The Future is MODOK!
Image Credit: Second Dinner
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Marvel Snap and its developer, Second Dinner, are getting a lot of attention. Its publisher, Nuverse, is flying a bit more under radar.
Nuverse is the video game arm of ByteDance, the same Chinese company that owns TikTok. And just like with that video app, Nuverse has global ambitions.
I had a chance to talk with Nuverse’s senior director of global business, Tom van Dam. I asked him about the publisher’s global plans, the early success of Marvel Snap, the future of the mobile gaming market and more. Below is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: What exactly are Nuverse’s responsibilities as Marvel Snap’s publisher?
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Van Dam: We’re the global publisher for Marvel Snap, which means we do the marketing for the game, including user acquisition, branding and everything that’s outward facing. We do things like customer support. And then we also do a lot of operational activities and support, sort of extend the content that’s available to players by running events that are connected to the game, but don’t necessarily burden the development team at the same time. So that delivers great synergy.
GamesBeat: This is still relatively new publishing brand, but you have this Marvel game and you’re able to work with a new studio like Second Dinner and brands like One Piece.
Van Dam: Yeah, the company’s been around for roughly five years, and then I’m talking specifically about Nuverse, which is the gaming unit of ByteDance. So there’s a five year history, that’s relatively new. And certainly, you know, compared against some other players in the industry, I think it’s a new company. But we employ 1000s of people now. It’s definitely not a small operation, it’s definitely an operation that’s been set up at scale to aim for the top of the market, we recruited many high end talents from backgrounds that other top tier companies tend to. And so, as we build this, this organization that aims to provide essentially fun and inspiring spent experiences to gamers worldwide, we’ve set out to work with other partners that also subscribed to that particular version that wants to go big.
One Piece is a good example, and we have a deal with Electronic Arts for the Red Alert IP in China. Marvel, of course, is a great one. And so there are many of these. So I think we started strong, but there definitely will be even more as we go into the future.
GamesBeat: I’m mostly familiar with Marvel Snap, and I think maybe a lot of my readers are too. What are some of the other kind of highlights in your portfolio?
Van Dam: Well, we’ve had a lot of success in Asia games like Ragnarok, the Red Alert 4X game that we did, but also forward-looking where we are about to launch a game called Earth: Revival. That’s going to be a product that’s also going to come to gamers in the West. But you know, obviously speaking Marvel Snap was meant to be our biggest flagship launch in the Western markets. So I think it’s natural that that’s the first game that everyone gets to see.
GamesBeat: We’re a few months past the launch of Marvel Snap now. What has the reaction been from players?
Van Dam: Yeah, we’ve been blown away. It was was a pretty tense moment, I think for everyone at Nuverse for our partners at Second Dinner, hoping that the launch would go well, and I think we’ve seen amazing sentiments from players and from the media.
GamesBeat: We think about a digital card game, the obvious thing is to sell people cards and card packs. Marvel Snap is doing a different kind of a monetization plan where you sell season passes and bundles.
Van Dam: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you have the classic CCG games that use that method of selling cards, I think it’s one of the things that the Second Dinner team wanted to step away from, we wanted to make this a fresh take on the genre, which also meant potential innovation on the monetary aspect. And it’s been well received. If you look at a lot of modern games, cosmetic monetization is really popular. And for those who want to play fair games, and just put their time into the game, they have equal opportunity. So it’s a really good mix. I think it’s been very successful in other games, and it certainly seems to work out for us with Snap as well.
GamesBeat: Marvel Snap has had a strong start. Can you keep up that momentum?
Van Dam: Yeah, we’re definitely going for long term operations. We want this game to be around for years. But of course, in the short term, the next exciting update will be the Battle Mode, where finally you have the opportunity to play against someone you know, and we’re really excited about that, we’re hoping that people will really encourage their friends and everyone around them to have more games of of Snap [Battle Mode launched between the time of this interview and the publishing of this story]. And then going further into the future, you’re aware we already have an early-access version of the game on Steam. But that’s really just an early-access version, we’re planning a lot more for the PC version. And that’s probably another huge milestone for the game this year.
GamesBeat: Mobile gaming has seen the same titles dominate for years. Is it difficult these days to get a new hit in the mobile field?
Van Dam: Yeah, I would say it’s pretty difficult. It’s not a very predictable business either. You know, you see companies with huge budgets and big IPs, and still not getting the best results and other games with lower budgets and unknown IP suddenly shooting to the top of the charts. So it’s unpredictable. But of course, if you have a focus on finding the right teams, what Nuverse has done with Second Dinner or some of the internal studios that we’re building, you can increase the chances that you deliver a very good game that players will love and thus have a bigger potential to get to the top of market. And then of course, the other thing that you need is that triple-A marketing and the financial firepower to get a game to the top of the charts these days. So it depends on a lot of ingredients. And if you have most of these ingredients, you can definitely increase your chances, and that’s what Nuverse is trying to do as well.
GamesBeat: You talked a little bit about having IP and how that’s not everything. But, still, I imagine that it helps.
Van Dam: Yeah, I’d agree with that. It’s amazing that that we have this partnership between Second Dinner, Marvel and ourselves and some of the other IP holders I mentioned earlier, like EA for Red Alert. And so having that IP just, it makes things a little bit easier. That initial connection that the IP can make between the game and the player is really very valuable. That’s why Marvel has been amazing for us in promoting Marvel Snap as well.
GamesBeat: How do you approach marketing toward different markets?
Van Dam: Nuverse is really a globally minded publishing company. When people often think about the publishers from Asia, they’re thinking about bringing their game to Asia, bringing their game to China. But one of the reasons why I joined the company was because of that global mindset. I spent some time previously with other Chinese companies that also wanted to go global. But I think Nuverse really is global, right, not just focused on one part of the of the world. And so, as we have this global mindset, we have what we call decentralized global publishing, which means there are various teams in different parts of the world. There’s a team in the U.S., a China team, one in Japan and other places, and they work together on a certain game to give it the best approach locally, but then tie it into a global plan driven by a global strategy.
So for example, for Marvel Snap, you know, it’s a game that works very well in the West. But we have also seen great success in Japan and Korea. And we use local teams there under Nuverse that do what’s right for the game and for those markets.
GamesBeat: Are there any trends in mobile gaming that Nuverse finds interesting?
Van Dam: You know, it’s a sensitive period in the sense that we’re seeing a bit of an economic slowdown, and that translates in the growth of the global market being a lot more slower than in previous years. And so it’s really important that you find the right products. But because a lot are going to fail, it’s hard to predict which ones are going to be successful. So it’s best to focus again on having a solid team that knows what it’s doing in the space, like, for example, Second Dinner and CCGs. And having publishing teams that have a lot of experience in that particular category.
What Nuverse trying to do is prioritize developer success. Because if we can have two people that are good at what they do, in their particular genre, make the game that they think is right, that usually translates into something that players want to play. And that allows you to, even in a perhaps contracting market, still have a game that’s really interesting for players to play and generally drives success.
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