Half of all Korean smartphone users have played the game Cookie Run, which grossed over 62 billion won (US$58.9 million) 9 months after it debuted in April 2013. In the game, a gingerbread man runs for his freedom while gaining points, and it is immensely popular among children, even though people of all ages play it in Korea.
Despite its wild success, not many people know about its creator, Devsisters, or its predecessor game Ovenbreak, which the company made originally for iPhones aiming at the global market. Devsisters upgraded the game by adding social elements using the KakaoTalk Games Platform, and entered the Korean market where it became the next hit game. BusinessKorea interviewed Devsisters’ two CEOs, Kim Jong-heun and Lee Ji-hoon, to learn more about the company and its interactions with KakaoTalk. What follows are excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about the history of your company. Is Cookie Run your first product?
Our company Devsisters was founded in 2007, but started working with mobile in 2009. Our company saw rapid growth, as our payroll rose from 10 to 52 within one year. But we focus on growth rather than the size of the company and would like to become a company that can have an impact in the world.
Also, Cookie Run is not really our first product. Initially we aimed at the global market with a game called Ovenbreak intended for iPhone users. At the time, smartphones were not common in Korea. The game was a success because it topped 20 million downloads worldwide. We modified Ovenbreak to fit the Korean market by working with KakaoTalk, and launched it in April 2013.
How was the process of offering your game over KakaoTalk? Were you worried about being accepted? Did you have it in mind to work with KakaoTalk from the beginning?
For six months before the launch of Cookie Run, we talked with Kakao, since our Ovenbreak was already a hit game and we thought it would be a good match if we added Kakao’s social platform to our game. Kakao had wellplanned procedures for taking on our game, so we just followed them and applied for affiliation. We did not really worry about not getting accepted, because we were very confident with our game. Kakao had very transparent procedures, and we got a swift response and everything went smoothly.
Has your performance with KakaoTalk matched up with your expectations?
The result went beyond our expectations! In 2013, our revenues that were generated through Kakao were 62 billion won [US$59 million] in 9 months. We launched our game on April 2, 2013. Last week was our anniversary. We gave away 100 crystals, worth about 10 dollars, to all game players as a gift. In Korea alone, we achieved 20 million downloads. In Korea one out of two smartphone users has played our game. We think we grabbed this result thanks to working with Kakao.
In assessing games, there are three criteria: game play, social interaction, and monetization. The first one is entirely up to us. In terms of the second, social interaction, Kakao really helped us because in marketing our game, Kakao’s theme played a big role. And monetization is great, because we already passed 62 billion won, and now, after the first anniversary, we are maintaining that level of revenue, even though specifics are confidential.
If we say that 2012 was the year of Anipang, we dare say that 2013 was the year of Cookie Run. Cookie Run was the most downloaded game in 2013 in Korea. Also, we are within the top 3 games that made the most money. According to one study done in England, our game ranked 21 among all games from 50 different countries. We even beat Angry Birds. Behind our success, Kakao’s social interaction played an integral part.