Trivia Crack Dev: Good Product Is More Important Than Good Marketing

MaximoCavazzaniBuenos Aires-based game studio Etermax is a rare creature in the app development world.

“We don’t focus on user acquisition,” said CEO and founder Maximo Cavazzani.

It’s quite a statement considering that Etermax is the developer responsible for quiz app Trivia Crack, which was the most downloaded app in the App Store in late 2014. Since its launch in 2013, the app has been downloaded more than 200 million times. Trivia Crack Kingdoms, the sequel to Trivia Crack, has nabbed around 300,000 downloads per day since its release in mid-October.

“People play a game because it’s good, not because you tell them to,” Cavazzani said.

Two years out from launch, Trivia Crack still has more than 100 million daily active users.

Where’d they all come from?

Word of mouth, mostly, according to Cavazzani.

“Once you have a few organic users to start, it’s a matter of spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter, of people talking about the game, telling their friends,” he said. “We saw that happen in every country where people downloaded the app and it happened autonomously – if you have a good game, it’ll be successful no matter how much or how little marketing you do.”

Of course, it’s not exactly as simple as that. There were other forces at play.

By the time Trivia Crack arrived in the app stores, Etermax already had another popular app on the market, a Scrabble-inspired game in the vein of Words with Friends called Aworded that topped the charts in Spain in 2012. There was a point when Aworded was being downloaded at a rate of 25,000 per day, ultimately ending up one of every two phones in Spain.

When Trivia Crack launched the following year, it hit the ground running in Spain, surging off the momentum created by Aworded. The app also flourished on Etermax’s home turf in Latin America.

Attention to product and attention to detail was paramount to the app’s success, said Cavazzani.

For example, one of the main challenges with trivia games is coming up with enough content to keep players interested. Questions can’t be inaccurate. They can’t repeat, they can’t be lame, they can't be boring, too easy, too difficult.

Considering the size of the Trivia Crack user base and the fast pace of gameplay, it would be a herculean task to tackle without some sort of crowdsourced model.

Which is what the “Question Factory” section of the app is all about. Users can suggest their own questions and rate and review questions submitted by other members of the Trivia Crack community. Users can even volunteer to translate questions into 18 different languages, everything from Dutch and Danish to Chinese and Catalan. Once 100 people have upvoted a particular question, it enters the system. If not, it gets tossed onto the dust heap.

Engagement is high. Trivia Crack still sees in the neighborhood of 500 million impressions per day, which accounts for roughly 75% of revenue. All the usual in-app purchase options are also available, including virtual goods like gems, coins, spins and extra lives.

Interstitials are Etermax’s bread and butter, and users playing the free version of both Trivia Crack and Trivia Crack Kingdoms see one nearly every time they lose a turn. (There’s an ad-free version of the app that costs $2.99.) Banners also make an appearance, but Cavazzani said he’s looking to get rid of them in deference to more native placements, although that’s still a work in progress.

Whereas most apps will mediate between different ad platforms to monetize their inventory, Etermax has an atypical arrangement in place – an exclusive partnership with Google’s AdMob. According to Cavazzani, Google was the one to approach Etermax with the idea, and the two have been working together on an exclusive basis since May.

character-nerdIt’s quid pro quo, said Jeff Birnbaum, head of gaming partnerships at Google.

“Our partnership with Etermax enables us to connect millions of advertisers with their massive global audience of passionate fans,” Birnbaum said. “Everyone benefits here – brands can reach potential customers at a moment when they’re highly engaged [and] Etermax can rely on AdMob to power their monetization while they focus on what they do best, build great games.”

Mediation just wasn’t cutting it from a revenue standpoint, Cavazzani said.

“When you’re mediating between multiple mediation partner who are in turn mediating between tens of other providers, you end up losing a lot of impressions because the process isn’t fast enough,” he said. “It’s not like someone is taking the money away – it’s just not there. You lose the chance.”

Beyond monetization, Etermax also uses Google Analytics and Flurry for analytics, Appboy for automation and Crashlytics for crash reporting, as well as a number of other SDKs to optimize the in-app experience – because once the users are acquired, however that happens, a developer’s foremost task is to keep them using, especially as the cost of acquisition rises.

And users don’t come cheap. The cost per install in October increased nearly 18% year over year on iOS to $1.72, while Android saw a roughly 110% YoY increase to $2.42, according to data from Fiksu.

“The industry is changing and user acquisition has become much more expensive than it was even three years ago, but we are lucky to have about 60% of Trivia Crack users still playing who were using it at its peak, and we’re actually making more money from them now because we’re better at monetizing them,” said Cavazzani. “But, overall, we focus on product. I’m the CEO, but I’m also a software engineer. Marketing helps, yes, but it’s secondary to us.”

2 Comments

  1. Those numbers are not possible.

    100m daily active users is not possible. There are 7b people. 1 in 70 humans on the planet does not play Trivia Crack every day.

    It makes one wonder how many of these users and the impressions they received are actually humans and not fraudulent.

    Reply
  2. Toby Tyler

    Re: the headline...you need a great game, full stop. That does not mean that you will succeed though. Venture Beat recently reported that to crack the top 25 in the USA, you have to spend $200,000 in marketing. So sure...yes...make sure your game is awesome, because even if you spend $200K in marketing, a bad game will ultimately fail. However...without spending crazy money, users simply won't know about your game. Exceptions clearly exist, but for every Trivia Crack, there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of thousands (millions maybe?) of games that prove the rule.

    Reply

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