Appodeal 6 min read  - November 1, 2021

Millions From Scratch: Mobile business with NewPubCo’s Spades

A few months after joining the program, NewPubCo grew from a pilot project of the Appodeal Accelerator to the top-3 word game studio in the US, making its founder Vlad (... drum roll ...) a millionaire.

About NewPubCo

NewPubCo joined the mobile gaming market in a period of uncertainty: right before the pandemic.

Vlad Gurgov, a young entrepreneur from San Francisco, dreamed of making mobile games and making millions on what he loves. However, he had no experience in launching a mobile business.

The mobile app market is highly competitive. Few decide to compete in it without the support of a publisher and/or serious funding. For this reason, after going through several of the most popular options, Vlad applied for the Appodeal Accelerator program.

He thought that the Appodeal “guys have been in the industry for a long time and will have lots of experience.”

A few months after joining the Appodeal Accelerator Program, NewPubCo has grown from a pilot project to the top3 word game studio in the US, making Vlad (… drum roll…) a millionaire.

NewPubCo revenue growth graph

What is Appodeal Accelerator?

Appodeal Accelerator Program is similar to Y Combinator, but for mobile app businesses.

The program is open to experienced developers and talented people who dream of starting their mobile app or game business.

Just as in Y Combinator, the primary things we look for in our applicants are their project ideas and their willingness to succeed. Of course, product metrics are also part of the selection criteria. Therefore, anyone with fire in their eyes may opt-in to our Accelerator and grow their business.

Appodeal has built a process for the selected apps, including detailed guidelines and personalized support from our team of experts. You can join the program at any stage of mobile app development. Once you have completed the Accelerator Program, you’ll have developed a successful and profitable mobile business, even if you started from scratch.

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Testing Game Concepts

NewPubCo started its journey from the very first stage of the Accelerator funnel - testing game concepts.

This stage was key to the successful growth of their mobile business. Developing a mobile app or game is neither easy nor cheap. For this reason, before investing resources in a project as big, it is crucial to assess your audiences’ interests.

Vlad and the Appodeal Accelerator team assessed the potential of different ideas using these step-by-step instructions:

1. Benchmark the App & Subcategories

Using the free version of SensorTower, we benchmarked the app and researched potential subcategories. 

This first step allowed us to estimate the size of the potential audience, revenue in each genre, reviews in the store, graphics, availability of multiplayer mode, etc. All these factors could affect which subcategory NewPubCo could start developing its mobile game in. 

After examining the SensorTower data, both parties opted for casual games. According to our criteria, this subgenre looked the most promising.

2. Creating Game Concepts

Creating game concepts is one of the most creative and exciting parts of game development.

Vlad and the Appodeal team brainstormed several concepts for future games and tested them using ad creatives showing different gameplay versions. We A/B tested elements such as style, protagonists, color scheme, gameplay logic, etc. 

All those elements usually affect how the public perceives the game. We did Prototype tests before starting product development.

3. Collect data & Performance metrics

To collect statistics, we created a landing page that looked similar to the Google Play page. That website had a Facebook pixel and a banner with a "Thank you” message. 

At this stage, the Appodeal team paid particular attention to metrics relevant for Google Play and the best-performing ad creative from point #2 that drove users to the landing page. 

The art and style of the landing page had to match that of ad creatives. Otherwise, it would have generated confusion for our potential players.

4. Launch UA Campaigns

Last but not least, we launched a Facebook Ad Campaign leading to the landing page. We tracked conversion rates and CPC (cost per click)

This step usually involves selecting the winning ad creatives that show the lowest CPC and highest conversions.

According to the results of our “Concept Test”, only two prototypes won. Those laid the foundation of NewPubco's most successful games: Spades and WordMaker.

NewPubCo Spades: Tripling US Audience

After the “Spades” concept demonstrated the best metrics during the Concept Test, the guys from NewPubCo quickly developed the prototype and integrated the Appodeal SDK.

Once the game was in the stores, the studio faced one of the most pressing questions: how do we scale our audience and earn more from this mobile game?

Problem: They ought to scale up a new game, and fast (Fast upscaling for a new game).

