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Nought to 55 million in 12 months

Tuomas Rinta tells us how Applifier built an empire

Applifier has done okay, on balance. Just over a year since launch, the Facebook cross-promotion network now has an incredible 55 million monthly active users, and a client list of around 500 game developers. Not only that, the company's entire ethos and business model is built on equality, fairness and mutual benefit.

Affable Finn Tuomas Rinta is the head of Product at the Helsinki-based company, working on evolving the models and metrics which are the backbone of the company as well as planning the next big thing. Keen to find out what Applifier's secret might be, caught up with Tuomas for a chat at Nordic Game 2011.

GamesIndustry.bizSo Applifier has seen incredible growth over the last year or so...
Tuomas Rinta

Yes! We started this about a year ago, and I don't think anyone saw how big it could get. We're currently at twenty people, we have offices in San Francisco, as well as Helsinki - the growth just keeps on going. But, we still have a long way to go. Our internal company mission is kind of to take over the world!

I think we're getting there, it's been a fun ride so far. We've built up an audience, now we just need to take that audience and give them the best tools for game discovery we can. We've grown far beyond just being an advertising network, or at least we're going there. We don't want to be an advertising network, we want to be a social discovery mechanism for games, in the future probably on more platforms than just Facebook.

Facebook's been what we've been working with so far, but we're wanting to go way beyond that. What those other platforms will be, time will tell. At this point we're just expanding beyond our network, one of those things is our Facebook application. It's growing, we have a lot of plans.

GamesIndustry.bizCan you give us a quick run-down of your basic business model?
Tuomas Rinta

Well it all started as the new version of the '90s banner exchange model. You advertise another game and they advertise you. What we did was provide a network behind all of this with a slight twist. The basic idea is that the game puts up our advertising banner and that advertises five to twenty different games. Whenever somebody clicks on it they get what we call a credit. These credits are then used to advertise that company's game on the advertising banner of other games. Currently we work with 400-500 different game developers who advertise about 700-800 games on our network.

We send about 350,000 clicks every day. We display about 500,000,000 ads every single day.

The numbers we're dealing with...We send about 350,000 clicks every day. We display about 500,000,000 ads every single day. So the volume is huge, but if you look at gaming on Facebook, there's a lot of volume there. Our reach in game developers is pretty large. Most of the big ones are using us to some extent. Zynga isn't, but they're bigger than our whole network combined, so they'd actually tip the network off balance.

It's very simple when you look at it. It's free for the developers, we don't take any money from viewers of the cross-promotion. Our business is in taking a small commission from the credits, which we then sell as paid inventory. So whenever there's a launch coming up for a new title, or a developer wants to get more traffic than they get through the standard cross-promotion, we sell it.

When you're the end-user, you can't tell which of the ads are from cross-promotion, which are paid inventory - we only promote games. To be able to run a paid-for campaign on the network, we need to approve the game first, agree that it's up to the standards of our other games. Even if you pay us money, we won't let you promote a bad game. I mean, if it spams your Facebook wall or something like that, we're actually pretty strict.

One of the reasons that the network works is that it links to good games. Users get used to knowing that if they click on a game on the Applifier bar, it's most likely going to be good. We get asked a lot if we'll advertise other stuff than games, and we've been saying no. One of the reasons we've succeeded is that we've focused only on games. Games we do well.

It's simple like that.