Berlin has developed a lot in the past years. Many young game companies have moved to or have been founded in the German capital region. You have been here for more than 10 years, what have you observed? What is the strength of Berlin as a games location?
The internationality of the city, its cultural offering, the beautiful surrounding, relatively cheap cost of living and the thriving IT scene makes Berlin, in my eyes, one of the most interesting locations on the planet to be living and working in. Berlin has come a long way over the last ten years in terms of developing into a hub for many IT startups as well as games companies, large and small. The scene is strong – yet could be stronger, of course. One of the main drivers for networking and mutual inspiration within the ecosystem has been games:net, who really helped making Berlin as a games hub more attractive.
Jens, many national and international companies are now more aware of diversity, inclusion and gender equality to recruit the best minds. Recently, you pre-recruited the female specialists of the day after tomorrow at Girls´ Day. What are the benefits of such actions for Wooga? Why is employer branding not only important for the games industry?
We are interested in credible positioning vis-à-vis potential employees. Today's employees place value on companies that offer good conditions but are also committed to society, for example by increasing the diversification of their workforce and promoting previously disadvantaged groups. At Wooga, we are involved at several levels - whether through the support of parents employed by us, a management-initiated diversity working group, or making our premises available for events such as the Girls' Games Workshop - to name just a few examples. In general, every employer wants to hire the best talent, regardless of the industry in which they operate. And in view of the shortage of skilled workers in Germany, I can only advise every entrepreneur to think about how to recruit and retain the best employees.
Wooga is the leading German manufacturer of so-called "Story Driven Casual Games", as it is called on your site. In June´s Journey the players dive into the glamorous 1920s, with Tropicats I create my tropical dream island. Jens, who are your gamers, how well do you know them?
We know the target groups well across our games. We come into contact with our players at various points - for example on Facebook and through direct contact with our customer service. Sometimes players even come to our office to get to know the people behind the games. And of course we do market research. So we know the preferences and interests of our target group, how they spend their time, which features they like and which less. Based on that, we then develop personas and accordingly develop our existing games further or conceptualize new ones.
10 years ago you founded Wooga and experienced pretty much all the ups and downs that founders can imagine. In December you sold Wooga to the Israeli manufacturer Playtika. Now you are an employed managing director. What has changed? Is your life more relaxed? Can you recommend this special exit model to other founders?
Very little has changed in everyday working life. I am still completely responsible for Wooga. And while there used to be several investors to whom I was accountable, now it's one owner - it's not dramatically different. Wooga is also doing well, and the new owner has little interest in intervening in a healthy and growing company. With Playtika, we deliberately chose a partner that is very complementary to our product portfolio and our expertise in the industry. Playtika's strengths include live ops, artificial intelligence and personalization - all fields in which we can learn a lot. And an experienced and trustworthy partner with whom we will be successful in the long term provides security.
With a stable partner by your side like Playtika, what are your plans for the future of Wooga? Will you try more different game styles or venture into completely new paths?
The most important fact is that Wooga will continue to do what it is best at: Develop and market story-driven casual games and keep them alive by continuously adding new story elements and features. As I said, Playtika and Wooga form a great partnership in combining our strengths. So at the core of any plans stands the idea to continue what we both are good at by at the same time benefitting through learning from each other.
Right now we have a stable and healthy portfolio of products. We have, at the same time, a couple of new games currently in development. They are both based on a mixture of well-known, “Wooga-style” elements and very new approaches. I wish I could share more, but right now there is nothing to announce – please stay tuned!
Thank you, Jens!
Photo Jens Begemann © Wooga