Romanians favorite crosswords game, now in their pockets.

The indie way of making a game.

Alexandru Giuseppe Ispas
4 min readMay 28, 2020



If there are moments like “Unce upon a time…” which are shared from generation to generation, the classic crosswords game would be one of them. Nowadays no one carries a pen and a newspaper with them anymore, so this is how it got started.

Although, this classic crosswords game, which is called “Rebus” in our country, was so popular (some might say, that it still is) that no one was thinking to make it available in the digital space.

It was even called “The Romanians favorite sport”.

The client (my father)

My father is a crosswords “connoisseur”. 20 years ago, he published various crosswords games for the most popular newspapers and magazines in Romania.

First things first. We have started researching if there is anyone doing something similar in our country. Luckily, we have found a few similar games on the Romanian market which we’re doing pretty well but nothing like the good old classic crosswords games.

The challenge

How might we avoid being “just another crosswords game” for the younger audience?

Well, the most obvious differentiator was the content. We can create high-quality, unique content. For this type of games, it is not very much about the experience as it is about the content.

So, my father asked me for help. How can we create transform this classic pen & paper game into a digital experience?

Knowing his audience very well, and what people are looking for, I decided that we should build this first and not go into any extensive user research until we launch something basic which does the job pretty well. We transformed his knowledge about the audience into some artifacts so that we can have guidance further in the process.

The solution

The indie way of designing and building a game.

No budget, very little time, and not enough app development experience.

So, we decided to just build an MVP and test it out as soon as possible. This decision, as I’ve mentioned above was made because:

  1. We didn’t have enough time to put into this (it was a side-project after all).
  2. We already knew something about our audience. Just enough for making me enthusiastic about making this game.
  3. I have found a template containing a starter framework for allowing me to build this game. I have bought a license and started getting my hands dirty. It was built on Java, so I could put in on Google Play and test it with real users.
  4. I was lazy (lean product development).

How fast should we launch?

In most cases, we should launch as fast as possible. Because we want to have people using it. Why? Because then we can figure out if they use it, how they’re using it and if they don’t, why not? You can find bugs you haven’t found yourself. And you can get direct feedback from users to improve it.

The results

Buying that framework license quickly allowed us to create content and don’t focus too much on the visual side of it. Once we’ve managed to get a starting point(have few levels added for our users to start with) we decided to publish it on Google Play.

We created a landing page in which we’ve briefly explained the concept and add a download link.

Almost 700 reviews on Google Play.

In a short period of time, we’ve managed to receive a lot of encouraging feedback. We haven’t spent a cent on any advertising. I just shared the landing page link on my Facebook page and that was pretty much all.

Other results worth mentioning:

  • Now if you search for “crosswords’ in Google Play we are in the top 5 results.
  • Almost 700 genuine reviews
  • Featured in one of the most influential start-up related magazines in Romania.
  • Recently launched the iOS version.
  • 10.000+ installs
  • 0$ spent in marketing campaigns, just organic growth.

Here is a link:

Thank you for reading! ❤️

If you want to learn more behind the how’s and why’s you can find me on Twitter @agispas