How CBU Helped Game Masons Find Focus & Grow their Games
August 22, 2014
We?re catching up with Matt Fossati, a Chartboost University 2014 (CBU) alum and the COO and co-founder of Game Masons, LLC. It?s been a few months since his time at Chartboost University and we want to see how the lessons from CBU have applied to their current stable of games.Tell us about Game MasonsMatt: Game Masons is a small indie studio in Santa Barbara, CA. We started out making utility apps and then found Unity3D. Both founders are gamers, one on the video game side, and the other strategy games side (poker, backgammon, and billiards). We try to make challenging games that are easy to learn and can be played for a good amount of time without getting stale. We were also one of the first studios to offer real money wager on both Android and iOS.?Quality trumps everything?How did attending CBU change your work going forward?Matt: It solidified what we always thought: quality trumps everything. Making a game fun, having a challenging game loop, in addition to high quality graphics and game play is the only way to grow a gaming company.On the business side, we started to focus on building a system to cross promote all of our games. We took the success of Mini Golf Stars on iOS and Mini Golf Stars 2 on Android and began to advertise our lesser known games on them. With this cross promo we were able to add an additional 1,000 to 2,000 downloads per week to these games.
Mini Golf StarsWhich CBU sessions applied directly to your work and the problems you were trying to solve?Matt: My sit down with Allen Ma was really informative. We mapped the game loop for our upcoming game; identifying the challenges, rewards, and answering why players want to repeat this process. It?s pretty simple but I had never put a game loop on paper. A good loop makes games easier to design, much more interesting, and enjoyable to play.Did any of the speakers change your development or business plans?Matt: I think the most important thing I learned was from Alex Lin from lvl6. He said to "Find what works and iterate." Although it?s simple advice, many indie developers want to chase unproven ideas. That might work for some but it has never worked for us. What we will be doing for the next 6 - 12 months is building our presence in the Sports Category. We are building a football and basketball game that will integrate with our mobile wagering partners Skillz Inc.
Mini Golf Stars 2What new business insights were you able to put to use after attending CBU?Matt: After meeting with Phil Shpilberg, we knew we had work to do on the analytics side. We implemented Game Analytics into all of our game and have started measuring DAU, ARPDAU, user?s locations, traffic allocation, as well as several other metrics. Going forward, this is invaluable for making important business and development decisions.In what parts of your games can a player see the influence of your CBU experience?Matt: Most definitely the implementation of our cross promo network. We have taken advantage of the knowledge of our new friends at Chartboost and are now using the Network to drive major traffic between games.Prior to CBU you had an unsuccessful Kickstarter for a MMO project: Hot Rod Hustle. What lessons did you learn in that process - did you learn anything at CBU that would have helped you reach your funding goal had you known it during the kickstart?Matt: CBU taught us that it?s all about your network; leveraging your titles and overall presence to support new games or prop up other titles. Kickstarter is similar. Its great if you or your studio has a name or reputation in the industry, but it is easy to be overlooked if you don?t. Had we known this we would of used our games to get the word out. But being a smaller indie, we were unknown to most gamers, so I think our fate was sealed before we ever started.Blackjack Blitz is your latest game - it?s a departure from golf games. What lead you to the casino category?Matt: We made Blackjack Blitz (BJB) as a marketing tool. We were one of the first games on iOS and Android to offer Real Money Tournaments on games of skill. It was proving difficult to get the word out about cash based tournaments so we made BJB to cross promote those games. We have used Chartboost?s SDK as the main driver of traffic from Blitz to Mini Golf Stars and we couldn?t be more pleased.
Blackjack BlitzHow is the game performing vs. your prior games in other categories?Matt: On the advertising/marketing side, we are seeing great returns with high ecpms, $20+. The DAU is smaller than our other games, but this is just 1.0. We have several updates coming that will turn it into a much more intricate and interesting game, a sort of Blackjack/Casino RPG.Has it taught you anything new about mobile game development and support that you can take back to the golf games?Matt: I think Blitz is a good looking game. If it succeeds past the first few months, I think it will be because of this. If it does succeed, it will further the point that a good looking game is key to success.?...these games are alive.?You are still releasing content for your older products. How does this impact the long tail for your business?Matt: One thing that many presenters at CBU said is that these games are ?alive.? ?You can add new content, fix bugs, and use the user base to your advantage in a way that you never have been able to before. As a small studio, maintaining older titles while building new ones is very difficult, but it is a key to success.Mini Golf Stars 3D has over 3 million downloads on iOS, making it one of the most successful Golf games on the platform. What?s your secret?Matt: When we first released it nearly 3 years ago, the golfing genre lacked a fun and enjoyable game. Its was either EA?s Tiger Woods or a game that looked like it was made by children. We made a game that split the difference. Nothing too fancy, but it looked good, gave players a challenge, and was easy to play.With two golf games live on both iOS and Android, how do you keep the games healthy and distinct?Matt: While the object is the same--get 3 stars on a hole--the graphics, obstacles, and controls are completely different. It?s been a strange experience to maintain and measure both games. Mini Golf Stars was the #1 sports game and has thrived for several years on iOS; on Android, its presence is relatively unknown. For Mini Golf Stars 2, its the exact opposite; Android downloads were as high as 15k/day while only a tenth that happened on iOS.You recently updated Mini Golf Stars 3D to include leaderboards and cash prizes. Can you tell me more about this business decision and how it?s gone since release?Matt: We think that with the growth of esports (like the DOTA, League of Legends, and Call of Duty tournaments), there will be a natural progression to the mobile environment. Anticipating that, we partnered with a company that created the first ever mobile wagering system. We were an early beta partner and have worked with them for several years now. The decision was easy, it offered a unique and fresh aspect to the game. We?ve had a good response so far, and aim to grow this part of our business by 10x in the next year.What?s next? How will Game Masons move forward and continue to apply the lessons from CBU and live game maintenance?Matt: Going back to what Alex Lin said, we are going to focus on free, fun to play sports games because it has worked well in the past. Each of the Sports games will have single player and tournament modes. We might mix in a few other games, like a bubble shooter or puzzle game, but that is more to test the market for new genres.Would you recommend CBU to friends in the development community?Matt: It?s a no brainer. The knowledge of all the presenters was insane and the peeps at Chartboost were so friendly and helpful!
Where can we get your games?Matt: We are currently on iOS, Android, and just released on Amazon. We should be live on Windows 8 and Windows Phone by the end of August.Blackjack Blitz (Android, iOS)Mini Golf Star: Putt Putt Game (Amazon, Android, iOS)Mini Golf Stars 2 (Android, iOS)Everyone at Chartboost would like to congratulate Matt and the team at Game Masons on their success following Chartboost University. Seeing the business insights turn into positive business contributions is fantastic, and we?re very excited for their future.Chartboost UniversityCBU is an immersive boot camp that educates and inspires mobile game developers from around the world to build great games. Charboost?s mission is to empower game developer success in freemium economies, and CBU?s goal is to help them gain the knowledge and make industry connections, to support their vision of making games while creating sustainable businesses. To learn more, visit the CBU website today and be sure to check back for updates on timing of open applications for Chartboost University 2015.
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