Looking for three new Dreamweavers

Dodreams is growing and we are looking for new work friends!

Wanna do more than games? Wanna do dreams? Then join us and become a Dreamweaver!

After a whirlwind of a year, making Drive Ahead! even more, amazing and crazy than before, and surviving a global pandemic, it is time for us to grow. 

We have great plans for the future and hope that you will join us in making those dreams and more come true. 

Check out our current openings: 

Server Developer

Community Content Creator

Financial Specialist


Any questions? Shoot to our Head of Studio Sami Lahtinen at jobs at dodreams dot com

Financial Specialist

We are looking for a Financial Specialist!

Have you always been curious to know how things work? When you play games, do you think about how they actually generate revenue? Then we’re happy you’re reading this.

Do you like to keep things in order? Are you usually the one making sure that debits equal credits at work and in life? We’re strengthening our team at Dodreams in the area of finance, and we’re pretty sure we’re looking for You! As a part of Team Dreamweavers you help us take our games and studio to the next level by making sure our numbers are always accurate, up to date, and easily accessible.

This is what we need your superior financial and administrative skills for:

  • Handle daily accounting activities of the Dodreams Group
  • Manage our accounting and payroll partner
  • Track revenue and costs compared to budgeting
  • Participate in budgeting, P&L analysis, and planning together with the game team
  • Conduct accounts payable, outsourcing, and expense payments
  • Preparing financial reports and cash flow projections with existing templates or even improving them
  • Assist with HR issues relating to numbers – making salary statements, keeping track of holidays, topping up lunch cards etc.
  • Assist with financial audits
  • Work on other accounting and other administrative tasks as required

And this is what we’re hoping you’ve already checked off your bucket list:

  • Education in accounting, finance, or business (University or University of Applied Sciences level)
  • We appreciate work experience in accounting, finance, or business administration,
  • We’re happy to consider entry-level job candidates or expand the job responsibilities based on your seniority
  • Work fluently in Finnish and English – due to the nature of the job, this is the only position in our studio that requires Finnish language skills
  • You don’t have to be a gamer to do this job, but it helps to be interested and excited about them as a hobby

We’re looking for someone with a track record of getting things done in life. If you’re that person, we’d love to hear from you. The job is full-time and based smack dab in the coolest area of Helsinki – Teurastamo.

About Dodreams

We do More than Games. We Do Dreams.

We’re on a mission to craft shared moments of thrill. Our games offer outrageous fun with friends. They’re hobbies you master and share with pride in our video community. Disposable entertainment or competition against faceless strangers is simply not our thing.

We’re the makers of Drive Ahead! – the best of Head-to-Head Battlers. Our vision is to be the best in humor and fun. Buckle up and strap your helmet over your eyes to enter the gladiatorial racing arena. The brakes have been greased, your tank is full of rocket fuel, and your co-driver is… a cow.

This wacky premise of hitting friends on the head with a car has taken us to 150 million organic downloads. Thanks to our active community of 1.5 million fans, we’re speeding up. Our roadmap offers challenges in the most exciting areas of the industry: real-time online gaming, streaming, self-expression, and deep social meta.

Learning and impact are the foundations of our culture. We spend 3-4 days a month on individual and team rapid learning and hackathons. Reach your full potential in your craft, and ship games defining quality entertainment and how it’s done.

Founded in 2008, our goal is to have as much fun making games as playing them. We’re based in Helsinki, and it really is a blast working together. But we also support working remotely.

In addition to a competitive salary, we support setting up a home office if needed and offer a comprehensive health care plan, flexible working hours, and employee development programs and activities.

How to Apply

Got questions or want to apply? Shoot an email to our Head of Studio Sami Lahtinen at jobs at dodreams dot com. It would be great to see what you’ve done previously in life so send over a cover letter and resume.

Check out our other openings too!

Community Content Creator

We are looking for a Community Content Creator!

Do you feel unbounded love for games? Are you inspired by a career of service in this finest and greatest form of entertainment? Then look no further.

