Rescue Roby

It’s a big leap to go from teaching kids basic math skills to entertaining them with robots and puzzles. But that’s exactly what Intellijoy did with the release of Rescue Roby, which just surpassed 1 million downloads on Google Play.

The educational app developer has opened a new division, Runaway Studios, dedicated to expanding its reach into the casual game space. Rescue Roby is the first app published under this new branding.

Runaway Studios will also act as Intellijoy’s publishing arm for other mobile developers. Meanwhile, Intellijoy will remain focused on its “true passion” of creating games for preschoolers.

“Monetization is quite limited on kids games,” said Alex Turetsky, founder and chief executive of Intellijoy. “Even though we have over 20 million downloads and over 10 million unique users, it still doesn’t monetize as well as we would’ve wanted it to. So instead of compromising our kids apps — as many other developers do by [placing] ads — we are choosing to stay very brand sensitive. [We’ve] opened up that whole separate division [Runaway Studios], which for a change would allow us to make some money. We can serve ads — tasteful ads — but at least we can serve them and have in-app purchases.”

It’s not just about the money. Turetsky cites Intellijoy’s previous successes — 15 million downloads across its library of educational apps — as one of the reasons why it’s getting into publishing. “We feel that we can take other apps that are outstanding, that might be in development, and get them to be market ready — get them ready for prime time,” said Turetsky. “And then put them out under Runaway Studios acting as the publisher.”

He used the development of Rescue Roby as a practical example. The original idea came from one of Intellijoy’s educational dev teams, who decided to try to make something different. But the early prototype wasn’t very promising. “It had no plot,” remembered Turetsky. “The character looked pretty goofy, and the goal of the game was also very kind of murky. We rehabbed Rescue Roby and made sure it had a story, a compelling character, an intro, and [improved] the game mechanics.”

The result is a cute physics-based puzzler that has you guiding a robot and his friends into boxes. It was only after Rescue Roby’s positive reception did the Chicago-based Intellijoy decide to use Runaway Studios as a publisher and a developer. “It’s a good time for Intellijoy,” said Turetsky. “We were successful before with kids apps, [and] now we are finally in this space where we can actually, quite frankly, make some money. It’s exciting.”

Competitors on the educational side include Duck Duck Moose, Ocean House Media, and Callaway Digital Arts. With Roby, Intellijoy is competing directly with established giants such as Rovio (Angry Birds), Chillingo (Cut the Rope), and Disney (Where’s My Water?).