Mobile startup Seriously’s first game, Best Fiends, has been a success out of the gate. Since launching in October 2014, the game has 2 million daily active players and over 40 million downloads, according to Andrew Stalbow, co-founder and CEO of Seriously.
“We’re really focusing on the U.S. audience and influencers are a core part of our marketing,” Stalbow said. “We’re trying to be as creative in our marketing as we are with building the story and our apps.”
To date, Seriously has built up a following of over 5 million fans across its social platforms. The company has allocated 90 percent of its marketing budget to influencer campaigns. The company has sponsored over 700 YouTube creators, including Shane Dawson, Nikkie de Jager, Rachel Levin, Joey Graceffa and Rosanna Pansino.
“We were one of the first app companies to work with influencers as a marketing platform,” Stalbow said. “YouTube is a great way for us to acquire people in a creative way.”
Stalbow noted that prime time YouTube viewing is 10 times bigger than the biggest TV show. “It’s a very universal platform,” Stalbow said. “It reaches everybody.”
Now Seriously is combining YouTube Influencers Graceffa and Pansino with Hollywood actress Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy) in a new two-and-a-half-minute-long YouTube comedy video called “Don’t Download Best Fiends.”
“This is a love letter to fans who download Best Fiends and get obsessed with it,” Stalbow said. “They’ll spend three hours hooked on the game right out of the gate.”
As part of that love letter, the community was given a 48 hour first look at the unlisted YouTube video before it went live on Sept. 1. Stalbow said Walsh agreed to put the doctor’s coat back on for the first time since playing Dr. Addison Montgomery in Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff, Private Practice.
“Kate’s very funny and has great timing in this piece,” Stalbow said. “She’s playing a doctor-like role in this ad.”
Stalbow believes Walsh will be attractive to 25 to 45 year-old women, which is where Seriously is focus its marketing.
“Kate is a fan of the game now, although she wasn’t playing when we first approached her,” Stalbow said. “She’s playing the game quite a bit now. Our game’s designed to be fun and approachable to everybody in the family.”
The add kicks off a treasure hunt within the mobile game. Walsh, Graceffa, Pansino and 12 more YouTube stars, including Rachel Levin, Fine Brothers and Vanoss Gaming, have all hidden personal symbols in the game for players to find. The stars will be sharing clues on their social channels. Players that find all the symbols in the game will unlock a new fiend.
Stalbow said finding this new character will help players progress through the game world. “There are also clues hidden in the video that will help fans in the treasure hunt,” Stalbow said. “This campaign will help grow our daily player base and help grow revenue.”
Philip Hickey, vice president of marketing and communications, said Seriously’s biggest marketing tool is its game. Even though the company has smaller marketing budgets to work with than its competition, Hickey said it’s been able to get a lot of return for its investment.
“We have a passionate community that loves this content,” Hickey said. “We’ll continue to focus on social and online because we want to be one click away from a download.”
While television advertising has mass awareness, Hickey wants to stick with the company’s strengths and work with Facebook, YouTube and different social platforms.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seriously’s sponsored YouTube videos have generated over 150 million views. Stalbow said in the U.S. alone the company has been able to grow daily active users of Best Fiends in the U.S. from 9 percent to 21 percent in the past year. At the same time, daily installs have increased sixfold and daily revenue in the U.S. has increased fourfold.
And Seriously isn’t resting on its laurels, or even focusing on just one game. Stalbow said the company is focused on building out its Best Fiends IP with new games and entertainment.
“Consumers have moved to mobile devices, so the greatest entertainment brands should be built for mobile first,” Stalbow said. “We’re building a brand—not unlike the next Despicable Me or big animated property—through mobile.”
Stalbow said Best Fiends is a service that has new content added all the time. The company is connected with its audience and uses this two-way relationship in development of new content, as well as new games.
Seriously’s second game —Best Fiends Forever—is in soft launch in Australia and New Zealand. It’s currently expected to come to the U.S. in late October/early November.
“This will be the first time we’ll have a network to launch a game into,” Stalbow said. “What most sensible games companies would do is launch a second game in the same genre. For example, King launched lots of puzzle games. But we felt our core competency is the brand, and the connected story is the world. We have created a clicker—a new and upcoming genre that has potential to be massive.”
A clicker is an interactive cartoon, which Stalbow said reintroduces the Best Fiends world and characters fans know, but it’s equally accessible. Inspired by games like Cookie Clicker—players need to defeat a certain number of slugs and collect currency as they battle.
“We’ll be cross-promoting both games,” Hickey said. “People are spending 1 to 1.5 million hours a day in our game—that’s like one of the biggest TV shows in the U.S. We’ll use that in video ads and pop-ups—alerting players that there’s a new Best Fiends experience to try.”
Seriously also has a third unannounced game in development, which will get a soft launch in New Zealand and Australia.
Toward the end of this year, the company will launch its first animated shorts. Like the new games, Stalbow said these shorts will be promoted through its game and existing social network.
“We have our first two scripts in,” Stalbow said. “We have a nice pedigree behind this and we’re figuring out a production partner. It’s going to be different.”