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5 Steps for Building the RIGHT Mobile Game

May 21, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Peter Fodor, founder of AppAgent

Surprisingly, many developers invest enormous amounts of time, effort and resources in developing games or apps that are built on very shallow foundations. It’s great to have a strong product vision, but without understanding the market situation, competition, target group, acquisition costs and performance benchmarks, you are navigating blindly. As a result, it’s highly likely that you will run into trouble – wasting your time and your money in the process.

The cost of producing a mobile game has increased dramatically, and so have the marketing costs associated with getting your game noticed. Big publishers like Kabam work with strong IPs – Marvel in this case – and budgets of around $14M per game. They also have a large user base waiting for new titles. If you’re looking to compete with these industry giants, it’s vital to start the journey by heading in the right direction.

Here are five tips on how to research the market and evaluate the viability of your business prior to commencing development.

Step 1: Check the Business Potential

About a year ago AppAgent worked on the marketing of the game code-named Gods&Guilds. It’s a building strategy game similar to Clash of Clans, but based on Norse mythology.

The first thing to do if you have an idea for a new game is to check Google Trends to understand how similar games are performing. Are they fading in search popularity or still going strong? Rankings in AppAnnie can provide similar insights.

The trend will help you understand whether your new game will be timely or late to the market. Over time, players’ tastes evolve, and with product development taking between 1 to 2 years you don’t want to waste your time developing for an audience that is shrinking. In this case, the popularity of CoC has declined as Clash Royale has grown, demonstrating a shift to more casual and fresh format addressing a larger audience. Of course, it’s entirely up to you if you prefer a more niché, or ‘hard-core’ game genre than a mass-market casual approach, but by studying the trends at least you will know.

Next you should estimate the business potential of each platform. Priori Data or other market intelligence tools provide comparison of downloads and revenues per platform. For Gods&Guilds we identified that, while iOS accounts for 36% of downloads and nearly half of the revenue in strategy games category, Android generates large enough revenues for it to be used as the first platform, enabling us to scale faster and at a lower Cost Per Install, which is an important factor for a multiplayer game.

Also, it’s interesting to analyse the average revenue of games at the 10th rank, 50th rank and 100th rank in the top grossing charts. This helps you to understand the monetary chart curve and see if you can earn enough money, even if you aren’t able to reach the popularity of a game like Clash of Clans.

Newzoo provides great – and totally free – market reports and several paid analysis focusing at specific verticals, regions or aspects such as engagement metrics, monetization metrics, trends or consumer insights.

I also recommend Eric Seufert’s presentation: “Using (Free!) App Annie Data to Optimize Your Next Game” from Casual Connect USA 2016.

Step 2: Identify the Performance of Competitors

Once you feel that the selected genre has potential, it’s time to look at the competition.

You should check:

  1. Stats: rating, downloads and revenue estimate (Priori Data, AppAnnie)
  2. Proposition: what’s the unique selling proposition of your product (App Store/Play Store, ideally using AppAnnie)
  3. Key features: what are the main product benefits
  4. Reviews: pros and cons, the trend of the rating in time (AppAnnie)
  5. Visual style: how the app is presented in the store

For a better understanding of Gods&Guilds we compiled key metrics in a simple table and then visualised main characteristics of the game’s competitors on a matrix chart. Here we can see that Clash of Clans operates in a completely different league. Even other big games have much smaller download velocity and an average ARPU of around $3.50. In terms of visuals and concept there’s a big space for an isolated game play with realistic visuals.

The result of this step is to help you find a unique position and to bring something new to the market. In Gods&Guilds the approach was to build an army of heroes from Norse mythology and focus at multiple game modes, yet the existing stylized visuals conflicted with many other games on the market.

Step 3 – Find Key Audience Insights

Personally, my favorite part is the analysis of the audience because it helps to form a clear player profile. It’s the foundation for the product but also informs the design, the store listing, creating targeted paid ads and creating a compelling advertising message.

The best starting point is Facebook Audience Insights where you can select top games or apps in your segment and analyse audience by gender, age, status and even affinity to other fan pages. Facebook also conducted a segmentation of gamers which can serve as an inspiration how to think about user personas. It’s a little outdated, but it’s still useful: https://insights.fb.com/2014/12/18/the-many-lives-of-gamers/

You should ‘dive deep’ into the details to understand what users like about specific games or apps, if they are social or competitive and if they have a disposable income. The last question can be partly answered using a market intelligence tool where you can divide the revenue by downloads per country/platform/category and get a “Purchase Index”. This value, combined with an estimated CPI and difficulty to reach top charts, helps you to pick markets which you can focus on after the global launch.

critical part of target group research is an estimation of the market size. The trick is in using Facebook Ads Manager to play with overlaps of different groups and understand the audience size and profile, even on a country level. Even if you will use other ad networks such as Adwords or video networks, it’s a good starting point providing a relative comparisons of market sizes. Just be aware of specific countries where Facebook competes with local giants such as VKontakte in Russia.