Are you the joy of the party wherever you go? When you’re not playing games, do you think, talk or dream about them? We’re growing our team behind Drive Ahead!, and if you’re looking for an opportunity to get your creative juices flowing and chat with millions of players, we’re pretty sure we’re looking for You!

Join Team Dreamweavers to crash, boom and bang!

This is what we need your superior communication and content creator skills for:

Content Creation

  • Create a plan for publishing content based on game roadmap and fan media habits
  • Create entertaining & informative content about our game updates, events, and backstory on platforms such as Discord and YouTube
  • Assist in bringing our video community into the game, highlighting the most hilarious moments or heroic acts by influencers and fans
  • Oversee community activities working as part of our Live-Ops game team
  • Manage relationships with our key influencers and community volunteers
  • Support our Chinese publishing partner with media assets for local social media
  • Enjoy being in front of a camera and the voice of the game for our community

Player Support

  • Be on the pulse of our community, share their hopes and aspirations, gather and discuss player feedback with the rest team regularly
  • Connect with our players and make them feel like they’ve been heard through healthy dialogue in Player Support
  • Provide support to players and investigate the root cause of dissatisfaction (irregularities / complaints / bug reports)


You can be sure that everything you create will instantly reach millions of active fans!!

And this is what we’re hoping you’ve already checked off your bucket list:

  • Previous experience in content creation, such as creating videos for platforms like YouTube and TikTok
  • Experience in managing an active online community
  • Work fluently in English – both written and verbal
  • Good, weird, or at least some sense of humor. Some people may consider you funny
  • Long relationship with games and the communities surrounding them

The position is full-time and based smack dab in the coolest area of Helsinki – Teurastamo.

About Dodreams

We do More than Games. We Do Dreams.

We’re on a mission to craft shared moments of thrill. Our games offer outrageous fun with friends. They’re hobbies you master and share with pride in our video community. Disposable entertainment or competition against faceless strangers is simply not our thing.

We’re the makers of Drive Ahead! – the best of Head-to-Head Battlers. Our vision is to be the best in humor and fun. Buckle up and strap your helmet over your eyes to enter the gladiatorial racing arena. The brakes have been greased, your tank is full of rocket fuel, and your co-driver is… a cow.

This wacky premise of hitting friends on the head with a car has taken us to 150 million organic downloads. Thanks to our active community of 1.5 million fans, we’re speeding up. Our roadmap offers challenges in the most exciting areas of the industry: real-time online gaming, streaming, self-expression, and deep social meta.

Learning and impact are the foundations of our culture. We spend 3-4 days a month on individual and team rapid learning and hackathons. Reach your full potential in your craft, and ship games defining quality entertainment and how it’s done.

Founded in 2008, our goal is to have as much fun making games as playing them. We’re based in Helsinki, and it really is a blast working together. But we also support working remotely.

In addition to a competitive salary, we support setting up a home office if needed and offer a comprehensive health care plan, flexible working hours, and employee development programs and activities.

How to Apply

Got questions or want to apply? Shoot an email to our Head of Studio Sami Lahtinen at jobs at dodreams dot com. We’d love to see what you’ve done previously with content and communities at work or as a hobby, so please share links or a portfolio.

Check out our other openings too!

Server Developer

We are looking for a Server Developer!

Is your desire to shape the future of mobile gaming evident from your previous body of work? Does your eye for technological detail and flawless design leave a trail of dropped jaws wherever you go? Is your understanding of the app development cycle – from idea generation to development to commercialization – on the nextest of levels?

Well, you’re in luck! We’re on a mission to grow our team behind the Drive Ahead! Portfolio game and we’re pretty sure we’re looking for You!

As a Server Developer you’ll play a key role in the design and development of our platform for physics-based online multiplayer games, as well as setting up and optimizing servers globally. Regardless of what project you’re working on, you can be sure that everything you ship will instantly reach millions of active fans.

