Our mission at Overwolf is to empower developers to make the games they love even better by building in-game apps, and share these apps in turn with gamers everywhere. The Overwolf Platform enables creators to release high quality apps in mere weeks and turn their passion into a well paying business.
There are plenty of Overwolf developers making a living off of their apps, but in this study we’d like to zoom in on the story of TFTactics, one of the most successful apps to date. TFTactics is also a great example of how fast the right app can make a lasting impact on gamers. We’ll review the factors that made it such a great app, and shed some light on what the lifecycle of an app looks like.
Have an awesome idea for how a game you love can be made even better? Read other dev stories on our blog, visit our developers’ website, or apply for budget from our fund to begin your own journey building a great app!
It starts with a dream
How can a creator working on game apps or community websites live comfortably off of his projects? It all starts with creativity and relentless dedication.
Meet JJ, a talented UI/UX designer with a passion for games and relatively little desktop programming experience. In the past few years, JJ has taught himself React.js in order to build database type websites for mobile games — tier lists, game information and statistics. While these were fun to make and got solid traffic, there wasn’t a way to make a real living there, and it was more of a hobby than a profession.
Back then, it was all about the indie life — JJ would personally reach out to community mods, Discord admins and other content creators who love the games he built for, and shared his work as fan content. Reception for his statistics and meta tips hubs was excellent, both from gamers and community leaders, and JJ’s expertise grew to the point he could build top-tier stats websites extremely quickly.
After releasing several successful websites for mobile games, and seeing swiftly growing communities of gamers asking for more, JJ’s motivation grew alongside his understanding of what users want and how they want to get it. Now it was all about finding the right opportunity and the right tech to leverage.
One small step for man
And then, Teamfight Tactics came out and immediately grew to become one of the most played games of the year. Since JJ had played League of Legends in the past, and loved the genre introduced by Drodo’s Auto-chess, he was in there as soon as Riot’s take on it was released, learning everything there was to learn and building that knowledge into a great website — tftactics.gg.
Perhaps JJ had no app programming knowledge or experience with Riot’s API, but he was the best man around for building best-in-market informational websites for games using his UX expertise. “I specialized in building these kinds of websites, and knew exactly what to build”, JJ said when asked about his strong suits, “It also helped that I no-lifed it from the moment the game was available, making my website the first out there”.
With his deep knowledge of TFT and the flexibility inherent to being a solo developer, he was able to sprint and put together tftactics.gg, outpacing bigger websites with a shallower understanding of the game. Having released the first hub with useful information, TFTactics.gg naturally got tons of positive feedback from TFT fans everywhere and grew quickly.
It was around this time that JJ and TFTactics started getting more and more attention from the industry. Influencers, including some of the biggest ones out there, used the website and made it a leading hub. “It felt amazing to be the first out there and see all these people loving what I built, it really motivated me to do more”, JJ summarized the rise of TFTactics.gg.
Following that initial success, JJ and his website started getting offers from across the globe, from small and large industry players alike. Some of these offers were pretty lucrative, including a full buyout of his assets, a full time salary and other attractive perks.
“It was definitely tempting”, JJ commented, “I was on the verge of signing the best offer, it was much higher than what I was making at the time. That’s when a new option presented itself: Overwolf”.
It was early July, less than a week after TFT went public that Avner, Overwolf’s VP of Business Development, came across the project and reached out to JJ. “When Avner reached out, I thought this was yet another purchase offer, but I knew of Overwolf from using (and loving) HearthArena in the past, so I was curious to hear it out”.
To JJ’s surprise, it wasn’t an acquisition offer, but an invitation to expand his business into in-game apps, having already built the infrastructure and content required in his website. “Avner was confident it would be extremely easy to convert TFTactics.gg into an in-game Overwolf app. Even though I didn’t have all the relevant programming skills to work on in-game products, he had no doubts that I could do it in less than a month”.
That’s where Overwolf’s support services came in, and as Avner broke down what we can do to help out, JJ’s position shifted. “It seemed like an app can be live in just a few weeks, and the potential was high so it was a risk I felt comfortable taking. I always valued my freedom, I like being my own boss and owning my own schedule — I don’t think TFTactics.gg would have succeeded in the first place if I wasn’t independent when working on it, so I went for it”.
And so, at the very last moment, JJ dropped the buyout offer he had and committed to building TFTactics as an in-game app. A short time later, JJ joined Overwolf’s Slack and started connecting with fellow developers and support staff, officially launching his TFTactics app project.
A Rollercoaster of Action
Learning the ropes and building a piece of software that works well isn’t trivial. While Overwolf’s developer success and tech teams helped reach a working prototype in less than a month as planned, it wasn’t an easy road.
