How Space Ape wasted millions marketing its dark fantasy game Rival Kingdoms through the wrong UA channels

Mistakes made and lessons learned

How Space Ape wasted millions marketing its dark fantasy game Rival Kingdoms through the wrong UA channels

At Develop:Brighton 2016, Simon Hade, COO & co-founder of Space Ape Games, gave a talk on how the launch of Rival Kingdoms affected the company's approach to marketing.

The game launched in May 2015, and has since reached six million downloads and generated $20 million in revenue, but Space Ape spent millions on marketing it to reach that point.

The problem was that the game was catered towards core gamers, a strategy which paid off in long retention and a $12 LTV per player.

Core game, broad appeal

But what it meant was that UA costs were huge, as the art style had been designed deliberately for this core crowd, which lead to huge CPI costs even after scaling back the weekly UA spend since casual players were instantly turned off by the game.

"We chose the dark fantasy setting, which appealed to 11% of the overall audience", said Hade, a mistake that has been corrected by now looking for broader themes that also appeal to core players.

This lead to Space Ape making, in Hade's own words, "a Transformers version of Rival Kingdoms", in the form of Transformers: Earth Wars.

Organic growth

In terms of what marketing actually worked best, Hade noted that while 67% of users came from UA, the cost of these users was higher than the amount these users spent in game.

Most of the revenue came from sources Space Ape couldn't immediately track.

Instead, most of the revenue came from "sources we can't track", according to Hade, which was eventually tracked down to YouTube videos and clan recruitment within messaging apps like LINE and WeChat.

Another area that helped boost revenue for Space Ape across all its games is high quality customer service, and keeping the community engaged with new events and competitions.

Keeping the players invested in the game means that they are more likely to spend again, and the developer also tailors its channels to give VIP treatment to high-spending players and encourage them to stay with the game.


Ric is the Editor of, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.


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