Plumber Cracks and Office Jerks: How Fluik built up an entertainment app empire

Entertainment apps are often the sleeper hits of the top grossing app charts. Although Edmonton-based Fluik Entertainment’s games have been downloaded more than 31 million times in the last year alone, the 22 person company has flown largely under the radar since its title Office Jerk hit the top of the iOS charts.

That said, the company didn’t exactly burst onto the scene as an immediate success — founded in 2009, Office Jerk was actually Fluik’s eleventh title. The bootstrapped company sunk more than $250,000 into game development costs before finding its niche in the market.

So far, Office Jerk has been downloaded more than 20 million times and Fluik’s latest game, Plumber Crack looks set to match that success, gathering over 10 million downloads in its first 40 days of release.  The company isn’t slowing down either. Fluik recently signed an exclusive monetization deal with PlayHaven for Plumber Crack and has three more titles in development.

Inside Mobile Apps recently had an in-depth discussion with Fluik co-founder Victor Rubba, to talk about the business of entertainment apps — monetization, earnings, downloads, and what it takes to craft a genuinely funny, viral app.

Inside Mobile Apps: Fluik’s biggest hit so far has been Office Jerk. What can you tell me about the game? How much has it earned in its lifetime?

Victor Rubba, co-founder, Fluik Entertainment (pictured right): Office Jerk cost us under $20,000 and it made back its money in the first day. I think we’d doubled our money by the Monday or Tuesday after launch. Its made between $3 and $5 million total.

IMA: That’s impressive. How much promotion did you have to do for the game?

Rubba: I can tell you that until the end of March, our total marketing budget for Office Jerk probably didn’t break $100,000. Often what we’d do is put the game on an advertising network and then take the money we made and spend it. Stuff like basic banner ads and incentivized installs through TapJoy when it was still allowed.

IMA: You’ve also been iterating on Office Jerk’s success. You had a Halloween version called Office Zombie…

Rubba: We also had a Christmas version, but it was paid. It was our first attempt at doing a paid app. We figured that Holiday Edition would be something that would be widely appealing to our Office Jerk users. We felt after the freemium Office Zombie launch, that we might have made more money if we’d done a $0.99 version. We cross-promoted it like crazy and at the end they both did exactly the same.

IMA: Really? A lot of the time you hear that paid apps get so many fewer downloads than free apps that its more lucrative in the long run to go free. 

Rubba: Revenues from in-app or outright purchase were actually exactly the same. But because Office Zombie more money because it had ads, it did better once you factor in ad revenues. Holiday edition had 750,000 downloads of the iPhone version and 50,000 downloads of the iPad version. Office Zombie’s lifetime downloads were 4 million.

IMA: Plumber Crack was free-to-play. Is your preferred monetization method now in-app purchases supplemented with advertising? 

Rubba: Yes. Our next three titles are all freemium. But one thing we have to figure out is why Office Jerk is such a high performing game for advertising. We provide very high click-through rates to our advertisers, which has obviously been very lucrative for us, but we’re trying to figure out what it is about our game that makes people click ads. On iOS our overall click through rate is about 1.17 percent and on Android its 1.5 percent. That’s much higher than average.

IMA: Speaking of iOS and Android, I’ve seen Fluik’s games come up much more often on our iOS charts than on our Android charts? Which platform is more successful for you?

Rubba: On Android our first title was Office Jerk. It was our first attempt at doing anything on that platform. It was a huge learning curve and we didn’t use a cross-platform game engine, so we had to build it from scratch. We ran into a lot of issues with fragmentation in the market and it didn’t work on a lot of devices… It was akin to doing cross-browser application development in the late 90s. We had a lot of angry users, but last Fall we started working with Papaya Mobile and they helped us fix some of the problems and add more content. Since then we’ve gotten a stable version on Android. It’s never been a top charter but its consistently been in the top 50 or top 100 casual games.

IMA: How do your revenues compare from iOS to Android?

Rubba: Until we added offer walls it was horrible. An offer wall solution is kind of critical on Android. In-app purchasing is still in its infancy. In-app purchases did pretty well on the Android release of Plumber Crack, but you can do really well with offer walls.

IMA: What are your conversion rates like? Are you seeing Android catch up to iOS?

Rubba: It’s really low. That’s one of the things we’re trying to focus on for our next few titles is trying to improve our revenues on a per-user basis.

IMA: Conversion aside, your apps are very popular. What’s important if you want to make a successful entertainment app?

Rubba: What’s important is a catchy title, a catchy icon and then drop the user right into the action to get some sort of reaction out of them. If you need a tutorial for someone to understand how to play your game, it’s not good. They need to be able to pick it up and know how to play it without even thinking about it. We get criticized because our game mechanics are always the swipe mechanic, but everyone know it. We’re not trying to push the envelope.

IMA: Do you have a product development process?

Rubba: We have lots of ideas. For Office Jerk I had a really early prototype using “programmer art” — someone had used Microsoft paint. Basically when you threw a white circle at a guy sitting at a desk he had this really big unhappy face. I went around at the Game Developers conference last year and I showed the game to people like security guards, and bus boys and I would say ‘what do you think?’ Everyone thought it was hilarious. Even with no polish everyone who saw it laughed right away. That’s my market research. And my children. My son is seven and he has the attention span of a gnat — so he doesn’t play anything for very long unless its really engaging or really funny. Our audience is very casual. That’s what we’re trying to do, make games that are really funny and make people laugh. When people laugh they want to share that experience. That’s how a game goes viral.

The Fluik team.