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How to develop a winning indie title: Q&A with Evgeny Grishakov from Garden of Dreams

ironSource sat down with Evgeny Grishakov, CEO at Garden of Dreams, an indie game studio based out of Moscow, to find out how his studio approaches game development and creating a winning title. Read on to learn some best practices for growing your app business and bringing in more users.

What kind of games does Garden of Dreams make? Can you explain your business model?

Overall, Garden of Dreams has an unusual business model. While we started out like all game studios - developing a variety of games trying to find the niche that would let us make the most money - we eventually realized that none of our team members had any experience in game growth. In the beginning, we released five games and all of them had almost no revenue - complete failures. 

I soon realized that to succeed in game development, our team needed to learn more about the industry. We started a YouTube channel to interview successful game developers and we are still posting videos today. 

We soon managed to make a game, Offline Dice, that brought in a lot of revenue. We developed it for nine months before selling it. When we talked about the sale on our YouTube channel, other developers began contacting us for help selling their games. We started bringing buyers and sellers together in the game development market.

Most importantly, we buy games ourselves, improve and develop them, and increase their revenue.

You’re the CEO of Garden of Dreams. How and why did you get into developing games? 

Game development started as a hobby for me. I was working during the day and developing Flash games in the evenings. I even released three games that brought in some revenue. 

Five years later, I sat down and began to think: what do I want to do for the next 10 years? What will make me happy and use my best qualities? 

On December 31, 2019, I decided - game development!

How does Garden of Dreams balance monetization between IAPs and ads? Walk us through your monetization strategy. 

As a rule, we always put in-app purchases first. One of our main goals when developing a game is to find ways to integrate IAPs harmoniously so that players are likely to buy them. However, many genres focus on advertising alone - I would guess that about 75% of games in the store are focused purely on advertising.

This is why we decided to learn more about implementing and monetizing with advertising, and how we started working with ironSource. By integrating ironSource’s mediation solution into our very first project, we managed to increase the income per user 2X. Cool!

What channels do you use for user acquisition? Tell us about your UA strategy. 

We’ve just started mastering our UA strategy. Today, we are buying US players - some Spanish speaking - and constantly doing CPI tests for new games.

Since we are newbies, we generate most of our downloads through TikTok videos - we have a mini-department of content makers who shoot, edit and publish videos on TikTok.

Are there any game development or growth trends that you are excited about? 

On the other hand, it seems to me that there’s a trend to build more communication between the studio and the players. In fact, players are starting to want to participate in the development of the games, share their ideas, become testers, and help the game in every way outside of just playing! This is the coolest and most valuable thing in game development - to create communities of people around the game.

What advice would you give to other indie developers trying to make a quality game?

I would recommend getting to know some colleagues around you - find some games that interest you and reach out to the developers. Gaming is a very friendly and open industry. I try to help all the developers who reach out to me because I also needed some guidance at the start and talking to experienced industry leaders, I managed to immediately make a successful project. 

Covering ironSource mediation for newcomers from A to Z

Check out this video Evgeny made about ironSource mediation.

Let's put these tips to good use

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