Thankfully, Overwolf app development processes are swift cycles of iteration, and trial and error experimentation is extremely fast; “It was fun working on an Overwolf app because when you do something, you can see what you did immediately, test the app instantly, and the console logs complete the picture so you can iterate or put out fixes as fast as you’d like”.
Once JJ got into the rhythm of iteration and development, it was very fast to convert his website and database into the app — the website was built in React, making it mostly a copy and paste effort after developing the infrastructure.
“TFTactics’ first version was just a relatively simple item combination list with basic champion and synergy information, nothing that relates to in-game events. Since then I’ve learned a lot about what Overwolf’s platform can do and added features that respond to what’s happening in your game while the app is active”.
Noise Reduction Platform
While Overwolf apps are written in web languages, game logs and events require more technical knowledge to fully leverage, “Developing an app with in-game events was a new frontier for me. I had never done anything similar before, and my JS knowledge was lacking, making it difficult to start — but it’s not rocket science. If you have an open mind and some dedication you’ll figure it out (just like I did)”.
To make the challenge more manageable, Overwolf put together the resources required to set TFTactics up for success, “A huge part of event implementation was about getting help on Slack. Itay from the application team was and continues to be a lifesaver in making things work, testing new features and whatever else I needed to make progress — the whole team is amazing!”
“Having the ability to visualize my app made things easy for me. If you have a strong product outlook, Overwolf will figure out the technical and development parts and help you get what you need — that’s their specialty.”
In our eyes, this is a great example of Overwolf’s philosophy in empowering creators. We understand the strengths of each creator and are able to supplement other aspects of the project to keep developers busy with one thing, and one thing alone — making the best possible app for gamers to enjoy.
Now that the app’s first iteration was ready, it was time to go to market and let the world see what TFTactics was all about in-game!
TFTactics Landed with a Splash
The rollercoaster bore fruit, and in less than three weeks, a fully functional prototype of TFTactics was released to the public, making it one of the first available. Once again, JJ’s deep understanding of the game and strong work ethic made him the first and best out there, and TFT players LOVED it.
In mere weeks the app had tens of thousands of users, and it was time to ramp up our support. It was at this point that Overwolf reached out to top influencers playing TFT and signed on stars like Dogdog and ItsHafu to use the app and promote it on their streams.
“I followed dogdog and Hafu for years, back in their Hearthstone days, and when Overwolf signed them on it was honestly nerve-wracking. What if things go wrong? What if my app fails on stream? It was stressful. Luckily, I was somewhat protected because Overwolf handled all of it, all I did was respond quickly when issues were reported and chatted with the influencers to get their feedback so I could keep improving TFTactics”
Overwolf’s marketing team built promotions, landing pages and custom campaigns to boost the signal, and before we knew it JJ’s app become popular with TFT players across the globe.
Work hard, play hard
This could have been the end of the journey — a stable successful app is live, JJ is making a solid living from his passion, and all’s well, right? Not quite. The months since release haven’t been quiet, and JJ has been hard at work on new features, “The work never ends if you don’t want it to. You can always make things better, but you have to challenge yourself. If you set aside some time every day to think about what your app is missing or how you could improve existing features, you’ll discover there’s always something to do.” JJ said, and added “TFTactics currently offers TONS of different features, but I’m not even close to done. I have so many ideas and ways to improve user experience”.
Building a successful app for the long term is about persistence, not just creativity, and JJ summed it up best saying “If you want to do this for real and succeed in the long term, never stop thinking about what you can do to increase your app’s value for users”.
Much of the work was guided by feedback gathered from gamers and partners alike, “Overwolf’s feedback was super valuable in this process — even the CEO came to me a few times with a ‘What if we did that?’ question, and while I didn’t like some, I implemented most. Listening to ideas from users is also super useful. Nowadays, I get hundreds of emails suggesting features, and I still try to reply to every single one and tend to implement a majority of the suggestions”.
Now with a successful app, JJ’s moving forward and looking to the future, “I’m planning to translate to more languages eventually, but for now official LoL languages are the first goal. Adding chinese a few weeks ago was challenging, but was made easier by the community — I hope it’ll work out in the same way for more languages down the road”.
Make your dreams real
This story underlines an important fact — passionate creators can build Overwolf apps and make a living, even if it’s for a new and unfamiliar game, even if they do not have plenty of programming experience.
“Your app will always be as good as the time and effort put into it, not maintaining the app or adding post-launch features would probably kill even a successful app”, JJ mused, “But as I mentioned, it’s not rocket science, if you’re dedicated you can turn your vision to reality and build the app you dreamed of”.
As for us in Overwolf, we’re here to help you turn your dream into a real product used by gamers everywhere. Talk to us! We’d love to hear about your dream app concept and figure out the best way to make it happen. Whether it’s through marketing support, product assistance, quality assurance or any other challenge you face — we have your back!
Start your journey today and build your dream Overwolf app!