There’s something soothingly addictive about spinning a Pirate Kings wheel. That might be why this casual game, where your progress is pretty much dependent on your luck, has become a top grossing adventure game in 12 countries, and an overall top grossing app in two. Developer Jelly Button Games estimates it has gone completely viral in approximately six countries.

Pirate Kings was just taking off when we first wrote about it and it hasn’t slowed down since then. The Israel-developed game, available for Android, iOS, and browser, currently stands at 980,000 daily active users (DAU) and hopes to reach a million by next week. On top of 450,000 DAU in Malaysia and 100,000 in comparatively smaller Singapore, Pirate Kings has also started to see growth in Thailand and the Philippines.

While current growth efforts are focused on the US and Southeast Asia, developer Jelly Button will soon move on to leading countries in Europe and the Asia Pacific, like France, Germany, and Italy among others, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, and more.

Unsurprisingly, this unique new game isn’t the work of fledgling game developers, though the company is very young, with its oldest staff being just 32. Jelly Button Games is made up of “20 experienced gaming and product unicorns,” five of whom are founders. It is led by co-CEOs Mor Shani and Ron Saranga, and has raised US$1.5 million from Kaedan Capital, a VC that is based in Israel.

From L-R: Moti Novi, Ron Saranga, Ron Rejwan, Mor Shani, and Alon Lev in center.
From L-R: Moti Novi, Ron Saranga, Ron Rejwan, Mor Shani, and Alon Lev in center.

Pirate Kings’ success

Shani and Saranga call Pirate Kings a mingle-player game: a single player experience in a multiplayer environment. “The mingle play environment we have developed is a new experience in the mobile app world we want to bring for our mobile community,” they say. “It makes players feel like they are in their own game, on their own island, but with all their Facebook friends surrounding them at the same time, even if they are actually offline.”

We believe that when combining a multiplayer and single player experience, beautiful things can happen and people can communicate with their friends online without them actually being there.

This “super social” nature of the game means it works best when played with friends, and product and marketing strategies are built heavily around socialization. “We want to find users who would enjoy the social part of the game and create an all-around experience on mobile and offline – creating secret groups, users talking with their friends, and engaging emotionally,” Shani adds.

Saranga explains that Pirate Kings has a viral loop, where users send invites to friends once their spins are finished, so that they can earn more spins. Jelly Button has seen an amazing 80 million invites in just a day. But it’s not just that loop that has caused the game to rocket up the app store charts. Shani and Saranga believe that it’s also strong early adopters and how the game breaks into social groups that have contributed to making Pirate Kings go viral.


Moving on to the next island?

Jelly Button isn’t content with just making one viral game. Shani and Saranga say that growth in Southeast Asian countries has spurred the team to localize Pirate Kings for the region in order to provide better experiences to the community there. It will also be launching a new title following Pirate Kings’ worldwide launch in 2015.

In truth, what initially caught our eyes about Pirate King was the intense amount of internet rage generated by its many invites. Each invite accepted by a friend nets a user 20 free spins, so with a worldwide total of 80 million invites in a day, you can imagine just how many game invites had been sent to unsuspecting Facebook acquaintances. By extension, imagine how many complaints, outbursts, and mass unfriending sprees there were on Facebook.

Yet Jelly Button says that users who look past their emotions and take the game for a spin (literally!) often end up becoming very loyal users. So for those of you who have been doing nothing but hate on Pirate Kings, perhaps you could look past your emotions and give it a go. You might just end up helping it hit 1,000,000 daily active users!