What’s in a Viral Hit? Trivia Crack & Tango Pull Back the Curtain


What do Trivia Crack and Tango, a mobile messaging service, have in common? Oh, just about 20 million DAU. These powerhouse publishers have experienced huge success with users, and they joined Vungle on stage at GDC yesterday to talk about how.

Here are the highlights:

The Players

Paul Del Pin: Head of Marketing & Sales for Etermax. Etermax was built in 2009 and has launched multiple successful apps, including the hit game Trivia Crack. Has 80 employees and is headquartered in Buenos Aires.

Jim Ying: Head of Games Publishing for Tango. Tango evolved from a cross-platform video and voice-calling app and now has 250 million registered users. Based in Mountain View.

Ben Bear: VP of Sales, Vungle. The way developers put video ads into apps. Works with more than 10,000 publishers, including Trivia Crack and Tango. HQ in San Francisco. Offices in Berlin, London and Beijing.

On Virality

No one can deny the viral success of Trivia Crack – rocketing up the charts to become the most downloaded app in the world. Here’s where Del Pin attributes some of its success.  

DEL PIN: When we launched in the U.S., we spent less than $50,000. My budget previously for other companies was half a million euros a month. But, Trivia Crack has so many social features that people just want to play it with their friends. One of the keys has been having chat with Indie App and using a lot of Facebook features so you can challenge your friends…

Before we hit the U.S. we were #1 in 20+ countries. It was initially launched in Spanish. The game proved to be really powerful. Celebrities were talking about it. I’m happy that happened in Latin America first. It was our sandbox where we made all the mistakes when we were first starting. When we made it big, the game was already polished and worked very well.

If a year ago I had told you that a trivia game was going to be the app dominating the charts, it would have sounded unlikely. I’m a gamer and never thought I’d be hooked to a trivia crack. What’s unique to trivia crack, while it’s a trivia game, it’s an excellent social game. That’s why it became so successful.

BEAR: Communication from word of mouth is key from what we’ve seen in terms of building the momentum behind these type of games.

YING: If you’re able to get people to start talking about the game outside the app itself… that’s the way most successful apps are able to drive virality.

On Timing

As any developer knows, timing of launch is a critical factor in takeoff. It was no different for Trivia Crack.

DEL PIN: It was key to have a significant install base by Thanksgiving. That’s when people meet and virality can happen, especially since we’re big among high school and college students. Four days after Thanksgiving we became #1 in us and Canada, remained there for 70 days and had 1 million downloads a day.

BEAR: Trivia Crack was the first publisher that we could actually do QA on Twitter about whether people liked the ads. There were hundreds of tweets about just the ads daily. The scale was incredible.

On Chat & In-Game Messaging

DEL PIN: In the case of Trivia Crack, we knew we needed to have a chat feature in the game. At least in Argentina, when you’re winning, you want to trash your friends. We needed users to be able to chat and talk while playing. We didn’t want users to leave the app …we knew that we needed to have it in the game. It became very important to the point that one of our next products is a messenger app….we’re going to focus on gaming and chatting at the same time.

On Localization

DEL PIN: I think that the game is so viral because content was key. Even though Trivia Crack has universal appeal, there’s a local touch that makes people want to play. Only way for users to relate to the game is if you have very local content. Only local people can provide that. We’re in the process of adapting the game for foreign audiences.

When we first launched in Latin America, it was easy to create questions. The U.S. market was very different. We don’t know anything about the NBA, the NFL…we hired two American girls living in Buenos Aires and they created the best questions ever. They were funny and relevant to the culture.

YING: If a game is localized you’re going to have greater appeal in the country. You’ll see incremental benefit – the question is how big is that benefit. Any developer or publisher needs to balance that with costs of overhead and maintenance because once you localize you can’t stop, you have to localize going forward. For an indie or medium-size developer, we recommend launching the game out in English. See how it does. If it does perform well, start localizing….for most game developers, priority is tier one. Look at countries where folks use credit cards and where they’re familiar with playing games. Generally those are the ones folks localize first.

On Monetizing Beyond IAPs

DEL PIN: The biggest challenge is where is the money going to come from. You can’t rely on IAPs. You can’t build a business around this. Ads were very important from the beginning.

…We also created a series of offline businesses around the game. We had to do that because we couldn’t rely on in-apps. We created a TV show live on broadcast television in several countries. Hopefully coming to U.S. very soon. When we first started working on this, we thought it would be on cable TV, 3AM, and no one would watch it. The first one went live in Argentina at the biggest broadcast station. The hostess is like the local Oprah. It was the most successful TV show in the country.

On Video Advertising

DEL PIN: The challenge was to optimize the ads and what ad unit was relevant and what ad unit made sense in context of Trivia Crack.

BEAR: We thought a lot about this. You don’t want to bludgeon people with video ads. We did a lot of testing to figure out what makes sense, what’s the right balance of ads and content. We tested regular end cards, and we tested animated end cards…We found 15-second skippables performed really well – to create a balance of UX and monetization. The videos looked great.

YING: For a more casual game, ads are a critical part of revenue. For Road Riot, our largest game – 18M installs, 1M DAU – ads account for 30 to 40 percent of overall revenue…At any given point you’ll only have 3-5 percent of users buying IAPs. You still have to support the game for the rest of the users who don’t monetize through those ads.

On Weeding Through Vendors

DEL PIN: You start getting 100 emails a day from companies you never heard of. At some point you don’t reply to them. So, we ask a lot of other companies about best partners.

The testing we did with Vungle – not a lot of companies have the patience to do that…We take a lot of care with our product. For us it’s better to sacrifice a little revenue now and extend the lifecycle of the game than to sacrifice the user experience.

YING: Don’t focus on what eCPMs they can guarantee, because once the SDK is in the game, it’s there. It’s the amount of effort your team has to spend to put the SDK in. The eCPMs might change at that point.

On Ad Placements

YING: Some of the changes in the different ad creatives make it so it’s more attractive than it was before. A few years ago it was banners, interstitials, it was very interruptive. Now, with video, I’ve heard developers say it doesn’t necessarily impact the experience…All the games we publish have rewarded video for them.

BEAR: If you think about opt-in video, it’s a very good experience. At the point of the game you want to get to the next level or get the next content, you can watch a video. Developers say users actually complain when they limit the number of videos shown each day.

On Brands Entering the Mobile Space

DEL PIN: For the first time ever, traditional companies that hadn’t invested in mobile were willing to do that because of Trivia Crack, their whole family was playing it, and they wanted to be there. It’s slowly changing, more and more traditional brands are investing in mobile ads.

BEAR: One of the challenges with brands is that apps can come and go with popularity. The opportunity is come and gone before their 12-18 month planning cycle makes it possible.

DEL PIN: Brands want to be part of the game but don’t know what they want to do. They’ll offer you money to change the gameplay. That’s when you have to stay true to your product.

On the Industry

YING: In 2015, they are projecting mobile game revenue to surpass console gaming…it’s cool to be part of this ride and see how big industry is growing.

BEAR: Everyone is playing games. Games are bigger than they’ve ever been. Look at Trivia Crack, it has a television show. It’s an industry that’s just beginning.

Stay tuned for video footage of this fireside chat. We’ll share this on the Vungle blog – subscribe in the right sidebar to get notified of new posts via email.