We expect you to be a curious problem solver who enjoys learning something new every day, as well as sharing those learnings with your team. What we offer in return is a fun and creative working environment with top professionals, the opportunity to be part of leveling up our current games, and to play a part in creating our next hit!

And this is what we’re hoping you’ve already checked off your bucket list:

  • Design, implement, test, and deploy game backend functionality
  • Create and maintain the game server infrastructure
  • Maintain data analytics pipeline
  • Work with other developers, designers, and artists

And this is what we’re hoping you’ve already checked off your bucket list:

  • Minimum 5 years of server programming experience (C#, .Net Core)
  • Strong programming skills using C#
  • Experience with cloud platforms and related technologies (AWS, GCP, docker, kubernetes, helm, terraform)
  • Being comfortable with git
  • Strong skills with SQL databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL)
  • Experience with other programming languages and technologies (python, shell scripts)

Would be a plus:

  • Experience with CI/CD platforms (TeamCity)

The position is full-time and based smack dab in the coolest area of Helsinki – Teurastamo.

About Dodreams

We do More than Games. We Do Dreams.

We’re on a mission to craft shared moments of thrill. Our games offer outrageous fun with friends. They’re hobbies you master and share with pride in our video community. Disposable entertainment or competition against faceless strangers is simply not our thing.

We’re the makers of Drive Ahead! – the best of Head-to-Head Battlers. Our vision is to be the best in humor and fun. Buckle up and strap your helmet over your eyes to enter the gladiatorial racing arena. The brakes have been greased, your tank is full of rocket fuel, and your co-driver is… a cow.

This wacky premise of hitting friends on the head with a car has taken us to 150 million organic downloads. Thanks to our active community of 1.5 million fans, we’re speeding up. Our roadmap offers challenges in the most exciting areas of the industry: real-time online gaming, streaming, self-expression, and deep social meta.

Learning and impact are the foundations of our culture. We spend 3-4 days a month on individual and team rapid learning and hackathons. Reach your full potential in your craft, and ship games defining quality entertainment and how it’s done.

Founded in 2008, our goal is to have as much fun making games as playing them. We’re based in Helsinki, and it really is a blast working together. But we also support working remotely.

In addition to a competitive salary, we support setting up a home office if needed and offer a comprehensive health care plan, flexible working hours, and employee development programs and activities.

How to Apply

Got questions or want to apply? Shoot an email to our Head of Studio Sami Lahtinen at jobs at dodreams dot com. We’d love to see what you’ve done previously with games and servers at work or as a hobby, so please share links or a portfolio.

Check out our other openings too!

Linda – Game Artist

Linda Karlsson artist at Dodreams

A fireside chat with Linda Karlsson – Game Artist

Q: What do you do at Dodreams?
A: I started out doing concepts for new content but pretty quickly moved onto more user experience-oriented work such as wireframes and user interfaces. I still do various other visual work when needed, like artwork or effects.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: I enjoy tackling art from a problem-solving perspective, it shouldn’t only look cool but also be intuitive and easy to understand or use so I spend a lot of time in the wireframe process.

Q: What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on?
A: Coming up with new sports themes for Drive Ahead! Sports was always a blast because they were all so crazy in idea and execution.

Q: What’s it like working at Dodreams?
A: The fact everyone is both professional yet also casually laid back makes working with them a great time! Voicing your opinions is encouraged and welcome in order to make the best and memorable content for the players.

Q: What kind of games do you want to make in the future?
A: I want to continue making games that make people laugh and go “What?!?!? That’s awesome!” when something amazing or unexpected happens. Something action/adventure-oriented would be great.

Q: Which is your favorite Drive Ahead! vehicle and why?
A: For some reason, I’m fond of the Spruce Delivery car. It might not be the most extreme or coolest but the tree is pretty defensive so it’s saved me a bunch of times!

The Unreachable and Enigmatical Land, Also Known as the Chinese Game Market

Many game studios are committed to being successful in China but are also very much aware that access to the land isn’t always straightforward.

