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How to grow a profitable audience within a niche genre

How taking a holistic approach to user acquisition and monetisation helped WildCard grow the audience for its classic games

How to grow a profitable audience within a niche genre

As a part of AppLovin’s ongoing series about growth, WildCard Games shares how it grew and scaled its games quickly within a niche genre.

WildCard Games chief operating officer Josh Chandley outlines how the company utilised AppLovin to build the audience for its collection of classic board and card games, with a holistic approach to user acquisition and monetisation.

Josh Chandley: At WildCard Games, our goal is to build great games and a collaborative work environment that wants to grow with us. Armed with a history that winds back to the launch of the mobile app store in 2008, we’re fortunate to have a passionate team that creates unique games. Our team hails from diverse experiences at tech, creative and gaming companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Big Fish Games, Hyper Hippo Entertainment, Creative Circle and more.

Together, we combine our creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity to reimagine classic games like Cribbage, Backgammon, and Hearts into mobile games. We are also actively hiring for key roles.

It’s satisfying and fun to build these nostalgic games that stand the test of time and are enjoyed by some of the fastest-growing audiences - Gen X and 'Baby Boomers'. App Annie reported that Gen X and Baby Boomers grew 30 per cent within the last year, and this audience knows these games so well.

However, our audience often isn’t yet playing these games on their phones. They already have expectations, based on the classic board game, of what each title should be like. This presents us with a unique challenge to help our audience discover and enjoy the games they love on a new form factor.

Since WildCard Games started in 2008, the team has grown tremendously - both in size and skill - and so has the mobile gaming space. We have found that by adopting best-in-class software for monetisation and user acquisition, we can drive revenue growth across our games, target our niche audience while also reaching new players in ways we couldn’t before.

Finding efficiencies and more revenue to focus on great content

We’ve always had a lean team at WildCard Games (there are only six of us!), which means most of us wear many hats and tend to be focused on building great games so we are always looking for ways to increase efficiencies in our user acquisition (UA) strategy and automate the time-consuming parts of our monetisation workflows.

When we’re able to maximise these workflows, we’re able to shift more of our time to content creation and game development and that leads to more time to produce better content for our players. As we grew our games we found that monetising them through advertising was taking more time because we could be spending countless hours tweaking waterfalls and testing endlessly.

We knew there had to be a better way to spend our time
Josh Chandley

We knew there had to be a better way to spend our time - after all, we joined WildCard Games to make great games.

In the spirit of maximising our ad monetisation in our games, we decided to test our most popular game, Ultimate Cribbage, on AppLovin’s monetisation solution MAX.

We saved so much time through this automated auction that we’re able to do a lot of new things with our ad monetisation stack. Before MAX, it would take us an entire day to set up a proper A/B test. Now, creating a test takes 20 minutes.

We immediately saw a 20 per cent increase in average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) and we were able to grow our user lifetime value (LTV) by over 100 per cent.

This enabled us to reinvest the time saved and revenue earned back into creating more great user experiences in our games. We’re now able to customise the ad experience for our audience at a granular level, giving us the ability to better customise the game experience for our players based on how they engage with the game.

Image credit: WildCard Games

Taking a 360 approach

Seeing such great results that not only saved us time but increased our revenue allowed us to test new user acquisition campaigns that would bring more players to our games.

Even though our team has experience in a variety of mobile game genres, targeting such a niche audience presented a challenge. We were already using social platforms for user acquisition (UA) and we thought it’d be worth seeing how we could drive incremental installs.

AppLovin’s AppDiscovery UA solution is based on machine learning so it offered us a way to automate our campaigns, keep them running with minimal effort and pay only when we found the users that met our specific goals. Furthermore, when we tested using AppDiscovery and MAX together, the buying process was all automated to maximise our revenue - not just views or even installs.

Even testing our creatives gave our UA strategy an extra boost. AppLovin’s in-house creative team, SparkLabs, developed new playable ads that showed users how the game worked and it quickly became our top performer.

When we combined the power of MAX, AppDiscovery and SparkLabs, we found that the full suite of solutions yields a stronger outcome and improves our bottom line.

targeting such a niche audience presented a challenge
Josh Chandley

The next chapter

Together we recognise the benefits of this full-stack growth platform. We're able to get real-time data more efficiently and acquire new users profitably, which has had a material impact on our business’s bottom line.

Ultimately, this has allowed us to put more time and revenue back into what really matters for us - the games. As our games have grown, so has our business. So because our games have grown and been so successful on AppLovin’s platform, we recently closed a seed financing round led by Galaxy Interactive to accelerate our growth and hire more team members in Seattle, Washington.

We are seeking talented developers and designers to join us on our mission to reimagine classic games for mobile and build next-gen cloud infrastructure, free-to-play technology and tools.

As we continue to scale WildCard Games, we look forward to growing our team and challenging the way people think about classic board games. We are all about finding new ways to drive product innovation because we are committed to helping more and more players discover the joy of the classic board and card games on mobile. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.