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MOBILE APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT · APP STORE OPTIMIZATION · HUGH KIMURA · AUGUST 2013

10 Million Downloads In Less Than 2 Years: Tapps Games

We interview Felipe Watanabe and find out how mobile game company Tapps Games was able to get to ten million game downloads so quickly.

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Felipe Watanabe

Today, we are very fortunate to be able to sit down with Felipe Watanabe at Tapps Games, to find out what has made them so successful.

Since they made the less-than-smooth transition to developing games in 2012, they have exploded, chalking up millions of downloads and realeasing more than 60 games.

We hope you find this interview inspirational and educational.

Can you give us a little background on how Tapps Games got started?

That's a funny story, it's hard to put a finger on how exactly Tapps Games came to be. Tapps had been in the market of enterprise applications since 2010, around the time the first iPad was launched.

Two years later, we started to step into the gaming market and our entire structure had to be reconsidered in order to make a successful transition from corporate applications to games.

So, we could say that it was in this scenario that Tapps Games branched off from Tapps. And we are now a team of fourteen people based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

What where some of the biggest challenges when you guys were getting started?

Definitely, our greatest challenge was the development of our first games. We had no previous experience in the area and we did not have all the professionals we see today as essential to create good games in our team.

Our debut title, Nautilus, had a bit a bit traumatic development story. A very long and costly project which ended up not reflecting the results we had expected. At that time we even considered whether it would be better to forget about games and return to the corporate market.

What have been some of the biggest milestones thus far?

Some of our games hold a special place here in Tapps Games, one of them is Number Link. We had barely a couple of games published when we launched it, and none of them had done really well.

It came as a surprise when Number Link began to climb up the rankings in dozens of countries, reaching top positions in over a hundred of them. Even today we get impressed with the amount of downloads it had. It was a relief to know that we still had a chance.

Both My Virtual Pet and its latest brother My Virtual Cat are also worth to mention. Their great acceptance by the public is something we could not predict. The latter has even topped the number of downloads of many of our previous games in less than a week after its launching.

And since downloads means a lot to us, the day we had our first million and our tenth million downloads were also quite exciting. Our next big goal now is producing the hundredth game, which should happen by the end of this year.

I noticed on your website that you guys have been able to scale very quickly, what was the biggest key to getting so many games out in such a short period of time?

It is really all due to the team we have been gathering during all this time. We are sure that our team is different and special in many ways and it is really amazing the pace we get things going here. The strong background and experience of our developers are also a key point of advantage for us.

Our team has grown steadily since the moment we began producing games and we are always looking for new talents to enhance and optimize our production. Besides illustrators and programmers we have been investing in key areas such as game design, quality control and marketing.

Which markets do you target with your games, and how important do you find international markets?

Today, since the application stores make it so easy to distribute our games and mobile technology is available to an ever growing audience, every market is a potential market for us.

With that in mind, we try to diversify our games to reach the widest audience we can. Thanks to that, we get to see how certain genres stand out in specific countries and this helps us to better plan our releases.

We are doing very well in the United States, Brazil and Europe as a whole. Our challenge right now is to perform better in Asia.

Can you give us an idea of the thought process you guys go through when designing a new game?

For the last months or so we have been working to consolidate the definition process for our games and now we feel we are getting it right. To begin with, anyone here at Tapps Games has the freedom to present an idea for a new game, which vary greatly from a personal choice to app stores trends based ideas.

Every other week we do meetings where we define and revise our production schedule choosing the ideas that get to see their place in the sun. We usually plan one to two months ahead, which covers many games because currently we launch at least six games per month.

The conception of an entire game takes about one month from its initial idea to its launch on the app stores. And during production, our game designers, artists and developers work in sync so that everything happens as efficiently as possible.

After a game is launched, what kind of things do you do to improve the number of times it is downloaded?

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Lots of iterations. Based on all sorts of data we collect (from technical analytics to user reviews) we are constantly adjusting our games.

Be it new features or internal adjustments, a new icon, a new title, new screenshots or a completely different set of keywords, we are always testing new ways to optimize our downloads and the overall quality of our games.

This constant work has been the major responsible for the success of our applications.

Can you tell us a little about how Sensor Tower has helped you guys improve your downloads / ratings / understanding of where your users come from?

Sensor Tower is one of the most powerful and well resolved tools we have encountered so far and it plays a key role in the process of research and development of strategies for optimizing the performance of our games on a global scale.

It is really hard to say how much time it has saved us and how many great insights we have been able to take from its use. We have confidence that the Sensor Tower is a tool that makes real difference to our business model.

In your experience, how much can using the right keywords improve downloads, on a percentage basis?

ASO (App Store Optimization) is definitely one of the most mysterious aspects of the app stores and there is still much to learn. Personally I believe the definition of a good set of keywords is the most cost-efficient way to optimize the performance of an application. And this is why we need good tools to analyze and determine winning strategies.

Each case is different and it is really impossible to put numbers on how the right keywords can help a game, but there is no case in which a good research and strategy is not able to improve the downloads of an application. It all relates to how much work you want to put on something and how you use the tools you have available.

We have many examples of games in which the definition of new keywords have completely changed the outlook of a game. It is really that powerful.

What do you feel is the biggest advantage that Sensor Tower gives Tapps Games?

It saves our time by giving us much of what we need at a glance. Our old process was much more time consuming and hardly gave results as relevant as Sensor Tower does.

Outside of App Store Optimization, what are some other methods of promoting your games have been effective for you?

We have tried almost everything. Press releases, advertising, promotional videos, pre-launch strategies, partnerships with blogs, postings on message boards and so on.

Optimization for app stores has been our top priority, especially in view of our business model, but we have had good results with localization of descriptions and video production for Google Play.

Finally, do you have any advice for developers who are looking to scale their game development, or even for more established shops who are looking to improve their downloads?

Work hard and iterate. There is still plenty of room for all kinds of content in the market of smartphones and tablets, but standing out is an even harder task. Knowing the strategic aspects of marketing in this market will make all the difference to any developer willing to get serious in this business.

Thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us Felipe, we really appreciate it and wish you continued success. If people want to find out more about Tapps Games or start playing your games, where can they find you?

You are welcome! It was a pleasure to share a little of our history and experience. Our games can be found at: http://tappsgames.com/games. Hope you have fun!

Conclusion

We hope that you have found interview interesting because we had a lot of fun doing it. It is always interesting to see how companies got to where they are. If you have any questions for Felipe, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?


Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: August 2013

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