Jong’s got a great story. Not just what he is doing here at Samsung related to the gaming industry, but his time before arriving at Samsung where he helped take a little game offered on Facebook to become one of the successful mobile games of all time, Candy Crush Saga.

Listen to this episode on Buzzsprout.

 

Topics Covered

  • Building Games for Galaxy Store
  • Revenue Sharing and Monetization
  • Driving Engagement with Samsung Game Launcher
  • Gaming Culture, Past and Present
  • Helping Businesses Grow with Samsung Next
  • Android Developers

Transcript

NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.

 

Tony Morelan 00:02

Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is Pow! Podcast of Wisdom from the Samsung Developer Program, where we talk about the latest tech new trends and give insight into all of the opportunities available for developers looking to create for Samsung. On today's show, I interviewed Jong Woo, Vice President of game services for Samsung Electronics in the US, Jong's got a great story, not just what he's doing here at Samsung related to the gaming industry, but his time before arriving at Samsung, where he helped take a little game offered on Facebook to become one of the most successful mobile games of all time, Candy Crush Saga. So I'm going to start off with a real basic question. Who is Jong Woo?

Jong Woo 00:47

I'm one of those lucky guys. I'd say that gets to do professionally what I'm also very passionate about, personally, and that's gaming. I am an avid gamer. I love playing games. All sorts of games from board games to console and PC games. So you know, I've actually had the opportunity to work in the gaming industry for the past 15 plus years or so. So most recently, I headed up business development and partnerships for King digital entertainment. And I was actually kings first US based hire. And they moved me from New York to California, back in 2011. And at that time, King was a web-based sort of casual game developer. And they were looking to make the pivot into social and eventually mobile. So I opened up their San Francisco office and helped that helped the company pivot through from the web based into Facebook initially, and then into mobile. And it was a pretty fun and crazy time getting to bring Candy Crush Saga to market launch. That game and be a part of that games, explosive growth.

Tony Morelan 02:04

How many years were you at King?

Jong Woo 02:06

So I was at King for almost three years. And after that three-year period, I moved to head up business development and marketing for a game publisher called machine zone. And at that time, machine zone had just launched a game called game of war. And, you know, I watched that game climb the top grossing charts very quickly. And this was at a time when, you know, people and pundits in the industry, were saying that, you know, mobile gamers in the West like in the United States, they said they will never gravitate towards hardcore MMO RPG games, right? If you looked at the top grossing charts on mobile during that time, it was casual games and social casino games, predominantly, and you know, everyone once said that these were these hardcore genres of gaming. They were for, you know, the Asian markets like the Korea, China and Japan. But he was game of war sort of, you know, at least proving the look like they were proving the pundits wrong. And so I had an opportunity to meet with the CEO of machines zone, got to understand, you know, what the company was about. And, you know, made the determination for myself that this wasn't necessarily an exception to the rule. But this was sort of a trend, a sort of a trend that was happening in the mobile gaming space. And so I made the move from King to machine zone. And yeah, got to really see firsthand what live operations really means for those gaming as a service, right, this type of live operations that typically you would see for sort of PC large PC MMO RPG games. You were starting to see that sort of live operations machine being replicated on mobile and driving tremendous value. And so you know, that's sort of, I was able to sort of witness sort of both ends of sort of the mobile gaming genre spectrum from sort of casual puzzle games, to really hardcore, massively multiplayer synchronous RPG games.

Tony Morelan 04:24

So we understand that, after those years working for two very influential gaming companies, that you then got out of the gaming space and actually got into the charitable space.

