Continuing our series of candid, one-on-one interviews with product management professionals!
In the spotlight today is Haig Sakouyan, Product Manager at BlueBat Games and Cofounder of ProductCamp Vancouver.
How did one of his gaming products thrive in a super saturated market? And what practical advice does he have for Product Managers interested in mobile products? Read on…
Haig, can you describe your career path for us? What attracted you to product management?
Like apparently many Product Managers, I got into it unintentionally. The company I was working for at the time got to a point where my boss believed we needed a Product Manager. I was a Marketing Manager/Client Account Manager. He asked me if I was interested. I had no clue what a PM did, but I accepted the challenge and have never looked back.
What lessons or insights have you received during your time in social and mobile games?
The importance of challenging assumptions!
For example, in social gaming there was once a strong belief that providing players a way to earn coins outside of a currency store would cannibalize revenue. This sounded logical. But through many tests we were able to show that providing free options to earn currency did not hurt the bottom line. In fact, it helped it!
One of the unique aspects about mobile is the need to push out updates as quickly as possible. However, you have to be mindful of the amount of time it takes for people to update their mobile devices.
Online, everyone that plays the game following the update is utilizing the latest and greatest code. On mobile, it can take awhile for the majority of the people to update and there is close to a 0% chance everyone will update.
You need to update but it’s important to not ask your users to update too often. If you do, you run the risk of getting uninstalled.
Why and how did you decide to cofound ProductCamp Vancouver?
Throughout my career I’ve gotten plenty of help. I enjoy doing whatever I can to give back to the community in whatever small way that I can.
Prior to ProductCamp Vancouver getting established, I was involved with ProductCamp Seattle. I had met a few of the other ProductCamp Vancouver cofounders in Seattle and I think it was Stewart Rogers who invited me to get involved in Vancouver.
I was very lucky to be involved in ProductCamp Vancouver from day one. It’s been a great experience. 2015 was our best event yet. You should come out to ProductCamp Vancouver 2016!
Let me know the date when it’s available! But before we look to the future, let’s look back to the past one more time. What are you most proud of accomplishing in your career so far?
I’m most proud of helping build the social poker game Fresh Deck Poker from the ground up. I moved to the San Francisco area from Vancouver in 2012 to work on that product and I stayed there for two and a half years. That was an experience I will cherish forever.
What’s most striking to you as a Product Manager about that experience?
Fresh Deck Poker was the first social poker game to incorporate a first-person perspective. Since its launch, many competitors have tried to copy the look and feel.
With so many poker apps on the market we tried to differentiate ourselves on a couple of angles. For example, we set an extremely high quality bar for the art and created a truly authenticate poker experience.
People doubted we could come into a saturated market dominated by Zynga Poker and compete. Not only did we do it but Fresh Deck Poker became one of the top apps in the genre.
What’s the best career advice you ever received?
Don’t worry about taking credit for the work you do. It’s always a team effort. Strive to do good work which makes your team look good. If they look good, you will too.
My personal advice to Product Managers would be: Stay humble. Know that you don’t know everything. There is and always will be so much to learn. Continue adding to your toolkit by staying up to date on Product Management topics. Seek out the nearest ProductCamp. Get out there and network. Last but not least, have fun!
Last question! Who is your favorite fictional character, and why?
Superman. The guy is just insanely awesome.