Evgeny Maurus, founder of AppQuantum, on winning in the mobile game industry
There are two things that the team at game publisher AppQuantum believes in: Games can improve your mood and well-being, and a good game is worth playing. In this month’s Founders in Mobile, we talked with Evgeny Maurus, founder of AppQuantum, about the iterative journey he took to launch AppQuantum. We also dived into the most common pitfalls he sees indie game developers fall into, and his definition and philosophy for success.
How did you start AppQuantum? Why did you start it?
My business partners and I started an influencer marketing agency in 2013. Later, in 2014, we began to offer performance marketing services. It was growing very fast, and in 2017, we wanted to do more than just marketing. So we started talking with our clients about other ways to be involved. We didn’t see any success with this because our clients thought of us as just an agency and thought we should stick with our limited role.
Later in 2017, my team and I sat down together in a restaurant and discussed the opportunity to launch a mobile games publisher. We’d built a strong marketing team already and I had strong experience in gaming. (In 2002, I had founded one of the most popular gaming websites in Russia and the CIS – GameGuru.ru.) We decided to try, just a week before DevGamm Minsk 2017, to prepare a small deck about our company and marketing cases, and start there.
It was very interesting to talk to a lot of indie game developers and try to understand how they were thinking. Most of them thought that they could just develop the game, get featured by the app stores, and become very rich guys.
So, unfortunately, that wasn’t a very successful trip. But we did get a lot of insights on how to improve our newborn publishing business. It took almost a year before we signed our first big title, Idle Evil Clicker, and that’s where our journey began.
How does your company work as a publisher and agency?
In 2018, we decided it would be a good idea if each of us co-founders would manage one business. That would allow the others to have more time to invest in other projects. We decided that my co-founder, Igor Zavaruev, would be responsible for our marketing agency, while I would fully focus on our gaming business.
First, I focused on publishing. Next, I decided to launch two game development studios. One focused on developing the hero collecting game, Dragon Champions. The second was dedicated to casual mobile games. Dragon Champions was launched in late September 2019 and has been successful since day 1 after launch. The casual games studio recently developed a title that shows very strong metrics and should succeed in the next few months.
Igor and I still work very closely with each other, as our publisher helps game developers (internal and external), our agency helps our publisher, our publisher helps our agency and so on. It’s very good synergy for all teams and strong growth.
For now, our team has more than 150 people in the office and more than 200 remote employees. We’re helping many of our clients promote their apps, and many of our game developers publish theirs, access great analytics, grow their metrics, achieve millions of installs, and generate enough revenue to produce even better games.
How do you define success?
If we’re talking about success in business, I like one quote: “The Dictionary Is the Only Place Where Success Comes Before Work”. So most of our c-level managers and all of our founders are hard workers. I think it’s really important to invest all of yourself if you want to build something great.
It’s also really necessary to love what you do. I love playing games, and I love making games. It’s a dream job! Yes, sometimes I need to work 14 hours a day and leave the office at 2am, but it’s still my hobby and I love it. I also like another quote: “Do What You Love, and You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life”. I fully agree with that. When you love something and share it with the world, the world feels it and sends you back their thanks.
Regarding how to measure success: I think success is very different for everyone and even for me. I really love small wins. For example, success could be a very positive and emotional review on the app stores, great feedback and involvement from our community, amazing results from team members, seeing them work well together, signing new contracts, seeing really happy faces from our people (including happy game developers who were upset in the past), growing metrics of our games and so on. It’s all success.
What I can say for sure – success is not only the money. It’s much more than money.
Does your company have a mission? What is it?
Yes, we have a mission, a dream, a goal – to build one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, which will develop its own games, and will help gifted people and teams develop and publish games of their own dreams and build studios to match. I’ve seen many gifted people, but without resources, it’s almost impossible to do anything on mobile gaming now.
Our main difference from other publishers is that we were in the same place as many developers are: We had no funds and no resources. We never received any investments, and all the money that we earned, we reinvested back into business growth – and we’re here now. So we understand what it’s like for most of the companies on the market and are ready to help with all kinds of matters.
What are the common pitfalls you see game developers fall into? What advice would you share?
I was on all sides and steps of game development: deciding what to make, getting capital, gathering the team, starting development, making the first prototype, growing your team, facing a million troubles with art, game design or development, getting defeated by all the troubles, preparing to build for a soft launch, not getting the best metrics, improving it, launching the game globally, facing the marketing scale problems, facing a lack of budget, and so on.
I think the most important are 3 things:
- Idea. You should fully analyse all the potential pitfalls, study your competitors, and then decide if this is really for you and your team? If you just saw a game, didn’t spend many hours on it, and don’t spend even a dollar there – pass it! Better to find something that will fully absorb you.
- Team. You need to find really strong core team members. And all of you should look in the same direction. I also had some troubles with that because of our hurry. It’s better to wait to find the right people than rush with the wrong people.
- Marketing. It’s one of the most important things for now. Many people think it’s not necessary, but it’s a huge amount of work, and a lot of people are needed. So it’s better to find a good marketing partner in advance or a good publisher. The work you do together will be much more valuable than you working alone at 100% without marketing.