This week on the VB Map podcast Slash CEO Andries de Vos sat down to talk with Rahul N. Bhardwaj. An entrepreneur and product engineer himself, Rahul is an investor and advisor to a number of companies. He is the co-founder and COO of Junglee Games, a company that created top-grossing games like Junglee Teenpatti and Junglee Rummy.
Check the key topics they discussed:
- Breakdown the psychology of human entertainment, what works and what doesn’t and how to anticipate if a game may work
- Designing risk-reward loops for different game genres
- The importance of having “depth” of game play and how to measure “fun”
- The challenge of policy makers or entrepreneurs to design games-for-good to nudge behaviours in certain directions
- How venture building principles and methodologies have been adopted by game studios for decades
- How he is gamifying his son’s education
- What opportunities may lie ahead for game studios.
Rahul’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rahulnb
Listen to the Podcast
Andries De Vos: Rahul, could you describe your business model? What are the key markers?
Rahul Bhardwaj: Key marker for us is the product fit. It could differ depending on the size of the company and the goals that you set for it, but when you have a product market fit, you know it’s time to cut the umbilical cord and let the baby grow. You don’t get to the product market fit if you don’t navigate the challenges you had laid out. Only once you’ve addressed them, you have clear traction, and the product market fit drives you past all of that.
Andries De Vos: How much risk do you take in a venture?
Rahul Bhardwaj: We invest from $500,000 to $1 million, and it’s not an issue as long as we believe in the team and believe, as an operator, that the company will be successful. We give startups 6 months to a year. The 6-month milestone is for the startup to get a basic prototype. We’re in the gaming industry, so 6 months to a year is enough to prove what you’re doing is right, and $500,000-$1,000,000 is a very reasonable bet. We aren’t asking for a million users to download the game, product market fit is an indicator. The game could have just the first 20,000 users, but if we can see there is a very high level of retention, we can see success. These metrics are studied very carefully and measured throughout.
Andries De Vos: Are there metrics you consider before investing the initial amount, metrics that give you an early warning of “this will not work?”
Rahul Bhardwaj: Gaming is an entertainment industry, so we have checkpoints similar to what you would see in a content creation industry, starting with our version of a script – a wireframe and game design. We look at as much information as the team can provide, including game economy and the hooks. Then we start working towards the flow of the game, and that’s when we have the experience checkpoint – what the art would be like. People look at scientific ways to produce content, but actually, there’s a lot of feeling involved in the assessment, you need to feel the game. If we’re happy with the feel, we get to the last checkpoint, which is the alpha-beta release. We get the game to as many users as possible, get that experience back in and start studying core metrics like retention, the core loop.
There’s a great example of high retention, which you can find in the League of Legends video that was posted almost a decade ago. The League of Legends realized they created the perfect loop for their game when their interns wouldn’t stop playing the game, that’s how much they loved that particular style. That is what you’re trying to achieve: get the game in the hands of as many people as possible, then figure out if they’ll pay in any fashion for what’s going on, and it is followed by depth, i.e. how soon can they finish the game vs how long they can keep playing the game. If the game ends in 5 hours, have you achieved something important? Have you built a community around it? It’s a strong principle of product involvement, getting people attached because they spent a lot of effort and time on it. This is true for gamers as well – they want to keep their profile and assets and move them to different games because they invested thousands of hours. For that, we need to create a game that has thousands of hours for users to play.
Andries De Vos: In the world of web design, you can create wireframes and have them tested with users to see if users like them. Is there an equivalent in game regarding the actual fun users are going to have?
Rahul Bhardwaj: Absolutely, that is the method. It takes us 2-3 weeks to get a prototype with just wireframes and basic buttons to simulate the experience we want the game to have. Then we pull together a Q&A team and tell them to play that new game for an hour. What we do by that is see if the action itself is interesting enough to make the play take the next action, and the next.
Andries De Vos: If I have $10M and I want to build 100 games, would it be better to get 5 of them be winners or to focus on 1? What strategy is better?
Rahul Bhardwaj: Anything that has short-term upside will have an inversely higher amount of risk of failure in the future. You can invest in a web tree and raise money quickly, but what happens after the coin drops in value? Short-term success is not to be chased, because the experience is short-lived, people will copy you faster, and everyone is looking for the same type of user. We went through that as well: we built strong hypercasuals but we got copied, and we had to deal with a lot of hypercompetition. Hardcore games are very hard to pull off, unless you have a really deep creative core, but you can’t expect to get a Star Wars from every hardcore, so what you want to try is building mid-core – the risk is mitigated, the competition isn’t hyper.
Andries De Vos: Gaming industry serves the top 2 billion people in the world in terms of demographics –people with stable internet, good internet, luxury of time. Can something be done to use games as a tool for development?
Rahul Bhardwaj: Education is the place to start. When you gamify the behavior of an individual at an early age toward taking the right actions to build good habits and a successful career, it works. I use that method with my son as well, teaching him to earn value from the right action. My son collects points for activities he wants to do, and in the process, he learns economics, creativity, and he learns to negotiate. Kids should have as much fun as they want, what I do is teach them to think of different scenarios, and be creative. Edugaming is a good place to start. At a macro level, I don’t see it doing that.