One of the most well-known secrets in the game industry that people are starting to recognize is the exceptional talent that is going on in Eastern Europe. Many companies that have been making big money are beginning to get attention for not only their mobile games but big AAA games as well.
Russia has been building some fantastic game developers with not only amazing art styles but fun gameplay. We’ve seen it with companies like Alawar, ZeptoLab, MYTONA, and Playrix, becoming the gems of the country. But we want to share a particular Cocos game company that has been doing some remarkable things in the country for a long time.
TAPCLAP is one of the oldest HTML5 game developers in the world. First known as “Orange Apps” before rebranding in 2017, they have been working in the industry since 2010, becoming one of the first Russian companies to have games not only on Facebook but on Russia’s own social media sites VKontakte and Odnoklassniki (more commonly known as VK and OK.ru).
The company moved to mobile games in 2012 with simple games like Reversi and XO, with their big success came in 2013 with their social media hit, Pirate Treasures. Pirate Treasures is a match-3 game that currently has over 4.7 million MAU on social networks and 1 million DAU on Google Play!
Making a successful match-3 game is challenging, with more prominent and well-known games around. But TAPCLAP not only is succeeding with Pirate Treasures but also added other match-3 games like Candy Valley and Raspberry Jam, showing they can make amazing games for both social networks and mobile apps.
We were able to interview the TAPCLAP team to talk about making games with Cocos, building for social networks, and the crowded world of match-3 games.
Cocos: It’s great to talk to you and the team. Can you tell us a bit more about your company?
TAPCLAP: Thanks for talking with us. Back in 2010, we were just a three-person team. We’ve built a lot of games over the decade and grown to more than 70 employees.
We built many different types of games, but now we are focused on developing and supporting our three match-3 games and one coloring game called Cross Stitch Masters. We’re planning to launch another new promising Blast-like game with meta-gameplay made with Cocos Creator.
C: What kinds of apps were you making before you settled on building mostly match-3 games?
T: Our first app wasn’t actually a game; it was an online translation app! Google back then had the translate API open to developers, and we used it inside of our app. We didn’t have much success, maybe one to three thousand new users downloaded the app every day, and we monetized with ads. But we got the experience needed to build our next app.
Our second try was Sudoku Online. With its launch on OK.ru, we saw significant potential for the platform and future opportunities. We’ve also implemented freemium features for the first time here: players had to buy coins to start more sessions if they want to play more and get some help, and if they don’t pay, they play less.
At that time, we started to analyze what kinds of games were popular on mobile platforms and what types of games we need to focus on building next. We didn’t have much manpower back then. Looking back, it was very different than how we are today. We couldn’t add good animations to games, and some games even didn’t have any sound effects.
C: That sounds disastrous. But it sounds like you didn’t give up.
T : Luckily, we were one of the first in the Russian market to build match-3 games and saw what King.com was doing in the USA with Candy Crush Saga. A year before the release of our game, Candy Crush Saga had the brilliant idea of level selection map and not having gameplay time-based. Players had to complete a level within a certain amount of moves rather than a given timeframe. Before that, we were creating time-based puzzle games in style similar to Bejeweled with weekly tournaments.
We saw Candy Crush topping charts of western markets for quite a time and thought, “Why is there no similar game in the Russian market?” And we decided to create one. Our two founders (who are very skilled developers) worked hard for two months and completed the engine that we used later for our other match-3 games. Our third founder helped with the building of the first few levels along with our developer team and the rules for the game. We decided to choose jewels as game elements because we saw their success in our previous games on Russian social networks. The pirate setting and other stuff were born in the creative process of game creation.
We launched Pirate Treasures with only 60 levels and saw massive player engagement. Since then, we have updated the game every week and added new levels. After the launch at OK.RU social network, we saw 100-300K new players coming each day.
We also created mobile HTML5 versions (for Facebook Instant and an instant version for OK and VK), which supported the growth of the game a lot. We currently have 1.55 million daily users on VK and OK.ru and over a million on Google Play.
C: That’s awesome! Why did you choose to build games for VK and OK.ru?
T : We started on VK and OK.RU because they had launched recently, and there was no big competition back in 2010. It was a much more challenging task to get new users on mobile than on social back then. Now Pirates has a Cocos2d-x version on the VK mobile platform. It was challenging to do it, but now we’re porting the game to Cocos2d-x from our original PC web version. It’s still using our old engine.
If you want to enter both platforms, make sure to research the top and best new games in the market: use the platform on a daily basis yourself to see what the audience needs and what things perform there best. Use the social mechanics and interactions between friends with games already there to help you prepare your games.
Also watch what is trending on other platforms (Google Play, AppStore, Wechat) and try to guess what types of games are not present on VK and OK.ru yet. Your main focus should be on porting your mobile game to an HTML5 version of the game.
C: Wait… Your games weren’t originally made with Cocos? What made you decide to move to Cocos?
We decided to move the Pirates game to Cocos2d-x, and after more than a year, we got the full Android version and finally uploaded the new update to the Google Play store (our older version had been there since 2014). We got a big push from Google after they saw the new update (they loved it), and our revenue grew by four times.
C: Is there anything you learned from building your match-3 games you want others to know?
T : In the beginning, our key to success was that the market had just started, and we were at the beginning of this trend. Our key to success now is constant game updates with new interesting and challenging levels, introducing new features (we introduced events long before many of our competitors), and innovation.
We also changed Pirate Treasures‘ design significantly three times and are continually evolving everything to improve the game experience. For example, now we are working on a clans system.
C: What coming up for the future of TAPCLAP?
T : Right now, we are porting our other two match-3 games to the Cocos Creator engine while constantly improving and supporting with new content. We’ll be launching some new games made with Cocos Creator (like Blast-type games mentioned above) straight to mobile. We’re still thinking about ideas for future games.
C: Well, thank you for sharing with us some great numbers about your game and what you did to get into the Russian social media market.
Thanks to the team at TAPCLAP for becoming big fans of Cocos and bringing their games to Cocos Creator. If your team is building a game with Cocos or have done so in the past and want to share your experiences or data to our developers, always email our marketing team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an interview!