Cracking the Code: Early Product Strategies Behind Scopely's Success

Learn from Scopely's first Director of Product on the strategies used at the start to propel them into a gaming unicorn.

The gaming industry is a dynamic and competitive space where start-ups often face monumental challenges on their path to success. Scopely, a gaming company that recently fetched nearly 5 billion dollars in a sale, stands as a testament to what is achievable with the right strategies and a commitment to excellence. In this extended blog post, I will delve into some of the core factors I saw to help fuel Scopely's remarkable journey in the early days, from their modest beginnings in a townhouse in Melrose Ave. to becoming a dominant force in the gaming industry, and also explore how gaming founders can thoughtfully apply these lessons to benefit their companies in their quests for greatness.

Focus on Backend Tools That Create Value

Scopely's journey hinged on a strategic focus on developing backend tools to create value for internal games and publishing partners. This approach proved to be a game-changer. After we signed our first publishing deal with Defiant, Scopely saw a gap in providing studios with plug-and-play solutions and powerful Software Development Kits (SDKs) and established a reputation for enhancing game quality and driving growth. I worked on several functionalities, including achievements, tournaments, and chat, which allowed a title like MiniGolf matchup to have features that separated itself from existing PVP titles and achieved 40M+ downloads, something that Hyper continues to work with for other clients.

For any gaming start-up, assessing the internal technology stack is crucial. To do so involves scrutinizing the infrastructure that supports your games and exploring innovative tools to improve performance and player experiences. By understanding that the backend is the backbone of your gaming ecosystem, you can set the stage for sustained growth via internal tools or tweaking the usage and functionalities of 3rd party systems. 

Leading Games to Exponential Growth

Effective leadership is the guiding light for propelling companies toward exponential success in a start-up as dynamic as the gaming industry. During my tenure as the Director of Product at Scopely, I actively delved into the intricacies of player journeys, meticulously examining player behavior and feedback. This hands-on approach enabled us to make informed, data-driven decisions, refining the gaming experience.

The larger executive team's strategic emphasis on fostering a long-term vision and assembling a top-tier workforce shaped the company's culture. It encouraged each team member to contribute uniquely to a collective growth story. Prioritizing feature roadmaps anticipating player needs and market trends became a pivotal strategy, ensuring our games consistently resonated with our player community.

Scopely's journey exemplifies how a cohesive leadership approach, intertwined with a comprehensive understanding of player dynamics, can pave the way for sustained growth and dominance in the competitive gaming market.

Revising Onboarding Principles for Games

Effective user onboarding is a linchpin for retaining players and boosting revenue. My focus on refining our onboarding principles helped Scopley achieve an 85%+ new user experience (NUX) completion rate. 

Improving onboarding is rooted in thorough testing, data analysis, and a proactive approach that challenges assumptions, encouraging bold and creative thinking to explore what innovative methods 'could' yield successful results. Aim for the stars, and you might reach the clouds. By systematically testing various onboarding flows and improving them, gaming companies can increase NUX completion rates, which drives down funnel CPAs and allows UA to be aggressive and focus on scale instead of having a triage mindset. Ultimately, robust onboarding will result in more engaged players over the long term, higher retention rates, and much higher LTVs.

Creating a Greenlight Process for Alpha/Beta Testing KPIs Validation

The gaming industry evolves rapidly, and the ability to adapt to change is vital. Scopely recognized this and created a structured greenlight process for alpha and beta testing to validate key performance indicators (KPIs). This process ensures that games align with the company's strategic objectives.

To be successful here, you must establish a robust testing and feedback loop. Engaging players early in the development process is essential to gather insights, validate KPIs, and fine-tune gameplay mechanics as necessary. Regular testing ensures that your games meet players' expectations and remain competitive in the ever-changing market. After all, the goal is to scale product market fit, not features.

Exploring Growth Opportunities via Acquisitions

Scopely's vision of becoming the "HBO of gaming" required strategic expansion through acquisitions, which offered a pathway to diversify and extend reach through their product offerings.

For gaming companies looking to explore growth opportunities through acquisitions, it is vital to conduct thorough due diligence. This includes analyzing potential intellectual property (IP) and existing game acquisitions, assessing their alignment with your company's objectives, and developing models for potential acquisition targets. An effective acquisition strategy can broaden your portfolio and diversify your offerings to a broader audience.

Leveraging In-Game Mechanics for Virality

The art of leveraging in-game mechanics for virality is a transformative lesson that can benefit all gaming companies. For example, one of the strategies we used at Scopey was strategically linking player achievements and content cadence drops to user invitations and reviews. Doing so boosted organic growth and player engagement significantly.

This approach revolves around player incentivization and social engagement. By offering players exclusive content or rewards for inviting friends and writing reviews, gaming companies can encourage players to be ambassadors for their games. This leads to viral growth as enthusiastic players become your strongest promoters.

Where They Are Today

Scopely's remarkable journey reached its zenith with a recent acquisition for a staggering 4.9 billion dollars. This success story underscores the importance of innovation, strategic thinking, and adaptability in the gaming industry. When we abstractly apply these lessons to other gaming companies, we discover that a focus on backend tools, strong leadership, user experience, testing, expansion, and virality are the pillars of success.

Scopely's ascent from a small start-up to a multi-billion-dollar gaming giant is a testament to the limitless potential within the gaming industry. By adopting and customizing the lessons learned from Scopely's journey, gaming companies can craft their path to success, compete effectively in a dynamic market, and realize their ambitions in this ever-evolving industry. The legacy of Scopely serves as an enduring source of inspiration for the gaming community.

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