Finnish mobile games developer Dodreams entered the Chinese Android market in late 2020. We share some of our learnings: the when, the how and the why. We also talked to industry partners: vivo, currently the 5th largest smartphone manufacturer globally from China; Chinese game market veteran and developer Fingersoft; as well as MyGamez, China market publishing partner for Dodreams.

Getting Started

So what should you know about the Chinese market before starting? It’s common knowledge among the industry that you need to utilize local partners, make sure you have enough time, and localize content. The following issues define what is possible and realistic to achieve for your game.

First, you should consider timing. We waited until 2020 because originally the game industry in China was focused on whale monetization. Also, the industry value chain felt long and was not easy to comprehend as a foreign developer. “Before acquiring users was complicated and monetizing with a hybrid model combining IAPs and ads wasn’t doable”, explains CEO Erik Pöntiskoski. However, today in China we see the same global trend of gaming being mainstream entertainment with masses and masses of different players, including casual.

Second, having a publishing partner is a must for a western developer in China. The industry hub for game studios in Finland Neogames finds in their market study that cooperating with a service provider in obtaining the ISBN license required for publishing is mandatory. Self-publishing is not possible. Finding a reliable partner that can be trusted to help you with all technical aspects regarding payments, logins, and ads as well as back you up with navigating and implementing all the constantly and suddenly changing regulations takes time.

Thirdly, though local regulation may seem a hurdle, it’s luckily also pretty straightforward. But acquiring permission to publish is not automatic. The process will most likely take 9 – 12 months and can only be started after you have a mature game product that can be reviewed. Find a reliable partner that can be trusted to help you with all technical aspects regarding payments, logins, and ads as well as back you up with navigating and implementing all the constantly and suddenly changing regulations takes time.

Fingersoft’s COO Ville Rauma adds based on experience from publishing Hill Climb Racing, the 7th most downloaded game of the previous decade, in China that you should “only consider entering the Chinese market if you already have a successful game elsewhere. It’s a very complicated and quickly changing market and often not the place to go try things out unless there is a very specific reason for it. Of course, many Chinese publishers will also take new unproven games if they are promising, but in that case, you might not have much leverage to negotiate terms.”

Finding the Right Store

The top publishers of 2020 globally according to AppAnnie were the Chinese Tencent and NetEase followed by Playrix. Tencent and NetEase have held the top positions for the past four years. 

One of the most crucial issues to address is choosing the potential and most fitting stores and distribution platforms for your game. The field is vast and fragmented and some of these are unfamiliar to western developers.

Drive Ahead! Chine App Store
Drive Ahead! in the Chinese App Store.

The most important ones are Huawei, Oppo Software Store, vivo App Store , Xiaomi’s MIUI App Store, Tencent My App, and the mobile sharing community TapTap. With these, a western developer is able to reach a multitude of Chinese users. There are a total of at least thirty different stores, so invest time and effort in finding the best ones for your game. Aim to get your game to as many platforms as possible, but consider also is the value worth the while.

We have learned some of what Chinese partners value in games. “In our discussions with vivo, we found that they see market potential for fun-filled physics-based car games based on the popularity of the Hill Climb Racing series among their store users. Their priority is to bring more moments of fun to users, so we have highlighted in our communications how we can help them do that especially for casual players.”, Pöntiskoski notices.

Drive Ahead! in the vivo App Store.
Drive Ahead! in the vivo App Store.

For MyGamez, publisher in China for Dodream’s Drive Ahead! game, it’s important that games have monetization features and a design suitable for the preferences of Chinese players. “Drive Ahead! has been well received for its engaging core mechanics, but when pitching the game to our store partners impact of monetization features such as the Season Pass are important,” says Mikael Leinonen. Also, it’s important to show long-term commitment towards the Chinese market for a game and show more exciting updates already in the works.

