Azur Games: building a strong relationship between a developer and its publisher

A chat with founder Artem Nikolayev on what the studio can do for you

Azur Games: building a strong relationship between a developer and its publisher

Azur Games is a world-famous mobile game publisher and developer that successfully combines the mid-core and hyper-casual genres. Azur Games boasts 30 million Daily Active Users (DAU), more than 500 million game installations and at least 2.2 million installations every day. More than 50 company titles are available on different mobile stores around the world.

In 2019, the hyper-casual game Stack Ball by Azur Games entered the list of the most downloaded apps and won the Best Game category by Google Play in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In addition, Stack Ball was nominated in the Users' Choice Best Game category by Google Play in Russia.

In February 2020, the game Worms Zone by Azur Games topped the 10 most downloaded free-to-play (F2P) games' world ranking, and the number of installations of World War Heroes, one of the most popular online WW2 shooters, exceeded 60 million.

We talked to Artem Nikolayev, founder of Azur Games, to find out about how to successfully combine the development and publication of mid-core and hyper-casual projects.

What does your role entail?

At Azur Games, I am responsible for business development. I search for new growth points for the company, devise strategy, and communicate with other studios – our potential partners.

Why did you decide to start publishing mobile games?

Since 2016, we have been developing mid-core projects and increasing our own expertise, so we created strong Marketing and Analytics Departments. This allowed us not only to create high-quality products, but also to understand how to efficiently improve them.

At the end of 2018, we decided to expand a new business line, as our expertise outstripped that required for mid-core projects' development. The mobile game market is one of the most volatile and dynamically developing areas, so we didn't want to pigeonhole the company by dealing with just one genre and started looking for projects to publish.

Looking back, this was the right decision for us. Today, we often lean on the expertise we gained from work on our mid-core projects, and implement these successful practices in hyper-casual games, which leads to a really good outcome.

Which are the most prominent projects that you've worked on?

If we're talking about mid-core, I can name World War Heroes, Modern Strike Online, Jurassic Monster World, and in the hyper-casual field – Homo Evolution, Stack Ball, and Worms Zone.

How does Azur Games differ from other publishers?

Our interest lays in professional growth of the studios we work with – it is the main distinguishing feature of Azur Games. We are open with our partners and provide them with all the information we have to hand, do not hide the UA strategies, and share the maximum number of metrics after the first game test, so the developers are able to see what needs to be changed, and why changes are necessary.

Such an approach helps studios build up their own expertise and support the professional development of their employees. For example, if the team doesn't understand how to best build the UA and how the campaigns are scaled, it significantly lowers their chances of success when creating a new product.

We have great interest in developing strong partners, so we are ready to teach the developers how to make successful, high-quality products
Artem Nikolayev

The main problem that can arise between the studio and the publisher is the lack of access to the analytics, statistics, and metrics. Our work is based on the openness principle: we arrange daily meetings to stay in close contact with both producers and game designers. The tools that our Analytics and Marketing Departments use are available for the third-party studios. We have great interest in developing strong partners, so we are ready to teach the developers how to make successful, high-quality products.

Unlike most other publishers, we are ready to accept projects with income levels falling within the 20-30 thousand dollar-range. We feel this offers a great chance for small teams to cover their development expenses and get some movement going towards evolving their own studio. We help developers to make money off their projects, create top games, and evolve on a daily basis.

To repeat, apart from developing top games, we're also very interested in long-term relationships that are beneficial for both sides. Some major publishers do not allow studios work with other partners, and what is more, contractually bind them with three-month exclusivity obligations upon completion of the test period. Azur Games doesn't bind developers to contractual restrictions. The studios we work with are free to offer their new projects to other publisher if desired.

Which values do you consider when choosing projects for publishing? How do you work with studios?

The story of cooperation is different for each new studio. If we see a talented team, whose project metrics currently are below the required level, we are ready to help them get the game up to speed for a successful launch.

Our potential partners are the teams really interested in making their product better. Even if the project metrics are low, but the game quality is high enough – Azur Games is open to cooperation. The classics we take into an account are Retention, CTR and CPI.

Can you give us the values that you'd find suitable?

First of all, we study the product itself. Traffic revenue is a significant marker, but in each case, we look at a combination of metrics. The game's Retention and CPI can be low or high – both variants are suitable for us to become involved, so I think there is little point in focusing on average values.

It often happens when we receive a project for evaluation and we already know which changes can be made to increase Retention. Sometimes positive dynamics can be reached by changing the game mechanics or even the setting. According to our experience, increasing game Retention from 25% to 45% is a normal practice.

At what stage of development are you ready to take on projects?

We are ready to work with both prototypes we order from studios and already launched projects. If you are interested in getting feedback, and seeing your product's metrics, send a game info letter and the installation file to – we'll help you reach a new level.

What major trends in game development and publishing do you predict in the next 12 months?

Last year, I heard experts discussing the death of the hyper-casual trend. We think the competition on the market will become more complicated, but it won’t mean the death of the genre.

The sector will continue to grow and expand, there will be borderline projects combining casual and mid-core or, for example, casual and hyper-casual features. We firmly believe that the mobile gaming industry will continue to grow and develop, and we look forward to working with you in this market. 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.