A player-centric focus is the difference between an average app and a game kids love. When Kirill Lazackovich’s friends started having kids he saw the need for great educational games and started creating apps for them. Today his company, GoKids!, has a roster of apps with over a million downloads, and it’s obvious kids love the apps they make.
We chatted with Kirill about the process of creating apps, and what developers should take into account to succeed in the kids’ space.
Give us the elevator pitch for GoKids! What does your company do?
GoKids makes games for kids. We have two segments: educational apps and entertainment apps. The most popular game in our entertainment section is the Kids Game: Baby Phone. It was the second game we created and it has more than 10 million downloads on Google Play.
What was the big breakthrough for GoKids!?
The first games we released were not as popular, we saw a shift after releasing classical education games, like learning colors and numbers. One of our apps about learning colors became popular, and we decided this was the space we should play in.
What are a few of your favorite GoKids! games?
My favourite apps are Animal Farm and ABC for Kids. Animal Farm is my own game, I thought about it for a year and we released it last month.
What should a developer keep in mind when creating a game for kids?
The most important thing is to test your app on the kids audience. Before releasing you should create a prototype and get feedback from kids. Adults think differently than kids, and you never know what they like or don’t like without testing.
We work with several kindergartens who test our games. We look at how they play and feel with the game to get a sense of what components need to be updated before launching.
We also work with a children’s psychologist to understand engagement. For example, we discovered that our youngest players should never lose a game. It’s important to encourage them by winning the game.
What updates have you made based on user feedback?
The most important update we made recently was localization for games. Some of our games are available in 18 languages. In the kids’ space you have many apps for kids in English, but when you look at Spanish apps there are not as many, and for Hindi users there are only several.
What are the biggest trends in the kids’ app space?
In the previous years we have seen a lot of big players coming to the space, such as Disney and LEGO. This creates a challenge because the quality of the new apps is growing fast, so we need to grow as fast as them. If you look at the top three games in Google Play and the Play Store, you see that big brands are at the top. They have great marketing budgets, and have good games. The challenge is to compete with them.
How did you get into technology?
I have been in the IT sphere for 10 years already. I started to work as a quality assurance engineer, and 4 year agos I started as a developer. Right now I am a product owner, and do not develop the apps on my own.
How did you transition to developing?
If you are interested and like something it will be easy for you. It was interesting for me, so I started to learn it and it was fun for me. In the evenings I still program some of our games.
It started as a side project for a year and then I realized the games were actually really good and had a lot of downloads so I started to do it full-time.
What was the single best decision you’ve made business-wise?
I think the best decision was to divide the business into two parts. Right now we have two almost independent parts, one part focuses only on entertainment games and the other only on education games, and because the teams are small it easy to become product experts.
At the end of the month what are the key success factors you measure?
The main KPIs for our games are session lengths and user retention. If kids are playing for short periods we know we have an issue with the game, and that we didn’t analyse how kids are playing properly.
We also look at the number of downloads, but this depends more on your marketing strategy, and not on the quality of your game. You can have a great marketing strategy and get a lot of downloads, but this is not as important if you have low session lengths or a lot of users leaving the app. If you have a good product and users who play for a long time, your app will be popular.