hen it comes to top contenders in the multi-billion dollar social casino space, Caesars Interactive Entertainment is the undisputed champ, taking over a 21 percent share of revenue in the social casino market in Q4 2015. Seeing the overwhelming takeover of mobile in the space, the Caesars subsidiary has acquired two talented Israeli studios: Playtika back in 2011, and Pacific Interactive, home of successful slot game House of Fun, in early 2014.
House of Fun (which now sits under the Playtika umbrella) has a dedicated worldwide team of around 200 people who help maintain its position as one of the most successful mobile-social casino titles around. As of now, House of Fun is the fifth highest-grossing social casino game on iOS, spending almost every day of 2015 in the top 50 of the top overall grossing chart.
The secret to House of Fun‘s success? Well, it could be—in part—the Playtika pedigree, which boasts impressive conversion rates across its portfolio social casino titles. Where turning 2 percent of users into paying customers is generally considered a strong performance, Playtika managed to hit 4.3 percent with its titles in 2014.
Beyond belonging to a successful lineage of casino games, though, House of Fun‘s key to conversion lies in delighting players with new and exciting content to ensure sure they stick around (and, eventually, start buying in-app purchases).
Here’s a look inside Playtika’s popular and profitable House of Fun:
Design for Mobile, Don’t Port From Facebook
Where some social casino games have struggled with the Facebook-to-mobile transition (due to the joint challenges of shifting desktop players to mobile and implementing social features on a smaller canvas), House of Fun has had better luck by essentially creating an entirely new game for mobile.
After debuting on Facebook in 2011, House of Fun upped the ante on mobile in 2013. Today, 70 percent of its users are playing on mobile devices.
Playtika user acquisition manager Nir Schlaen admits that converting existing Facebook players to mobile is still a challenge, but he says the two versions of the game inherently appeal to different users, and that’s okay. Desktop and mobile gamers are different: at a basic level, one sits down to play, while the latter is usually on the go.
For House of Fun, Schlaen says its Facebook audience is generally aged 45 plus, while the mobile audience skews younger and has a slightly larger male presence (around 40 percent, compared to around 30 percent on Facebook). The group took these statistics into account when creating its successful mobile version.
“Generally, Facebook-oriented companies have copied their Facebook version to mobile with very little success,” Schlaen says. “In our case, the mobile product was defined and designed from the very beginning as a mobile product. Its conceptualizing in terms of functionality, user experience and features took into account the fact that on mobile, the user is always on the move.”
With that shift to mobile, the approach to user acquisition also changed, as it was no longer OK to rely solely on Facebook likes and links to bring in new players.
“In the last couple of years we’ve tried to bring in traffic from as many sources as possible,” Schlaen says.
Peaks and Peaks and More Peaks
Keeping players engaged is an important part of House of Fun‘s continued success, so the team tackles the tricky topic of retention by continually adding new content.
An army of 60 people—including designers, developers, artists and QA testers—build new themed slots games they drop into House of Fun on a weekly basis. This makes existing players want to regularly return, while the excitement of something new helps convince non-paying users to pay for the first time.
“Every time there was a new game, there was a peak,” says Schlaen of how they decided to keep churning out new content. “Users see something new and they get excited,” he says. “They play, they spend, and then it was decided as part of the organization of the product to bring new content regularly so those peaks will also be as regular as we can make them.”
Schlaen didn’t share specific numbers, but he did explain how important those peaks are to House of Fun‘s monetization strategy, which relies entirely on IAPs.
“A release of a new game that people love doesn’t necessarily increase the log-ins of users,” he says, “but it definitely increases the conversion of non-paying users to depositing users, and the spend of depositors increases revenues significantly.”
Gambling on Success
House of Fun‘s new slots don’t always hit the mark, and Schlaen says it’s a case of trying things until something sticks, then replicating it.
“You load new content sometimes that looks very good, and it doesn’t work as well,” he says, “and a game that nobody was expecting to explode, explodes. It’s a lot of hard work and maybe some luck. You can never know really what people will definitely love. You have to try until you hit the spot.”
Sometimes, less popular games end up being pushed to the periphery, and eventually they’re taken out of the playlist altogether. “House of Fun is based on data,” Schlaen says. “We have our own analytics tools, developed in-house to try and understand our users better: what they like and how they think and feel.”
With the constant content drops, users are never short of something new to play, and at any given time, House of Fun has between 80 and 90 slots games running on both mobile and Facebook.
Despite this appetite for all things new, one of House of Fun‘s slots games that never goes out of fashion is “Three Tigers”—it’s been there from the start. “It’s one of the all-time favorites,” says Schlaen, “for the players and for us. It’s always on the main page.” Three Tiger’s enduring popularity is down to its simplicity, strong visual and the presence of a user-selected bonus, says Schlaen.
Exploring New Markets
House of Fun‘s mobile success is built on its popularity in key social casino markets such as the U.S., Canada and Australia. But the House of Fun team at Playtika is now looking to new territories in order to expand its user base, focusing heavily on South America, Asia and Eastern Europe in the year ahead.
“We already exist in those markets, but our marketing is less focused there,” Schlaen says. “Now we know that to increase our daily users we’ll probably try to go to those markets too with marketing efforts.”
It’s difficult to know why certain regions respond well to the game and some don’t, but Schlaen says it’s all about testing the market, like in Mexico and Argentina.
“Mexico went well; Argentina didn’t. I don’t know [why],” he says. Likewise, House of Fun found success in Taiwan and the Philippines but not in India.
But even when a new region doesn’t work out once, that won’t stop the team from trying again in its efforts to expand House of Fun‘s global reach.
“I believe in testing, testing, testing,” Schlaen says. “Sometimes it catches, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t catch, you have to give it another try some other time.”