Bernard Kim answers our questions about Zynga’s new acquisitions and Rollic’s success

Mobidictum Founder and Managing Director Batuhan Avucan interviewed Zynga President Bernard Kim about Zynga’s latest acquisitions and achievements.

After Zynga’s recent acquisitions have been completed, we, as Mobidictum, interviewed Zynga’s President Bernard Kim by asking the most curious questions.

The Chartboost acquisition process, which started in May, was recently completed. Bernard Kim talked about the details of this acquisition and the prospects. He also added his own comments on these achievements after the StarLark acquisition, Rollic’s 1 billion downloads, and how Zynga will look forward in the future.

You can find the details of the game industry, which has been shaken by Zynga news recently, and Bernard Kim’s comments in our interview below.

Zynga acquires Starlark
Zynga acquires Starlark.

Batuhan Avucan: Was it Golf Rival or StarLark’s strategic location that drew Zynga into its StarLark acquisition?

Bernard Kim: Both are important to us, but we usually put the game first when it comes to acquiring to be part of the Zynga family. Golf Rival is the fastest-growing and second-largest golf game in the world. The game integrates fantasy and RPG into a golf game which already makes it two times larger than a regular golf game. It takes fantasy golfing to the next level. It is a highly social game, it has deep PVP and synchronous gameplay. My team and I really did fall in love with the game. I mean, it’s just awesome. They are super competitive, really data-driven. And together we think that Zynga and SkyLark can grow faster together as we’ve done with a lot of our acquisitions.

Batuhan Avucan: How does StarLark being in China help with future expansion or acquisitions?

Bernard Kim: It bolsters our ability to look at the talent base in China for game development. There could be potential possibilities, for example, this could be a hub for us for Rollic Games with independent developers. We will have access to more local talent now that we have a studio in the local market. But that’s kind of all to be determined. It could be very similar to the way that we started off in Istanbul small with the acquisition of Peak Games. And then that started to establish our hub in the market and continued with acquisitions of Gram Games, the rest of Peak Games, Rollic Games and Rollic’s acquisition of Uncosoft. So, we have added some really nice talent to our family in the local market. That potentially could happen as well in Beijing and in China.

Batuhan Avucan: Side question, you started off with Peak Games but Rollic became “the partner” who handles local merging. You did not do this with Peak Games nor Gram Games, because they were in a different kind of strategy. Can you comment on this?

Bernard Kim: Correct. When it came to Peak Games, it became a standalone studio, they didn’t go and acquire Gram. When we were looking at Gram Games, which was a highly competitive process, the founders of Gram Games validated us as a reference. And because the first deal of Peak went so smoothly, that helped us with our reference-based projects in the local market. 

Rollic has been our tip of the spear into hyper-casual and we could spend more time speaking about Rollic as they have just surpassed 1 billion installs worldwide. But they’ve also been acquiring companies as well. It’s really exciting.

rollic 1 billion downloads
Rollic has crossed 1 billion downloads.

Batuhan Avucan: Congratulations on Rollic’s crossing 1 billion downloads worldwide. How do hyper-casual games overall affect other games, or does it affect at all? What does this big achievement mean to Zynga, and not just for the hyper-casual base?

Bernard Kim: It is a big milestone for us as there are very few companies in the world that have a portfolio of games that surpass 1 billion downloads worldwide. The Rollic portfolio now has 15 games that have reached either number one or two on the App Store, and three of their titles have now exceeded over one hundred million installs which are Hair Challenge, High Heels!, and Tangle Master 3D. These are massive numbers. When you think about it, it is a studio and publisher based in Istanbul which has a significant chunk of the worldwide population of gamers, or just the worldwide population, that experience their software. It’s an amazing display of a reach. 

What’s been really good for Zynga is to broaden our advertising network. So, the majority of revenue driven through Rollic Games is all through ad revenue. It’s expanded the total reach of our network worldwide. That, in addition to bringing on Chartboost officially as part of the company, gives us hundreds of millions of total addressable markets presented to pitch our internal games. 

Another really exciting part of Rollic Games is that their games are really fast and fun. There’s no long tutorial. You just jump into the game, you know exactly what to do and you immediately start to have fun. While we worked with the team here and Rollic, I think we’ve learned as much from them as they’ve learned from us. We probably have learned more from them with regards to user acquisition and how to attract the market. There’s competition in the market which affects the scale of revenue across revenue streams across our products. So it’s like the best of both worlds coming together. And hopefully, we’re going to continue to grow faster together.

Batuhan Avucan: Another side question on that, the way you look at hyper-casual is different than other publishers. A lot of hyper-casual publishers have their games on top charts but you have mentioned “live service” which is not common. Also, you have recently partnered with Kenneth Cole for Pride Month, you had a big PR event that was aired on TVs in New York. What is the reason you have a different approach?