The Great Ban Hammer of 2020

At the same time that China has controlled and regulated its market more, it has lost the position as the global leader by revenue. China held the position for the past years, but since 2018 it has been the U.S.’ turn. As a result, the amount of games published in China has considerably decreased.

Both international and local mobile game developers were hit by the banhammer at the change of the year. During the last six months, about 100k games have been removed from the market by the Chinese authorities. The list includes premium games and games featuring in-app purchases, but also popular apps such as TripAdvisor. The vast majority however were unlicensed games. Authorities also stated that apps that had content featuring pornography, prostitution, gambling, violence, and politically sensitive information were removed. This action is motivated by a desire of Chinese authorities to manage the risks of addiction or other negative side effects of excessive gaming. Without an ISBN approval, a game that has IAP or pay per download revenue model cannot be published.

The ban hammer has made it easier for accepted developers to access the competitive landscape. Juha Mikkola from MyGamez analyzes that “since gaining the ISBN from the Chinese authorities is so hard, there are already fewer competitors on the market”. We saw about +20% engagement and monetization KPI’s beyond seasonality. The figures indicate that there is even more potential for growth than before.

The unique strength of Drive Ahead! has been that it grows massively organically, thanks to the virality from the local multiplayer design and video community. It’s a rare example of a casual game that people enjoy sharing and watching game clips. The players are proud of their in-game skill accomplishments and have fun watching the outrageous carnage. They want to spend time with the community.

Localization, Localization, Localization

Remove all western social media and analytics tools from your app. Moving servers inside China ensured for Dodreams that there were no hiccups in connectivity. This was visible as higher retention and DAU.

Once you have managed to acquire users through featuring or paid user acquisition, take continuous care of the local community of players and invest in live-ops. At Dodreams we decided to hire a local live-ops and community manager to improve the chances of reaching the full potential of the game on the market. They optimize the game for local markets and inform players of what’s going on in the game. You don’t need to localize the game, but do localize live-ops events, like the Chinese New Year. The game needs to have something universally recognized, but some content should always be localized. If your gameplay and art style have worked globally, it makes sense to be true to your origins instead of trying to be Chinese. Invest in excellent translations.

Many westerners immediately know who are those pale big dudes with horns on their helmets, but for Chinese players, Vikings might not mean anything. On the other hand, many of us might not understand who are those three kings that you keep seeing in Chinese games. The game needs to have something universally recognized, but some content should always be localized. Gladiators crashing their cars or climbing hills are easy enough to understand, the player doesn’t need to know western cultural heritage in order to enjoy playing.

The same game fields exist also in China and hyper-casual games and racing are on the rise. The biggest genres in 2020 were RPG, Shooting, MOBA, Turn-Based RPG, and Strategy. Traditionally, Hard Core/RPG type games have been very successful. Fingersoft has noted with their Hill Climb Racing that there is a big audience for more casual experiences as well.

Your game’s content should be eligible and suitable. Chinese authorities don’t want bloody gore, skeletons, and zombies. Dead bodies and big amounts of blood are prohibited. In one of MyGamez’s cases, the orange and brown liquids had to be removed from a game, since they might look red on certain screens and hence might look like blood. Either remove all red liquids and effects or change their color to blue or yellow.

Similar Monetization

Monetization also has its peculiarities within the Chinese market, but Dodreams sees it as a casual market, in no real way different from the western one. The market has monetization with ads and user acquisition is professional. Fingersoft has noted that Chinese games were traditionally very aggressive monetizers and pay-to-win was also a norm, even expected. For instance, many top-grossing games implemented monetization loops that might seem brutal to us; complicated gacha systems, peer purchase pressure, and paid progression. All the same, western developers are as capable to implement aggressive monetization systems in their games too. “Battlepass style IAPs have gotten more popular and in Mid/Hardcore games gacha is still strong”, says Mikkola.

Navigating the Seas of Bureaucracy

The new scoring method for obtaining the ISBN license is based on a five-point system. In order to be published your game should have reached product maturity. It should have an original design and high production quality as well as a high development level. Its cultural connotations should align with socialist values. 5 is the highest score, 0 is the lowest score, and 3 is scored. You need at least 3 in all five in order to pass.

