Survivor.io global launch UA case study

Survivor.io is an action-adventure game offered by Habby. Developer behind the ultimate mobile game hit Archero. Survivor.io requires you to take the mantle of a hero out to save the city from a zombie apocalypse.

The entire humankind stares at extinction as an unknown virus turns people into zombies. The infection spreads like wildfire, and the once vibrant metropolis becomes a city of the undead.

You are one of the few survivors left in the city. It is up to you to put an end to this nightmare and save humanity. 

Why Survivor.io is Unique

Survivor.io is simple yet unique. It utilises minimalistic 2D graphics to deliver an immersive gameplay experience. It seems they are using the same items and hero progression as they do in Archero or Punball this time with time-based levels. 

In the game, you will have to deal with large hordes of zombies. They will outnumber and surround you. The only way to survive is to kill them before they get to you.

Fortunately, the game gives a lot of options when it comes to skill sets. You can choose from a wide range of heroes with unique abilities. Each hero has a different set of skills that you can use to your advantage.

Always ensure agility and accuracy when dealing with zombies as one wrong move can be your last. They can easily outnumber and overpower you. The key to success is to always stay on your toes and be ready for anything.

Save Your City

As earlier indicated, this game is intense since the whole weight of saving humanity lies on your shoulders. You have no option but to pick weapons and go out fighting.

It calls for creativity and quick decision-making. The gameplay is fast-paced, and you need to be at the top of your game at all times.

game is for nothing, if it does not have any users. We live in a world where „go big or die“ is the main mantra for business growth. If you want to make money from your app, or game, you need to convert users to customers, consumers, buyers… But you cannot do that without having them first as a users.

 

Unlock Skills & Weapons to Advance the Gameplay

There are many skills that you can unlock as you advance in the game. They will come in handy, especially when dealing with difficult challenges. Some of the skills/weapons that you can unlock include my favourite Gatling. This is an incredible massacre machine that can take down large hordes of zombies with ease. Level up your shotgun ASAP and you are gooood! 

Scaling the User Acquisition

As mentioned before utilises minimalistic 2D graphics to deliver an immersive gameplay experience where you deal with large hordes of zombies. Let’s stop a little bit here. Smells a lot like marketability testing at its best. The most crucial part of mobile games development is to lay strong foundations from the very beginning. Early marketability testing allows you to gain insights into how well your mobile game’s creative concept will perform during user acquisition, but also how your game concept resonates with the target audience. I’ve run hundreds of campaigns on different games using different types of creatives. 

The best performing concepts had these things in common:

  • Minimalistic graphic design 

  • Large hordes of units (huge crowds of people)

  • Zombies

  • 1 hero vs 1 million (zombies)

 

Here are some creative examples:

In order to scale your game, you need to be able to squeeze everything out of your user acquisition. Marketability is your best friend when it comes to CPI decrease. Because scaling a mobile game is all about the CPI vs LTV equation.

Scaling a game is not only a function of a killer user acquisition operation. It is also a function of a LTV. You can only scale your budget until the LTV allows you to do so. Eg. If your LTV is $5, you can run profitable campaigns until you hit $4.5 CPI (or any other CPI that you calculate based on your margins) This is very simplified, because you need to take into consideration a payback period of your campaigns = when do you want to see your money back. Is it D30, D60, D90 or D365? But that would be for a separate article. Simple, right? 

Currently Survivor.io is making 500k USD/day from IAP (in app purchase) and my humble guess would be additional 500k USD/day in IAA (in app ads) revenue. 

According to Sensor Tower data, the strongest countries for iOS are the US, KR and JP.

For Android it’s VN, US and BR. Important to note, we see data without China (revenue wise as well), 

Habby is a Chinese developer which means they know the Chinese market really well. I would speculate that all activities we see in the west are multiplied by 10 in Asia. Habby started ramping up spend on Tuesday 9th of August to gain momentum for featuring on both iOS and GP that happened on Thursday 11th of August. Daily downloads immediately jumped from 11k/day to 100k/day and now sitting on 400k/day. WOW! 

We can see they are utilising all big UA channels: Facebook, Google, Tiktok, Unity, Vungle, Ironsource, Applovin.

Could you guess where they are spending the most money? Ou yeah! Tiktok it is. 50% of their budget goes there since the beginning of the global launch.

 

Master move from the UA playbook. This game has everything it needs to succeed on tiktok. Minimalistic design, monetisation strategy (50 IAP vs 50 IAA – educated guess), immersive gameplay = Tiktok is flooded by Survivor.io videos making it a viral hit which decreases CPIs even more. Not to mention, if you look at the top 10 highest performing ads in the US in the last 7days – 3 of them are Survivor.io. And no, they are not showcasing real people to make it look like native content. They don’t fuck around with fake best practices you can hear from left to right. They use what works. Gameplay, hordes of zombies, meme headlines + hyper casual creative framework. Full stop!

  

To give you a little bit of context, currently TikTok is one of the best performing channels especially on iOS according to the performance index created by Appsflyer. Since 2015, the AppsFlyer Performance Index has helped mobile marketers make their most important decision: which media sources to partner with.

In 2022, the ‘media shakeup’ means one thing: carefully reviewing the index is now more important than ever!

 

Thanks to the huge budget spending, we can see the game hitting top ranks quite easily in multiple regions. This doesn’t mean they are spending only on iOS, quite the opposite. They are spending on both platforms!

The second biggest spender is ironsource, which was a bit surprising to me. But when I thought about it more it actually makes a lot of sense thanks to the huge hyper casual games inventory ironsource has. The game tries to look as hyper casual, but when you play it it’s definitely not. Same as Archero! 

On the third place we have Google and then Unity which shows mostly Chinese creatives. Facebook, Vungle and Applovin are kinda small in comparison to the first 3. This is a great testament of how the UA landscape changed over the last couple of months/year. It’s not about Facebook or Google anymore. In order to scale your game you need to run profitable campaigns on multiple UA sources and diversify as much as possible. Or as much as LTV allows you to do so as explained earlier. 

Creatives

Usually, agencies or UA gurus will tell you that you need to have different creatives for different UA channels. I tend to disagree (people hate me for it sometimes) and Survivor.io is a great example of this. 

If you have a winning creative it’s performing the best not only on both platforms iOS vs Android. But also across all UA channels. 

With Survivor.io we can see simple gameplay variations. But! They are perfectly crafted by the developer. It’s not only gameplay capture. They alter the gameplay to showcase huge amounts of zombies, use meme headlines, hyper casual creative, fail scenarios (lose-upgrade-win) and skills upgrade concepts and that’s it. As simple as it sounds. 

Survivor.io creative examples:

But to be fair! Their creative ideas seem to be driven by motivations that cover most types of players and game genres like Progression, Power or Expertise. 

The point is, when you see these creatives, you want to download the game ASAP and start playing. 

Takeaways & last comments

  • TikTok is a big contender for an UA channel of this year. Not only because of the Survivor.io example, but thanks to the performance I am able to see on multiple games. Add it to your UA channel mix as soon as possible.  
 
  • As mentioned on multiple webinars and podcasts, winner creative is a winner across platforms and all channels. Listen to your gut, don’t always listen to „best practices“ 
 
  • for successful global launch and scale, you need both killer UA & killer game. It’s not easy to do it without one or another. 
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