Testing and improving hyper-casual games to find the hit in them

Senior Business Development Manager and Publishing Manager of Azur Games Interactive Eugene Tatonkin talked about the company’s game & investment decision roadmap at the Mobidictum Business Meetup.
Eugene Tatonkin
“Experience and knowledge is more important than money,” says Eugene Tatonkin.

As you know, we held the Mobidictum Business Meetup back on January 27 in Istanbul. We discussed many things in our networking event, and we were thrilled to host many influential personalities from the mobile industry around the globe. Eugene Tatonkin, Senior Business Development Manager and Publishing Manager of Azur Games Interactive, was among those people. 

You can watch Eugene Tatonkin’s talk here.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Azur Games managed to prevail successfully. The company got to the top 3 in the top charts and increased their overall downloads, hitting the 5 billion worldwide user mark.

Of course, like any story of success, Azur Games’ is not out of luck, but careful planning and broadcasting. Eugene was kind enough to share the subtleties and the way of approach in their workplace. In his talk, he talked about the importance and details of data in hyper-casual broadcasting. After explaining how a simple idea can be of high volume, he answers questions from the participants at the end of his talk. Commenting on the CPI of the games published by Azur Games, Eugene also explains its importance and how developers should read it.

Revisiting the way you approach a mobile game

“Whenever you start a project, you don’t really know how to scale it, especially when you put some form of in-app purchase into the game,” says Eugene, and adds: “The market is pretty challenging right now. You cannot drop the game based solely on its CPI.”

To support his claim, he exemplifies a few games of Azur Games. One of his examples was Sword Play! Ninja Slice Runner for iOS. Before its initial launch and iteration, Sword Play!’s metrics looked like this:

  • R1 – 39%
  • CPI – 0.32$

After a month of iteration, the CPI was a solid 1$, and R1 was up by 4 percent, to 41%, resulting in 40M+ downloads and 7M$+ revenue. The game was the top game on the top charts.

Swordplay! could quickly be abandoned if Azur Games wasn’t precise about checking every metric available and rolling the game back to its first playable version, which was the main reason behind its success.

One of their 3D merge games for Azur Games, Chain Cube 2048, was a redemption story. Currently sitting at 32M+ downloads, the first test metrics were well below satisfactory: 

  • R1 – 39,3%
  • CPI – >1$
  • Rating: ★★✰✰✰
  • Playtime for day 1: 16 minutes
  • Playtime for day 30+: 7,5 minutes

Eventually, the game was reworked and released and got pretty satisfactory results. With these test results, more times than not, publishers/developers cancel the project to preserve their labor and time for something more —on paper— profitable. What did motivate Azur Games to revisit the project before abandoning it altogether?

Simple: They saw the potential in the game, no matter how raw. It was meditative, had variable gameplay, and had a good “action—response feel. Also, it has a vibe that grows in players, making it impossible to exit the game earlier than ten minutes after they open it.

Azur Games believed in the project’s potential and held an iteration process of about 6 months. The game had 50+ updates regarding improvement of game feel, overall logic, visuals, monetization, retention, and rating.

Metrics after iteration:

  • R1 – 60%
  • Rating: 4.3★
  • Playtime for day 1: 30 minutes
  • Playtime for day 30+: 15+ minutes
  • 130+ ad views on launch day
  • More than 5% of players paid for the ad-free version.

How does the Azur Games assess the possible hits? It has layers to it. Like the careful evaluation and improvement process of their games, the company is meticulous in its investments. The company does the following before finalizing an investment:

  • Checking their potential investments’ EBITDA 4-7 and P&L
  • Seeing if they share the same motivation and perspective
  • Looking at their games
  • Buying 15-25% of their shares in return.

Of course, these steps will vary in importance: A team with poor P&L might get invested by Azur Games if the company believes in their skill and vision.

Tatonkin says that if they are sold on the investment idea and the subject companies’ love of creating hyper-casual games, he is confident that the subject firm will develop a hit in a few months since Azur Games will provide an extensive set of data, and a solid know-how.

According to Tatonkin, the share of knowledge should be the key to any strategic partnership. Money is a must, but it takes companies only so far.

“An advice to the studios who will get investments: Always ask the investors what they will provide for you except money. Money is great, but their knowledge, experience, and access to their data are more valuable than their money. Some bonuses from publishers like those and their help with monetization and user acquisition are more important.”

Eugene Tatonkin.

You can find more in the panel videos we have prepared for you. Don’t forget to follow the Mobidictum Business YouTube channel!

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