Be ready to address ethics issues as the Chinese authorities require that the games have “core social values”. Regulation issues might change quickly. And when they change, they really do change. The process is slow and sometimes full of surprises. Most recently Chinese authorities have announced that games must support real name authentication as part of their online game anti-addiction efforts. Starting June 1, 2021 developers must have users sign in with their real identity. If the player is verified as underage by connecting with a government database, you as a developer must enforce certain playtime and payment limitations. Games that don’t comply cannot operate in China. 

The Chinese ID check for underage mobile gamers.
The Chinese ID check for underage mobile gamers.

Don’t take all restrictions too seriously. The government guidelines are quite easy to follow. A few years back in a MyGamez event in Shenzhen, an elderly government official said “What’s the big deal with blood? Just change the color to blue or something.” In the Chinese version of Knives Out, the blood is blue pixie dust. As developers, we sometimes make things more complex than they are.

See Beyond the Size

China is so much more than just its massive size. Many game developers are fixed on the idea that if they manage to gain even a small fracture of the market, they will be extremely successful. But the game doesn’t grow automatically. Finding users is expensive and can be exhausting too.

A small western studio is very small in China. “With MyGamez we know that our game is a good match for their portfolio and they will dedicate time to growing our business. Even with 150M lifetime downloads globally, Drive Ahead! is small for us to negotiate directly with the stores and famous giant companies like Tencent. Being a part of MyGamez’s portfolio, together with the Hill Climb Racing franchise, we’re a part of something bigger than gets the attention of the stores.”, says Pöntiskoski.

The popular Hill Climb Racing and Hill Climb Racing 2 games have accumulated over 1.5 Billion downloads globally. In China, thanks to Fingersoft’s partnership with MyGamez, the two games and the Chinese edition of Hill Climb Racing have so far attracted more than 500 million downloads on Android. “The android market is very interesting in a good way since it’s so different from Google Play de facto monopoly elsewhere. The competition between the Android stores makes them very attentive towards developers and they can have very different priorities between developers”, continues Rauma. China iOS users can be as valuable as the ones in the US. After launching on Android, Dodreams saw, based on eCPMs that Android uses may be as valuable in the EU countries for some networks.

Western developers can learn a lot from the Chinese studios: about F2F design, system design, monetization, live-ops, and designing social features. The Chinese developers are not followers who reuse others’ ideas. Mobile is clearly the first entertainment tool and platform and its social aspect will continue to grow. Mobile games are seen more as a guilt-free hobby and Chinese consumers play games in their free time. They often plan to play the way we plan to spend our Christmas holiday binge-watching Bridgerton. As the playing is thought out in advance and they have a limited time available for it, the players often use money in order to advance quickly. Plan offers and discounts around specific holidays.

The Chinese social media channels like TikTok are growing enormously also outside of China. Mobile is clearly the first entertainment tool and platform and its social aspect will continue to grow. The Chinese influence in popular culture will only increase. Remember how in the sci-fi tv-show Firefly, the Chinese impact was everywhere? This is not just a fantastic vision of the future.

Success in China is “valuable in itself since you get so much experience from a vastly different market and culture”, concludes Rauma. For Mikkola, “Overall, just the speed of the market’s advancement is extraordinary. The device manufacturers have new flagship models every few months and all aspects improve very quickly. It’s exciting to be a part of the process and see where it will go next”. “You will learn a lot about your game. Being successful in China requires boosting your game’s design and live-ops. This will also increase your western version’s quality”, sums Pöntiskoski. The Chinese iOS and Android market have played a crucial role in growth for Drive Ahead! in Q1. Getting back in 0,5M DAU and doubling our IAP conversion would not have been possible without a presence in China.

Although the size on its own is enough of a reason to publish your game in China, consider its other promises too and voyage to that enigmatic land.

