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Eureka Studio’s Unconventional Journey to Reach No. 1, Plus Achieving a 30 Percent ARPDAU Lift With MAX

by Amy Mills on Sep 10, 2020

In our Ask the Developer series, we interview developers for insight into their strategies and best practices. In this installment, we spoke with Koya Baba from Japanese game developer Eureka Studio about his unconventional journey to reaching no. 1 in the charts with his game Skip School!.

What led you to start your own game studio and develop games for the hyper-casual space?

I’ve actually never been a gamer. In fact, I hardly ever played games. I didn’t have a deep desire to make games; I just happened to stumble upon an opportunity.

In my previous job, I worked at a publisher of Sudoku and crossword puzzle magazines. One of the projects I worked on was developing those puzzles into an app. I had always been interested in launching a business from scratch, and mobile games seemed intriguing, so I volunteered to lead the project. This was the first time I got into game development and realized mobile games could be a viable business.

At first, I didn’t do any programming. I only worked on planning the concept of the puzzle app. I had previously worked in sales and was involved in the launch of some new magazines, so coming up with a plan for launch came quite naturally to me.

How long did it take for you to go independent from there?

I taught myself to code and worked on developing games for about a year on the side. Things were going well, so at that point, I decided to go independent. I launched Eureka Studio in April 2018. We are a hyper-casual developer but specifically focused on creating escape games, a category of games that have been popular in Japan for quite some time.

Skip School! was first released in Japan in 2018, in China in 2019, then it was finally released globally in April 2020. Was it always in the plan to go global?  

Not at all! I did think that developing a game around a fun concept would reach a wider audience but never intended on releasing it globally. 

The game I developed previously, Ditching Work!, was gaining popularity in China. So, I decided to keep China, Korea, and other Asian countries in mind while developing subsequent games, but I didn’t think about Europe or the United States.

What led you to decide to launch Skip School! globally?

Actually, AppLovin approached me with the idea of releasing it outside of Asia. Escape games in the hyper-casual space, such as Lion Studios’ Save the Girl! were becoming popular in the United States, so they thought we could be successful.

We ran some tests to see whether the game would resonate with a U.S. audience. Much to our delight, there were even more people playing the game than expected, so we decided to launch formally. 

We did very little localization for the launch, however, AppLovin suggested we localize the ads for the U.S. market. By doing so, we were able to increase IPM by 20 percent.

Could you tell us more about Skip School!?

In Skip School!, a student has to find creative ways of cutting class. For example, you could hide in a locker so that the teachers don’t find you. There are currently about 100 levels. 

It’s a very casual game, with each play session lasting thirty seconds to a minute. I got the idea for this game from my own personal experiences—when I was younger, I hated school and always found ways to skip class!

Can you explain more about the monetization strategy?

We first launched with only 30 levels, but since we monetized through ads, that wasn’t enough levels to create a steady revenue stream. So we created more levels, eventually ending up with 100. 

We A/B tested many different levels, as well as the order of the levels, to determine what resonated most with the audience. Through this, we were able to ensure the quality of each stage was up to par, which resulted in not only increased revenue but increased LTV as well.

We also integrated MAX early on. First, we saw an immediate 10 percent ARPDAU increase just by switching over to MAX from our previous tool. Then, we saw an additional 30 percent ARPDAU lift by running several A/B tests to determine our best monetization setup.

Do you plan to develop more escape games in the future, or expand into different categories? 

We are doing both, actually. Given our success with escape games and accumulated know-how, we want to naturally continue utilizing that expertise. 

However, we realize there’s the risk of failing to stay relevant in this business if we don’t increase our repertoire. In my opinion, it’s simply not as beneficial as a company to keep releasing the same sort of games. Therefore we are also in the process of developing games in other categories. 

We hope to continue experiencing the same kind of success as we venture into new types of games. Please stay tuned!

Get inspired by more success stories here.

Amy is Senior Marketing Manager at AppLovin Japan.