John Gardiner is the Senior User Acquisition & Finance Manager at Big Viking Games – a leading social and mobile game development studio with offices in London and Toronto.
1. What was your first export sale?
Our first export sale came because one of the properties we started the company with was already exporting. It would have been on Day 1 in September 2011.
2. How did that first export opportunity arise?
It came about through Facebook. The players pay Facebook and then every month, Facebook remits to us the amount minus their fee. We pay to be on Facebook because they have the huge player base and market. We can also advertise on it. It’s not cheap to be on that platform, but we get the most traction on Facebook; it’s our biggest source of revenue. We also have a couple of games on the Apple and Google mobile app stores.
3. When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I would say our biggest learning throughout the whole four years is the effect that foreign exchange can have on the business. There’s a lot of good and bad depending on how it swings. Learning how to adjust and protect ourselves against large swings in currency [is important]. The swings are out of our control, but there are things we can control, whether it’s hedging, or taking money out at opportune times. Facebook pays us all in U.S. dollars. About 95 per cent of our revenue is from international players, largely from the U.S.
4. How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
For us, the biggest change has been the global shift towards mobile games, coupled with the massive growth of our adjustable market. In the U.S. in 2015, video games were a $23.5 billion industry with more than 155 million regular players. For us, two of our biggest games are targeted towards women over 35, and if you look at the gaming market as a whole, that’s the biggest growing segment of the market since we started as a company. My mom plays games more than I do now. That’s the big surge in video games.
5. What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
I would say having a good understanding and a plan for handling taxes, because depending on where you’re selling and where you’re distributing your products, knowing the tax implications is really huge, and also taking advantage of the government support available to you.