Clay Games

Case Study Sep 21, 2019


In 2014, there were over a million apps in the App Store and Google Play respectively. For game developers, discoverability was becoming a major issue. Additionally, reaching the widest audience possible meant developing their games multiple times to support each platform. For players, discoverability was also becoming a challenge. The stores had become flooded with shovelware, and it was difficult to quickly try games due to their large download sizes.

At Clay, we believed the web was the key to solving these issues for developers and players alike. The web is universal, allowing developers to target every platform from a single code base. The web lives in the cloud, so no need for lengthy downloads. And crucially, the web is shareable which enables a virality typically not possible with traditional media.

My role

As the sole designer at Clay, I wore many hats and was directly tasked with crafting the UI, UX, branding, and marketing materials. I owned the entire design process, from initial ideation through to shipping the live product. In this role, I relied on close collaboration with front-end and backend developers to help problem solve and provide feedback every step of the way.

Process and solution

A good game platform needs an effective way for players to discover and play those games. We would refer to this as the dashboard, and it would go through several iterations during my time at Clay.

The success of each iteration would be measured by the following criteria:

  • Engaged game plays (EGP)
  • D7 and D30 retention
  • Game shares

EGP was initially a tricky metric to define. Most mobile games are played in very short bursts, so it would be foolish to expect lengthy gameplay sessions. After carefully analyzing our existing analytics, we determined players would quickly bounce out of games they weren't enjoying. However, if a player remained in a game for more than a minute, they would typically stay in the game much longer, indicating engagement. So 60 seconds became our benchmark for engaged game plays.

Early iterations • Fall 2014–Spring 2015

My early iterations of the Clay platform focused on modernizing the general look and feel of the service and brand, while also discovering what would entice players to start playing a game in the first place.

While my team and I initially thought that ratings were important, it turned out that very few players would take the time to rate the games they played. Additionally, more often than not, a high-quality icon or feature image had more influence on whether a game was played than the rating. Subsequent iterations would remove the ratings and lean more heavily on large feature images to promote each game.

Continued evolution • Summer 2015–Summer 2016

Improving discoverability of our games was next to yield the most results. Logically, helping players find the kinds of games they wanted to play increased engaged game plays substantially, and resulted in better overall retention. I introduced categories to help organize our rapidly expanding catalog, and a way to search games by name or keywords.

We're now in 2016 and some of our user metrics are starting to plateau. Game sharing on Clay was originally built on the Kik messaging platform. However, the popularity of Kik had started to wane significantly. To continue growing, it was determined that we would expand to support other platforms. We would establish our own social platform, similar to Steam, Xbox Live, or PlayStation Network.

Final release • Summer 2017

This new version of Clay would be the culmination of everything we'd built so far, incorporating features from our other projects such as Kitten Cards, the Clay chat bot, and Starfire.

  • Large feature graphics, categories with promoted games, and bright colors excited players and encouraged exploration
  • Full-featured player profiles with friends lists and experience leveling encouraged competition
  • Groups and chat with expanded support for Kik, Facebook Messenger, and Discord helped players find and connect with each other
  • A collectable acheivement system—which integrated with our new chat bot—gave players a sense of ownership and accomplishment

Unfortunately, this would be the final shipping version of Clay. Despite excellent engagement and retention, it would prove challenging to effectively monetize the platform. Mobile web ads degraded the game play experience and frequently performed poorly. We saw mild success with in-game purchases, but not enough to sustain developers over the long-term. Ultimately, we would make the difficult decision to suspend development of Clay in 2017.

Outcome highlights

  • 8,000+ approved developers
  • 1,500+ approved games
  • 27 million unique players


Cristian Ruiz

I'm a product designer with extensive web and mobile experience. Since 2010, I've worked on well over a two dozen shipping apps and website that have reached in excess of 40 million people worldwide.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.