Sparking Joy: Creating Great Mobile Games

Feb 27, 2024

An emerging trend we’re seeing in the mobile gaming industry is a recent surge of IAP-based games. With China, Japan, and South Korea consistently ranking within the top five countries globally for mobile gaming revenue, the APAC region is leading the charge in driving that growth

This has been the case for Solotopia and its flagship title, Alice’s Dream, which recently broke into the top app charts. We sat down with Li Ping, CEO of Solotopia, to discuss their game’s spectacular growth and what’s on the horizon for 2024.

1. How did you get started in the mobile industry?

I started my own business in 2011 after graduating from college, where I majored in computer science. That year saw a boom of Chinese internet companies flocking to global markets, where there was a strong demand for tools and utility apps from Android users. This inspired us to also target this market and develop our first app, Solo Launcher, which gained popularity in America. 

2. What prompted the switch to mobile gaming after your success with utility apps? 

We started considering switching to social apps in 2014 as we realized there was a ceiling in the utility apps business, which made it hard to drive long-term stickiness. Why social apps? Because they are more deeply connected with “people” while delivering higher stickiness and business value. 

In 2018, we began exploring the gaming market. While I’ve always been a massive fan of games, that wasn’t the primary reason for this shift. We decided to venture into this field after seeing a significant increase in gaming demand across various markets and a surge in the popularity of casual games globally. This presented a golden opportunity for us. We had great experience expanding into global markets and laying a solid foundation for entering the gaming industry.

Following the success of our flagship gaming apps in 2022, we founded Solotopia as a subsidiary of our parent company, Newborntown. This subsidiary is dedicated to creating high-quality games by bringing together passionate gaming enthusiasts.

3. What is the story behind Solotopia and your recent success with Alice’s Dream? 

The name “Solotopia” comes from the word “Solo” and the name of our first app, “Solo Launcher”. We also use this word to show an attitude towards innovating independently. As for “topia”,  it’s part of the word “Utopia”,  which also represents our vision to build a utopia where game players can find joy and our teams can fulfill their dreams. 

Solotopia focuses on developing quality games globally while learning about innovations like integrating social networking into gaming. We’ve seen increasing maturity in our games business, and our flagship apps have started to cut good figures worldwide. Solotopia is not only a carrier that encompasses all our game apps but also an arena where we can do all things about games.

Alice’s Dream-Merge Island was launched in June 2022 and was highly recommended by Google Play worldwide only two months after its debut. It’s been growing rapidly and has achieved over $2M in monthly revenue since April 2023. 

We attribute Alice’s success to its quality, the most fundamental factor. We’ve invested the most in its art design, making this fairytale-themed game more engaging in storylines and art styles. 

To create a more immersive experience, we refine every tiny detail in the worldview and storyline by amplifying elements such as adventure. Additionally, while building on traditional merge gameplay, we introduced innovation system features like diversified dungeons, ensuring our players experience novelty within the game.

Most mid-core games are challenged in scaling user acquisition the longer their games have been live. We’ve observed from market trends that some hard-core games have successfully integrated mini-gameplay concepts, which has significantly extended their lifecycle. We wanted to test this, and it proved to be the right thing to do, as this sort of gameplay integration has helped us reduce CPI and is worth investing in further.  

5. What has been your approach to scaling user growth? 

Our strategy is to concentrate on a few selected media channels, with most of our users coming from AppLovin, Facebook, and Google. When we start advertising on a new channel, it typically takes one to three months to understand its impact. Thus, based on that, focusing on specific media channels for deeper learning proves to be a more effective approach.

6. How have you used your past successes to influence your growth strategy?

In developing an effective growth strategy for Alice’s Dream, we worked with various media channels and gained insights into consumer behavior patterns. The data models from Alice’s Dream have been a positive reference for the growth of Solotopia’s other apps. We spent nearly three months exploring the mini-gameplay concept that fits Alice, and such experience will help our other apps to make a breakthrough in developing new mini-gameplays as well.

7. What insights have you gained from your creative strategy for promoting Alice’s Dream?

As a game developer, the first step is identifying a creative strategy that aligns with your objectives. For instance, in the realm of mini gameplay, there are three main creative strategies: the first is a deep integration of gameplay and content; the second is adopting an in-app advertising (IAA) model; and the third strategy combines these two approaches, often referred to as “Story+IAA”. This process requires continuous testing and adjustment to the game material to progress.

It’s also important to have accurate metrics to guide your creative strategy. Relying solely on Cost Per Install (CPI) to measure creative performance is insufficient. Sometimes, it’s necessary to assess whether the creative can engage an audience. If so, it could be integrated into the game.

Apart from that, it’s equally essential to focus on the changing preferences of user groups. As we started to explore the gameplay of puzzles, we found users’ tastes in games varied more. This diversity allows learning from more successful games and adapting accordingly.

8. What’s been your experience working with AppLovin?

The AppLovin team has been a great partner due to their expertise in data analysis and deep understanding of game commercialization. They contributed to our long-term success using data-driven growth strategies based on our performance. Whenever we meet with difficulties, they help us figure out more diversified ways for our ads to engage a larger audience.

9. What’s ahead for Solotopia? What do you think the biggest challenges or opportunities are? 

Solotopia’s vision is to gather enthusiasts who create games that make them proud and bring joy to our players. We aim to establish Solotopia as a globally-recognized leader in the gaming industry.

Today, many game companies are challenged in scaling UA due to increasingly tougher data privacy scrutiny for apps and rising costs in buying traffic. That’s why strong capabilities in R&D, innovation, and understanding diverse markets are essential for game companies to navigate these challenges successfully.

Gaming stands out as a sector where significant cash flow and healthy profit growth are most achievable compared to other internet-based industries. Its development correlates with technological advancements. Emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), AR (Augmented Reality), and AIGC (Artificial Intelligence Generated Content) are bringing about new opportunities in games.

At Solotopia, we’ve been looking to expand our development in these fields. We will leverage AI technology with specific business aspects such as UI design, art design, and prototyping to develop more innovative and compelling experiences, both in gameplay and visual effects.

Ready to spark joy for your customers? AppLovin makes technologies that help businesses of every size connect to their ideal customers. We provide end-to-end software and AI solutions for businesses to reach, monetize, and grow their global audiences. 

Learn more at AppLovin.

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