Jong Woo 04:37

That's right. The charitable project was sort of a passion project of mine and about around 2017. You know, I came to the realization that the mobile gaming landscape was changing, and not necessarily changing for the better, right? I think less than less people. Were organically going into the app stores right like, we don't go to the app store's just to go in and see what's new that week anymore. Right? That was a, a large, a very big phenomenon. When, you know smart form smartphone adoption was still sort of, you know, hockey sticking, right? You got a new iPhone or a new Android device, and you wanted to go into the app stores and see what cool new apps were there. But nowadays, you know, even when we upgrade our smartphones, we just back up and, and restore, right, and we're not going into these app stores anymore. And we have sort of the seven or eight apps that we have just sort of so much integrated into our life, that we're not really looking to expand beyond those services or games, right. And because of that, you know, you start to see discoverability die with regards to games. You know, the viral hooks that helped games like Candy Crush Saga scale massively. They were being replaced by you know, some Ad tech and this ad mobile advertising ecosystem. And so in order for you to critically build a massive players, you needed a massive war chest of marketing funds, and the most successful games in mobile gaming were not necessarily the most innovative or even the most fun, right? They were the ones that had, you know, a marketing plan and a marketing budget to go and execute scale. And so you got this weird split in the industry, you got hyper casual, which was sort of a genre that got introduced in the midst of sort of this landscape shift. And so you're talking about low risk, low cost games really designed to retain users for minutes and not days or months anymore. And you know, it was quick revenue. You, you got somebody to play a game for 10 minutes, and in that 10 minutes, you showed them 20 ads, and then if they deleted your app, that's okay. There was always another one waiting in the wings. And then the other side of that spectrum, you got, you know, games that were getting super aggressive with monetization practices where, you know, free to play started to feel more like play, pay to win. You know, and, you know, I can understand why these game publishers are adopting these more aggressive monetization practices, because they had to keep up with the rising costs of the marketing, you know, in order to sort of continue scaling. And so that was the time when I decided maybe it was a time for a change for me. And I left the gaming industry and started a charitable giving app. And right around the time I was adopting this idea, FinTech was booming. There were companies and mobile applications trying to help people do everything related to their finances, right like from saving to investing, budgeting, like you got Venmo and peer to peer payments, but I didn't see anyone really thinking about utilizing The FinTech infrastructure and the tools to help people give back. And you know, particularly for millennials, who are the most socially conscious generation right now, this was something that they have always said is super important to them. Right? when they think about what companies they want to work for, they think about sort of the social responsibility of these companies, right, they have causes that they care very passionate about. And the disconnect that I saw in the marketplace was that charitable organizations had a hard time sort of marketing and soliciting funds from millennials. Because the truth be told, like the ROI wasn't necessarily positive, right? It's much easier to continue hitting up the sort of the older generation, the 50 pluses who will attend your gallows and you know, right there sort of like annual giving checks to you, right. So that's, that's the way tribal organizations are marketing. And so those sort of this disconnect that I was hoping to bridge with, with this initiative, that I that I had started post machines.

Tony Morelan 09:03

So from there, though you then decide to get back into gaming. That's right. It's about that time that I understand someone from Samsung then reached out to you to try and get you to come join. Join the folks over here. Is that correct?

Jong Woo 09:17

That's right. So like Samsung had reached out probably, you know, five, six years ago, when I was still starting out at machines or, you know, they were, they've been looking to build out a gaming business pretty early on, I think. And at that time, I had always told the HR recruiter person from Samsung, No, I'm good, I'm good. And most recently into that in early 2019. This person had reached back out to me right around the time of GDC, which is the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, asking if I would meet him for a cup of coffee and so I went and met with him. And he told me about what Samsung was thinking about with regards to gaming and building a services business around gaming. And so, you know, in, I agreed at that time to continue the discussion and this was sort of in now this landscape where, you know, games like fortnight had launched right, and fortnight was sort of this new. The embodiment of this new genre of game, right, that wasn't monetizing from a pay to win standpoint anymore, right? Like, there is nothing inside a game like fortnight that you can pay for that helps you play that game better, right? It was purely sort of cosmetics inside that game. And then, you know, fortnight crafted a partnership or Epic Games that developed the publisher of fortnight crafted a partnership with Samsung. And Samsung's Galaxy Store was sort of the exclusive Android App Store distributing fortnight on mobile. Right. And so this made me think maybe there's an opportunity here for me to come in and help Samsung really grow a gaming ecosystem. Because Samsung has tried and there has been a lot of stops and starts here. But I think, you know, the I felt like the timing for this was not right, where Samsung could really become a meaningful player in the gaming space.

Tony Morelan 11:37

So, as the VP of game services for Samsung, tell me exactly what does that cover for Samsung?

Jong Woo 11:44

Sure. Game Services covers the Galaxy Store and Game Launcher within our mobile device ecosystem.

Tony Morelan 11:52

So tell me why is it beneficial for developers to build for Galaxy Store when really, they could just have their apps available? On the Google Play store?

