One of the most widely read industry blogs for the mobile free to play gaming industry is called Deconstructor of Fun. Miska Katkoff first started the blog as a hobby but has since steadily grown the blog over many years to now where routinely many of his blog posts get over 50,000 views.
How did the blog start? What was the original motivation? What allowed the blog to become so popular? What are the key benefits from the blog? And what’s the future in terms of where the blog is headed and some of the things that he’s going to be doing with the blog?
I also go into my own personal theory about why having a blog is critical in the future to have a “digital footprint” as an extension of your paper resume which are becoming increasingly less valuable over time.
You should also check out the podcast segment we do together for Miska’s Deconstructor of Fun podcast which you can find here:
Watch or read on for this video interview with *the* Miska Katkoff who is also a good friend and overall really great guy.
Full Transcript Below
Joe Kim: Hey everybody. I’m here today with *the famous* Miska Katkoff, who is the famous blogger at Deconstructor of Fun and also head of studio at Rovio, but I want to talk to you about your blog Miska, because when I think about the mobile games industry, you are definitely one of the most famous people that I know, and in terms of blogs Deconstructor of Fun is probably the most well read, most recognizable blog. Take me back when you were first starting this blog, what was going on in your mind? How did it start?
Miska Katkoff: All right, I’m going to be real.
Joe Kim: Be real.
Miska Katkoff: The blog started pretty much from taking notes. I was working as a PM, deconstructing different games. And I noticed that all the deconstructions that I did prior to the blog, they weren’t too good because I did it for myself and I wasn’t putting in the effort to it.
I was playing a game and I was thinking that I kind of learned something but in all honesty, the way I learn is by writing. I started … back in the days, it was my ex girlfriend. She was writing some kind of beauty blog or something like that. The blog was pretty new back then. And then, I’m like, “I’ll open up a blog as well. It will be about games.” So I kind of got the idea from her and I just started putting my notes in there, writing about stuff really didn’t care about how much traffic I’m getting or anything like that. It was honestly just noticed for myself and they were better because they were public. It originally blew up through CSR Racing. That was kind of the first top grossing game that everybody was talking about it. We were just playing and people were talking about that at the studio and I was working at Rovio back then.
I remember one of the designers talking about like everybody had their opinion and it was kinda …. I was like, “Okay, I can get into this discourse in this small channel of designers and PM’s around me or I could just write what I think about it to this blog that I started.” So I wrote it and it went super viral and everybody read it, and everybody at work read it. So it was kind of interesting that instead of having the stuff from discussions during lunch and whatnot, you just have this … You create your opinion and write it down, you break it down, and then you make it public. And then suddenly everybody talks about what you said instead of… this is just weird. But I kept on going with that. I kept on writing more stuff and I remember writing about Clash of Clans and that one got like half a million clicks. It definitely went pretty viral.
Joe Kim: How long were you writing or before the turning point with the CSR Racing post?
Miska Katkoff: I don’t remember. I think a month or two.
Joe Kim: Do you have any idea of why it went viral or how?-
Miska Katkoff: Yeah. It was a big game. The same thing still with the blog. People read, like our readers, I mean you’d know it but our readers are only interested in money. They’re interested in why a game makes money. They’re interested in what does the market look like so that they can make money. They are not interested in cool games. They’re not interested in games that are like “interesting.” They’re not interested in graphics, they are not interested in anything else but money.
Joe Kim: Right.
Miska Katkoff: And that’s the motto of the website as well. It’s because “fun is serious business.” So we focus on writing mainly about why somebody makes money. They also are not interested in why somebody is not making money.
Joe Kim: And then, how has the blog benefited you? What do you think are the main advantages from having a blog become popular and people are starting to recognize you?
Miska Katkoff: There’s goods and bads in it as well. Of course it gives you … It differentiates you on the market and the job market. And of course there’s a lot of opportunities. There’s a lot of opportunities to engage with people to discuss things. So it’s great in that. As a learning tool, it’s fantastic. You’ve done Idle Heroes, for example, that was one on the best ones we’ve had in 2017. 20I7 I think you wrote it, or 18… 17. And you probably learned a lot by writing that piece?
Joe Kim: Yeah.
Miska Katkoff: You formulated your ideas. So if somebody wants to talk about RPGs, you could smoke them pretty easily because you formulated it. It’s not how many hours you’ve played, just you had the time to think about it and write your opinions down. So through that, of course it has helped in terms of making you a better game developer, better designer, better product manager, a better general manger just by understanding the business. The negative side is like, people do like to hate. I post stuff and I just close it down. I don’t care about the comments. I don’t even look at the numbers of views we get, only if other people are writing the post, then I’ll kind of tell them like, “Hey, good job, this reach, this many.”
