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Mahjong Soul app icon

Mahjong Soul

Players discover a classic.
Mahjong Soul improves retention.

Mahjong Soul  ad on the App Store
Mahjong Soul reinvents a classic game with thrilling visual effects and storytelling designed to appeal to younger players. With Apple Search Ads, the gaming app focused on optimization and cross-channel integration to boost installs, return on ad spend, and retention.

The Results

14x growth in installs within six months of campaign management optimization.
30% higher return on ad spend than similar platforms.
20% higher day 10 retention rate than similar platforms.

The Challenge

To appeal to a new generation of mobile players, Chinese publisher Yostar started operating Mahjong Soul (developer: SoulGames, Inc.), which features a sleek interface and attractive animated characters voiced by famous Japanese actors. The Mahjong Soul team needed to capture the attention of young gamers in a crowded, mature category and keep them engaged. Raising app awareness in Japan would be critical for driving high-quality acquisition and efficient return on ad spend (ROAS).

As the most direct path to drive downloads, Apple Search Ads plays a leading role in driving quality growth, strong conversions, high retention, and lower costs.

The Solution

Optimize performance and efficiency with API integration.

After starting to run Apple Search Ads campaigns, the team at Mahjong Soul had limited resources to optimize for performance. By partnering with campaign management provider UNICORN, they were able to reduce the time spent on ad operations and analytics, make automatic changes to bidding, and improve efficiency. In fact, UNICORN helped expand keyword coverage and reach broader audiences, maximizing impressions by threefold in six months.


“Apple Search Ads offers the best visibility with players showing the strongest intent when they are searching on the App Store,” says Yostar CEO Hunter Lee. “With Apple Search Ads, we were able to attract highly motivated players by bidding on both category keywords and our own brand terms, meaning we reached new audiences and existing brand fans.”

Align marketing campaigns across channels to improve KPIs.

To better capture strong intent from players on the App Store, the Mahjong Soul team integrated marketing campaigns across channels with Apple Search Ads. During influencer mahjong competitions, they closely aligned timing and creative of promotion campaigns. By driving gamers to the App Store and investing in Apple Search Ads, the Mahjong Soul team ensured that their app was easily discovered at the moment players were ready to take action.  


“When we analyzed the data, it was obvious that creating synergy with Apple Search Ads delivers strong results. It’s our core channel for capturing strong intent generated by online promotions or influencer buzz,” says UNICORN Top Evangelist Yuji Yokota.

Invest to complement organic growth.

As a fully automated marketing platform, UNICORN used keyword-level performance and impression share to adjust bids in real time for Mahjong Soul. The app’s marketing team then used these top-performing search terms (like Mahjong) to optimize their App Store product page, including metadata and app description. This integrated strategy positively impacted their organic App Store presence, driving incremental growth. 


“The combination of Apple Search Ads and App Store optimization has a powerful impact on acquisition, helping you maximize your visibility at the top of App Store search results,” says Lee. “Apple Search Ads now drives 10 percent of daily active users and 5 percent of monthly active users for our app.”

Company Snapshot

  • Yostar, Inc.
  • Games category
  • Launched in 2017
  • Based in China
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