Jong Woo 12:02

Yeah, that's a great question. And the question that, you know, we get from all the developers that we talk to right. And, you know, we certainly don't believe that it's necessarily an either-or situation, right? You know, but what we want to do is we want to provide developers a story ecosystem that allows for better discoverability, right? We want to sort of create an ecosystem that is curated for the best in class games. The Google Play Store is generally bloated with a lot of content. And for an individual developer, particularly a game developer to get noticed within this ecosystem is nearly impossible. Right? And, you know, like we mentioned, people just aren't going in looking for new content on their own anyways, like most of that traffic, going into the Google Play Store, is being driven through paid media from you know, Facebook ads or what have you, right. So we wanted to build a thriving ecosystem inside the Galaxy Store that isn't bloated with content that is really curated for the best in class. The Galaxy Store is one part of the Samsung Mobile ecosystem, right that it also includes things like Samsung Pay. And Samsung daily there is a, there's a whole suite of owned and operated services within your Galaxy device that has a lot of users, right. And a lot of engaged, people are opting in into these services on a regular basis. And so, you know, our ecosystem is really designed very well to drive discoverability of new content within our ecosystem. And we sort of share that inventory across all our owned and operated properties. And so this really strong value proposition that I think the value the Galaxy Store brings to game publishers is that we are able to augment the marketing initiatives that they are doing with some of these discoverability mechanisms and channels. And because we also work with fewer game developers, because it is sort of a curated game store. We get to build relationships with these developers and work closely with them to craft promotions and marketing initiatives on a regular cadence. Right? We're and we're, as part of that we're able to also activate a myriad of other businesses within the Samsung ecosystem, from Samsung members and rewards, as well as our device marketing initiatives to really help drive game awareness, engagement and monetization for our game publishing partners.

Tony Morelan 14:35

And I'm sure developers want to hear about the revenue sharing. Can you share a little bit about the revenue share model and why it's unique to Samsung?

Jong Woo 14:42

Yeah, so I mean, I think, you know, obviously, the revenue share for you know, app stores generally. You know, we talked about 7030. Now, I think Tim Sweeney from Epic Games has very publicly said that, you know, The revenue shares for these app stores should not be 7030. And I think the entire sort of development developer ecosystem has responded, well, initially, it was wait. Can we really say that? And then sort of quickly followed by? Yeah, I think that's true. Right. And I think, you know, Samsung has is in a position where we can be flexible with our revenue shares, we can work closely with our publishing partners to determine the revenue shares that will allow them to really thrive within our ecosystem, right and build businesses that are sustainable within our store platform. So there is a want on our side to work closely with our game publishing partners to determine what the right revenue share is going to be, you know, given their marketing activities and given the engagement of our audience to those games that's going to allow both the platform as well as the game and the publishers to really grow and thrive.

Tony Morelan 16:07

So you had mentioned that game services also covers Game Launcher? Can you explain what is Game Launcher? And why is it? Why is it so special? Sure.

Jong Woo 16:15

So Game Launcher was initially designed to help mobile gamers aggregate their game icons into like a single location. So it's sort of like this really nice game folder, if you will. And the utility of that was that it really decluttered your home screen. And so you can imagine sort of the level of engagement with this app, right? The average Game Launcher, user opens Game Launcher more than 80 times a month. And so that's like, nearly three times a day, right? So definitely high engagement. And what's really sort of special about Game Launcher is that this is now a property that people are opting into or sort of launching on their own voluntarily, multiple times a day. So we've got this really deep engagement here. But that engagement right now, or the utility of that engagement really centers around sort of getting access to the games you want to play. And so we want to expand the utility of Game Launcher to drive deeper engagement within this ecosystem around gaming. Right? And we believe that there is more than just playing games that you know, avid gamers do, right? They are engaging, and in communities, they are watching other gamers play via Livestream. They are checking out YouTube videos to get tips and tricks. They are, you know, reading about games, through a myriad of different publications and content sources. They are, you know, on Reddit communities, they are on discord like there is this whole ecosystem of games outside of the game itself, right and so you know, what, we're looking to do with Game Launcher and truly make it special and unique is because start to become a hub for all of that gaming activity outside of actually playing the game.

Tony Morelan 18:12

I want to kind of circle back to something you'd mentioned earlier and you were talking about how monetization You know, there's some drawbacks to that. Tell me about like, creativity wise, do you see that it's limiting people's, you know, developers ability to create, you know, unique games?

