The company is a hit with low-cost, no-frills mobile versions of puzzles, word games and old favorites like solitaire, intentionally avoiding the jackpots the industry likes to chase.
For a bunch of guys in what can be the very tactile world of video games, the founders of Tripledot Studios are remarkably callous. Making a game can be a lot like making a movie: long, expensive, and successful only with an obsessive focus on things like narrative and character. That’s a lot of hooey, say the Tripledotters, CEO Lior Shiff, COO Akin Babayigit and chief product officer Eyal Chameides. Their fast growing and profitable mobile gaming unicorn – profitable! – features inexpensive versions of puzzle concepts and classics such as solitaire. Their process prioritizes Excel sheets over storyboards, where metrics like, say, a game’s 90-day user retention rate guides them. (It measures the number of users who continue to play three months after the first download of the application. A resounding success will have a rate of 10% or more.) “We are very good operators,” says Shiff. “We excel in the business side of creating mobile games.”
He is not the Orson Welles of gaming, nor are his co-founders. But Shiff, 44, speaks from a place of earned trust on Tripledot’s operations. By selling ads in their games, Tripledot made $200 million in revenue last year, a 250% increase over the previous year. profit of about $30 million. Its games have more than 30 million monthly users and they’ve attracted bold investors, like Lightspeed Venture and billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries. From April 2021 to February 2022, Tripledot has raised over $200 million, most recently at a valuation of $1.4 billion. The founders collectively own about 40% of the company, which is headquartered in London but derives about half of its audience and two-thirds of its revenue from the United States.
“We are very good operators. We excel in the business side of creating mobile games.
By design, Tripledot ignores the more glamorous parts of the game. No dreams about a metaverse. No desire to continue the next Ring of Elden Where Cyberpunk 2077, two of the most high-profile console games of recent years, each built on expansive stories and worlds – one hit, one flop. With these types of titles, “you work on a game for two years, spend $100 million on marketing, release it in the wild, and hope it’s good, because then there’s nothing you can do about it. do,” says Chameides, 38. In contrast, four-year-old Tripledot spent only about $8 million developing new games and maintaining existing ones last year, releasing five titles and five others already available. Really, Tripledot runs on what we might call the Wordle Gambit. It succeeds for the same reason the New York Times Co. spent over a million dollars to wordle in January, three months after its public debut. The easiest way to make money in games is through simple and addictive puzzles that invite frequent play and avoid a drudgery through a hellish landscape of expensive entertainment development.
Both Shiff and Chameides were born in Israel, where they performed their mandatory military intelligence duty. Shiff won’t say exactly what he did. Chameides has a guess. “Time travel,” he says. Chameides is not much more revealing of its own functions. He admits, vaguely, to producing a few “training” games. Once their underground activities ended, they did the only obvious things: Shiff went to get an MBA from Stanford, then launched a social gaming startup, Product Madness, in 2007. Chameides followed him there.
Product Madness was built around casino games – lots of slots, like Sin City themed In the heart of Vegas. (Subtlety doesn’t sell as well.) Product Madness has marketed itself heavily on Facebook, where Babayigit worked after a master’s degree in engineering from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. In 2012, Product Madness sold out to Aristocrat, an Australian company then focusing on land-based casinos, for “mid-eight figures,” Shiff says. He and Chameides stuck around for a while before finally deciding to partner with Babayigit, forming Tripledot at the end of 2017.
The average Tripledot user is a woman over 35 and, damn it, does she like Woodoku, the company’s greatest success. It launched in 2020, took around five to six months to develop, and has since been downloaded 100 million times. It combines elements of Tetris– you slide around colored pin blocks – and sudoku. In other words, Tripledot didn’t do much more than take ideas from two popular games and mix them together. What sounds pretty silly until you stop to consider “guess a five-letter word every day in six guesses or less” also sounds pretty silly until you remember that’s what wordle is.
Danny Cohen, president of Blavatnik’s Access Industries, understood Woodoku was more than meets the eye when the Tripledotters described the dozen rounds of A/B testing to find the perfect, pleasing chime to play when a board clears. (Kind of like a soft tap on an instrumental woodblock.) “They understand the levers you have to pull, in a way I’ll never understand, to create the games they make,” Cohen says. Tripledot also released a popular solitaire game (75.5 million downloads thanks to a brilliant design with antique-looking cards and a daily challenge feature meant to keep users engaged) and pinned high hopes on another, triple tilea cross between mah-jongg and a simplified match-3 game (3.6 million downloads so far).
There is a fairly obvious flaw in Tripledot. The company intentionally did not develop the elaborate intellectual property it owns. (As elaborate as it is: the recently launched Piper’s Pet Cafe, which combines solitaire and an added narrative about renovating the titular slot.) There’s nothing stopping a contestant from coming up with a new and better riff on sudoku or solitaire or word wheels. Investors understand this. “They don’t create Fortnite“, says Cohen. “There will be competition with the games because they are casual mobile games. But I feel confident.” He and the others assume that competitors will emerge, and they bet that rivals will not be. not as good at math as Tripledot, less willing to sit down and figure out if Sally is $5 to acquire via facebook marketing, she absolutely has to—produce $8 to $9 in ad revenue for Tripledot. If Sally doesn’t, she’s not worth acquiring in the first place, and her game isn’t worth keeping. “They care about the cost,” Cohen says. “They care about the bottom line.”
For all their numerical rigor, the Tripledotters allow themselves a few softer measures to judge a match’s chances. One is the tube test. “When I get off on the London Underground, I look at people’s phones and want to see what they’re playing,” says Babayigit, 42. If he sees them playing a Tripledot game, “it’s a sign we got it right.” ,” he says. “If it’s not our solitaire, I’ll ask them . . . ‘Why are you playing this game?’ At 6-foot-3, Babayigit’s impromptu market survey baffles some people. “It’s scary,” he said, “I’m quite tall.”