How this game company boosted profits sixfold without needing venture capital

We’ve come a long way since the soft launch of our mobile game, Walking War Robots, on iOS in 2014 — our monthly revenues have grown to $1.3 million, and we released on Google Play. Over these years, we repeatedly encountered problems that allowed us to get where we’re at now.

Based on our previous experiences, we developed a methodology for creating and evolving our game that relies heavily on rigorous re-evaluation of data and analytics, but on on constant  experimentation within the game that allowed us to test new hypotheses and make it more fun.

As such, we split the game’s releases into several categories while developing WWR:

  • Content-releases to improve user experience;
  • Content-releases with new types of robots and other staff that affected the economics and meta of the game;
  • Tweaks to the gameplay and interface;

Each content type brings us a step closer to making game as a service.

At the outset of our project, we lacked content — although it was limited and we didn’t have any marketing, we were able to reach 158,000 installs in Russia over two weeks, in addition to a large number of 4.5-plus reviews on the App Store. Our all-important Day 7 retention figure was better than we expected, so we paid special attention to releasing new content and features. Only once we were happy with our core gameplay metrics did we consider starting off a paid user acquisition strategy.

At this stage we began testing out additional improvements to the game’s interface, as well as additional hypotheses to enhance interest for new players. As these kinds of updates have little impact on short-term profits, their success was measured in terms of increased user involvement and improved user retention. In relation to a project’s long-term development and large marketing budget, even the smallest of positive percentage changes can have a big impact.

Improvements in the gameplay and interface play an important role here – the higher the number of new players stay in game, the more you can spend on marketing with a positive ROI. Looking at marketing as an investment that should pay off within understood timescales is imperative – that’s why any improvements that increase the funnel of new players and improve retention can be considered to be some of the most important. . Content-releases in the form of new maps have no impact on profits in the immediate term, but it’s exactly this type of content that forms a loyal user base. Other types of content may achieve the same goal, but it should be free and available to all players. Maps are a great example in this case because they have a huge impact on the gameplay variety in shooters. And, of course, it’s simply hard to make a cool game without this type of content.

Using this approach, the game’s revenues grew from $55,000 to $200,000 in six months, while total installs went up from 461,000 to 764,000. We understood that it could be earning even more, but the 45-day delay in payments from the App Store was holding us back by creating a cash gap. The repayment time lag created a trade-off between investing in our team, spending on marketing and releasing new content. In this case, a developer may turn to raising additional capital. We initially wanted to do just that, and found a few interested investors – in the end, though, we chose to develop our game without any external investment. Because of this, we continued searching for a way to accelerate the growth of our earnings. On the advice of one of our investors, we turned to a refactoring company – one that extracted funds from app stores on commission. Having weighed up our options, we decided that PollenVC would suit us best – we continue to work with them to this day.

In the presence of rapid reinvestment, a company will eventually face the problems associated with rapid growth. That’s why it’s so critical to strike the balance between making large investments in marketing and the development team.

Through reinvestment, we’ve been able to grow revenues six times and achieve a 300 percent increase in DAU from 80,000 to 410,000. The team grew at a slightly slower pace — we initially had six developers, while we now have more than 44. Although this is often overlooked, it’s the people behind the project’s development that generate large amounts of new content. Put simply, it’s impossible to guarantee the project’s support and development without reinvesting not only in marketing, but in your team.