The Candy Crush Saga of Korea: SundayToz’s Anipang generating $500,000 a day

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By Scott Reyburn Comment

Anipang app iconWhile the eyes of the mobile development community at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco are set on King’s Candy Crush Saga, SundayToz’s match-3 puzzler Anipang has silently been tearing up the Korean market on mobile for quite some time, the same way Candy Crush Saga is in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We sat down with SundayToz founder and CEO Kevin Lee, who told Inside Mobile Apps that Anipang is generating around $500,000 in revenue a day.

Anipang, which released in July 2012 and has already surpassed 25 million downloads worldwide (mostly from Korea), is a match-3 puzzle game where users play a one-minute round, where the objective is to get the highest score possible.

SundayToz was the first developer to get its game on messaging app KakaoTalk’s game platform. Lee tells us he spoke with the founder of the Korean company Kakao, and proposed the idea to turn the messenger app into a game platform, which led to the launch of Anipang for Kakao, and the rest is history. SundayToz tweaked around the viral mechanic for Anipang to fit with the messaging platform. That viral mechanic created for Anipang for Kakao was called “hearts.” Through a message via KakaoTalk, a user could send a “heart” to another user, if someone clicks the heart and they haven’t downloaded the game, the user will be sent to a page to download the game.

These hearts aren’t just a viral mechanic, hearts act as a token to play the game — one heart equals one round of gameplay. Receiving a message from another person isn’t the only way to receive a heart, a new heart token generates every eight minutes within the game. Leaderboards, which are refreshed every week, keep players motivated by seeing who is at the top of the leaderboard, which consists of a user’s list of contacts from their address book that Kakao utilizes for its social graph. Anipang monetizes by allowing users to purchase hearts to play more game rounds.Anipang banner

“When we first launched on the Kakao platform, the retention was over 80 percent,” Lee says. “It was crazy because no other games except Anipang was there.”

Anipang for Kakao went from no users to 20 million daily active users on mobile with no advertisement spend whatsoever. Keep in mind that South Korea has a population of about 50 million people. Everybody in Korea was playing the game from children to the elderly. The game also saw one-day retention of about 60 percent.

“Two months later, even my mom was playing my game,” Lee says.

In the summer of 2012, Anipang broke the peak concurrency record in Korea held by Nexon’s MapleStory at just under one million, smashing the record by twofold with three million users playing Anipang simultaneously.Anipang screenshot

SundayToz, which was founded in 2008, was known to be the first successful social game company in Korea (like the Zynga of Korea), leveraging the social network Cyworld’s AppStore to deliver its games. Anipang was one of the six games SundayToz launched for Cyworld. But in 2011, Cyworld was hacked, with users seeing personal information stolen like their social security and email addresses. Coincidentally, smartphones in the country began gaining moment at the same time Cyworld had just been hacked. So, SundayToz pivoted its business to mobile, launching its first mobile game Aqua Story (published by Com2uS) in March 2012. Today, far fewer people use Cyworld.

SundayToz’s most recently release was Anipang Mahjong. The developer will continue to release games with the word Anipang in the title, an effort to turn Anipang into a brand. Anipang Mahjong has already reached five million downloads in a month.

Similar to Rovio turning Angry Birds into a brand, selling Angry Birds merchandise such as plush toys (and even launching TV show), SundayToz has gone down the same route in Korea, selling Anipang-branded plush toys, smartphone cases, keychains and more. Users can also buy merchandise through the game itself, with the ability to ship products to their address.

If SundayToz expects to see Anipang succeed in the west, it may take one of the many messaging app players in the U.S. such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Kik, to create a game platform for mobile. With more than one billion users, Facebook would be the most likely candidate.

For the rest of the year, the company plans to continue building Anipang into a brand, hire more developers and globally expand the business.