Hi Everyone. In lieu of a podcast this week, we wanted to announce that Nico — who hosts our Crypto Corner segment and kicked off Naavik podcasts for us 1.5 years ago — is moving on from Naavik. We couldn’t be happier for him to get more deeply involved in crypto projects and in his day job as an investor at BITKRAFT. In this vein, we’re also searching for a new host for Crypto Corner. Ideally, this person would have:
A mix of experience / interest in games and crypto
Previous podcasting experience (or a portfolio of podcast appearances)
An interest in growing with and getting plugged into the Naavik ecosystem
Of course, though, we welcome all recommendations and levels of experience. Naavik podcasts are up to tens of thousands of downloads a month and we hope to continue delivering the best crypto gaming content once a week. Nico will remain on to help in the onboarding process and we’re so excited to hear from you.
#1: A Look At Survivor!.io’s UA Strategy
Survivor.io is an action-adventure game made by Habby, the developer behind hit mobile game Archero. Survivor.io is simple yet unique. The game has minimalistic 2D graphics to deliver an immersive gameplay experience. They use similar items and hero progression as they do in their previous games, but this time with time-based levels.
The premise of the game is to survive large hordes of zombies for 15 minutes. They will outnumber and surround you. The only way to survive is to kill them before they get to you. Fortunately, the game gives a lot of options when it comes to skill sets. You can choose from a wide range of heroes with unique abilities. Each hero has a different set of skills that you can use to your advantage.
It calls for creativity and quick decision-making. But what really caught my attention for the game was its unique UA strategy — it seems to be one of the first games that has found success leveraging TikTok as an acquisition channel. I’ll be spending some time examining what the company did to find success and what we can learn from this case study.
Bringing it Back To The Basics: Scaling the User Acquisition
As mentioned before, the game uses minimalistic 2D graphics to deliver an immersive gameplay experience where you deal with large hordes of zombies. To take a step back, this feels a lot like marketability testing at its best. The most crucial part of mobile games development is to lay strong foundations from the very beginning. Early marketability testing allows UA experts to gain insights into how well the mobile game’s creative concept will perform during user acquisition, but also how the game concept resonates with the target audience. I’ve personally run hundreds of campaigns on different games using different types of creatives and have found that the best performing concepts have these in common:
Minimalistic graphic design
Large hordes of units (huge crowds of people)
One hero vs One million (zombies)
It’s a winning formula if you can combine all these into one concept. In order to scale your game, user acquisition is key. Marketability is important when it comes to CPI decrease because scaling a mobile game is all about the CPI vs. LTV equation.
Not only is scaling a game a function of a killer user acquisition operation, it’s also a function of LTV — meaning budget can only be adjusted in relation to LTV. A simplified version of this would be if LTV is $5, you can run profitable campaigns until $4.5 CPI (or any other CPI that you calculate based on your margins). Where it gets more complicated is when you take into account the payback periods of the campaigns. Is it D30, D60, D90 or D365 (we’ll save this for a separate article)?
According to Sensor Tower, Survivor.io currently makes $500K per day from IAP (in-app purchase). I would also assume that the game generates an additional $500K/day in IAA (in-app ads) revenue. The strongest countries for iOS are the US, KR and JP.
For Android it's VN, US and BR. This does not include China data. Habby is a Chinese developer, which means they probably know the Chinese market well. I would speculate that all activities we see in the west are 10x in Asia.
Habby began ramping up spend on August 9th to gain momentum (both iOS and GP). On August 11th, daily downloads jumped from 11k/day to 100k/day, and at the time of this analysis, was sitting at 400k/day. We can see they are utilizing a variety of UA channels: Facebook, Google, Tiktok, Unity, Vungle, Ironsource, Applovin. Tiktok alone has accounted for 50% of their budget since the beginning of the global launch.
In my opinion, this is a master move from the UA playbook. This game has everything it needs to succeed on Tiktok — Minimalistic design, a monetization strategy, immersive gameplay. Tiktok has been flooded by Survivor.io videos making it a viral hit and decreasing CPIs even further. Not to mention, three of the top ten ads on TikTok were Survivor.io ads this past week. And no, they are not showcasing real people to make it look like native content. They used what worked: Gameplay, hordes of zombies, meme headlines & the hypercasual creative framework.
To give you a little bit of context, currently TikTok is one of the best performing channels, particularly on iOS according to the performance index created by Appsflyer. Since 2015, the AppsFlyer Performance Index has helped mobile marketers make their most important decision: which media sources to partner with. With the ‘media shakeup‘ in full swing, carefully reviewing the index is now more important than ever!
Thanks to the huge budget spending (given rough estimates of previous campaigns I’ve worked on, I’d imagine they’re spending 80% of daily revenue on this initial push), we can see the game hitting top ranks quite easily in multiple regions. This doesn’t mean they are spending only on iOS. Quite the opposite, they are spending on both platforms!