I don’t care at all how many views my posts get. But you get automatically some hate, people are like, “Oh, he’s just a blogger.” That’s the typical thing. He’s just a blogger. They want to diss you through that. And I’m like, “Listen bro, you write a blog. Tell me how that goes. Just write one article. Tell me how that works in the middle of your own work in games.” That’s what I think. I never say that but you know…
Joe Kim: I guess one of the positive advantages of the blog, it’s kind of made you famous, right? And so like we’re here at GDC, last year at GDC there were folks from my team who wanted to take pictures with you because you are famous. How do you feel about that celebrity part?
Miska Katkoff: I should’ve started a rock band. These groupies are nothing. Just kidding. Of course it’s really great. I’m embarrassed by it… Yesterday we did a talk and a guy came afterwards and he was the founder of Temple Run. What’s their studio called? I want to say Jumanji…
Anyway, shout out to them. And he came in and he’s like, “Hey, thank you. Like, I’ve been reading your blog good stuff since like 2013 or something.” So it’s really humbling. Because these are excellent people, excellent game developers. And I play their games. And for them to benefit from reading the blog, and a lot of people have gotten their first jobs by reading the blog and kind of preparing through that to go to an interview.
We’ve got analysts (investment banking) reading it and they’re kind of understand better the business. So they ask better questions from the CEOs and so forth. So it’s humbling in that sense, to be able to contribute to the industry that I love. I hope that I could contribute with a fucking smash hit of a game, but we’re working on that. Apparently that doesn’t come too easy, but until then it’s going to be just knowledge sharing.
Joe Kim: What are the interesting things that … I think you’ve mentioned to me it’s just Deconstructor of Fun as more of a platform and I’ve been just a blog. Can you explain what you mean by that? How is it going to become a platform?
Miska Katkoff: It is already grown to a platform. We have like 15 people now inside Deconstructor of Fun, everybody’s sharing. It started off from having a lot of time to write, to having very little time to write with a family. And then I was a fan of Anil Das-Guptas. He had a horrible blog name called Both Guns Blazing. I mean, I get what he was going for but that is some middle America shit. Adam Telfer has his Mobile Free to Play blog and some other people have their own blogs. So it’s kind of just saying, “Hey, you can cross post it here.” We’re not competing. That’s the important notion to understand. We’re not competing, we’re sharing information and if you want to use this platform as well, then go for it. So a lot of people kind of started doing that and as we got more guest posts, more guest posts wanted to do that.
We get monthly people asking and we do get monthly submissions of different types of posts. And we do reject them very often. You’re also very harsh in reviewing them. Once you get past the threshold then your post is published you become a contributor and you’re invited into the slack group and there we just share knowledge and have a lot of people from a lot of studios around the world that are very open in various things which is very helpful.
Joe Kim: Right. I have a personal theory that the whole notion of a paper resume is dead, that really in the future that people are going to be evaluated more on what I’m calling the digital footprint. Like your work, your thinking, your analysis kind of open. Whether it’s a blog post or podcast or something like that. Would you agree with that notion and is that a good motivation to have a blog or something like that? So that future employers can evaluate you?
Miska Katkoff: I’d say you have to approach it just like artists approach art station. Create awesome concept arts, awesome like everything. And they post it publicly to Art Station, just to get visibility, just get notified, just to get sometimes positive feedback from what they’re doing. Designers, product managers, and product people, we don’t have that. This should be considered like Art Station. This is our version. Spending hours and hours on perfecting our craft and sharing it freely with the group. And of course that generates opportunities for people. A lot of people from the blog have gotten their next jobs by participating, by writing, and getting noticed.
It isn’t incentive. You have your resume, but it’s also like a work sample.
When you look at it like, okay, this person really understands this. If you write about an RPG game, it’s not uncommon for couple of RPG studios connecting with you and asking like whether you would be interested.
Joe Kim: Okay, cool. Last question. What’s next for Deconstructor of Fun? Just continue to blog and I know we’ve got the podcast now or what are your thoughts?
Miska Katkoff: We have consulting as well. We have been consulting for quite a while, for a couple of years now. We mainly consult big clients. I will not name any of them, but every listener here has used their platforms or played their games. But I don’t know. It depends on what you guys want to do. I’m very open to it, but my priority is still trying to make those fucking hit games. Like even one come on. I need one top grossing. That’s still there. That’s the priority. This is secondary. This is fun. This is good learning. This hopefully supports the original important cause. That’s the way I see it. I take no pressure.
Joe Kim: Okay, great. Well, there you have it, Miska Katkoff, the most famous blogger in the mobile gaming world.
Miska Katkoff:Why is he doing this LA thing? Why can’t we just be normal? “The most… I have a story for you. We are going to talk now to the most successful executive in games north from Hollywood.”
Joe Kim:And also Head of Studio of Rovio. So make sure you check out his upcoming game in the future. Again, he is not just a blogger.
Miska Katkoff:Fucking download and pay. Convert immediately and pay and retain.
Joe Kim:All right. That’s it. Thanks.
Miska Katkoff:Thank you.