At Madbox, we pursue one dream; creating games that will make billions of people smile.
The foundation of that dream is completely based upon people, Casually Mad ones. This is because we believe that casual people can achieve Mad things given the right culture and values.
Here is the beginning of our journey.
A Tale of Two Studios
The story of Madbox originally started in 2015 with the merger of two passionate game making studios: Chou Entertainment and MadJoh
Born in 2015, MadJoh was created by Maxime & Jonathan, still just students at that time, to pursue one ambition: "Connect millions of people together" using creativity and technology.
With an intense desire to bring to global audiences an all new experience, MadJoh began creating two ambitious projects. Joined early by three passionate game makers, development started from our luxurious headquarters: Maxime's bedroom.
In 2016, we started with the development of JustDare, a social network aiming to gamify people's lives with unique challenges. After 10 months of development we decided to launch our first product. Despite all the passion and love MadJoh had poured into it, the players' feedback and the app KPIs did not meet our expectations.
We decided to kill this project and start a brand new game: Versus, a multiplayer Party Games with over 20+ mini-games that could be played on a single device or online with friends. After 6 months of development and 4 months of iteration, we failed to retain players, then the MadJoh team decided to shut down the game
Equipped with a bunch of new learnings, MadJoh was ready to embark on its next challenge where a new game, Tribs.io, was born. This game was based on a childhood game called ‘Chicken, Snake and Fox’.
In order to create this, MadJoh, after a first round of small pre-seed financing, decided to reinforce the team with new employees that matched both the culture company dream and ambition.
Tribs.io immediately saw a strong growth, gaining traction on the web with more than 1,000,000 players in the first month alone. Shortly after, the mobile version followed with very promising metrics. After less than 6 months, MadJoh had its first real time multiplayer game out on mobile and web. With multiple game iterations, tech hurdles and difficulty in making the game sustainable, Tribs.io was sunsetted and the project closed.
Killing Tribs was a tough moment for the company as we poured our hearts, time and passion to make this one and it was putting pressure on our small in-house studio.
After taking the decision to kill Tribs, MadJoh went bold (despite the negative financial outlook):
Strengthen the team's ability to create games quicker and learn from them. To do this, the last few months of earnings were invested in bringing on new mad talents to join what could be MadJoh’s last dance. This led to Mad memories where some team members were not living in Paris and were then welcomed by the rest of the team, strengthening MadJoh's culture and passion.
Overhaul the structure of the game production teams and reduced the number of people per team while also giving each one of them full ownership in game ideation and execution.
Provide complete transparency to all regarding the financial situation of the company and what was truly at stake.
6 months. That was all the time that was left for MadJoh to finally make a game that would reach the hearts of players. 4 months in, MadJoh had already released their 15th game prototype to the market. With each prototype came new learnings that were rapidly shared amongst the teams. Each team was made of two people divided into 4 mini-squads. This gave everyone a high amount of energy and the velocity that was needed to go alongside the level of ownership that they had.
Metrics were getting better and it was only a matter of time before MadJoh would have a hit on their hands. And with that, the confidence in the team’s performance, coupled with the positive culture, the call to raise funds was near.
And then, the unexpected happened...
Chou was a mobile gaming studio founded in 2015 by Jean-Nicolas, with a team of 5 passionate game makers. With lots of heart, and exploration, the Chou team worked for 18 months on their first game called Sand Wars : an asynchronous, PvP strategy game in a colorful tropical environment, where you draw the path of the tower defense lines. At launch, the App Store and Google Play stores both featured Sandwars, which was a great achievement for all the hard work put in by the team. Unfortunately, the game metrics did not work well and about 2 months after its launch, the Chou team learned the hard way that big production times would not be predictive of big success.
After this first let down, the CHOU Team decided to embark on the mobile-VR journey in 2017, which was at its very early days. The rationale was to surf on a new computing platform wave, and hopefully benefit from pioneering the VR era. The CHOU team developed West Gangs, a VR Old West Showdown game, in about 8 months. Half the time of the previous game. While West Gang became featured on the Google Daydream and Samsung VR stores once again, the success had not been found either.
So, in the end of 2017, with very little cash left, but still the same passion, and knowing that there was only one shot remaining to save the studio from a doomed fate, the CHOU team decided to go all in on what would be the final test for game makers : betting everything on gameplay skills, and doing it as fast as possible. The best area to prove it was the early-rising hypercasual wave on the mobile stores.