The second biggest spender is ironSource, which was surprising to me. But when I thought about it more it actually makes a lot of sense thanks to the huge hypercasual games inventory ironSource has. The game tries to look as hypercasual as possible but, when you play, it definitely gives a different feel. Same as Archero!
In third place we have Google and Unity, which both show mostly Chinese creatives. Facebook, Vungle and Applovin are small in comparison.
This is a great testament to how the UA landscape has changed over the last couple of months and year: it’s not just about Facebook or Google anymore. In order to scale a game, UA strategists need to run profitable campaigns on multiple UA sources and diversify as much as possible in order to find ones that work; or do so with as much leeway as LTV gives.
Usually, agencies or UA gurus will tell you that you need to have different creatives for different UA channels. I tend to disagree (people hate me for it sometimes), and Survivor.io is a great example of this. If you have a winning creative that’s performing well, I believe it’s best to double down — not only on iOS / Android, but also across all UA channels.
With Survivor.io, we can see simple gameplay variations that are perfectly crafted by Habby. It’s not only gameplay capture, though. They alter the gameplay to showcase huge amounts of zombies, use meme headlines, hype casual creative, fail scenarios (lose-upgrade-win) and skills upgrade concepts. And that's it. The point is, when you see these creatives, (across progression, power, and expertise) you want to download the game ASAP and start playing. I’m excited to see what other strategies UA experts deploy on TikTok — it seems to be working in this new era. (Written by Matej Lancaric)
#2: Weekly News Roundup
Gamescom’s Biggest Headlines: Kicking off earlier this week, Gamescom gave us a first look into a variety of highly anticipated upcoming titles from across the industry. Games worth noting included new trailers for the previously announced Hogwarts Legacy and Sonic Frontiers, as well as first looks at games like Everywhere, from the development team behind GTA. The event is a welcome sight for the industry, which has been recently feeling the effects of delays and decreases in consumer spending. From a consumer perceptive, events like Gamescom are always welcome as fans clamber for additional news about their favorite upcoming titles, but behind the scenes they also serve as a catalyst for industry gatherings and opportunities for collaboration. I’m hopeful the event is only the first step in showing gaming’s resiliency in a period of slow growth, and can’t wait to try out some of the new games announced.
Xbox Game Pass & TV Streaming: "We want to make it as easy for people to stream a game as it is to stream a movie from Netflix. It should be that same simplicity — that's what it's going to take to get this into the mainstream”, says Harrison Hoffman of Xbox. I loved reading this short interview about bringing Xbox Game Pass to Smart TVs. On one hand, it’s so obvious, essentially converting the TV into the game system itself, and on the other hand, I imagine it to be such a difficult solution to implement (given the anecdotal latency issues I already experience with lighter apps like Netflix). There have been a few big businesses built and monetized through the TV — Roku, Crunchyroll, Fire Stick, to name a few — and it makes sense Xbox is focusing on this frontier. I’ve been so focused on the Xbox’s thesis of making games accessible to everyone, everywhere that my mind immediately went to mobile instead of the TV. The progress on this feels like a noteworthy callout.
Inworld AI Raises $50M: The first I heard of AI-driven characters was probably through Genvid’s Rival Peak, which empowered NPCs to interact with their environment through the influences of viewer interactions. While Genvid was one of the first notable entries into this space, it certainly won’t be the last given every brand’s profound interest in the metaverse. The most recent to enter the mix is Inworld AI, which announced a $50M raise from a suite of investors to help developers create AI-driven characters. And personally, I love their approach that they integrate with existing game engines and give designers no-code tools to bring these characters to life — I’m particularly interested in the applications of this (and procedurally generated worlds) for bringing the costs of development down to zero. We wrote previously: “The applications that these and other innovative AI companies could bring to the games industry are mind-blowing. Imagine interacting with your stable of Axies or Pokemon, each with its own unique personality. NPCs in MMORPGs could change from simply repeating the same few lines of dialogue over and over to reflecting back to players the interactions they have had with others before them.”
🎮In Other News…
📊Funding & Acquisitions:
Ready Player Me raised a $56M round led by a16z (games and crypto). Link
Inworld AI raised a $50M Series A. Link
W4 Games spun out of Godot and raised $8.5M from a suite of investors to strengthen the Godot ecosystem. Link
TinyBuild acquired Boss Studios’ IP for $3M. Link
Black Block raised $1.5M from Play Ventures to build a web3 GTA. Link
According to court documents, Xbox One sold half the number of units that PS4 did. Link
In an interview with Bloomberg, Phil Spencer talks about the Activision deal and future ambitions: “Spencer said he remains on the hunt for more content whether by investing in new games, partnerships or further deals.” Link
Sony announced that it would increase PS5 prices. Link
🕹Culture & Games:
A look at Cult of Lamb’s Twitch integration. Link
Amazon’s “live connector” feature and dev kit will level up the in-game livestreaming experience. Link
A roundup of Gamescom games announcements. Link
Getting started with hypercasual after Google and ATT changes. Link
Analyzing Diablo IV’s LiveOps Plans. Link
The endgame of web3 gaming. Link
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