Insider Q&A: Space Ape’s John Earner

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Rocketing up the iOS and Google Play charts worldwide, Space Ape’s Samurai Siege launched less than two weeks ago and is already raking in $65K per day on 950,000+ installs.

“We’re also seeing massive retention numbers, with 25-percent of players who installed the game still playing the game almost two weeks later,” says John Earner, Founder and CEO of Space Ape Games. “Overall, it’s been a really exciting first two weeks, and probably the most exciting career ride that I’ve ever had.”

Not bad for a game critics initially wrote off as just another Clash of Clans rip-off.

“Without a doubt, Clash of Clans is the leader in mobile multiplayer real-time strategy games,” says Earner. “They’re a wonderful company and it’s really cool to see their success story in the news this week … it’s hugely validating for our industry. I think it goes a long way to remove the stigma that Zynga’s IPO cast upon gaming.

“So they’re the leader, but relatively speaking, it’s a new genre. Historically, RTS games go back a decade and were extremely popular on PC with Blizzard. There’s a lot of room for differentiation, but yes, we were inspired by games like Clash of Clans and Backyard Monsters. What we admired about Clash were the production values, and what we admired about Backyard was that they really figured this genre out and made it accessible. There’s a problem with the genre, and the problem is that there are too many knock-off Clash of Clan games. I think we’re going to get some of that heat, but the reality is our game is standing out, and the reason our game is doing well and the hundred knock-offs are not is that our game really is different. We think our game is high quality, and the differences are based on a lot of research and a lot of talking to players. Clearly, Clash is the winner of the genre, but we’re a strong number two. We’re already Top 50 grossing in the United States, we’re the number one strategy game in 14 territories, and we’re in the Top 5 strategy games in 50 territories. So there’s something players have found in this game that they believe deserves their attention.”

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Inside Mobile Apps: What is it about Samurai Siege that’s been able to standout when there are so many games already crowding the build and battle genre?

John Earner: First of all, we spent a lot of time in beta, and that was hugely important. We developed the game for six months, and two months of that, every week we pushed out a new build that was more and more polished. You hear a lot of people in mobile gaming talk about how it’s no longer good enough to launch a minimum buyable product, and they’re right, you really have to have a good game, so we spent a lot of time getting this one right. We brought in maybe two or three players per week over the last six months, had them come to our office to play increasingly better versions of the game, and we have a massive online community of folks who are giving us feedback every day. It’s really just an attention to detail and making a game players want to play, that’s the first thing. The second is a lot of preparation. We were featured simultaneously by Google and by Apple. We launched on both platforms the same day, and they both pushed us, and that was months of behind-the scenes talks of us convincing them the game was good and people liked it. I think that’s driving our success a lot as well.