The Baltics have been a place to watch for mobile game development. A place we’ve also touched on in our recent overview of the mobile game industry in Lithuania. However, there we only briefly touched upon the Baltic developerEstoty, a studio which has seen promising success and has studios in both Vilnius and Riga. We wanted to find out more about how they made their hits beyond just a look into the development atmosphere of the Baltics.
As noted in an interview we conducted with Project Manager at theLithuanian Games Developers Association, Ricardas Jascemaskas at DevGAMM 2022, "The thing that’s very specific about Lithuania is that the biggest companies which are local, and also the biggest companies which come from Vilnius… is that they’re almost all mobile-focused."
Both in Lithuania particularly and the Baltics more broadly the mobile gaming space is handled by larger companies with a broad range of resources. Although Estoty is far more broad than just Vilnius, you can consider this a look at a developer with reach all over the Baltics. So let's learn a little more about them and their business.
This Baltic game-dev studio has scored more than 20 mobile game hits: what’s its secret?
My Little Universe, Squad Alpha, Johnny Trigger, Jelly Shift and Knife Hit are just a few of the successful mobile games created by Baltic game developer Estoty. The company is known for more than 20 hit mobile games that have attracted a total of 2 billion players. So what are the key ingredients for a successful mobile game? Estoty’s experts name the following factors.
Market testing before you launch
Before releasing a game, it’s vital to create a minimum viable product (MVP) with working mechanics, and test its performance in smaller markets. According to Pavel Syrnicki, an animator at Estoty, establishing a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) during the initial game advertising and testing phase is an efficient way to determine whether or not a game might be a success. These KPIs assess factors such as the percentage of the target audience who are interested in the game, the number of downloads and clicks on in-game ads, the duration of gameplay and others. The results of these KPIs help in deciding whether or not to continue developing a hyper-casual game. In addition, scalability is essential. The game must provide potential for significant updates in the future.
Commitment and motivation
According to Veslav Zapolski, founder and CEO of the Estoty Vilnius game-dev studio, the motivation of the game developers themselves is a key factor in determining whether a mobile game is going to be a hit.
“We’ve had a few examples where the determination of the developers is especially high while creating the game,” says V. Zapolski. “That significantly contributes to the likelihood that the game is going to be a success.”. According to the Estoty founder, the diversity of ideas involved is also a major factor in a game’s success, but motivation is the thing that makes a game authentic and drives its developers to achieve the highest quality.
Seasonality – a significant contributor
Another crucial factor is seasonality. For example, a particular time of the year might be very successful for certain games, while being very unprofitable for other types of game. Veslav Zapolski explains the importance of timing to the success of Estoty’s major hit Johnny Trigger: “The fact that we were able to release it in December meant a lot. It just wouldn’t have been possible if people hadn’t been hyped up and motivated to finish it by Christmas. Two or three weeks later, and it’s likely that we would have had completely different results.”
Choosing the right genre
Keeping track of trends and creating games in currently popular genres is another big factor in their likely success. According to statistics from Data.ai’s State of Mobile 2022, the following genres are the top three most popular genres in mobile gaming:
Action (hyper-casual) – 4.01 billion downloads
Puzzle (hyper-casual) – 3.78 billion downloads
Simulation (hyper-casual) – 3.15 billion downloads
Creating games with similar mechanics an in the same genres as popular titles can be one answer to creating a hit game. On the other hand, a game won’t stand out if it’s too similar to existing titles. So what about creating a game that uses completely new mechanics? According to the founder of Estoty Vilnius, that approach can sometimes produce a jewel in the market – but that’s the exception rather than the rule. If a game’s mechanics are too new and difficult for a user, they will soon lose interest.
Looking at the latest trends, the most popular game mechanics remain tap and timing, puzzle, reaction, rhythm-based, and resizing games. The aim is to create a game that uses understandable and time-proven mechanics, but at the same time adds a unique flavour to the user experience.
So, that’s low-down.
To sum up: while catchy ideas and a unique user experience are essential ingredients in a game’s success, testing out your MVP is no less important. By establishing relevant KPIs and closely analysing your data, identifying your target audience, tracking genre trends and ensuring scalability, you can significantly increase the chances of your mobile game becoming a hit.
This article was written in collaboration with DevGAMM.