Step 4 – Count the Profitability

In the freemium world, the business stands or falls on the equation of Cost Per Install and Lifetime Value. If the LTV exceeds acquisition costs, you’re able to scale the user base and grow revenues.

The LTV calculation is a topic for a separate article which will follow in a near future as there are different approaches, methodologies and other elements of the model. To begin with you should start by calculating lifetime from expected retention benchmarks and multiply the value by desired Average Revenue Per Daily Active user. This doesn’t include any virality or organic uplift which differs by game genre, platform and country, but at least it gives you a basic understanding of the LTV component. For more about LTV, read Yaniv’s post where there are different calculators.

The part of acquisition costs is easier to estimate. We at AppAgent use two free data sources:

1) Chartboost CPI Index: this index is applicable for games only. With a CPI of $3.48 in the US and Gods&Guilds multiplayer modes requiring a critical mass of active players it’s clear, we will need a big budget for paid acquisition. The solution could be a focus at specific time zones to improve a “local” matchmaking in the game.

2) FB Ads Manager: to start the CPI estimation, select a list of your competitors using Interest targeting, pick a country and platform and check the suggested Cost-Per-Click. If you divide the suggested price by an estimated conversion rate in the store (for paid traffic this could be in average about 45% for iOS and 40% for Android if you don’t have your own historic data) you get a quite good Cost-Per-Install estimate. If some of your fellow devs have a game within your category, ask for Conversion Ratio Benchmarks in the Google Play Consoles under the Acquisition Reports tab. For Gods&Guilds the current estimate for the US male audience using Wi-Fi connection is $3.65 which creates high demand on the user lifetime value to operate profitable campaigns. Yet great mobile acquisition managers can drive the price lower, leveraging new formats, original creatives and smart approach to targeting. Also, big IPs significantly increase the conversion rate and drive the CPI much lower, a situation confirmed by Will Newell, former UA manager at Space Ape Games on Transformers: Earth Wars.

From this point on you can move forward and build your own growth model where you include paid and organic traffic (cross-promotion, word-of-mouth, even featuring if you’re confident to secure it). Once you add retention numbers and ARPDAU values you will get a possible financial outcome. A basic definition of a mobile growth model is described by William Gill at the Mobile Growth Stack web.

Step 5: Test the Most Appealing Theme

Not many developers are aware of testing creative aspects of the game. Will Newell revealed at the AppAgent Academy that at Space Ape Games have tested the name tagline of the Transformers game using Facebook Ads with CPM bidding. With three fan pages the test used the same creatives but different product taglines. The winning name is well known today: Transformers: Earth Wars.

At Geewa, we recently proposed over 100 names for a new game. The final shortlist of four went to the Facebook test, where the main KPI was the Click Through Rate of a mobile ad showing the brand name as an artwork. My favorite Smashing Four reached a CTR of 2.6% where others reached between 1.1% to 1.6%.

Pixel Federation went even further and tested the visual theme of an upcoming match 3 game. “We’ve used FB ads and Splitmetrics to measure both the ads CTR and the store conversion. The winning concept called Button Blast reached 1% better CTR. In terms of conversion rate it won with 25% by far ahead of the second concept Music Match with 17.5% and Yummi Blocks with remaining two below 12%,” said Matej Lancaric, mobile marketing manager.

Conclusion

With high development costs, brutal acquisition prices and fierce competition, it’s necessary to lower the risk of failure and be smart about your business decisions. With the free data and tools available you can find a much more direct route to success.

These are just some of the things that you can do, and it’s likely that there are several other techniques out there that can help you to analyse the market and verify ideas. As a growth fanatic I would love to hear them. Don’t hesitate to reach me via Twitter or by email: peter@appagent.co.


Peter Fodor is the founder of AppAgent, a mobile marketing team jam-packed with experts available for hire. Since 2011, Peter has worked on the launch of nearly 30 apps for all mobile platforms. Today, AppAgent focuses on mobile strategy, data analytics, mobile creative services and user acquisition. Peter and his “agents” serve US based Malwarebytes, Polish based AAA gaming studio CI Games and one of the fastest growing startups in Europe, Kiwi.com.

