Jonathan Lau, Director of User Acquisition at PLAYSTUDIOS, chatted with us about the evolution of mobile UA, advice for breaking into the gaming market and the story behind his extraordinary picture.
Tapjoy: Hi Jonathan. Let’s start by having you tell us a little about PLAYSTUDIOS and what you do there.
Jonathan Lau: PLAYSTUDIOS is a 7-year old social casino app developer based in Burlingame, California. We combine our roots in traditional, land-based casinos with the best slots games in the industry while offering our users real, earnable rewards. I’ve been with PLAYSTUDIOS almost three years and my current role is Director of User Acquisition.
TJ: PLAYSTUDIOS has a really unique rewards program that ties virtual gaming to real-world rewards. How crucial is that program to the success of your games, and how does it affect the gameplay itself?
JL: It’s really our key value proposition that sets us apart from our competitors. There are a lot of options for our users to choose from considering the ultra-competitive market of mobile slots. However, PLAYSTUDIOS is the only company that offers robust and diverse rewards along with our best-in-class slot games. It’s a win-win for mobile slot players.
TJ: How would you describe PLAYSTUDIOS’ overall UA strategy?
JL: We strive to maintain ROI profitability. If we look at the overall UA spectrum, at one end we have growth without any regard for profitability. On the other end, we have profitability without any regard for growth. Depending on the life cycle of each app, you may find yourself leaning towards one end or the other. At PLAYSTUDIOS, we try to find a balance between each, which isn’t always easy. Mobile fraud and the changing ad landscape keeps us on our toes. ROI profitability can also be defined differently depending on each company’s aim. Should we look at paid-only options, or should we consider looking at profitability on a blended basis? There is no right answer. Rather, each company has to determine their own short and long-term goals.
TJ: And what is your overall monetization strategy?
JL: It is simple, we’re always trying to find ways to monetize ALL users within our app portfolio.
TJ: You spent the first part of your career as a banker and financial services officer. What made you get into mobile gaming in the first place, and what do you think you bring to the field that has made you successful?
JL: Traditional banking is very rigid. Products rarely change, get repackaged and/or resold as something new. I wanted to work in an industry where the landscape is in constant flux, where we actually create new and exciting things for our consumers. I love being on the cutting edge of consumer ad tech and seeing what is coming over the horizon before anyone else in the world. Mobile is roughly a ten-year old industry, and mobile UA is only about 7-years old. There are still many things to come in the evolution of our landscape. What we do today will shape the products that will be offered tomorrow.
TJ: You studied International Economics and Globalization at Berkeley, and now you work in one of the most global industries in the world. What did you learn at Berkeley that prepared you for your work today?
JL: Sure, I am happy to discuss ancient history! My studies have allowed me to better understand what I do on a macro level. From analyzing the basic economics of our market to adopting a global approach to the business. PLAYSTUDIOS has offices around the world, and we serve a global audience. It helps to know the benefits and limitations of working with teams in different offices with different capabilities.
However, most of my education in mobile UA happened within the last few years. I try to stay curious and open myself up to constantly learning from the industry. I’m very fortunate to have many mentors and peers in this industry that have taken time to teach and help me along the way.
TJ: What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the mobile gaming market?
JL: Keep an open mind and make bold moves. Our job requires us to make calculated risks daily. Leverage data to drive your decisions and understand that what was right six-months ago may not be what’s right today. It is important to maintain the mental dexterity needed to adapt to new industry changes. You should constantly evaluate your workflow and find ways to be more agile. Do not be complacent and reactive. Fortune favors the bold.
TJ: Aside from PLAYSTUDIOS’ own games, what is your favorite game to play?
JL: I really enjoy games with immersive storylines. Games from the Telltale series are splendid examples of how to tell amazing stories while thrusting the player into the shoes of the protagonist. You can really lose yourself when playing those games.
TJ: Now for the big question: tell us the story behind your picture! It’s arguably the most eye catching, extraordinary photo we’ve ever received.
JL: One of our technical artists is also a professional photographer. He set up a photoshoot in the office during our annual hackathon with a black background, man-made rain effects (a garden hose spraying water) and a bunch of other props for us to use. Being an avid Crossfitter, I wanted him to capture me doing my favorite olympic lifting move, the snatch, so I brought in my own weights and equipment. It was a bit nerve-racking since the floor of the set was soaking wet and slippery. There was a floor to ceiling glass window about two feet away, and I had to properly secure a dry grip on the wet 165lb barbell. I warmed up off to the side for about 30 minutes before it was time to capture the shot. I knew that if I missed the lift I would probably destroy his set, so no pressure right? Fortunately, I hit the lift on my first attempt, and was so happy that I decided to duckface for the picture. In hindsight, this was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done because of how wrong things could have gone. But with the story, and the finished product, the picture to me is– priceless.
Thanks so much for chatting with us Jonathan — and to our dynamic partners at PLAYSTUDIOS. Stay tuned to the Tapjoy blog for more insights from Tapjoy Mobile Champions!