Emilia Machuca Dodreams People and Comms Specialist
The writer Emilia Machuca specializes in Communications and People Management at Dodreams and loves Dune II and hates scented candles.

How to Stay on Top and Revamp a Six-Year-Old Game

You have three options when your game is a few years old and you want to grow to the next level. Kill it, leave it on autopilot, or roll up your sleeves – keep calm – and continue shipping.

The revenue impact of the two first two can be described as jumping off a cliff or piloting an airplane that is out of fuel. As far as options go, they’re either very bad or just average bad. If certain demise doesn’t appeal to you, you may think, let’s just improve this game that already has some traction. That final course offers a roadmap of peril but when it works, it really works. Following that path of revamping a six-year-old game may lead to Game of the Day nominations or monetization success. Or you may be known as the fool who jumped off a cliff in an airplane with no fuel.

At Dodreams our goal is to grow company revenue because that’s the best way to have an impact on our industry and gaming culture. The best entertainment products tend to be the ones people want to spend time and money on. We need to create and maintain customer relationships. The longer players stay with us and the happier they are to pay repeatedly for the experience we provide, the higher our revenue will be. That’s also how we maximize shareholder value. So the question is, can you do that best with your current game or a new title?

Staying True to What You Already Have

As game developers, we’re always excited about the new game we’d like to make. You want to work on something completely new and do things just the way you want to. But that’s a dangerous thing to wish for. Anyone who has experienced yet another prototype killed because the Man says that your LTV (lifetime value) is lower than CPI (cost per install) knows that the champagne starts to taste bitter. Especially when it’s served with a slap on the back and encouraging words about successfully failing fast from management.

The lousy thing about making a completely new game is that it basically stops learning. It’s of course nice to make all these plans and you can do all kinds of concept tests with UA (user acquisition) assets or wireframes. But even if you have something that can be played and you buy installs, the scale is so small and your content is so limited that can you really say if the game has legs or can be scaled at profit? We chose the path of rapid-learning shipping monthly updates to real players instead of coming out with something new once or twice a year.

Also, when you look at the top10 for the top-grossing mobile games list in February, the newest one is Project Makeover from the fall of 2019. Already for a couple of years, the average age of top-grossing mobile games is over four years. To stay on the top, a game needs continuous development and updates, and a monetization system supporting steady player LTV growth. When it works, you can be like Coin Master, which went from single to double-digit monthly consumer spend nine years after launch reaching $500m lifetime revenue by the end of 2019. In January 2021, it was #4 top-grossing for all games, according to AppAnnie.

Resisting the urge to make a new game can really pay off. Miniclip acquired the Israeli studio Ilyan, the makers of Bubble Shooter, for $100 million as they had gained success from growing games in live-ops. They focused on optimizing ASO (app store optimization) and cross-promotion for organic downloads and they got a high install base in developing markets, such as India.

That’s why nearly two years ago, we decided to put on horse blinders for humans (google it, they exist) and double down on developing monetization for the studio’s viral hit gladiatorial arena racing game Drive Ahead!. It was not due to a lack of gusto in prototyping a portfolio of games. We certainly tried, but spin-offs from Drive Ahead! failed before launch, didn’t reach the scale of the original game, or were not timed right.

Figure it Out or Improve the Old

As always with mobile games, finding your niche in the market is the place to start. We noted already in 2018 how racing was the fastest-growing genre on Android & iOS. It grew eight times more rapidly than all other game genres. So investing time and resources into this game of ours that we love showed some real potential.

We understood that we’re a Head-to-Head battler. We’re not competing only for the attention of players in racing, but games raging from CATS to Clash Royale. It’s human to credit success to our design, but blame the audience for lack thereof. You need to understand how competitive your feature set is with other games your fans actually play. Not a list of competitors in your own head.

The goal was simple enough: to get people not only to play more but also to pay repeatedly in Drive Ahead!. We used 12traits to do player motivation research and understood that they needed to be as good as the best in social and competitiveness, as well as the best in humor and fun. Players downloaded the game primarily for its tongue-in-cheek humor.

