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The journey to 2 billion downloads: Q&A with Amanotes
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ironSource sat down with Tri Vuong, User Acquisition Lead at Amanotes, a games studio making music games based out of Vietnam, to learn about their journey to 2 billion downloads. Read on to learn some best practices for growing your app business and bringing in more users.

Please could you give our readers insights into the hypercasual music games genre - is it competitive? Does it represent a significant part of the hyper casual gaming market? 

The hypercasual game industry is becoming increasingly saturated, and it’s no exception for the music subgenre. There are bigger swings being taken to innovate, but the field is still green since this genre targets a massive audience all around the world.

The music games subgenre accounts for a fraction of the whole hyper casual genre, with about 11 billion downloads globally in 2020. Although there are many other subgenres representing the hypercasual market, the absolute numbers of music games are still a great number to look at.

What are the common features of music games?

In music games specifically, some developers might simply use music as the background add-on for their existing gameplay. More complex integration would require the synchronization of the musical beat to every game action, while focusing on the listening experience of the user. To sum up, these games may be minimalistic and easy to develop, but it's hard work to keep users engaged. 

We want to break free of this stereotype of short-lived hypercasual games. While others in the market usually stay in the chart for 3-6 months, our music games took a different approach in bringing forth the music-first experience. We also differentiated our monetization approach from other hypercasual publishers. Top titles like Magic Tiles 3 and Tiles Hop have stayed in the top 10 of the Music Games chart for years - therefore we don’t pigeonhole ourselves as a typical hypercasual game developer.

How does user behavior differ in music games compared to other hyper casual subgenres? (i.e. do music games have higher retention rates or ad whales compared to other casual subgenres?) 

In other hyper casual subgenres, the user demographics are very different. Some categories could have the majority of male users, such as action, RPG or adventure games. Some could be totally opposite. Music games have a balanced demographic between male and female, and are enjoyed by most people. This is also the advantage of this niche genre, everyone will have their favorite songs and music is the universal “language”.

Tell us about your journey to 2 billion downloads. Let’s start from the beginning - how did you manage to get your first million downloads? What challenges did you face getting to this milestone as a hypercasual developer? How did you overcome these challenges? 

Our co-founders are both very passionate about music and technology, which translated in their founding Amanotes back in 2014. The very first hit project was Magic Tiles 3 and surprisingly, our first million downloads didn’t involve much UA activities. 

Back in early 2017, the game hit the top charts in the US games category thanks to its charm and interactive music experience. Since then, the founding members continued to focus on its niche, using their music expertise to apply “musicalization” in simplified gameplay. As a result, they published more chart-hitting titles that all contributed to our billion downloads milestone today. We’re all aligned in our vision of making music accessible to everyone worldwide, hence our tagline “Everyone can Music”.

The challenges that Amanotes faced might be similar to other developers: how to continuously innovate and improve different interactive music experiences through games while keeping the games simple so that everyone can “music”. 

The talented team at Amanotes made it possible for Magic Tiles 3 to go strong topping the Music Games chart, even after 4 years of release. Our approach simply revolves around improving the in-app listening experience and updating our music library while developing new growth drivers. For reaching new users, we’re always testing, calibrating and optimizing to reach as many markets as possible.

How does Amanotes approach UA today? What channels are you using and how experimental are you with your marketing efforts? 

With our current top apps, of which the products are already well optimized for the market, our metrics are great. We have gathered insights to support mass targeting, which provides the LTV to make us profitable. With mass targeting, we are trying to scale the most horizontally by reaching new channels and countries.

When it comes to new apps, it is a different story. We usually followed the market standards in picking channels, targeting, geography, etc. based on historical data from big apps or market apps for the soft launch period. This process includes a lot of testing and adjusting to see the right fit for the app. When we reach a certain milestone in metrics, we scale up from there.

How do you make creatives for your UA campaign?

In the world of hyper casual game ad networks, machine learning is a very important factor for a successful UA campaign. To support the machine learning of networks, we have to strictly follow some rules when it comes to making creatives - besides finding new innovative ideas or concepts.

We usually try to maintain the best winning creatives by drawing insights from our high performing campaigns, and following the best practices based on our historical data. For example, what the background should look like, what imagery the moving ball should have, or what color is the most representative for this event. Aside from these standard best practices, we will save some slots for testing new ideas, new seasonal concepts such as Christmas, ThanksGiving, and Halloween.

What are your ARPU and LTV benchmarks - and what do you do if/when your campaigns fall short?

Our benchmarks are above average in Android and a little bit under average in iOS. iOS is more complex, especially after the privacy changes. We are pushing hard in Android to scale up and trying to leverage iOS as much as possible.

When we have a bumpy campaign that underperforms, we usually try to look at the metrics to see what the core problems were. It could be the product itself that needs some improvement to maximize LTV; or it could be that our creatives are not attractive enough to help us get a good CPI. It’s vital to analyze the numbers that could give insights on where to tweak the campaign.

Heading into 2022, what are your best practices for music hyper casual games? From game design to UA

For me, in this stage the best things for our UA will be automation and ROAS optimization campaigns. When it comes to scaling many apps in many countries, it is important to maintain automation to develop the most efficient campaigns. Also, with apps that encompass tons of events, developing campaigns by event or value optimization is something to do beside mass targeting. 

On the other hand, the metaverse is constantly a “buzz” keyword nowadays. It could be a game-changer in the mobile gaming industry where it opens up a virtual world for mobile users to interact in and for digital marketers to develop intricate cross-marketing campaigns.

Let's put these tips to good use

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