Hidden Pixel Sinks A Called-Shot By Launching “Pool PayDay” With Skillz
Co-Founders, Mike Marr and Brian Goble met at a game developer conference and immediately knew they wanted to work together. In 2017, they co-founded Hidden Pixel with the vision of creating their own studio. Since then, they’ve developed multiple games and are a Skillz premier partner. They now own a game that is scaling week-over-week both in terms of Daily Active Users (DAU) and revenue, while simultaneously investing in launching new games at an accelerated pace. Let’s take a look at the amazing story that is Hidden Pixel.
The Story Behind Hidden Pixel
Since founding Hidden Pixel, Mike and Brian have taken on a number of contract software development projects while building their own products on the side. Their first major hit for a client was a Match 3 game where players compete for real world prizes. This experience introduced them into the competitive mobile tournament space and put Skillz on their radar. After reaching out to Skillz and meeting up at the 2018 Game Developers Conference, Mike and Brian decided to launch a game with Skillz.
They decided to quickly develop a game, integrate the Skillz SDK, and most importantly, learn. This led Hidden Pixel to look at a quick way of creating a “test game.” They then bought the core game for $10 on the Unity Asset store and spent 3 weeks making development and design touch-ups to what would become “Knife Flip.”
Post-launch, they closely watched the game’s performance. Although they had reasonable D1 retention rates, there didn’t quite meet their goals for Day 7 or Day 30. In the midst of analyzing the performance and planning out the next Skillz-powered game, Mike and Brian received an email about a Skillz developer competition. The grand prize winner would be awarded a $50,000 game launch optimization package, with $25,000 dedicated to user acquisition. The deadline was in 6 weeks.
The Process For Choosing The Next Game
Mike and Brian knew they had to act fast, so they quickly developed a “game selection algorithm” to judge the viability of a potential game. Here were the inputs:
- Solid Day 30 metrics – They knew that successful Skillz games must retain new players both in the short and long-term. Therefore, they debated games that were easy to learn but offered enough value to retain players over time.
- Low art costs – As stated best by Mike, “At the core, we’re engineers.”
- Quick to make – This was mainly a night and weekend project and there was a tight deadline. Therefore, they needed to develop a game with relatively few hours.
- Large addressable market – They needed a game that would pique the interest of a large player base, and then offer an interesting twist on the gameplay to retain the players.
Once they came up with the “algorithm,” they built a huge Excel file with all criteria and researched top games. Eventually, Mike and Brian settled on building out a pool game.
Enabling Real-World Prizes For Pool Payday
Hidden Pixel’s initial “launch strategy” was to not treat it as an actual game launch. Instead, they were focused on becoming prize-enabled, which means that cash tournaments would be available in the game. In order to become prize enabled, Mike and Brian knew they needed to achieve 100 Daily Active Users and have 1000 matches completed in a single type of tournament to pass the Skill Algorithm Test.
To hit these requirements, they spent time and money creating a high-quality icon and taking screenshots of the gameplay. The Hidden Pixel developers then focused on creating an App Store listing that articulated what made their game unique: “A pool game with head to head competition for cash and prizes.” After that, they asked acquaintances to install and review the game, with a special focus on written reviews. The goal here was to legitimize the value and quality of the game.
After all of that was said and done, Mike and Brian moved to Facebook to drive cheap installs, primarily to hit the 1000 completed match requirement. Although they didn’t see the same deposit and retention rates from these players, they were able to hit the goal for matches played and submit for prize-enablement.
Post Prize Enablement & Future Game Development Plans
After Hidden Pixel became prize-enabled, Skillz reached out to congratulate them for being runner-up in the game developer competition and becoming an enterprise developer partner. Mike and Brian worked with the Skillz game design team to make iterations and discuss longer-term promotion strategies. Currently, “Pool Payday” is still scaling with solid game KPIs:
- 1000 Daily Active Users
- 91% First Game Completion Rate
- Install to Cash D7: 12%
In addition to scaling up game performance for “Pool Payday,” Hidden Pixel is looking for more games to launch with Skillz. They’re also continuing contract development work for clients. If you are interested in checking out the game, then download “Pool Payday” (on iOS) and see if you can clear the table!