Bernard Kim: What impresses me most about Rollic is their unique ability to leverage data, insight, testing, to repeatedly kind of see what’s coming next in the marketplace. And they’ve been able to tap into the social media meme of people sharing their experiences quite easily across TikTok and other social media channels. So it’s been really incredible with regards to the speed at which it can adapt to the market and meet the market. 

Burak has coined a term that I love, which is “Tik-Tokable moments,”  which means having game experiences where people feel that it’s fun and there’s a lot of pride in sharing. These are amazing TikTok-able moments on their social media pages. 

When you refer to Kenneth Cole, it’s a first-of-its-kind of live service feature within High Heels! In deep collaboration with Kenneth Cole for a super important movement that we’re all so passionate about, which is awareness around Pride and mental health in 2021. And like you mentioned, it was a tremendous amount of publicity. Kenneth Cole was out talking about it. It was on the billboards of the Nasdaq running for several days in Times Square. So it’s a pretty incredible shot in which the team can adapt to causes that they’re super passionate about.

zynga acquires chartboost
Zynga has acquired Chartboost.

Batuhan Avucan: As the Chartboost acquisition is now complete, what are expectations from this acquisition?

Bernard Kim: When we were going after Chartboost, we were impressed that they were one of the leading mobile advertising and monetization platforms for us. What it does for Zynga is it really enables a new level of audience scale. We believe together that we can meaningfully create a competitive advantage for Zynga products in Zynga families in an ultra-competitive mobile ecosystem. I think we talked a little bit about this last quarter. But it was like Zynga owning more points of the ecosystem to promote our games in the marketplace, even in an environment where there’s a lot of dynamic changes like IDFA, the policy from Apple where companies cannot use third party data. In this case, the access to 700 million monthly active users that come from Chartboost becomes a part of our own first priority data. So we believe that this can continue to drive the promotion of our own high-quality content, direct player relationships and that we have access to a full stack of advertising technologies that Chartboost brings.

Batuhan Avucan: The COVID-19 restrictions are getting a little bit easier. Although, experts are warning people about the Delta variant which can be the beginning of another wave. Plus, there are some effects of Apple’s privacy policy, for example, we see in the Q2 report that bookings are softened. It has also changed your UA strategy, instead of acquiring more users you focused on retaining current users. Although Rollic also had surpassed one billion which means you are still acquiring a lot of users. What’s the comment on that? What will be the next step?

Bernard Kim: We are focused. We’ve always been more focused on our multi-year growth strategy, which is driving growth through our live service games, investing in hyper-casual, cross-platform, and advertising technologies. But then at the same time, we’ve also been looking at inorganic growth through M&A. That strategy has a change that’s highlighted in the last quarterly report from us, showing all the things that we’ve been doing, executing in those core areas. But when it comes to mobile gaming, we’re focused on the long approach around creating content that just surprises and delights our super important player base. We are currently navigating through the short-term impact of COVID-19 reopening and then IDFA market dynamics. 

But our teams are super talented. 

We continue to adapt to market conditions and we know it’s a shorter-term blip with regards to our long-term vision around the company. I’ve been at Zynga for more than five years now, and we’ve had quarters where we had glugs in our performance and we’ve been able to endure and work through those changes. So I’m not really that worried about the short term as long as we’re executing against our multi-year growth strategy.

Batuhan Avucan: Every quarter you actually keep growing, you keep your growth pace steady. It is like IO games, you just keep devouring the industry with the players and the acquisitions and so on. You keep making your position even stronger on the market. Are there any updates coming on PC or console?

Bernard Kim: We did have our best Q2 revenue and bookings performance ever, and big guidance on EBITDA. Our revenue grew almost grew fifty-nine percent year-over-year. It’s a huge performance from the company and a really strong execution. We were able to close Chartboost. We have tons of things to be proud of. The forward-looking guidance is really just kind of setting expectations with some of the challenges that we’re facing. When it comes to the future, we’re really excited about upcoming products, including Farmville 3 that’s coming around the pike. Starwars Hunters is really testing very well. We’re going to go into a soft launch in Q4 of this year and then we’re rolling into next year. That will be a cross-platform launch, including mobile and Nintendo Switch. When it comes to our new game pipeline, the future looks really bright for Zynga.

Batuhan Avucan: Is there anything you would like to add?

Bernard Kim: I think that one of the really important dynamics that sometimes gets lost is the reopening of market dynamics within gaming. I think we’re just really well-positioned in the accelerating growth trends just because of the platform that we’re natively built on, which is the mobile platform. As people start going back into the office, the world goes back to normal. And I don’t know what the timeline on that looks like because it continues to get postponed by that. But we’re really well positioned on devices that people can play while they’re on the bus, while they’re in the office, while they’re at the shopping malls. Our games are designed for little snapshots of fun, so they don’t have to you don’t have to be sitting in a dark room on your PC playing for four hours straight. The way you’re playing a couple of rounds of golf rival, it takes literally three to four minutes to two to finish an entire match. And you’re playing against a real person. It’s a really fun experience. So that’s why I think we’re just really well-positioned for the future.

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