The success story of the game Last Day on Earth from the Volgograd studio Kefir

Hello, Habr! Today we understand how the Volgograd game studio Kefir managed to break the stereotypes about mobile games, cross the threshold of 100 million downloads and win international recognition of Google Play users. About how the studio was created, how the work is arranged in it and what is the secret of the success of Last Day on Earth, read under the cut.

How was kefir studio created?

Kefir Studio was founded in Volgograd in 2009. In a small apartment, a group of associates with old home laptops began to develop indie games for the social networks VKontakte, Odnoklassniki and My World. After some time, the company achieved significant results - the first highly profitable products with a millionth audience appeared. The popularity of the games "Tyuryaga", "Metro-2033" and "In the trench" allowed developers to focus on market research. In 2017, the studio released another popular game - Last Day on Earth, which broke the stereotype of the impossibility of successfully implementing the Survival genre on a mobile platform.

How is work in the studio arranged?

Now the company has two offices - 150 people in Volgograd and 27 in St. Petersburg. 30% of the composition is women, although it is generally accepted that they are few in development. To build a strong team, experts are invited from different cities. “Kefir” gathers people who are immersed in the work with their heads, and strives not to ignore the important achievements and results.

To get into the team, you need to be a real fan of games. Only then will it be possible to evaluate one of the advantages of working in a company - freedom in development.

The studio uses DKP (Dragon Kill Points) - game mechanics, which allows you to earn points for contribution to the development of projects. The guys spend their points at auctions, where gadgets, travels, advanced hardware and other trophies are played.

Recently, the so-called “gaming environment” has also been added to Kefir’s workdays - a day for self-development, which makes it possible to postpone work tasks and study new games, professional literature or software.

In addition, at the stage of prototyping, the team holds regular meetings during which everyone can share their ideas. As a result of such brainstorming, as a rule, hits are created. For example, the concept of Last Day on Earth was proposed not by game designers, as it happens in most cases, but by artists, which emphasizes the effectiveness of the adopted approach.

What is the secret to the success of Last Day on Earth?

The Last Day on Earth game, which was released on May 24, 2017 on the Google Play platform, was one of the studio’s most notorious successes. 15 people worked on the project, who spent only 62 working days on the full development cycle, including debugging and testing. The preparatory phase was also short-lived, but effective: the team conducted marketing research, including A / B testing, in the most attractive markets for business - primarily the USA.

The beta version was released immediately in all countries, without a soft launch and marketing support. Based on its results, the team expected to collect key metrics and user feedback, and then calmly complete the launch version. However, in the early days, the game received several million organic downloads, so the developers did not have the opportunity to remove it for quiet completion - we had to make all the changes in real time.

The team was prompted by several factors to develop the Survival game. Firstly, in Kefir they adore this genre and conduct most of the domestic tournaments precisely on it, studying and working out the details. Secondly, market research in the field of setting selection showed that the Zombie theme at that time occupied one of the leading positions. Thirdly, the experts of the Russian Google Play team advised Kefir not to doubt his strength and decide to develop a mobile game in the Survival genre, traditionally typical for the desktop.

Prior to the launch of Last Day on Earth in gaming, it was believed that Survival could not become popular on mobile devices due to too long a game session and complicated controls. The team decided to check whether this hypothesis is true. Numerous marketing studies have shown that a niche in the market is free and there is a request from the audience - which means that a quality implementation can help make a breakthrough. And so it happened: the Kefir team worked out the interface and a convenient control model, gave up tight control over the game session and provided players with freedom of action.

Developers received significant support in the development of the game from the Google Play team, which constantly stayed in touch, helped with the promotion and advised at different stages of the development of the project. In particular, experts directed the studio to work with the Play platform, gave product and technical advice, and also guided the online users of different countries in the key differences.

How is Last Day on Earth developing today?

To date, Last Day on Earth has downloaded more than 130 million times, and 80% of the installations were made by Google Play users. Around the game, a stable community has formed - mainly men of different ages (core - 15-40 years old) who love the setting of the zombie apocalypse and the genre of Survival. Despite the fact that, according to Kefir, the average check on Google Play is still less than in other stores, the audience of Android is much larger.

To make a profit, two monetization models are used - in-app purchases (about 95% of revenue) and in-app video ads (about 5% of revenue). The game monthly brings several million dollars. At the same time, they do not plan to increase the share of video ads in the game, so as not to provoke a negative reaction of users.

Most of the revenue (30%) is received by developers from users from the United States whose market was originally targeted. In America, the average check is higher, and there are more representatives of the target audience, midcore gamers 1 and hardcore gamers 2 . After the United States, the markets of Great Britain, Germany, France and Russia are in order of priority.

They promote the game Last Day on Earth through several advertising services and platforms - Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Unity Ads, Twitter and more. The average monthly advertising budget is about $ 1 million.

Now the game implements the idea of ​​a full-fledged synchronous interaction between players. The main goal is the ability to confront directly, create clans and participate in cooperative construction. Work in this direction is nearing completion.

The experience of Kefir studio shows that for the development of mobile games it is important not only to conduct thorough marketing research of the market and look for free niches. You need to be creative in mastering the genre and not be afraid to become its pioneers on the chosen platform, despite the obvious risk. If you manage to develop a quality solution that meets the needs of the audience, success will not be long in coming.

1 Midcore gamers are people who really like games, but they don’t have enough time to play them often.
2 Hardcore gamers are people who spend a lot of time playing the game and prefer complex games, designed primarily for a narrow audience.


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