Jong Woo 18:26

I do at the end of the day, you know, when you are, you know, starting out as a game developer and build, you know, you make a decision to build a game company, right? You are looking to find that balance between doing something creative and innovative right as and also generating revenue from it to sustain your business. But I think when costs of scaling and marketing your game are driven by the market from you know, real time bidding and programmatic, sort of ecosystems on the mobile advertising side and then the revenue shares remain at 7030. There's sort of a squeezing of margins, that's tends to happen, right? In order to maximize that equation, or optimize that equation, you need to start getting more aggressive with monetization. Right? And when you start getting aggressive with monetization, you start to lose I think, the creativity inside your game when you have to start focusing on how do I ensure that I can scale up this game and really focus on the revenue you realize you need to take less risk, right. Building a game they say is sort of a hit driven business, you know, very much like Hollywood studios and moviemaking and to a certain extent, I think that is true. And so you know, when you are in a situation where the costs of marketing your game are so high and you know what kind of critical mass you need to really scale your game. From a player's perspective, taking a lot of risks in terms of pushing the envelope for innovation, it becomes prohibitively expensive, right? Because there is a likelihood that the game might completely flop. And so that's why, you know, our hope with the Galaxy Store and the Samsung gaming ecosystem is that we can provide a value proposition back to the, to the developers and whether that be in sort of, you know, better marketing, through our discoverability channels that is designed to help augment whatever marketing you know, these publishers are trying to do, as well as you know, potentially better revenue share on the back end. We can we can start to unshackle the shackles if you will, of sort of this this business machine and allow people sort of the flexibility and the breathing room to be more creative with their game design, and their gameplay.

Tony Morelan 21:03

So you had talked a little bit about gaming culture, and you know, knowing that you've been in this industry for so many years, I'm sure you've seen that culture change and evolve. Tell me a bit about like, what was the culture when gaming first started, you know, started coming onto the scene here, and then how it's evolving and where it's going.

Jong Woo 21:20

Yeah. It's been a really interesting shift from sort of this underground basement, sort of nerdy boys only kind of sort of culture phenomenon, right. Where there was also sort of a stigma around gaming being sort of like that good for you. You know, like, nothing beneficial really comes from it. You know, some people have even said, you know, I've tried to try to tie gaming into sort of, like, you know, real world phenomenons like gun violence or whatever it is, right, like, people have tried to put gaming and sort of There's negative light. And it's now become sort of this aspirational lifestyle. And oh, and it's expanding beyond the actual games themselves, right? Like you are now starting to see personalities, people, you know, almost celebrities coming from sort of this gaming world and you're seeing things like eSports and live streaming they they've moved from this sort of niche underground thing into sort of full mainstream pop culture legitimacy, right? You're seeing content creators from twitch or YouTube are eSports athletes becoming these celebrities with these massive fan bases who are extending beyond just you know, their gameplay. It's going into you know, Instagram and it's going into Twitter, and Twitch and YouTube. And these people are becoming full blown influencers and celebrities right a lot of them even have Hollywood agents, right? Who are negotiating, you know, variety of different deals on their behalf. So with this, you're starting to now see sort of fashion and lifestyle also being heavily influenced by this gaming culture and a massive group of young Gen Z gamers and even non-gamers who are aspiring to this lifestyle right. And I kind of equated to the skateboarding culture where skateboarding used to be very underground, right? And very niche. And then it sort of translates now into this mainstream cultural phenomenon where it's very sort of equivalent to it like street wear, where people wear vans, and you know, wait in line for hours for you know, drops from Supreme. And they've never owned a skateboard in their lives. It's fair. Right, so yeah, so you know, I think it's and I think the social distancing sort of environment that we are in now is only sort of like accelerating this change, right, like gaming, and socially hanging out. And sort of like an online environment is, is sort of feeding more into this culture and, and breeding more legitimacy into it. And it's sort of, frankly, it's really exciting to see.

Tony Morelan 24:26

Yeah, definitely. I mean, my son's a big-time fortnight player, and some of his best friends. He's never met. I mean, they live in Hawaii, Canada, Germany. I mean, it is really neat that he's got this this social group that really spans the globe, that you know, truly are some of his best friends.

