Anthony Lai, Founder

Los Angeles, CA
Customers lined up in the TapBlaze game. View of the restaurant design in the TapBlaze app.
Customer ordering in the TapBlaze game.
Preheating the oven

Anthony Lai's recipe for success as an app developer is a mix of hard work, determination, and a passion for bringing realistic, everyday experiences to life through gaming.

Anthony was always good at solving problems. After college, he worked as an electrical engineer for a few years. While he enjoyed the work, he missed interacting directly with clients and getting consistent customer feedback on his products. He had always been passionate about gaming, but thought it was impossible for one person to create a successful game on their own. “It was actually the Google Play store that inspired me,” Lai recalls. “In their world, anybody could publish a game on mobile if you made a product that resonated with users and had basic marketing skills.” With that burst of inspiration, he founded his company, TapBlaze, in 2012 with a mission to create memorable entertainment experiences for players around the world.

After launching the company, Anthony spent hours and hours ideating on the first app his small business would launch. He wanted to center the business around games that were fun, educational, and would represent the diversity of the world we live in. Amidst all his ideas, he kept coming back to pizza, a dish that brought nostalgia of his upbringing. “Growing up in a melting pot like Queens, the local pizza shop was a watering hole for the entire community,” he says. “So why not create an app around that universal experience?”

“Being free and ad-supported is really important to us to keep the app accessible to all players.”
Customers lined up in the TapBlaze game.
Preparing an order in the TapBlaze game.
A slice of the good life

In 2012 TapBlaze released My Pizza Shop, their debut game where users can navigate a pizza shop and cook up their favorite pizzas. The game did well, but they had some challenges with user retention, even after adding challenges like taking orders. In 2014, Anthony and his team released Good Pizza, Great Pizza as a companion app.

Though the game was on the right track, it still took another 2 years of improvements to incorporate everything they had learned from previous games into the storyline of Good Pizza, Great Pizza. The output of all that hard work? A storyline that hooked users from the beginning, which started to show in the app store rankings. The artist he hired for the imagery actually worked in a pizza shop for 4 years and tied in interesting stories and experiences into the game play. "We wanted to create a game that was both fun and challenging, and that would give players a taste of what it's like to run a real life pizza shop,” says Anthony.

The game itself has been praised for its charming art style and realistic gameplay, with some reviewers commenting that the developers had to have worked in customer service. And it's recognized as an app that successfully represents different cultures and religions. “Growing up, it was common to see all different races, and cultures congregating at the local pizza shop,” says Anthony. “We actually never directed our art teams to make certain characters, but just to reflect reality and there’s been a lot of feedback from players that they were happy to be represented.”

A customer ordering in the TapBlaze game. Garden in the TapBlaze game.
The TapBlaze game is known for the high-quality and artistic graphics.
The secret sauce to success

Good Pizza, Great Pizza, like all TapBlaze games, is free-to-play, and funded by in-app purchases and ad revenue from Google AdMob. “Being free and ad-supported is really important to us to keep the app accessible to all players. We’re continuing to expand globally where some users can’t afford in-app purchases and don’t have access to credit card systems. For those folks, ads fund access to our games,” shares Anthony.

To Anthony, AdMob isn't just a monetization platform. "My favorite AdMob feature is the team behind it,” he says. “Our account managers really understand our business and the gaming industry as a whole. That level of customer service is priceless - it’s not just ad revenue to them, they help us improve our game, our overall business strategy, and grow our business.”

The success of Good Pizza, Great Pizza has allowed TapBlaze to thrive over the last 10 years and Anthony has big plans for the company. Applying what they've learned from Good Pizza, Great Pizza, the team has a new game in the works, set to release by early 2024. “What excites me the most is that there is still a lot more room for growth,” he says. “We’re only 11 people, but reaching a huge audience. The feedback we get from players speaks volumes to me that even though we are only a pizza game, what we’re doing has a bigger impact.”

About the Publisher

Anthony Lai is the founder & CEO at TapBlaze. TapBlaze games have been downloaded over 300 million times with games like Good Pizza, Great Pizza and Homematch. Prior to founding TapBlaze, Anthony was in the electrical engineering industry. Anthony has a BE in Electrical Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA.
Anthony Lai