Case study: Making a haircut game that surpassed 10M installs in a month

Azur Games shares insights on how the title Hair Tattoo: Barber Shop ranked in the top 3 among simulators.
Characters from Hair Tattoo: Barber Shop game

As the mobile platform became more widespread, developers started shifting toward the mobile game genre, creating more and more games every year. According to US Mobile Gaming Statistics, there are over 500,000 mobile games currently on Google Play.

Related: How Azur Games revived three mobile games other publishers abandoned

So how can an up-and-coming developer put themselves on the board and make their game popular? Copying existing and successful games might work, but it’s hit-or-miss.

Coming up with a fresh and new idea that nobody has thought of would be golden, but unfortunately, with half a million games already on the table, golden ideas are a bit scarce. Taking a decent concept with a fresh perspective? Now, that seems like the key.

Azur Games, in collaboration with developer Next2Play Studio, took a haircut game, Hair Tattoo: Barber Shop, and surpassed 10 million installs in a month. There are many haircut games in app stores, so how did the companies find success with this one? Next2Play’s Founder, Vyacheslav Galygin, and Azur’s Producer, Alexander Prokopovich, shared behind-the-scenes thought processes that went to the making of this title.

Same concept, out-of-the-box perspective

Per Azur Games’ words, the idea of the game was simply becoming a regular barber. Customers would ask for haircuts, dyes, and different geometric shapes and symbols to get a “hair tattoo.” Although the audience for these games is primarily women, the company states that they went so far off the block that they received a 75% male audience at launch.

Before delving deeper into the topic, Azur’s key takeaways from this project are as follows:

  • Theme selection based on market analysis and openness to potential users’ lives.
  • Ability to create unique visuals.
  • Striving for hybridity through the meta, inaps, and other mid-core features increasingly used in hyper-casual games.

Azur Games states that one of the most critical points of difference was the realistic graphics. While other games had cartoonish art, Prokopovich felt that approach was exaggerated and unrelatable. In order to make the game more engaging for the audience, a recognizable interior layout, along with calmer colors, were used for the barbershop’s design. This difference caused the game to go in a completely different direction than its competitors.

Tackling the marketing strategy

After the game’s in-game design was completed, it was time for advertising campaigns and data analysis. Galygin talked about his feelings on the marketing part of the project in these sentences:

“Our forte is development, and, frankly, I’m glad that marketing of the project is on the publisher’s side. I don’t have a headache now about UA, scaling, or ASO, and it makes life a lot easier. I still keep track of metrics and trends, but I spend most of my time on game design and art.”

Azur, however, made some thought-provoking discoveries during ad campaigns. The games were more prominent in regions where barbershops are an actual part of people’s lives, and ads on TikTok brought in a massive increase in organic interactions. The company states:

“Most likely, the game got viral. Although it is only an assumption, the influx of organics continues to this day. In addition, the CPI on TikTok is lower than on Facebook ($0.16 versus $0.31).”

While Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico took the top 3 spots on Facebook ads, Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina were the leaders on TikTok.

Finding the right audience

Azur shares that the game’s setting was a barbershop, a salon for men. After the launch period, seeing that 75% of players were male, the company had a choice to make: either keep focusing on the male player base or attempt to expand to the female audience. Azur Games chose the latter.

Although including women in a barbershop caused some confusion at first, Azur mentions players quickly accepted and embraced the new customers. With this change, the audience moved away from being primarily male players and became mixed.

The company briefly mentions giving players some help by delivering specific patterns, rendering their work flawless. Azur states this caused a massive outflow of users as they concluded, “many don’t strive for perfection, but for freedom of creativity.”

The project’s progress

In July 2022, the game landed 14 million downloads in total on iOS and Android, ranking 8th on Android and 9th overall. Azur states that now, the project is in the top three in many countries.

Prokopovich notes that this was achieved with good communication between Next2Play and Azur, and more content is on its way, including character diversity, voice acting, and taking photos of finished cuts.

Mobile games have become incredibly popular in the past few years. Many reasons have been stated for this increase: COVID, the lockdown, easy access, affordability, faster internet, even faster smartphones, and more. Hair Tattoo: Barber Shop shows developers that well-planned and cleverly considered mobile games always have a shot at making it all the way to the top.

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