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Marvel Snap and its developer, Second Dinner, are getting a lot of attention. The publisher, Nuverse, flies a bit more under the radar.
Nuverse is the video game arm of ByteDance, the same Chinese company that owns TikTok. And as with that video app, Nuverse has global ambitions.
I had the chance to speak 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 games market, and more. Below is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: What exactly are Nuverse’s responsibilities as publisher of Marvel Snap?
From dam: We’re the global publisher of Marvel Snap, which means we do the marketing for the game, including user acquisition, branding, and anything outward-facing. We do things like customer support. And then we also do a lot of operational activities and support, we kind of expand the content available to players by running events that are related to the game but don’t necessarily put a strain on the development team at the same time. That creates nice synergy.
GamesBeat: This is still a relatively new publishing brand, but you have this Marvel game and you can work with a new studio like Second Dinner and brands like One Piece.
From dam: Yes, the company has been around for about five years, and I’m talking specifically about Nuverse, ByteDance’s gaming unit. So there’s a five-year history, which is relatively new. And certainly, you know, compared to some of the other players in the industry, I think it’s a new business. But we now employ thousands of people. It’s certainly not a small company, it’s certainly a company set up on a large scale to aim for the top of the market. We have recruited many high-end talents from backgrounds tending to other top companies. And so, as we build this, this organization that aims to provide gamers around the world with essentially fun and inspiring experiences, we’ve started collaborating with other partners who have 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 great. And so there are many. So I think we started strong, but certainly there will be more as we go into the future.
GamesBeat: I’m mostly familiar with Marvel Snap, and I think many of my readers might be too. What are some of the other types of highlights in your portfolio?
From dam: Well, we’ve had a lot of success in Asia games like Ragnarok, the Red Alert 4X game we made, but also looking ahead where we’re about to launch a game called Earth: Revival. That will be a product that will also come to gamers in the West. But you know, of course Marvel Snap was meant to be our biggest flagship launch in Western markets. So I think it’s normal for that to be the first game everyone gets to see.
GamesBeat: We are now a few months after the launch of Marvel Snap. What has been the reaction of players?
From dam: Yes, we were blown away. It was a pretty exciting moment, I think for everyone at Nuverse for our partners at Second Dinner, hoping the launch would go well, and I think we’ve seen some amazing feelings 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 does a different kind of monetization plan where you sell season passes and bundles.
From dam: Yes 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 get away from we wanted to give this a fresh take on the genre what also meant potential innovation on the monetary aspect. And it has been well received. If you look at many modern games, cosmetic monetization is very popular. And those who want to play fair and just put their time into the game have equal opportunities. So it’s a really good mix. I think it’s been very successful in other games, and it certainly seems to be working for us with Snap.
GamesBeat: Marvel Snap has had a strong start. Can you keep up that momentum?
From dam: Yes, we are definitely going for long-term operations. We want this game to be around for years to come. But in the short term the next exciting update is of course the Battle Mode where you finally have the ability to play against someone you know and we’re really excited about that we hope people will really encourage their friends and everyone to them to get more games from Snap [Battle Mode launched between the time of this interview and the publishing of this story]. And as we move further into the future, you know 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 been dominated by the same titles for years. Is it difficult to score a new hit in the mobile field these days?
From dam: Yes, I would say it’s pretty hard. Nor is it a very predictable business. You know, you see companies with huge budgets and big IPs, still not getting the best results and other games with lower budgets and unknown IPs suddenly shooting to the top of the charts. So it is unpredictable. But of course, if you focus on finding the right teams, which is what Nuverse did with Second Dinner or some of the internal studios that we’re building, you can increase the chances of delivering a very good game that players love will be up. and thus have greater potential to reach the top of the market. And then, of course, the other thing 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 many ingredients. And if you have most of these ingredients, you can certainly increase your chances, which is what Nuverse is trying to do as well.
GamesBeat: You talked a little bit about having IP and that’s not all. But still I can imagine it helps.
From dam: Yes, I would agree. It’s amazing 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 when you have that IP address, things get a little bit easier. That first connection the IP can make between the game and the player is really valuable. That’s why Marvel has been great for us in promoting Marvel Snap.
GamesBeat: How do you approach marketing to different markets?
From dam: Nuverse is truly a globally minded publishing house. When people often think of the publishers from Asia, they think of taking their game to Asia, their game to China. But one of the reasons I joined the company was because of that global mindset. I’ve previously spent some time with other Chinese companies that wanted to go international as well. But I think Nuverse is really global, right, not just focused on one part of the world. And so, because we have this global mindset, we have what we call decentralized global publishing, which means there are different teams in different parts of the world. There’s a team in the US, a team in China, a team in Japan and other places, and they work together on a particular game to give it the best approach locally, but then link it to a global plan driven by a global strategy.
So for example for Marvel Snap, you know, it’s a game that works really well in the West. But we’ve also seen great success in Japan and Korea. And we’re using local teams there under Nuverse doing what’s right for the game and for those markets.
GamesBeat: Are there any trends in mobile gaming that Nuverse is interested in?
From dam: You know, it’s a sensitive period in that we’re seeing a bit of an economic slowdown, and that’s translating into slower global market growth than in previous years. And so it is very important that you find the right products. But because many will fail, it is difficult to predict which ones will be successful. So it’s best to focus back on having a solid team that knows what it’s doing in space, like Second Dinner and CCGs for example. And have publishing teams that have a lot of experience in that specific category.
What Nuverse is trying to do is prioritize developer success. Because if we can have two people who are good at what they do, in their specific genre, make the game they think is good, then that usually translates into something that players want to play. And that allows you, even in a maybe shrinking market, to still have a game that is really interesting for players to play and generally promotes success.
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