Case Study: Lightheart Entertainment
Founded in 2019 by a group of games industry veterans, Helsinki based start-up Lightheart Entertainment are the team behind the successful Mr Autofire.
As a studio they strive to do things differently, with a unique culture that informs all company decisions - from development direction down to the office lunch - and drives their success.
We recently spoke with Lightheart co-founder Christophe Pardon to learn more about their culture and philosophy, the development and success of Mr Autofire, and how working with Heroic Labs and Nakama enables them to focus on the tasks important for maintaining and growing this success.
In starting Lightheart, its founders wanted to take everything learned over many years working at established studios, and some of the most popular global titles, and try to do it a bit better. As Christophe explains, “Ultimately we’re making games, building something that’s supposed to be fun. There’s no reason people need to be burned-out and unhappy to accomplish this.”
Armed with the simple philosophy that they will trust people to do the right thing, this 16 member team took Mr Autofire from prototype to release in three months.
This was accomplished by giving each unit - typically a team of just two - the autonomy and trust to get the job done, meaning this popular and successful title was created by just two developers, two artists, two level designers, and so on.
This flat hierarchy means that decisions can be made quickly, avoiding potentially costly issues in the long-term, such as the loss of some early user accounts caused by the lack of a backend server for Mr Autofire at initial launch. When early metrics showed impressive user engagement and promise for the game, a solution needed to be found and implemented quickly.
Having previous experience with in-house solutions, this would be their first time using a managed solution. After exploring GameSparks and PlayFab, the Lightheart team opted for Nakama due to the open-source nature and lack of any rate-limiting or consumption based pricing structure in the service.
“We wanted something that was battle tested. When you have a game with great metrics, that’s awesome and already a rare thing, you don’t want to waste the opportunity with backend issues.” - Christophe Pardon
Growing with Nakama
Despite having no dedicated backend engineers, and only two coders, the Lightheart team were able to quickly integrate and begin using Nakama. Speaking about the experience, Christophe said: “It was easy, and anytime I had a question I would get an answer right away - it’s like no one at Heroic sleeps! And anytime we’d request something, it was always available in the next release, the support has been excellent.”
Initially using only the Nakama Storage Engine for player progression, Lightheart quickly moved on to adding Leaderboards and In-app purchase validation.
Freed up from worrying about the backend, this small team was able to focus on growing their game instead. Released with only two levels, Mr Autofire now has ten levels for players to enjoy. This focus on adding content and maintaining quality has paid off with impressive growth in users, retention, and revenue:
- Impressive 56% Day-1 retention rate
- 40+ minute average daily session
- 10M+ downloads, adding 8M+ over the previous year
- $25M+ USD in revenue as of November 2021, a $15M+ increase from just six months earlier
With the continued success of Mr Autofire, the team is now looking to add Guilds using the Nakama Groups feature. A second title is also actively being prototyped, with expected launch in 2022, which will again build on the rich online features offered by Nakama.