Last year I remember reading news of Applifier's fast growth and funding round, and I remember thinking Applifier would be the new hot Finnish company we'd hear a lot of news from. But what has happened since then? I suppose I can partly blame myself for taking a job here and then leaving everyone in the cold, but to make up for it I caught up with CEO Jussi Laakkonen about what's new at Applifier.
The company is seeing "well north" of 150 million monthly users on Facebook, making it likely the largest cross-promotion network on the site. So far the company has swollen to 22 people offices in Finland and California. Like most regional companies, in California they manage publisher relations, business development, and sales, while the engineering is handled in Finland.
Applifier's network best works with smaller publishers that have only one or a few games to themselves, before they grow large enough to really see value in promoting their own games. The network works by every user you send out, you get one user back in. That sounds like a vicious cycle, but Jussi Laakkonen points out that 60-80% of every user that tries another game out returns back to the original game, growing the user base by 1.6 or 1.8 for every user you share. The service is free to developers, meaning Applifier also runs its own ads which amount to a small percentage of ads shown.
Applifier also launched on mobile in July, giving currently around 10 million installs on iOS and Android combined. "Mobile itself is going through a big shift right now. Since last year, everything is going free to play and that has continued through this year. For us, it's less about the ecosystem and more about the companies we work with."
"So [mobile cross promotion] is not a big shift to us for what we do, how we can expand a company's vision, technology - not a huge shift either, and customers a very much similar, so the difference seems much more pronounced from outside than it feels to us. However, the speed of iteration on iOS is much slower due to app store approval, whereas on Facebook you just update and it's live immediately."
One simple integration they offer for mobile gaming is a "more games" button featured on the main menu. Even before you go to the app store you can see trailers and read about other games, which leads to greater conversions than making users suddenly find they're in the app store.
Applifier operates in a honest manner as well, only counting installs as conversions rather than just leading people to the app store. The company also personally reviews and plays ever game on their network, because they want to be sure they are driving users to quality games that do not do anything underhanded to the user.
On Facebook they're seeing something like a 65% conversion from people interested in a game to opening it, but on mobile Applifier is naturally seeing the effects of the higher friction of installing a game (although Laakkonen says they are roughly similar). These frictions come in the form of longer download and install times on Mobile, and little things like having to still put in your password to install a free game on iOS.
"The app store, in my opinion, has lots of vestige of the old paid app ecosystem, where you always have to pay before you download. They have the incentive to fix the store, but who knows if they will fix the problem. I hope they will."
In future plans for Applifier, Laakkonen sums up a talk he gave at the GDC. Laakkonen calls for Facebook gaming to incorporate an interest graft next to a social graft. So far Facebook only allows users to play with their Facebook friends, which he says has reached its limits.
"It's not sufficient. You not only want to play with people you know, but with people who also shares your interests. What if you could only play basketball with people who were your real-life friends, how much fun would that be? That's where Facebook gaming is right now."
Without getting too specific, Laakkonen alludes to creating a cross-platform network that will still retain users privacy, yet still helps find interesting people around you to play with. I've seen plenty of people with "Farmville friends," so I can easily see the value in such a service.
"Fundamentally the core mission of Applifier is to network game publishers to create economies of scale that they may not normally have. The interest graph all maps into this overall concept that its a network of games that work together to win together."