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How Azur Games grew its hypercasual games to 1.5B downloads

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Azur Games is a kind of firms that has quietly develop into one of many high ten recreation publishers on the earth with greater than 1.5 billion downloads. It did so by pivoting into the rising hypercasual games on cell units.

Now the corporate has greater than 300 staff in Cyprus and Eastern Europe, stated Dmitry Yaminsky, CEO of Azur Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. And within the first quarter, Azur’s Stack Ball and Hit Master 3D games had been among the many top-20 most downloaded games worldwide, in accordance to measurement agency Sensor Tower.

During this profitable run, Yaminsky discovered that whereas many hypercasual games stay huge hits for a few month, they rapidly fall off after that. But the downloads don’t go to zero. Rather, they fall to possibly 10% or 20% of the early numbers. And then they keep at that stage of maybe 100,000 downloads a month for a very long time, giving the games an extended life and a extra predictable income stream. And with so many games within the library and upcoming pipeline, Azur Games has a fairly good enterprise that may maintain the worker base, Yaminsky stated. Stack Ball is the most important hit, with greater than 300 million downloads, whereas WormsZome.io has greater than 200 million downloads.

But the competitors isn’t simple. There are rivals like Voodoo Games, SayGames, Rollic, and others.

Origins

Above: Modern Strike was the primary hit by Azur Games.

Image Credit: Azur Games

Yaminsky beforehand labored within the promoting trade, however determined to transfer into games after a downturn struck in 2014 and 2015.

Yaminsky formally began the sport writer in 2016 in Moscow to publish midcore games, or these with hardcore themes however could be performed briefly cycles on cell units. The firm discovered a studio that was engaged on a title known as Modern Strike Online, a cell tackle Counter-Strike. And they helped them with the launch with advertising and marketing at first.

That recreation grew to become an enormous hit with greater than 70 million downloads, and Azur Games acquired half of the event studio.

“It was very successful. And with the launch of the game, I decided to work on other games. And so after the company started as a mobile publisher, and then we started our own development,” he stated.

In 2017, hypercasual games — which take maybe a minute to play — began taking off, thanks to new recreation firms like Voodoo Games. He moved the headquarters to Cyprus.

“We didn’t really know how to approach user acquisition for the new market at the time, so we decided to fund and conduct an experiment — two people from the team made a hypercasual game that became a hit,” Yaminsky stated. “It turned out that two or three people can create a project with better metrics than a team of 60 in the midcore segment. That was our pivot.”

In the primary experiment, one particular person labored on programming and one other on artwork. It took a few month to end the sport. On its first day, the sport generated $1,000 in promoting income. On the second day, it was $2,000.

“Then we started acquiring users,” he stated. “Back then it was just so easy. There were so few competitors. A lot of people said it was impossible. I said it was my money. Let me waste it. In fact, the first game I launched was a real success.”

Growing the enterprise

Azur Games' employees in Cyprus.

Above: Some of Azur Games’ staff in Cyprus.

Image Credit: Azur Games

Some firms began churning out games like factories. It was comparatively simple to develop in hypercasual at the moment because the market was small and the builders had been very obsessed with presenting their games.

That’s after we knew we would have liked to stand out from the opposite publishers and tried to see the groups for his or her potential, refine the prototypes, and accumulate experience inside the firm,” Yaminsky stated. “This was a breath of fresh air for the industry, since most publishers at that time just looked at the first metrics — if they were good, then they took the project, if not, they sent it back to the developer.”

Azur Games began to construct an ecosystem that might be comfy for the builders and develop tasks inside it. It shared its expertise and actively helped budding studios and solo builders to enter the market. As a end result, the advertising and marketing budgets grew, the studios realized to belief Azur Games, and the corporate started attracting quite a lot of new builders.

While the headquarters is in Cyprus, the group is unfold out, with again places of work in Dubai and Moscow. Most of the folks work remotely, which helps the corporate develop rapidly. About 50 folks work in advertising and marketing and analytics, whereas a group of 30 movement designers work on inventive adverts that assist the games unfold. About 200 folks work on midcore tasks, which might have increased margins.

Above: Azur Games has plenty of hypercasual titles.

Image Credit: Azur Games

“We’re trying to pave our own way,” Yaminsky stated. “Many companies on the market are still waiting for finished projects with good metrics. But we at Azur Games believe in teams and improve the projects ourselves.”

While hypercasual games nonetheless gives many of the downloads, Azur Games has diversified into the informal recreation and midcore recreation segments. Those games will begin popping out within the coming months and years.

The hypercasual division consists of a number of mini-teams, which embrace a producer, two or three product assistants, and two or three recreation designers. Each mini-team works with a restricted variety of studios.

“We prototype about 200 games a month, and after we test them, we launch about one or two games per month,” Yaminsky stated. “In other words, to get a lot of downloads, you need to do a lot of work, which isn’t always visible from the outside.”

Staying forward of rivals

Worm

Above: WormZome.io is certainly one of Azur’s games.

Image Credit: Azur Games

Now that hypercasual is a giant market, firms like Zynga have acquired hypercasual companies like Rollic, and the market is crowded.

“You can win as a company only if you share your expertise with developers more than the others, run tests faster, use your own analytics, and invest your skills and experience in development,” Yaminsky stated. “We put the emphasis on communication and providing the necessary resources: for example, if the team doesn’t have motion designers, game designers or artists, we involve them as needed.”

In different phrases, the present technique is to supply favorable circumstances and growth infrastructure inside its ecosystem. This signifies that the corporate is keen to share something that would assist the builders make the suitable choice, trend-tracking knowledge being one instance. At the identical time, the corporate by no means reworks the games for the studios and it solely suggests the path.

That means the corporate has to discover the suitable groups to construct long-term, mutually helpful relationships. It has invested greater than $10 million in builders to date. Many of the builders are in Eastern Europe, the place firms have realized to transfer rapidly and effectively with out operating up excessive prices, Yaminsky stated. There are additionally quite a lot of educated programmers within the area.

“First and foremost, we always assess the potential. If it’s there, we’re ready to invest our own efforts and substantial amounts of money,” Yaminsky stated. “For instance, if there’s a studio with annual revenue of up to $5 million, we’re ready to invest up to $10 million for a 20% to 30% stake, even more in some cases. Meanwhile, the studio stays in control of the project, and we only help to grow it in all directions, including marketing.”

Above: Azur Games prototypes 200 games a month.

Image Credit: Azur Games

By 2019, the market bought much more aggressive, and now it’s much more heated. In the month of May, the corporate spent greater than $15 million in advertising and marketing. The firm additionally tries to supply the builders extra favorable phrases than others do, like paying properly for every prototype. This permits them to cowl growth prices, to allow them to really feel comfy and take a look at extra issues than they might in a unique setting, Yaminsky stated.

“When it comes to the product strategy, we aim at increasing lifetime value of users and paying more attention to in-app monetization,” he stated. “This means we’re planning to do deeper projects, but we always take the studio resources into account — if the developer doesn’t have a lot of experience, they work on simple mechanics.”

A success recreation can get 300,000 to 500,000 downloads a day, however Yaminsky believes that the long-term issues rather a lot. In the lengthy tail for successful, a recreation can generate $100,000 to $400,000 a month. With 10 to 30 such hits, the lengthy tail generates a constant income that’s within the tens of millions of {dollars} a month.

Now the corporate is on the lookout for extra recreation studios to spend money on to maintain producing extra hits.

“The number of competitors keeps growing, and we have to stay competitive,” Yaminsky stated.

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