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In the saturated social casino gaming market, battling big brands is tough. But the Kiev, based in Ukraine Murka took up this challenge with some success. Thanks to growth that has accelerated this year, Murka has become one of the top 10 players with 5 million monthly active users.
Despite being a tiny share of the $ 6.2 billion social casino gaming market, Murka has grown 44.6% this year, with users playing more during the pandemic, in part thanks to slot machine games that are more like role-playing games, analysts and company say.
Over the past decade, the company has grown from a small start-up to a company with over 550 employees in five offices. It was acquired last year by mega investor and private equity firm Blackstone Group. He also owns casino properties such as the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and performance marketing firm Vungle, and Blackstone’s 2019 revenue was $ 7.3 billion.
“You can understand why this is exploding right now,” Murka COO Barak David said in an interview with GamesBeat. “There has been a pandemic effect. On the positive side, people stayed home and played. They can play our games to relax a bit.
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The company started in 2011 and has created social casino games such as Slots Journey, Slots Journey 2, TX Poker, S&H Casino, Vegas Slots, Royal Fortune Slots, Bubbla Cadabra, and Scatter Slots. The company does not report its revenue, but its estimated second-quarter social casino gaming revenue was $ 40.5 million, which ranks it 10th in the industry, according to analyst firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. .
That’s much less than $ 503 million in estimated second-quarter revenue for segment leader Playtika, and Murka has just 2.1% of the market, the analyst firm said. Over the past decade, other companies have taken over from Murka and, with greater financial support, have been able to grow faster and consolidate their positions in the years when Murka was still a small fry.
But the ranking of the social casino market leaders may change. Murka is growing rapidly, with revenues up 44.6% from a year ago, thanks to a surge in demand during the pandemic. In the fiscal year ended June 30, Murka achieved sales of $ 127 million.
“It’s a mature market, and there aren’t a lot of new games,” David said. “The best tend to stay at the top. I still think there is an opportunity if you make good games. We will diversify and enter new markets as a games company. We will use our marketing, analytics and technology to grow. “
The growth opportunity is what drove David to take on the role of COO of Murka. He left a key position at market leader Playtika to join Murka and works in an office in Cyprus.
“We know we are big but not enough,” said David. “I think we can jump at least five places in the coming years. It is high vision. I think we can become one of the most powerful game companies in the world. That’s the goal we’ve set for ourselves, and we want to be more and more familiar as a brand, especially now that we’re part of the Blackstone family.
The acquisition of Blackstone was “the most significant milestone in the life of the business,” said David. “We are working to create an international culture and we are developing new channels. We are trying to innovate and grow all the time.
The company has an accelerator division that is making new games, like a Solitaire title, a new slots game, and other games that are slated for release this year. David sees the Accelerator as a sort of startup within Murka. And he said Murka tries to create fantastic worlds around his games to attract players to them.
“Murka has experienced strong growth this year and has made a positive difference since its acquisition by Blackstone. Obviously, the second quarter was a very strong time for almost everyone, but even so, they saw healthy growth in the first quarter and outperformed the market in the second, ”said Adam Krejcik, analyst at Eilers & Krejcik, in an email to GamesBeat. “We will be releasing our third quarter report in mid-October. The defining characteristics of Murka are a strong development team that creates great innovative slot content. I think their games are visually very high quality, and they were among the first to really incorporate role-playing elements into slots.
One of the tricks up Murka’s sleeve will be the increasingly automated auctions to place ads for user acquisition. This involves developing machine learning and AI, skills that not all companies have.
Regarding M&A opportunities, David said the company’s radar is on. David added that he was not particularly interested in real money gambling. It prefers to focus on the social casino gaming market and be more nimble than its competitors when it comes to seizing opportunities.
Murka’s audience is 50-50 men and women, which has contributed to his success. The company hopes to expand further into the casual gaming market to attract an even more diverse audience.
However, the business involves certain risks. Social casino games are increasingly under scrutiny as some user advocates claim that games are as addicting as real money games and people spend more money than they can afford to lose on. social casino games.
The entire iOS mobile gaming market could also be affected by an imminent change in the market, as Apple decided to block targeted advertising in the name of privacy. Apple is withdrawing the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), and a number of companies could see their ability to effectively acquire new users plummet.
“Sure, [this decision] has affected our market, and we’re looking at what’s going to happen, ”David said. “Like any business, we try to find our way in the dark. “
Murka worked with mobile marketing company Liftoff to explore how to acquire users with non-personalized traffic – without using IDFA for precise targeting. The result of the “limited ad tracking” method was good. In a test for Scatter Slots, purchases increased 53% over a two-week period. Revenue was 20% higher, return on ad spend was 3% higher, and costs were down 6% compared to personalized traffic.
This means that retirement from IDFA may not be the end of the world for companies like Murka. David said the company plans to grow by releasing more games in 2020. This year has been volatile, but David believes things will level off next year, with mobile games gaining ground in other forms of entertainment.
“It’s a tough market, but we’re trying to innovate and think about growth,” David said. “We believe 2021 will be better and the market will continue to grow.”
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