The unique strength of Drive Ahead! has been that it grows massively organically, thanks to the virality from the local multiplayer design and video community. It’s a rare example of a casual game that people enjoy sharing and watching game clips. The players are proud of their in-game skill accomplishments and have fun watching the outrageous carnage. They want to spend time with the community.

Cushioning a Leap of Faith with Knowledge

At the beginning of 2020, Dodreams took a major leap in development by turning a six-year-old offline game into a live service. It required us to rewrite every game feature so it could be validated and adjusted on the server-side. You can imagine the technical debt we had to pay!

Luckily we found a shortcut to building a backend with our partner Metaplay accelerating it by months. When our team, for an uncomfortably long period of time, said that this work will be finished in three weeks, every week, it felt like we made a real dog’s breakfast of it all. However, we needed to ship a fancy new metagame designed with the help of focused market and competitor analysis from GameRefinery. And you cannot ship a F2P (free to play) unless you have the technology, capabilities, and processes to build, measure, and learn. And then do it again and again.

We managed to gradually publish elements of the new metagame broken down into sensible chunks. This itself was not an easy task, because these different parts of the system like car upgrading and getting parts for it from the Gacha are intended to work together. You cannot really ship them one after another. So there was this temptation to put your nose to the grindstone for a few months and come out when it’s done. As you know, we already had the horse blinders.

Enlightenment at the End

So, what did we actually learn?

First, related to systematic, purposeful work to further develop a game, you need to know what your KPIs (key performance indicator) and engagement metrics tell you. Are you going in the right direction, and how far are you from reaching your full potential in terms of industry-standard for good? By modeling our formula for revenue, for example, we realized that the quickest way to grow revenue is through engagement rate for rewarded video. But the key to a successful revenue model transformation is our ability to improve IAP (in-app purchase) conversion.

Second, related to leadership, understanding which KPIs we need to improve and much helped us set concrete targets with our team. Instead of complaining about why our game is not making as much money as the other guys down the road here in Helsinki, you can discuss how ARPPU (average revenue per user) is actually pretty good for our market. We need to focus on getting more people to make the first purchase, then a second one, and eventually multiple purchases.

Third, we learned to be bold in experiments because otherwise, you won’t see much impact. Do we dare to touch our sacred core gameplay? Well yes, because we do it through our proprietary innovative business model of testing ideas and game concepts in a controlled environment consisting of a portion of our real users in limited time live-ops events. Thanks to this approach we have been able to go from nearly disposable entertainment to a hobby with our fans. The impact is visible in our revenue through retention from a sense of progression. It’s evident in IAP conversion from providing value to collecting and leveling up cars in the game as you compete with friends to become a Master Car Gladiator.

Fourth, on a personal note, I have learned to become more agile as a developer and humble as a manager. We cannot succeed without a clear shared vision that is also a goal worthy of aspiration. When talking to our team members I ask what they think we should do to reach our goals. I ask for advice on what I should focus on to support them and if there is anything I can do to help. My job is to make sure people have faith in our success – we have all the tools, skills, and resources we need to make it. When you get positive feedback that you’re on the right track, then stop working and celebrate the success. Give credit to the team for making it happen.

Dodreams' mobile game Apple's Game of the Day

Lastly, we learned that our store partners value dedication to the fan base. Show that you ship updates and improve the game no matter what. Just maybe you will wake up one day and see that apparently someone else also thinks that you’re on the right track, and put you up as Game of the Day. This happened with Drive Ahead! In February 2021 nearly six years after its release. It’s not the culmination of our story. It doesn’t mean the game is ready, because it’s a service and it never will be ready. But we are confident in the path we chose.

Dodreams CEO Erik Pöntiskoski
The writer Erik Pöntiskoski works as the CEO of Dodreams and likes wearing sunglasses during winter days and hates going to meetings unprepared.