 

ContributionsIndustry

Let’s Play: What it Means for the Gaming Industry

May 5, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Sara Parker, Writer and Editor

Gaming has become much more social and communal in recent years. Instead of being limited by your physical location and the number of controllers you have for a gaming console, you can connect and play with other gamers around the world. With this type of connection, new gaming platforms and types of interactions have emerged, such as Let’s Play. But what does this mean for the gaming industry?

What is Let’s Play?

Let’s Play is a style of videos that gamers make of themselves playing video, computer and mobile games. You can watch these videos on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. There also are different styles of Let’s Play. For example, Rooster Teeth has a whole series devoted to them playing video games badly. Twitch, on the other hand, usually shows off some of the most skilled players you can learn from and admire. Let’s Play videos are easy to watch from your computer at home or while you’re on the go with streaming options for smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 plus. If you pre-ordered the device from T-Mobile, you can get the Gear VR, controller and Oculus bonus content for free. Plus, with VR becoming more popular for smartphones, you may also be able to watch Let’s Play videos on VR headsets in the near future.

It’s Entertaining

Gamers love watching Let’s Play videos because they are a good source of entertainment. There are brands, podcasters and YouTube stars, such as PewDiePie, that put out these videos as part of their media and entertainment series. Many of these people became popular because they are funny, witty or sarcastic.

You also may be interested in these videos because many of the players are truly amazing. This is how Twitch exploded onto the scene. You can learn tips and tricks from these players, or you can just see how professionals play some of your favorite games.

It Encourages New Game Play

One of the main benefits for Let’s Play videos is that it gives you a way to find new games you want to play. Many Let’s Play streamers try to hit a wide variety of games that fall under different genres and styles of game play. For example, they may upload videos for several horror games one week and then focus on fantasy games the next week.

If you’re looking for something new to play, this is a great way to preview games. If you like the look of the video game world or the game-play style, then you’re more likely to feel confident about spending money on the game.

It Could Affect Sales

Many people within the gaming industry are against Let’s Play videos, though. Their argument is that you may get your fill of the game by watching someone else play it, or you may see how the story line plays out and not want to play it yourself. This would then mean that you wouldn’t spend money to buy the game, which affects game developers’ bottom lines. The result in the industry could be that developers produce fewer games.

Let’s Play videos have been around in various forms for some time and don’t look like they’ll be going away any time soon. The gaming industry needs to keep this trend in mind when they’re developing games and find ways to use them to their advantage. In the meantime, enjoy watching your favorite personalities show off their skills (or lack thereof)!


Sara started her writing and editing career in the world of technology and gaming. She has written numerous articles about the tech world and knows more about the cloud than she ever thought she would. She’s an Android enthusiast and is always looking to learn about the next big thing in tech. She is an experienced writer and editor who’s always up for a good Oxford comma debate.

ContributionsIndustry

5 Years of Social Monopoly: The Games That Excel Online

April 20, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Peter Williams, Journalist

Online gaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade, thanks in no small part to improving technology and the drive to be more social online. While traditional gambling games and online casinos have long since thrived in the online environment, the advent of social gaming, particularly on social networks, has sent the market for this type of entertainment skywards.

One of the most popular games of all time, as far as traditional board games are concerned, is Monopoly. The popular Monopoly has unsurprisingly transitioned into the online sphere, and players login in their legions daily to play a variety of different Monopoly and Monopoly-themed games. Social Monopoly first hit Facebook back in 2011, and has become one of the most popular social games of its genre.

ContributionsEventsIndustryNews

Esports for Indie Mobile Developers: Mad Skills Motocross Championship Deep Dive

April 4, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Simon Sundén, head of Esports at Gumbler

With over 31 million downloads, Mad Skills Motocross 2 has continued to be a success for developer Turborilla since its launch in 2014. This is primarily due to a loyal player base, many of which are involved in real-life Motocross, as well as partnerships with the likes of RedBull for exclusive events. Looking to drive more community engagement, Turborilla decided to up the ante in October 2015 by introducing real-money challenges via Swedish skills-based esports platform, Gumbler.

Based purely on a player’s skill, Gumbler brings esports to mobile games by enabling players to win real cash through placing money on their abilities. After integrating Gumbler, Mad Skills Motocross 2 saw players win upward of $900,000 in 2016 – with some individual players earning as much as $6,000 per month.

Having seen the high levels of engagement from the Mad Skills Motocross 2 community, Gumbler worked with Turborilla to host its first World Championship at the beginning of 2017 with a prize pot of $20,000.

