By Tomas Cavanagh, Strategic Partner Manager at Facebook Audience Network
ironSource launched its hyper-casual publishing solution, Supersonic Studios, just over a year ago with five employees working remotely due to regional lockdowns. Fast-forward one year later, and the studio has scaled up to a one-hundred-person team with offices in Tel Aviv, Kyiv and Minsk. And with hits like Sort It 3D, Stacky Dash and Join Clash, they’ve become one of the industry's top-installed publishers in a very short time.
Our Strategic Partner Manager Tomas Cavanagh sat down with Nadav Ashkenazi, General Manager and Igor Bereslavski, Director of Growth, to hear more about the incredible growth journey of this Israeli company’s publishing solution.
Q (Facebook): The studio launched just over a year ago. Tell us a bit more about how it all started.
A (Ashkenazi, Supersonic): We opened the studio in the first week of February 2020 with five employees, early in the pandemic. Two weeks after launching, we published our first game - Sort It 3D - which reached number 1 in the US in under a week. In addition, our third game Join Clash was the most downloaded game worldwide in Q1 2021 according to Sensor Tower and App Annie (1). These are just two of our many successes. Our team has subsequently grown to over 100 people.
Q (Facebook): How did you choose hypercasual to be your main game category focus?
A (Ashkenazi, Supersonic): Due to our familiarity with ad monetization from ironSource, it was pretty natural for us to focus on hyper-casual. We knew how to monetize with ads, we knew how to run optimized user acquisition campaigns, and so, based on our years of experience, hyper-casual was where we felt we could bring the most significant value to the market.
Q (Facebook): You entered a super competitive market somewhat late; what made you think you would be able to succeed in it?
A (Ashkenazi, Supersonic): We saw that there was a gap in the market that we knew we could fill. Developers work very hard to create games, but the developer-publisher relationship is very much a black-box model. You bring your game to the publisher, and then you get some money. But you don't have visibility into how your game is performing, or how your KPIs might be changing based on in-game tweaks or creative updates, and you aren't sure what the publisher is doing to reach those numbers. As a result, you’re also not armed with the insights to improve them.
A (Bereslavski, Supersonic): We saw an opportunity to model a better relationship between publishers and developers. Because we understood the dynamics in these relationships and coming from a strong background in the business side of gaming, we decided to take the plunge. The fact that we began working with 600 studios in less than a year reflects the success of this new approach.
Q (Facebook):You launched the studio just as the world plunged into a pandemic lockdown. How did COVID-19 affect your ability to grow in the early days of the studio?
A (Ashkenazi, Supersonic): We hired most of our 95 person team during COVID-19 lockdowns. More than half of them were recruited and interviewed entirely over video call.
We built our studio and grew a lot during COVID-19, and we realize now that this is one of our strengths - all the processes we built were for working remotely. That meant we didn’t have to change our working practises, communication channels or anything else because remote working was all we knew as a team, and I think it made us stronger.
Q (Facebook): User acquisition is mainly automated nowadays; how is Supersonic bringing something new to the table?
A (Bereslavski, Supersonic): The combination of our tech and our talent give the developers who work with us something over and above UA automation. Firstly, our experienced team brainstorms, creates, tests, innovates and refreshes large numbers of ad creatives to maximize the potential from gameplay. Facebook allows us to run high-speed testing of dozens of new iterations simultaneously, which helps us identify which audiences to focus on. Our AM team also thinks differently. We've built some campaigns that are different from the traditional way of doing user acquisition for hyper-casual; they're more similar to IAP-based campaigns in that we are targeting events in our campaigns.
When it comes to tech, we have built internal user acquisition tools that help us see the performance and value of each user, source and platform. Having a granular view of data has helped us maximize revenue.
Also, Facebook’s Custom Event Optimization solution has helped us go beyond a ‘targeting broad’ strategy—the default for hypercasual user acquisition— to use more downstream events to target specific cohorts of engaged users.
We built our self-serve platform on Facebook’s Marketing API, using a custom automation solution. This enables us to receive and test a high volume of games at scale at the prototyping stage and identify which games should move onto the next testing stage.
Q (Facebook): Same goes for monetization; what are you doing differently?
A (Bereslavski, Supersonic): Implementing in-app bidding also helped maximize our monetization. Facebook Audience Network was our first bidding partner, which opened up significant opportunities for us this year. Using bidding helped us automate waterfall management, which is especially important for a studio like us with 20 games and dozens of waterfalls.
With regards to both UA and monetization, we offer a level of transparency into everything surrounding the game’s metrics that’s very hard to find in the current mobile game publishing ecosystem. We don’t believe in withholding information from developers we work with - the more informed our partner developers are, the better their games and the more success we achieve together. This can be seen both in the creatives we create for them and the technology we are building.
Q (Facebook): Your team and business grew significantly during the lockdown; how has the relationship with Facebook helped support this?
A (Bereslavski, Supersonic): Without Facebook's support in setting up automation —prototyping, testing and marketability evaluation, creative testing and user acquisition—our team wouldn't have been able to achieve the scale of growth that we did. We've already tested 1,500 games through our new self-serve platform, and we plan to test (and launch) a lot more in 2021.
We’ve built a great relationship with Facebook; they’ve helped us stay on top of the latest benchmarks and technology developments so that we can continue to improve performance and scale.
(1) Source: (2021, April 9). Top mobile games worldwide for March 2021 by downloads. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from https://sensortower.com/blog/top-mobile-games-worldwide-march-2021-by-downloads
(2021, March 12). Top mobile games worldwide for February 2021 by downloads. Retrieved April 20, 2021 from https://sensortower.com/blog/top-mobile-games-worldwide-february-2021-by-downloads
(2021, February 19). Top mobile games worldwide for January 2021 by downloads. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from https://sensortower.com/blog/top-mobile-games-worldwide-january-2021-by-downloads
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