Voodoo’s hyper-casual title Aquapark slid and jumped its way to virality, being downloaded by over 100 million users globally since February 2019. It even accomplished the elusive feat of breaking into the Chinese market, with 6.9 million downloads. In this case study, we show how Voodoo used ironSource’s UA platform and worked with our Playworks Studio to achieve this incredible scale, and take a deep dive (sorry) into their process of perfecting the Aquapark product before global launch.
Going with the flow
Voodoo were happy to put faith in ironSource’s network, among others, to scale Aquapark’s user acquisition, and worked closely with Playworks, ironSource’s in-house creative studio, to create high performing ads. Playworks made an interactive end card that reached an IPM of 75, over 2 times the hyper-casual average, in addition to creating a playable ad. Now let’s rewind and slide into the iteration process that led to Aquapark’s successful final product.
The evolution of Aquapark
Formulating the concept
Cassette, the studio who developed the game, focused on running market research, to get unfiltered ideas from a wide audience of random, non-gamers. This approach enabled them to understand what the mass market actually wants from a game.
Voodoo encourages publishers to think of virality when designing new games, and as i.o games are strongly represented in Voodoo’s most popular titles, Cassette decided that an i.o game would be the best route. The basic idea that emerged following this process was a game with navigating on a water slide at its core, incorporating a sense of multiplayer interactions. Cassette worked closely with their Publishing Manager, Alexander Shea, for each iteration that followed.
Visually, the first version was fairly similar to the current version. It had strong KPIs from the beginning, achieving a CPI of $0.39, which Voodoo attributes to the forgiving gameplay that lets gamers with minimal skill win. It also had strong retention despite only a single gameplay environment, with D1 retention at 47% and D7 at 11%, a telling sign that the core loop was strong.
However, Cassette understood that there was plenty to improve on. For example, the snowballing avatar was a weak point: it was hard to relate to and didn't have a hack. In other words, users weren't able to jump or take shortcuts in the core gameplay, which was holding back the game’s CPI and D7 retention from being even better.
Aquapark sought to improve these metrics by adding depth to the gameplay.
- Users could now jump with their avatar
- Bots were made more intelligent, i.e. following the user after taking shortcuts
- CPI dropped from $0.39 to $0.28
- D1 retention fell marginally to 46%
- D7 retention increased from 11% to 14%
This iteration saw a real emphasis on refining what was going well, by utilizing their learnings from UA. Video ads that Voodoo ran on Facebook using the jumping gameplay had far superior CPIs than videos using the race gameplay, so Cassette knew where to focus their attention when it came to making improvements to the game itself.
- Jumping and landing animations were made smoother
- Jumping was made easier and more readily available
- Addition of the end-of-level pool jump visual and a glider
- CPI decreased from $0.28 to $0.22
- D1 retention rose from 46% to 48%
- D7 retention rose from 14% to 15%
The final version focused on building out the game, making it more relatable and fun, and adding depth.
- The avatar was made more realistic
- More environments were added
- Gliding mechanic was removed as it added too much complexity
- The game’s main hack was taken even further, with users now able to jump straight into the pool
- CPI decreased from $0.22 to $0.16
- D1 retention fell 1% to 47%
- D7 retention rose to 17%
With the hyper-casual market becoming increasingly saturated, there are important lessons to be taken from Aquapark’s success. There is no secret ingredient to virality: getting to that optimal final product requires short sprints that focus on small but high impact tweaks to the gameplay. Voodoo did this for Aquapark by identifying through their early UA activity what users enjoyed most about the game’s prototype, then refining the relevant mechanics such as jumping and landing animations, and adding depth to boost retention.