For Gumbler, the goal was simple as its Head of Esports, Simon Sunden explains:

ContributionsIndustryPR & Marketing

Six Ways Chinese Mobile Game Devs Can Improve Their Western PR Launches

April 3, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By James Kaye, Director of Big Games Machine

Lots of attention is given to helping Western developers launch their games in China. Virtually every gaming conference will feature at least one talk on the topic. Yet, there is little focus the other way round. This is largely because Chinese developers will often use a Western publisher. For the few that decide to self-publish, they will often seek the help of an agency partner.

James Kaye is Director & Co-Founder at Big Ideas Machine

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with several Chinese game developers wanting to launch their games in the West. As specialists in gaming PR and marketing, this means we often see developers making the same common mistakes, time and time again.

If you’re a Chinese developer, a publisher or even PR who has never worked with Chinese game developers before, here are six core areas we think deserve your attention. If you’re not a Chinese developer, then many of these tips will still likely apply to you.

ContributionsIndustry

How Hollywood Has Influenced The Gaming Industry

March 28, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Mila Payton

A growing movement is pushing for Video Games to be classified as an art form, the same as music or movies. A medium for storytelling and cinematics that is on par, and sometimes better, with any Hollywood blockbuster in recent years. While movies have always been a “higher form of art” than games, this line is becoming increasingly blurred. In many ways, Hollywood gave rise to video games (in their modern form).

Without certain films, many genres of video game would not even exist. Without the cinematic, aesthetic and commercial movements that grew from the cinema, video games as they are now would be very different. Understanding these influences is key to understanding video games.

The Films That Defined Us

ContributionsIndustry

Ever Wanted to Experience the World of the “Whale”?

March 17, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Sam Forrest, Director of Global Communications at KamaGames

In a high class, sophisticated casino in the 1960’s, Sylvia Trench sits at a Baccarat table. Luck is not on her side and so after losing 3 hands in a row, she decides to up the stakes. “I admire your courage Miss…” says the tuxedo wearing stranger across the table…“Trench, Sylvia Trench, I admire your luck… Mr…?” he lights a cigarette and replies with the line that will become synonymous around the world with, action, adventure, sophistication and cool…

“…Bond, James Bond”

In Sean Connery’s first appearance as Ian Fleming’s super spy James Bond in the 1962 film Dr. No, the movie opens with 007 playing Baccarat Chemin de fer. Chemin de fer was the original version of Baccarat dating back to when it was first introduce to France in the early 1400’s and was a favourite amongst French Royalty. The same version is still the most popular there today.

From French Royalty to the modern day “Whales” as they are known, Baccarat has always been a firm favourite of the serious player. In casino circles, a Whale would be a player that has a credit line of between $1,000,000 and $20,000,000 USD and often leaves the tables either millions of dollars up or millions of dollars down.

ContributionsIndustry

10 Ways to Kick Ass at Conventions

February 27, 2017 — by Chris Natsuume of Boomzap

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View from the Marriott Marque Hotel in San Francisco, California, photo by Emily Baker

Let’s face it, conferences aren’t cheap. Hotels, flights, dinners… even a small 3 day show is quickly hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. When you factor in lost time for travel and preparation… You’re going to want to maximize the value of that commitment.

For this article, I am focusing on B2B conventions, where you are mostly interacting with other companies in your sphere of influence. Consumer-based conventions require different skills and strategies, but much of this will still be meaningful.

ContributionsIndustry

Monetising Social – How Free Games Can Mean Big Business

February 25, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Ian Jones

Social gaming has been one of many fundamental shifts in online gambling in the last few years. Online casino operators in particular were quick to move on opportunities in social gaming, and the result was a new, pseudo-gambling form of gaming, where players could compete against friends within their online social networks, or just against other players more broadly in the style of arcade gaming. These games traditionally differed from gambling insofar as they didn’t pay any monetary return, leading some to question whether these games could really be described as gambling at all.

Game developers found workarounds, allowing players to pay for in-game advantage, or for extra chances to compete against their peers. But now, some operators are taking the business model to a whole new level, with alternative streams of revenue being generated in the process. But to what extent could this shape the social gaming environment in the months and years ahead?

ContributionsIndustryResearch

The Next Level of Game Analytics: Biometrics

February 22, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Aleix Canals, Founder at Sekg

Video games certainly have evolved over the years and are different from one to another. However, there is one thing they have in common: the players. We all have a different experience while playing, as well as different emotions: frustration when losing, happiness to successfully finish a mission, angriness over an unfair or puzzling situation. Players all react differently during their gaming adventures, and it’s a major challenge to understand what makes the audience vibrate or, on the other hand, abandon the game. We wondered how to address this issue and be able to see what is on the other side of the screen; with the goal to create an engaging, long-term successful game, while understanding perfectly the audience’s expectations.

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