Tall Team

John Halloran, Co-Founder

Dublin, Ireland
Smash Karts promo image Smash Karts game
Venturing out on their own

After spending years at a major gaming company and a VC-funded startup, John Halloran and his team of game developers wanted to go independent and start their own studio. But first they would need a name for the company.

“We’re all extremely tall — our three founders are all 6’6 — and everyone in the games industry knows us as the really tall game developers from Dublin... plus we didn’t want to spend too much time thinking of a name,” says John with a laugh.

And just like that, Tall Team was born. In an industry known for long hours and high-pressure workplaces, Tall Team’s mission was simple: “No stress.”

“We wanted to create a company that used our experiences from those earlier years in our careers, but freed us up to be creative by removing stressful factors,” says John. “We didn’t want to worry about investors or fitting the corporate mold — all we wanted to worry about was making fun games for our audience.”

And in March 2020, after a couple years of building funding through work with clients, Tall Team launched their first game, Smash Karts. They soon realized they had a hit on their hands — but if they wanted to sustain their success (and keep stress levels low), they’d need a winning ad strategy.

A screenshot from Smash Karts
Creating a smash hit

“Earlier in our careers, ads weren’t used as much,” says John. “But only in the past few years have developers really seen that you can use ads in a smart way that works for gamers.”

“In Smash Karts, when players have their karts destroyed and lose, that's the point when they see a banner ad for five to seven seconds,” says John. “The timing and placement of the ad is in that perfect sweet spot — and those well-placed web ads drive a lot of our revenue.”

Tall Team uses AdSense, AdMob, and Ad Manager to serve ads across their mobile and web games. “One of the reasons we do this is because staying within the Google ecosystem makes things simpler. It helps that the ads perform really well too.”

“We have ads and in-app purchases, and as of now ads make up about 70-80% of our revenue,” says John. “We’ve built a game that works for users seeking in-app purchases, as well as those who just want to play for free.”

“We like that ads free up the design of the game, so that you aren’t just focusing on users who will make in-app purchases. The in-app purchase model forces you to focus on a small subset of users to make all your revenue,” says John. “With ads, you can reach those players who are enjoying the game but might not want to spend money on it.”

This accessibility has helped Tall Team build a community of Smash Kart enthusiasts. “Our discord server has 70,000 members from all over the world. We have many interactions with them. They help us shape the game and provide us with new ideas. Players share YouTube memorable videos of tricks they used to skilfully win a round or destroy an opponent.”

Balancing work and life

Tall Team has had no trouble delighting their fans while remaining a low-stress work environment — even as their personal lives get busier. “Recently one of our teammates came into work and announced he had a baby on the way — and then a couple weeks later I came in and announced the same thing,” says John with a laugh.

They’ve timed their release calendar to account for all the exciting personal news, trying to get a lot of their content done by August so that they could have the rest of the year to focus on their growing families.

“We’re building releases that are designed for millions of players around the world — but the workflow has definitely been affected by the number of babies that arrived in the company last year,” says John. “But that’s fine. We just made sure to plan for it. So everyone can work from home and have the time they need to spend with family — all while never forcing people to work overtime.”

“We like that ads free up the design of the game, so that you aren’t just focusing on users who will make in-app purchases. With ads, you can reach those players who are enjoying the game but might not want to spend money on it.”
A screenshot from Smash Karts
Planning the next big one

Naturally, fans are wondering about their next big release to follow up Smash Karts. “Of course, Smash Karts continues to grow and we’re having a lot of fun continuing to add to the game and support our players.”

“But we would like to start building out a new game soon. We have some ideas and we’re particularly excited about some of the technology coming out. We hope to use this new technology, WebGPU, to power our next game — which could allow for more ambitious design, more detail, and higher fidelity.”

For now, John likes keeping the team small and manageable. “We like to work at our own pace. One of our core values is keeping away from stressful elements that make game design less fun.”

As Tall Team continues to grow, creating a great work environment is a top priority — because in reality, at Tall Team it is all fun and games.

About the Publisher

John is a game developer with 20+ years of experience. First at PopCap/EA Games where he worked on mobile versions of their hit games like Bejeweled, Peggle and Plants vs Zombies. Since leaving Popcap in 2012, he has founded two companies, the second of which is Tall Team. Smash Karts is Tall Team’s first release and has been played by over 30 million players to date.
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