Originally from Romania, but currently located in Helsinki, Gabriel Coriiu is the founder of Seenax and the developer behind the hit game Hide ‘N Seek. Read Gabriel’s story on his journey into the hyper-casual world, partnering with Supersonic Studios, and getting his game to #1 on Android and #5 on iOS in the US.
Programming + art = gaming
Ever since I've known myself, I've been passionate about programming and art, and always looked for a way to combine the two. In my third year of studying computer science, I got hired by Gameloft as a 3D Artist and later transitioned into a VFX Artist and Technical Artist. Then three years ago, I moved to a small startup called Armada Interactive in Helsinki. Though at the time Unity was a bit of a black box to me, I managed to learn it quickly.
Back then, my goals weren't very clear to me, and I was mainly driven by passion. The motive behind it being: since "time is money", better spend that time doing something I enjoy. While working at Armada, during a break, I came across the quote that changed my way of thinking forever.
"Don't look to trade time for money, look to trade money for time,
because there's only one of them you can never get back."
Essentially, time is so much more than just money. The quote hit me hard and made me question my priorities, all around the same time the hyper-casual games were picking up.
Journeying into hyper-casual gaming
With this quote in mind, I just couldn't continue working for companies anymore - so I decided to quit my job and make it on my own. After saving some money freelancing as a web developer, I moved to the next phase, making a game.
My understanding of the gaming market at the time was very limited and naive - "The more polished a game is the better it'll perform". With this in mind, after putting a lot of work into polishing my game Booppy to perfection, it was the time to test it with various publishers (publishing on my own was not an option as I didn't have the resources and skills for it). Surely enough the results came up and SURPRISE! 37% D1 retention with a $0.75 CPI - not great for a hyper-casual title.
Before starting a new game, I had to analyze what went wrong with Booppy. I concluded that while it was a fun game in my eyes, I was not the target audience. That meant I needed to start making decisions based on data rather than on personal preferences. With this mindset, all of my future games' KPIs improved.
Finding the right partner
By this point, I was quite pleased with how things were evolving. The next challenge was to find the right publisher partner to team up with for the long-term.
I had been working with a lot of big and small publishers before Hide 'N Seek and while all have advantages and disadvantages, none of them fully offered what I was looking for. That was until Supersonic came along.
Not only they came up with very fair terms from the very beginning, but they are also highly transparent, and the people I've been working with are kind and knowledgeable. It very much feels like I'm part of a family, and we try to make it fair for everyone involved, as opposed to having the feeling of "we want to rob you just because we have the money".
For every developer reading this, don't take my word for it, see for yourself. Supersonic offers very fair deals and respects the developer’s IP rights, so there's nothing to lose whatsoever. As a nice bonus, they also have ironSource behind them, which is one of the biggest UA distribution networks.
"For every developer reading this, don't take my word for it, see for yourself. Supersonic offers very fair deals and respects the developer’s IP rights, so there's nothing to lose whatsoever."
- Gabriel Coriiu, Developer of Hide 'N Seek
Lengthening playtime and retention
Hide ‘N Seek had a low CPI from the very beginning, so nailing retention was the main thing Supersonic focused on - and once we got it we all felt we had a major hit on our hands. Here’s what Supersonic recommended:
- Create smaller levels so the seeker always comes to the hider’s spot and forces the hider to react, making the game a bit more exciting. (Initially, Hide ‘N Seek didn’t have the maze look that it does now. It was an open world and the action took place in various locations, like a farm, city, or beach. Naturally, it took a long time for the seeker to find the hider in these environments.)
- Make the characters move slower
- Reduce the size of the vision field
- Add a vertical component to the levels
- Add menus and simplify UI
- Add monetization opportunities including meta (skins) and progression
Ultimately, all these changes significantly lengthened playtime and retention.
D1 retention during tests:
D1 retention after all game updates:
After launch, we also added in a shop and developed bonus levels together, so that every 10 levels, the gamer is alone without any seeker and has to collect as many coins as possible within a limited time. This boosted D1 retention up to 48% and playtime up 33%.
Profitable from day 0
Supersonic soft launched Hide ‘N Seek in mid-April. On the monetization side, their team designed the ad implementation strategy, built the waterfalls, and optimized everything on a daily basis - balancing revenue and retention to maximize LTV. On the marketing side, they built multiple creatives for different UA channels and managed to get significant scale for a very good CPI.
The soft launch took less than a week, from April 10th to April 16th, and because of the great results, we decided to move into the global launch quickly. Thanks to the strong LTV and low CPI we managed to build for this title, Hide ‘N Seek reached #1 on Android and #5 on iOS in the US within few days and was already profitable by the first day of the global launch.
There’s Supersonic and then there’s everyone else
For me, there are two players in the market - Supersonic and then there’s everyone else. Supersonic Studios meets all my requirements and has everything I’m looking for in a publisher - friendly and professional people, fair deals, very responsive, and of course super strong marketing and monetization power. I don’t need to waste time looking for a new publisher anymore.
"For me, there are two players in the market - Supersonic and then there’s everyone else. I don’t need to waste time looking for a new publisher anymore."
- Gabriel Coriiu, Developer of Hide 'N Seek
Play Store in the US