We continue our series of interviews with developers and game industry experts. We were able to talk with Türker Karahan, CEO at UDO Games. He shared thoughts about the world of hyper-casual and casual games, about the wonderful successes of his company, and in general, said a lot of interesting things.
Hi, Türker! Could you tell us about how it started, how did you get into the industry?
It’s been almost 10 years since we got into the industry. It was a childhood dream for me to build my own studio and develop the games played by millions of people. When we were in university we realized that we’re sharing the same dream and that’s what encouraged us most.
In 2011 we developed our first game for a game dev contest organized by Microsoft and we were the only Turkish team that’s selected for global eliminations. Later on we met a contact on Samsung Turkey (when the Galaxy S series were first released), and we got a deal to develop android games exclusive for Samsung devices selling in Turkey. That was the first time that we earned money from our games and that was also the kickstart for Udo Games.
Why did you decide to develop your own games? What game/idea has inspired you?
There comes a time that when you’re playing a game you think more about how that game is created more than the game itself. That’s when you’ll be realizing that you want to build your own games and bring your ideas to reality. Rather than most of the newcomers to the industry, we didn’t rush into a AAA like game which we’ll be devoured by the workload in time.
We decided to create simple ideas that we can overcome at that time. That approach led us to mobile games with simple mechanics and we were able to create playable and marketable contents. Angry Birds series were our industry limits at that time and I’m pretty sure it was also one of the big reasons that the mobile industry got lots of investments back then.
Let’s talk about UDO Games, where are you located? What is the size of the studio? What is your focus now?
We’re based in Ankara, Turkey which is the second popular city for the industry in Turkey after Istanbul ofc. There are lots of good universities in the city which leads to a great potential for human resources too. We are a team of 35 currently including developers, artists, game designers, PM’s, marketing specialists, data scientists and more.
After a great period of “IO” game genre focus with lots of hits for us, we moved on to the next big thing for the industry “Hyper-casual”. We currently have two separate teams with Hyper-casual and Hybrid-casual focus. We’re also building our own marketing structure to lead a self-publish path. With lots of trials on both genres and also self-publish tests, we feel like a factory ready to shine in the industry.
Could you tell us about projects of UDO Games?
We had great hit games in the io genre like Boas.io, Spear.io, Goons.io and Pikes.io and more, released in the 2017-2019 period which has more than 40 million+ downloads in total. There is still a great DAU for those games nowadays and that’s so prouding for us to create designs that last for that long period of time.
On the other hand, as the result of lots of tries and effort, we finally had a great hyper-casual hit, Money Honey. It’s released in the beginning of November 2021, and in a short time it has more than 5+ million downloads with great metrics.
And finally, we’ve been working so much data-oriented for a long time that we decided to create our own tools and own technologies to build a more custom and specialized ecosystem in-house. With the process on our marketing side, we’re working on these techs focused on analytic and mining sides.
What are the results in 2021 of your company? What are the key milestones?
It’s been a really productive year for us since we tested 140 games on the hyper-casual side and also 8 games on hybrid-casual and casual side. We had lots of potential games among them and that led us to a few big updates too. There are huge milestones for the company too.
- We closed an investment tour with the industry dedicated investors Weplay Ventures and Lima Ventures.
- We’d build our marketing team with the aim of creating our own marketing setup and a few other technologies on this side.
- We released our first hyper-casual hit Money Honey with our publishing partner Rollic.
- We had our first self-published games like Slashville 3D and Jelly Squeeze 3D.
- The team size increased from 16 to 35 through the year and we had new roles like “Creative Artist”, “PR Manager”, “Talent Hunter” in the company.
What key news or events in 2021 would you highlight in a gaming market. And what they were in the next year?
Key events in 2021 that made huge impacts on both hyper-casual and hybrid-casual sides from my point of view:
- In the first quarter High Heels and Hair Challenge releases made a huge impact with the new trend “Fashion Runner” or also can be approached as “Woman main character in the runner genre”. That led studios to lots of “woman” and “fashion” oriented trials in the following months. Those games also became the founders of the term “Tiktokable Games” which has been a huge part of our development cycle whole year.
- A whole year dominator game came to the store named Bridge Race 🙂 While everyone else is focused more on the graphic side and low cpi dedicated designs, this game broke the rules and made a huge scale through the whole year with great in-game data and simple graphics.
- We’ve seen much more hybrid-casual samples like FarmLand, Moon Pioneer and Stone Miner which are the new success stories of this genre. There are a few more samples and I’m pretty sure we’ll see more.
- A new sub-genre under hyper-casual came to life called “Story Run” with “Tiktokable” term. There are good samples like Run Rich, Destiny Run and Money Honey (I’ll give priority to our game here 🙂 but there are lots of bad trials which are stuck in the idea of gamifying a Tiktok trend.
- For the last 10 years of my experience in mobile markets, I personally didn’t see any time where everyone in the market focused on only one trend at the same time and there came maybe hundreds of games in a very short time. Yes I’m talking about “Squid Game” and yes there were really hundreds of as we tried to follow up. I remember a week where 8 of Android US top 10 are squid games and also it was something like 6 at 10 on IOS side too. That was one of the moments where everyone felt like the market is really stuck nowadays.
For 2022, I personally think there is still more space in which studios will shape the social media trends(especially Tiktok trends) into new stylized games with better in-game datas. Since finding a good CPI is always getting harder, trends will help studios on this side, but on the other hand, while good CPI terms are increasing from 10 cent to 30 cent, studios will also need to find better gamify methods to create better incomes.
We’ll also be seeing much more hybrid-casual games since lots of studios are trying to be more casual focused each day. That’ll also bring new sub-genres like “Arcade Idle” everyone is talking about nowadays.
What 3 advice could you give to people who dream about developing their own game or opening a studio. What advice would you give to beginners?
First and most important of all find yourself great partners since developing a good game is all about great teamwork. This partner or partners must be both reliable on the professional side and also they should have different expertise than you to create a full-oriented team.
Dream big but start small. Developing AAA games is most people’s dream in the industry but please don’t make the mistake of rushing into huge projects which you’ll be swallowed by them in time.
Try to find yourself kickstarter partners or places. Since you’ll be lacking lots of experience to find yourself the easiest and also the fastest way to success stories, you can find publishers, investors, incubation centers, scale-up programs or any other type of studio motivator and also pusher partners outside of your team and your personal environment. Don’t be afraid of sharing your dreams and taking help from other people.
What are your top 5 favorite games?
I have to separate it into two since I have a developer personality which I look into the games as a product, and also I have a gamer side which I love to enjoy in my offtime.
On my developer side I’ll only list the games which are similar to our production type and also which I think they’ve shaped the store a lot in the near past; Hole.io, Johnny Trigger, Bridge Race, Blob Runner and Stone Miner.
On my full gamer side I played and enjoyed a lot(and still enjoy some of them); Overwatch, DOTA 1-2, Mafia Series, NFS Series and League of Legends.
Türker, thanks for the interesting interview!
You can check out the company’s games on the official UDO Games website.
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