Listed to be one of the next Latin American unicorns and best known for its board game and the crossword puzzle Trivia Crack, Argentine etermax wants to expand globally and establish itself not only as a mobile games developer but as a reference in game monetization through advertising and an artificial intelligence solutions company for any type of industry.
The company reformulated its identity in May, creating three specific brands to reinforce the three businesses in which it operates: etermax Gaming (games development), Flame by etermax (in-game advertising), and etermax AI Labs (artificial intelligence). Along with the new brands, etermax is investing in new talents.
“During the past year, we have hired 80 new talents and 50 of them were during the quarantine”, stressed Maximo Cavazzani, CEO and founder of etermax, in an interview with LABS.
The company wants to hire 120 new employees in the second half of 2020. Currently, etermax has more than 400 employees distributed in offices in Argentina (two in Buenos Aires and one in Mendoza, the latter one opened this year), in Uruguay (Montevideo, opened in 2014) and in Germany (Berlin, opened in 2018). There are also sales teams in Mexico (Mexico City) and Brazil (São Paulo) – this last one was set up in October last year. The Brazilian office is one of the priorities for the new hires.
How etermax was born
Cavazzani started in the app world in 2008, even before graduating from the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA). As a student, he created iStockManager, the first free application for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android to buy and sell stocks. Cavazzani ended up selling the app to TD Ameritrade, an American broker.
At the end of 2009, with two other friends from college, he created etermax, a company initially focused on software development and multiplatform applications.
A few months after its launch, Trivia Crack reached the first place in the ranking of downloads of apps and games in Latin America. In 2014, the game reached the U.S. market and broke records, staying for more than two months at the top of the Google Play and App Store ranking.
The great thing about Trivia Crack is that it is a collaborative game. About 200 new questions are suggested by the game community every day. This dynamic makes it up-to-date and maintains the interest of the participants. Since its creation, Trivia Crack has had 500 million downloads, and is available in 180 countries, in 34 languages. Putting all the games together, etermax has 150 million active players.
Etermax’s goals for 2020 and 2021
It was by discovering how to monetize its own free games that etermax gained expertise in creating in-game campaigns and ads. In 2018 the company stated to titles of other companies in Latin America. Flame by etermax is a business representative for more than 1,800 titles from companies like Sega and Rovio, creator of the successful Angry Birds, and has already helped brands like Universal Pictures and Coca–Cola, among others, to create their in-game advertising strategy.
“There are basically three ways of monetizing games: one is selling the game, the other one is selling things inside the game, and the third one is selling ads within the game. That’s the only one that really makes a game free and the one we do, as we do free games. For them (other companies) is too complicated to come to Latin America and try to sell ads, so that’s what we do for them,” explained Cavazzani. As Latin America, etermax’s CEO mainly refers to Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia as the largest markets in the region.
The artificial intelligence business unit also started in 2018. Through etermax AI Labs, the company seeks solutions to transform data into knowledge and automated processes. This is what the company did for clients such as Walmart, Banco Galicia, and Mercado Libre in Argentina.
In the case of Mercado Libre, the company created a chatbot, called Respondidos, for the marketplace sellers. “With our technology, they can answer between 70% and 80% automatically, by giving the AI technology information and then allowing it to understand the question made by the user,” explained Cavazzani. This business unit has developed more than 50 projects for different clients.
Last year, to reinforce this business unit, etermax acquired Cognitiva, a company focused on AI that also works with Watson, IBM‘s technology for the segment, in Latin American countries.
Among the company’s goal for this year, Cavazzani says that the focus is to increase the synergy between etermax and the newly acquired company, testing new applications, concepts, for different sectors. “We allow them to make these games so that they can solve problems from a gaming company view. At the same time we learn from them how to solve problems so that we can apply this for ourselves,” said Cavazzani.
When it comes to the gaming business unit, etermax plans to launch six mobile games this year. Since March, the company has launched five: World Crack Mix 2, Words and Ladders, Word Crack 2, Word Show, and Topic Twister. All, in general, are challenges in forming words and vocabulary. “We want to build technology to make more games in less time, and with better quality. We hope to double the number of games in 2021”, says the executive. In this period of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company saw the number of downloads of its games increase by 20%.
In the advertising area, the idea is to better explore the markets in Brazil and Mexico. “We want to get to know users better and expand business locally in these two other major markets in Latin America, in addition to Argentina”, emphasized Cavazzani.
In general, etermax’s businesses have everything to take off in this and the coming years. As LABS showed in the fourth edition of the digital magazine LABS Collections, the future of games mobile, and the number of new casual players, who prefer free and mobile games, is increasing exponentially, especially in Latin America.
In 2019, according to the game expert consultancy company Newzoo, this market registered $148.8 billion in revenue, more than the movie and music industry combined. In its latest report, Newzoo predicts that the gaming market will generate almost $160 billion in revenue 2020 and that $77.2 billion of this total amount will come from products made for mobile devices, an increase of 13.3% over 2019, surpassing PCs and consoles.
And the crisis? Well: “more than any other entrepreneur in the world, we (Latin Americans) are used to economic shakes, to problems, we are also used to solving them, building things around them, even if everything sounds like an apocalipse,” stressed Cavazzani.