Sand Wars had been developed in 18 months. West Gangs in 8 months. Duck Slam, the first hypercasual game from CHOU, took only 2 days. No need to look for it on the Appstore Verdict: Retention D1 was above 50%, which actually slammed the team.After 3 years, and many learnings, we then forged one very strong belief; gameplay is king and great gameplay can be tested quickly. And the best arena to train, learn, and build our core loop & gameplay skills would become the hypercasual space.
Okay it is time to reconnect both stories.
Some moments cannot be explained by rationality. In Spring 2018, on the morning of April 25th, both Maxime and Jonathan met with Jean-Nicolas at Le Lézard Café in the centre of Paris. This coffee talk, which was supposed to last only 45 minutes as a get-to-know each other in the Paris gaming space, became a 4h-impassioned discussion around games, teams, company culture and the dream studios each of them would like to build. Until we removed, at the end of the discussion, the -s of studios to discuss the opportunity to build our dream studio together.
Maxime dreamed of seeing millions of people play the studio's games everywhere he went, like when taking the subway. Jean-Nicolas dreamed about building a mad creative team willing to live an epic journey from hypercasual to uncharted design territories and print the Madbox brand in millions of players hearts. Jonathan dreamed about building world-class automation tech to accelerate our game development cycles and scalability. And of course, building a culture all Madboxers would love, teams with a casual mindset and a mad ambition.
After a few hours, a professional bromance was born - that is what we like to call our « promance ».
The next step would be to see if teams would also fall in love, professionally, with each other. After a couple of meetings, and some beers obviously, it became clear that MadJoh and Chou teams were also eager to work together, on top of super complementary skillsets.
Heading to a well known video games enthusiast hangout in Paris called the Reset Bar, everyone brainstormed what would be the company's name moving forward. As we kept saying that the sequence we were experiencing was completely mad, we decided to keep it forever in the company name. Madbox was born, with 21 Madboxers, in May 2018.
Millions are playing
Two game makers (one from CHOU and one from MadJoh) decided to develop a game together in only 2 weeks. After the summer holidays, we tested the game in the app stores and the metrics looked incredible. Dash Valley broke the Top 50 downloads on iOS, just 3 months after we met. We also thought this would be the highlight of the year and once again, we were wrong.
Another team of casually mad game makers decided to create a one-button, physics-based rope slinging game that focuses on an exceptional game feel, Stickman Hook. After a few short weeks of testing, we knew we had something amazing on our hands. Something that we could scale into what would become our first global hit. In one of those casually mad moments, we decided to speak with our lead investor and told them that we were considering investing 100% of our cash-in-bank over 3 weeks, to scale our game to the top of the charts. With a candid, yet sharp, discussion we decided to take the shot. 2 months after, Stickman Hook became n°1 in downloads all over the world, both on AppStore and Google Play Store, and has generated today more than 200 million downloads.
Stickman Hook reached #1 across the world and in both the App Store and on Google Play.
Today, Stickman Hook is still bringing enjoyment to the world with over 200 million downloads.
The Madbox family got bigger with the opening of the Barcelona Studio, led by former friends and colleagues from previous gaming studios.
In 2020, despite COVID and the creativity challenges it brought due to remote working, the Madbox team managed to scale Parkour Race and Idle Ants to the Top 10 charts once again.
Let’s shift the table and pursue our dreams
As exciting as the last few years looked, we will never forget how tough it had been during our early days at CHOU and MADJOH. Many of the successes within the last 3 years have actually been built on the numerous failures and learnings from our early days. We still fail, and thus learn a lot. More than trying to rationalize every learning, we strive to get wiser after each prototype we enjoy offering to our players.
And now, in 2021, we're 70+ Madboxers with over 300 million downloads to help us push Madbox into the next chapter:
Keeping our development velocity to offer bigger and richer games to our players.
Heavily relying on pure gameplay and strong core loops.
As we explore uncharted territories, we still believe in being Casually Mad; a casual team with a mad ambition. This is who we are, this is what we do.
You dream about giving smiles to millions of people ? you can join us here.
Are you a potential Madboxer ? Then discover our values and take the Madbox test!
It’s still the beginning, everything is still to write