Free game app became a successful business.
Bodie Jahn-Mulliner (left) and Sylvester Rishøj (right) with the main characters from the game Subway Surfers.
With more than one billion downloads, the mobile game Subway Surfers is a worldwide success. But it takes the right business model to turn downloads into revenue.
This is the reason why making apps is not just about game development, but just as much about good business acumen, according to the prime forces behind Subway Surfers, who emphatically managed to crack the code.
SYBO Games is outgrowing its five-room apartment in central Copenhagen. The company – started by the two friends and current owners, Sylvester Rishøj and Bodie Jahn-Mulliner – has exceeded the limits in every way. The limits of their apartment, of investor expectations and of their own hopes and dreams.
“It was crazy. We knew we had a good concept and that the game was both fun and high quality. Still, we didn’t anticipate the extent of the success,” Bodie Jahn-Mulliner says.
The business model
There were already similar games on the market when Subway Surfers was launched, but most of them cost money to download. Subway Surfers is free and can be played for hours without paying a cent. Inside the game it is then possible to buy various advantages for a few pennies.
“Free to play was clearly a model gaining traction, and we saw it as the only viable strategy to be at the forefront of that movement,” explains Sylvester Rishøj.
It was an objective for the two friends to outdo the market in terms of both price and quality, and this concept proved to be highly effective.
“Three months after launch we knew this would become big. Really big. We could just see the download numbers coming in, and we started to see that the business model was extremely tenable,” Bodie Jahn-Mulliner says.
CAPNOVA invested in SYBO Games in 2011, and back then it was both the game concept and the strong team that CAPNOVA found interesting.
“Bodie and I complement each other well. We share a common vision, but at the same time we’re able to split up our roles in our daily operations, so Bodie primarily focuses on the business and I stay focused on game development,” Sylvester Rishøj comments.
Although the success is a fact, the two friends are up for more and still driven by the desire to make a thriving business and another successful game.
“We could just buy a palm island and sit there for the rest of our lives. But what’s the fun in that? Our goal now is to become those people that the others in the business wait for new releases from because they know the quality and entertainment value is high. We want to set the standard for all the other games,” Bodie Jahn-Mulliner says.
SYBO Games ApS was established in 2011 with CAPNOVA as investor. SYBO Games has developed, among other things, the global game success Subway Surfers for smartphone and tablets. Estimates suggest Subway Surfers is making DKK 100,000 a day.
Allan Rasmussen, investment manager at CAPNOVA, on computer game investment:
What characterizes a good computer game idea is that the concept is sufficiently unique to stand out from any competing games. It needs to have features that make it impossible to put down for the players.
For us to be interested in an idea as a possible investment there must be a cohesive concept, a solid revenue model and a good team. There must also be an overview of any competing games and a reasonable production plan including a realistic expenditure budget.