How this mobile gaming startup achieved 50 million downloads and 1m DAU with one simple rule.

The Startup
Published in
5 min readOct 22, 2018


There’s a famous old saying:

‘Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.’

And most of us will agree the same applies to work. Hierarchies; reports; meetings; processes; tools. All have their merits, of course — but too often they’re overused, quashing creativity, autonomy and above all else, simplicity.

At Futureplay, simplicity sets the foundation for everything we do. Like all strong foundations, it guides our entire building process, from conception to prototyping through development and production.

And it’s a foundation that’s served us well. We close 2018 entering new heights having just hit two huge company landmarks.

Every day, one million players are now playing our games and to date, a total of 50 million people have installed them.

It’s got us all very giddy, and we thought there’d be no better topic to discuss than how we’re making it happen for our first contribution on Medium.

1 rule, 3 principles

Simplicity stems from our only company rule: No Bullshit. Everything else will follow.

No Bullshit means no egos. It means no politics and, well, no bullshit. Just a bunch of nice guys and girls trying their damned hardest to make great games.

Three principles guide our game development:

· Zero hierarchy

· Results over processes

· Everyone gets to play

Zero Hierarchy

At the risk of dropping a terribly overused cliché, Futureplay really is one big family. As one of the more recent additions to the team, I’m perhaps more qualified to preach this than my peers (i.e. I’m not your typical startup founder pumping out sayings without substance to try to get more people to like us). It really is true.

One big family means every one of us is equal. Everyone brings their own ideas to the table without fear of judgment or criticism, and there’s no command structure in place.

Everyone challenges — and expects to be challenged — with a culture of autonomy that’s designed to breed accountability, productivity and creativity.

Everyone owns a small piece of the company, so as you’d expect, there’s a collective determination to get it moving in the right direction.

With no middle management, there’s no need for reporting and no need for bureaucracy. It means we can focus on what matters: making great games.

Results over processes

We fail fast, and we learn faster.

Hiding in development and spending an eternity in the soft launch is something we find pretty frightening.

Instead, we focus on shipping games and updates quickly and leveraging quantitative and qualitative feedback to help us iterate, optimise and grow.

Battlelands Royale, our most recent title, has only been in development since January of this year. We soft launched in March and went global at the end of June, a little less than four months ago.

Now, the game’s maintained and improved by the same team of eight people who led it through development, with iterative bi-weekly updates designed to keep content fresh, drive engagement and increase retention. Since launch, Battlelands Royale has been downloaded by more than 15 million players.

That’s made possible by quick production sprints, a robust analytics system and a clear set of targets for our KPIs (which are, of course, set by the game team itself). Regular, structured feedback from community managers goes a long way too.

Developers, artists, and designers work off a Google Sheet and teams communicate within themselves and the rest of the company in open channels on Slack. Everything’s fully transparent, with progress and goals shared freely in a company-wide all-hands every Monday.

More often than not, that’s the only meeting of the week. We think it’s better that way.

Everyone gets to play

Good things come to those who play.

You can’t force creativity (we’ll be the first to advocate that), but you can foster it by encouraging an environment of curiosity, ambition, and self-development.

Here, every Friday afternoon everyone gets to take a break from their regular projects and work on whatever they want (quite literally) in Future playground.

We’ve had QA guys building prototypes, community managers learning Japanese and even coders writing music.


Because we believe the opportunity to keep learning not only helps us to feel valued, but also encourages the mind to wander; to pick up new skills that can then be applied to more typical projects.

For such lasting benefits, losing a few hours on a Friday is a small price to pay.

What’s more, our people come and go according to their own schedules. We’ve all got commitments outside of work, and a rigid office routine shouldn’t get in the way of those. We get the work done (and we get it done well) when it suits us best. Whether that means arriving early or finishing late is down to each of us as individuals.

We’re proud of our principles. But the best part?

We’re not standing still.

In fact, we’re growing pretty quickly, and we’re ready to make 2019 our biggest and best year yet.

We’re soon leaving our current office (eek — it’s been our home for the past three years) to move onto pastures new — to pastures bigger — and we’re looking forward to welcoming even more talented people to the Futureplay family.

If you like what you’ve read, you can see our open positions here. We’re always excited to receive applications from talented people, so get in touch even if you can’t find a vacancy advertised for your skillset.

For now, we’ll get back to doing what we do best. Adding anything else could overcomplicate things — and you know, we like to keep things simple.

All smiles!

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The Startup

Makers of Merge Gardens, Battlelands Royale and the Idle Empire series based in Helsinki, Finland.