Social games start-up Pretty Simple Games hits gold

Jan 30, 2013
Vote on Hacker News

criminal-caseBack just over a month ago, Criminal Case was off to an impressive start, with nearly 100k DAUs. Fast forward, and this hit by Pretty Simple Games sees 1.5M daily players. The kicker(s)? Still almost no ads, organic growth being a staggering 97% of their total growth, and projected revenues for the game in 2013 in the 8 digits range. I sat down with the co-founders Corentin Raux and Bastien Cazenave to discuss their rocket ride.

Space capsule Criminal Case

This success is attracting the spotlight, with Facebook’s head of Partnerships for the EMEA region, Julien Cordoniou, calling Pretty Simple Games “a key Facebook world partner” and praising their performance and the quality of their work. This is only the beginning however.

From what the co-founders observed, peak DAUs for hidden object games are in the region of 3M, and 3 languages (DE ES FR) are about to be added to the game that was only in english up to this point. This makes them cautiously hope for a peak at 2.5M DAUs for Criminal Case. Then again, as Corentin puts it: “With Criminal Case, we have better retention numbers after a week, than we had after 24h on our previous game Magical Ride”. The co-founders wouldn’t go into specifics, but it does seem like their day 7 retention numbers are so good, that other developers wouldn’t be entirely sad having them for day 1 retention. Efficient virality and high monetiztion don’t hurt either.

Mothership Pretty Simple Games

These impressive results have been achieved with a total team a little under 40 people, with about 25 on the production team for Criminal Case. The team releases one full new case every week, trying to keep up with the players’ desire for more, without losing the narrative and artistic quality they feel is part and parcel of the game’s experience. Being in their office between 6 and 7pm, I can attest this is not either a case of constant crunch where teams are driven crazy. Indeed, when asked what their number one priority was for the year, both co-founders reiterated that team building came first.

This means not only growing the team with great care, but also focusing on Criminal Case, in itself a great learning experience for the whole team, and understood as such. It makes perfect business sense as well, since this focus will ensure that Criminal Case produces the highest possible value for the company.

Overall the founders struck me as remaining unfazed and pragmatic in the face of success. If you don’t get why this is very important, besides the company ultimately relying on the sound judgement of the founders, go read Rudyard Kipling’s If poem, and don’t miss the part on Triumph and Disaster.

The co-founders know they have a lot of work ahead, and that the games business is a marathon. They have a clear and simple growth strategy:

  • Focus on social by pushing Criminal Case to franchise-level success, making Magical Ride more casual, and working on 2 new games. One will be a more niche game in an undisclosed genre, and the other a game with hidden object gameplay elements but with an experience announced as entirely different from Criminal Case.
  • Build up their reserves thanks to this current success, in order to fund the company’s growth organically.
  • Recruit 25 new people: coders, game designers, game artists, etc.

They are open to international candidates, so if you wanna come to Paris and work for what is effectively the hottest French social games startup at the moment, drop them a line on jobs@prettysimplegames.com.