Presented by Murka

What hit $976 million in the fourth quarter of last year? If you bet on the social casino games industry, you’ve won the jackpot, according to analyst firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. These are the games that can draw some of the biggest and most loyal audiences, which tends to draw developers inexorably toward the idea that if they build it, the revenue will come.

And yet, like in any other games category, success can sometimes be a lottery with a long shot, especially with the major players like Playtika, Zynga, and Scientific Games so firmly ensconced at the top.

So it might have initially come as a surprise when Ukrainian game developer Murka was recognized not just as Best Social Operator, but as Social Slots Operator Of The Year at the recent EGR North America Awards, beating out both Product Madness and Playstudios.

Yet in the last two years, the company, founded in 2011, has quietly taken its place among the top 15 social casino game publishers globally. In the first quarter of 2017, Murka nearly doubled its market share, posting 300 percent revenue growth year-over-year.

The Dnipro, Ukraine, company shot out of the gate with just ten employees and some big ideas.

“We started with a vision that there is always space for innovation, even in slots,” says Anton Krasnyy, CEO and co-founder of Murka.

They came to market with Slots Journey, a game that paired the gambling experience with journey mechanics in order to give users a feeling of progression and accomplishment. The game was an unexpected success, downloaded by 18 million players and rising quickly up the charts.

When Slots Journey became an unexpected hit, they thought they had found the Holy Grail, Krasnyy says. But they soon figured out that winning big on your first bet doesn’t guarantee ongoing success. Plenty of game studios have sunk under the waves without a trace and with no mourners.

“The understanding that it’s hard to maintain the growth and profitability over a long-term perspective came with experience,” says Krasnyy. “We realized that if we wanted the market to take us seriously, we had to constantly repeat our success and focus on sustainability, not just luck.”

In 2015, Murka introduced three new social casino games in a row: Scatter Slots, Infinity Slots, and Slots Era. They all take a new tack: each is designed as an adventure for the player, with goals along the way and new and updated content added frequently. They’ve landed a monthly active audience of over 6 million, 90 percent of it on mobile.

Now they’re 300 employees strong, with four studios across Ukraine, and they’re keeping their eyes on the prize—steady quarter-over-quarter revenue growth, stable UA costs, and a tightly focused business model.

“From the beginning, we were privately owned company, and we never received any investments,” Krasnyy says. “We are growing by reinvesting our own money in a strictly performance-oriented marketing strategy.”

2017 is full of big things, Krasnyy says. They’ve soft-launched their new game, Scatter Holdem Poker, a fantasy online poker game with real people and challenges to complete. They’ve also got something else up their sleeve: a title produced in cooperation with huge brand, but they won’t divulge the nitty gritty quite yet.

“We can’t share more details before official release,” Krasnyy says, “but the choice of a brand will be unexpected for our genre—as usual.”

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