Any new product faces a similar problem when launched onto a saturated market. Spades were no exception.

Despite the short time of developing the game, testing mechanics and concepts, and ultimately launching it to the app stores, the app must start generating revenue within the first 3 to 6 months. Sometimes, this period is reduced depending on financial capabilities.

Solution: Vibrant, data-driven creatives

User acquisition and monetization are oftentimes a bottleneck when scaling a game. The Appodeal Accelerator team understood the importance of finding the right balance between these two areas and decided to focus on the following strategic priorities:

  • Searching for and continuously testing a wide range of working UA creatives.
  • Optimizing the Monetization strategy, which is tied to the game mechanics.

Searching & Defining our Audience

Working with compelling and well-tested ad creatives is one of the primary keys to the success of NewPubCo's Spades. To get the best results, the UA (User Acquisition) creative team relied on two methods:

1. Erik Seufert's creative testing scheme

2. Innovative player motivation model

By testing ad creatives with different audiences, the Appodeal UA team determined the demographics of the game's potential target audience:

  • 56% of women and 44% of men aged 55+ for Android.
  • 70% of women and 30% of men aged 45+ for iOS.

Then, the creative team prepared a series of creative sets to test on Facebook Ads. We determined the best-performing concepts by targeting small audiences.

Testing our top UA creatives

After that, we rolled them out on Google Ads and increased the ad spend on Facebook Ads. The Appodeal UA team tested more than 500 ad creatives, from videos to static pictures.

Many ad creatives showed excellent test results. However, when using them to target larger audiences, the UA team focused on achieving a Result Rate >= 1% (the ratio of installs to impressions).

Those are some of the concepts that had the highest impact on our audiences and lead Spades to substantial growth rates:

  • Showcasing Spades Gameplay with Playable Ads - A well-crafted and straightforward gameplay is attractive for the players. Also, playable creatives let the users know what to expect before even installing the game, making them more eager to go down the conversion funnel.
  • Bright, eye-catching themes such as skulls, Grand Theft Auto - This design generated a lot of comments in some mobile gaming communities and drove a lot of organic installs.

Optimizing the Monetization & Aligning It With User Acquisition

A well-optimized monetization strategy should always support the arrival of new users in any mobile app or game. Again, with Spades, we were more than ready.

The Appodeal Monetization Team made the following changes to the game’s monetization strategy:

  1. Changes to ad units for specific DSPs: several tweaks were made to increase the revenue metrics. As an example, Appodeal helped increase the app’s ARPU by 15% just by adjusting the number of ad units for Admob.
  2. Targeting Specific Markets: Customizing low-cost waterfalls for India and Bangladesh and tweaking the ad pricing for the US, Appodeal yielded an additional 12% growth in ARPU.
  3. Optimizing current Ad Formats: We increased the ARPU by another 15% with only a few changes in the frequency of ad impressions, such as banner & interstitial, and disabling the ad pre-caching.
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Result: Launching a Top Game from Scratch!

Thanks to the joint work of Appodeal’s User Acquisition, Ad Creative & Monetization teams, we tripled the installs in the United States. Also, we delivered a positive ROAS of D365 = 105.6%.

Despite its recent market entry, Spades was able to scale rapidly with the help of the Appodeal Accelerator program and began recovering all the development and UA costs in a matter of months.

“Launching a new business, especially in an industry that’s new to me, is quite an experiment. I can’t thank the Appodeal team enough. They not only helped me with the tools and funding, but also mentored me. Without their help, launching Spades would have been impossible. "

Vlad Gurgov, NewPubCo

Become our next Case Study! Apply for the Appodeal Accelerator!

Once you join the Appodeal Accelerator Program, you will receive:

  • Free & Full-access to business intelligence tools
  • Dedicated User Acquisition, Monetization & ASO manager
  • Funding for the Soft-launch and project scaling
  • Ad monetization with in-app bidding from 70+ Top Networks
  • Self-guided training materials on app scaling
  • Technical support 24/7
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Marc Llobet
Product Marketing & Growth @ Appodeal
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