Metacore is expanding its portfolio after Merge Mansion passed 30m downloads and $135m in revenue to date, according to Appmagic data.
The Helsinki studio is growing rapidly and has more casual and midcore games in the works, CEO and cofounder Mika Tammenkoski tells us.
“The intention from day one has been to build a portfolio of games,” he says, “It’s important that we always have games in different stages of development, especially in the early stages.”
After the huge success of debut game Merge Mansion, Metacore is now applying the approach it took for that game to other concepts and markets, including the midcore space.
A small ‘phase one’ team at the Helsinki studio is dedicated to finding games with a market fit – games that pass a certain day seven retention threshold through services like Playtest Cloud. Once it is deemed viable, more investment goes into the product and team, who then build a scaleable game with six months of content and features (phase two).
Right now, there are three teams at Metacore, one working on Merge Mansion, another on ‘phase one’ games and another on ‘phase two’ games. More headcount is being allocated to expand the number of phase one projects testing for market fit, too. Merge Vikings, a merge-meets-Clash of Clans game, also continues to be tested in Poland.
“How can we replicate the success of Merge Mansion? That’s the phase we are in at the moment and it really is exciting,” says Tammenkoski. “We are such a young industry and we have a long way to go – I think we are on the verge of maybe finding something new here.”
“We don’t want to be focusing on one audience,” he continues. “We want to take advantage of what we have learned – we want to take advantage of the audience that we have already built up, but we also want to expand to other segments.”
Tammenkoski has been working in games for over 25 years. He taught himself programming before landing a job at Remedy in 1996, where he became part of the small team that shipped Max Payne in 1998.
Seeking an environment where “the learning cycle is faster,” as he puts it, Tammenkoski cofounded Sumea in 2000, a hotbed of mobile game talent that was later acquired by Trip Hawkins’ Digital Chocolate. When his stint there came to an end in 2009, he took some time out of game development to explore investing and consulting, but returned in 2016 with Everywear Games, an Apple Watch game studio.
In 2020, Supercell bought out the existing investors, and the company pivoted into casual mobile, relaunching as Metacore. “The pitch to Supercell basically was…well I wouldn’t even call it a pitch,” says Tammenkoski. “We were just brutally honest with them.”
“We said what we have, what we have learned, how we see the mobile games market, how we’re going to approach building games, and that’s it. We were in the very beginning stages of Merge Mansion – they believed in the team and they decided to come on board. It’s been really great for us, working with them.”
In October 2017, when Everywear was making Apple Watch games, Tammenkoski says staff at his studio were all playing and talking about Merge Dragons, a game his team loved but thought needed a little work. “I got fascinated with with the merge mechanic the way it did merge three – it’s a really great game but it also had UX issues, playability issues…”
Metacore then spent around three months making Merge Heroes, its own midcore take on merge, before seeking player feedback through Playtest Cloud. “We saw some encouraging signals but when we asked players who the game is for and what they liked about it, no-one said ‘this game is for me’. Or they started guessing that it is for teenagers…this was a clear sign to us that we have something here, but the positioning is way way off.”
The experiment continued when Metacore tested a flurry of game premises and mocked up screenshots. The mansion, grandma and granddaughter ideas started proving popular, so after six months of work on what became Merge Mansion, the game went out into the wild through Google Play Beta with just a couple of days’ worth of content. From there, the team was led by player feedback.
“We worked with the audience and we got constant data,” says Tammenkoski. “This became the backbone for the way we want to work – we are doing it with all of our other games and it’s the way we want to operate in the future.” Merge Mansion’s soft launch started in spring 2020, and it went global in September the same year.
And the sinister grandma? She was the result of player testing too, adds Tammenkoski. “We learned that actually we had been wrong about the game and the story in the game all along,” he adds. “Grandma should have an edge and should have secrets – that’s when we came up with the tagline ‘What’s grandma hiding?’ We learned that actually grandma is the main character in the game.”