Astra Studio: “Our games are particularly popular in the Caucasus. They have a special love for cars”

 

Xsolla spoke with Vasiliy Trofimchuk of Astra Studio about his games with an emphasis on mobile monetization projects in Russia as well as their new ambitious project, Playdemy.

First off, tell us more about your studio.

We do mobile, browser, and “local” games and we have been moving in this direction starting from 5 years ago. We had an internet provider with units engaged in creating websites. As an experiment, we decided to try to make casual games. After the launch of several projects, we realized that this development cycle of handling the creation, publication, and monitoring to see if it took off or not did not suit us very well. During this time, games were booming on Odnoklassniki. They were easy to create and update everyday which meant a constantly improving product. We tried to run some targeted advertisements and generated an audience from this, however, this venture didn’t prove to be fruitful as the majority of these users were not paying users. We consequently began to deal with monetization and started to attend different game conferences more catered to our direction which included GDC .

Meanwhile, Odnoklassniki launched a mobile storefront for browser games which targeted a very narrow niche. This proved to be empty and the audience of mobile users has grown faster than the Web. We have presented a couple of games and one of them took off.

You have several browser-based mobile products. Could you tell us more about them?

To start off, we selected an unpretentious name for our game and went with, “Super Racing“. The player basically fills their car with gas and then competes with other real users to make money. The races are not visualized themselves as this particular genre does not require such a luxury but instead, people can immediately see the result of their competition. Factors such as level and tuning upgrades for your car determined the likelihood of you winning the race. The game quickly became popular and was in the top mobile class as first place for 3 years running with an astounding 20 million users. Afterwards, we started 6 other games but with limited success compared to Super Racing.

Tell us about the mechanics of your games. How do you motivate the players and how do you retain current players?

The main motivational and retention factors of our games sprout from the many online tournaments we hold in which a large number of players compete amongst each other for an impressive prize. Losers, of course, emerge from the competition as well as winners but the drive to win remains the same. These tournaments are a collection of online members of the game.

As far as mechanics, clan wars help user retention as gamers unite into clans and compete against each other. Players do not want to let down their friends and teammates and actively participate in the community as well.

What is the main audience of your game projects?

The audience is made up of mainly male gamers between 14-25 years old. Our games have become especially popular in the Caucasus as we have experienced the most active players there. They have a special love for cars.

Could you give us a few words on the monetization of your products? How do you earn: subscription-game products and virtual currency?

All of our games are free to play. Monetization is conducted through the sale of unique items within the game. In “Super Racing” for example, we sell unique and rare cars, as well as consumables. In order to keep racing, you need gasoline. You can either wait for it to recover on it’s own as time passes or pay for the gasoline to instantly recharge it and play more. It’s quite a simple model.

What advantages do you think a payment solution from Xsolla provides for your games? How does the proposed technology allow you to increase profits and conversion?

After starting on Odnoklassniki, we were faced with the problem of growth. Odnoklassniki, even after 5 years, were not enough to make the growth go viral and we began to look for other ways to expand. We consequently made independent versions of our games and embedded payments by Xsolla. We are now able to buy traffic and raise awareness leading to an increase in audience. Using Odnoklassniki, payments took 60 days to process and conversely, with Xsolla, it cuts that time to 5-20 days. This is a serious plus for us which cannot be overlooked. Odnoklassniki also took 58% of the revenue and made it impossible for us to use the mobile version of important tools such as notifications and friend invitations, both important to go viral. After we started working with Xsolla, we now only pay for accepting payments at only a few percent and revenues can be used to attract users.

Has the production of your games paid for itself?

In some projects the production does not pay off but has covered the cost of all experiments with new entertainment. Major funds are spent on maintenance projects, constant revision, and changes made at the request of the players. Our calculation for the creation of games is justified partly for the reason that our players can play and enjoy the game for years.

How do you work with stocks, come up with discounts, determine the price of goods? How do you provide game support and stimulate customer demand?

This is characterized by shares from a special group. We make plans for the month and we also hold mini-campaigns within our games. Our staff will analyze efficiency amidst changing conditions and variant factors. Some things we do manually to speed up the process. This allows you to be more creative in this sector. Once a month, we try to hold a large-scale campaign which is held dearly by our players. The amount of payments we see during these days are doubled.

The success of our products is largely due to the merit of our support team which is constantly communicating with the players on the projects. This helps us to address bugs and rebalance our game.

What are your plans for the future?

A year ago, we chose to follow an idea to create an academy for players. We decided that the risks and effort to create a game and a startup were virtually the same. Playdemy was selected by two start-up accelerators and ultimately, we had to choose one to move forward with. Out of the 50 start-ups generated at the end of the program after 4 months, 12 were left who became our graduates. Now, we are currently testing the beta version and communicating with investors to move forward. This will be an American company but the development will remain in Russia.

playdemy-80lv

Our site Playdemy will provide instant help for players by connecting them to the appropriate professionals. Gamers can specify the name of the project and answer questions about situations in-game. Our search engine will also be able to give relevant video guides created by professional users to aid in the learning process for others. In addition, the player can hire professionals to train them in real-time directly from their screen with tips and advice.

For the Playdemy project, we will again work with Xsolla in order to receive payments for in-game training and premium video guides.

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