Jong Woo 24:44

That's right. And I think you know, and the same as it has been for me as well in the past, right, like there are people like when you play a game every day, you engage with the same people, whether they're in your guild or your clan or you know, your squad. You Engage with these people that you've met actually inside the game on a regular basis right on nearly daily and oftentimes spending hours with them, you probably spend more time with these friends that you've never met in real life before, then you do your actual friends. Right? And so yeah, it builds this sort of, like new network, as well as this sort of new definition of I think what friends can be. And it's really cool. I think that they all get to socially hang out inside of these games, right? Like, you could be playing fortnight with your squad. And it's not necessarily about you know, getting that victory Royale and winning, right? It's just sort of about doing this really fun activity together, chatting and hanging out while you do it. And so I think I love the idea of games becoming now this sort of like social platform for hanging out.

Tony Morelan 25:52

So tell me in what way is Samsung moving beyond the Galaxy Store and Game Launcher on mobile devices?

Jong Woo 25:57

Yeah. But there are a lot of initiatives from the services standpoint around gaming beyond the Galaxy Store, but it's still relatively early days right now, for example, we are thinking about, like, what is the Leanback gaming content look like, given that there's so much viewership on Twitch, you know, particularly with sort of social distancing and COVID these days. Now, most of gaming tends to be lean in where you're sort of like engaging with this content interactively. But you know, Twitch is now demonstrating that there is this massive and captive audience who is willing to sort of lean back and just watch other people play games. And so what does that necessarily mean? And how does that translate into, let's say, TV screens? You know, does that mean that, you know, people are willing to do this in their living room, as opposed to sort of like on you know, laptop screens. And I think we also sort of think about how Samsung can stay ahead of the curve with regards to upcoming gaming trends that we're starting to see, right. And, you know, I personally am trying to figure out how Samsung can lead the charge in things like cloud gaming, or VR and AR, right these, these technologies and these platforms that are around and people have talked about some for many, many years, but haven't really gotten into sort of like mass scale yet. So you know, we're definitely thinking about a lot of these things right now.

Tony Morelan 27:34

So I want to talk a little bit about Samsung next. So Samsung, next is a division here at Samsung that helps build and grow software and services from entrepreneurs and organizations that complement Samsung's hardware. Tell me how they're getting involved with game services.

Jong Woo 27:49

So we work closely with Samsung next. So Samsung, as you mentioned, is sort of that early stage venture arm of Samsung and part of their remit is to invest and build Sort of early and growth stage startups that can complement Samsung's existing business initiatives or actually even jumpstart completely new strategic initiatives that, you know, we, as a company decide to expand into. And I think sort of given the strategic priority that gaming, from a service standpoint, has within the entire organization of Samsung, and it's not just the mobile, right. You know, the visual display division, the PC divisions, you know, the r&d and hardware division, there's a lot of different potential stakeholders are who are very interested in and gaming, what gaming can look like for Samsung. And so, you know, we engaged really closely with Samsung next, to figure out what kind of companies are doing really innovative things in the gaming space that might help us jumpstart some of these gaming initiatives, particularly around you know, some of the things that I just mentioned before cloud gaming. AR VR AR, you know, as well as you know, complementing existing businesses like the Galaxy Store, you know, we, we, I try to work with Samsung next to identify those needs that we might have as we think about the strategy of go to market for some of these various initiatives. And then Samsung next also helps us to better understand sort of the landscape of early stage companies and the really cool, innovative things that they're working on.

Tony Morelan 29:28

So what advice do you have for gaming companies looking to build a relationship with Samson?

Jong Woo 29:32

Yeah, you know, I would say, definitely reach out to us we do want to know what you're building and the more innovative the better right the Galaxy Store and the gaming ecosystem that we are striving to build. We are building it because we want to foster innovation, right? And, and so you know, we want games that can push the envelope of gaming on mobile devices can be we want companies to be thinking about you Unique technologies, you know, housed inside of our devices like 5g and edge computing, and what can that enable from a gameplay standpoint? And so, you know, we love seeing what the development community comes up with. And so, you know, definitely, I would say, reach out to us. And you can reach out to us through our website, which is developer.samsung.com.

Tony Morelan 30:22

Excellent. Well, hey, Jong, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to join me on this podcast. It was a lot of fun to chat and get to know you. Yeah. Thanks a lot.


Outro 30:29

Looking to start creating for Samsung, download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy Store. Check out developer.samsung.com today and start your journey with Samsung.

The Pow! podcast is brought to you by the Samsung Developer Program and produced by Tony Morelan.