Arseny Lebedev went over elements a game should have to be fun during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “I initially thought that fun is a risk-reward thing, that fun is all about how much you are rewarded,” he explained. “But we’ll figure out that’s not really the case.”
After that, he went on to co-found a development studio together with Ivan Tkachenko who already spent 10 years in game industry. “We have been creating amazing stuff with the talent and energy of our team,” indicates Lebedev, proud of the growth that the studio has experience in the last years, from 2 to over 35 members. “Our team has developed the biggest games and IPS in the world, making us feel proud.”
A Cancelled Dream
But the progress of the company has not been continuously smooth. Over a year ago, they were given what seemed a dream project, a large mobile game with a large publisher. He claims the IP was his favorite of all time. However, a series of unfortunate events, including delays and corporate changes, led to cancellation of the project. He remembers, “I couldn’t sleep for weeks.”
Finally on one evening, he rationalized the situation and woke up the next morning feeling great. He feels this experience changed the way he makes decisions at Signus, simply because there are sometimes too many uncontrollable factors. He admits, “Now I’ve loosened up, and I think the team feels it.”
Relaxation Found in Games
For Lebedev, his idea of relaxing includes philosophy in seclusion, traveling the world, and of course, playing awesome games. Hungry Shark,Bubble Witch 2,and internal Signus projects are his current mobile favorites.
He is also an Xbox controller fan, following controller evolution closely since Sega Dreamcast. He is impatiently waiting for Witcher 3 because he also loves AAA games, especially those with strong story elements.
Finally, he seems excited about new platforms, especially tablets. “The iPad Mini is an incredible device! I’m still amazed something so small and light can exist!” he declares.
Neither Superior Nor Inferior
When it comes to business models for games, Arseny owns his strong opinions affirming that Free to Play (F2P) and Premium games should not be compared with the same criteria.
“F2P can provide amazing short bursts of fulfillment and joy over a game’s lifetime,” adding also “premium can give the same joy for a longer burst, but likely for a shorter total period.” “Neither design is superior nor inferior,” he concludes. Additionally, he points out the F2P empowers a title to reach a huge audience. His challenge is to create a substantial storytelling method within F2P design.
Because indies can develop a hit for almost nothing, on a profit margin basis, they can exceed the success of an AAA publisher. He expects console developers will also try to allow indies to develop content more easily. He claims, “We will see the return of the mods from the PC days.”
In July 2014, Signus Labs launched Hidden Fortune, which is its first hidden object game on iOS that allows play for real-life currency in the United States, thanks to B-Spot. By discovering and unlocking the objects, Hidden Fortune gamers can play just for fun or by wagering real money.
Winning Blimp specializes in science-fiction themed games with a 16-bit era flavor. Based in both Osaka, Japan and Florida, USA, Winning Blimp was founded in 2012 and is headed by Bear Trickey, a former game designer from Kyoto-based studio Q-Games, and Alex May, a multi-discipline graphic artist and musician. Alex May tells the story of Mosaique, a cerebral puzzle game.
The Birth Of The Blimp
Mosaique was a critical project for us as a team, as its development runs parallel with the formation of our company and solidified an excellent collaborative relationship between us as developers. Despite Mosaique being our second title, it was actually the first game prototype that we worked on together. Bear had been toying with a simple mechanic that involved a shooting device that traveled around a spline and shot projectiles at various obstacles, somewhat like an orthographic Tempest.
Bear was working with an old iPod Touch at the time and was having difficulty with the layout logistics of the smaller screen. It just wasn’t possible to get both controls and captivating level design into that small screen area. He decided to shift the concept from an action game to something more cerebral, his hope being that the puzzle genre might accommodate the limited screen area better. This resulted in the next prototype; the shooting device was now rotating around a square grid and the objective was to shoot objects in the middle with a limited number of shots.
This was the first prototype that Bear showed me, and incidentally the catalyst for the beginning of our relationship. Like many other game companies, it all started with a “Hey, could you help me out with some graphics for this?” The Blimp was born.
Without any concrete ideas for the context, we just threw together a quick placeholder virus-buster type setting where you control some kind of TRON-like unit zapping viruses on a grid. Highly unoriginal, but as Bear says, sometimes it pays to just jump first and think next. We coined the name “VRAXIS”, which was a mash-up of “Virtual” and “Axis”. I knocked up some quick graphics to get some momentum going.
For about two months, we wrestled with this idea, but it was like a greasy pig, constantly slipping from our grasp. After numerous iterations, we just couldn’t seem to find a good direction to take “VRAXIS”. Bear experimented with ideas involving disappearing and reappearing targets as well as a few other quirky twists, but in the end, we concluded it was all just feeling too ordinary. Who knew that Blimp cockpits had shelves that were so handy for storing sad, failed prototypes.
From The Ashes Of A Brick-Breaker
One day during a session working on “VRAXIS”, a frustrated and distracted Bear was struck with an idea for an action game that was a mixture of Pong and Breakout: a dual-paddled brick-breaker game that was played on a vertically scrolling play field. Bear showed me a loose prototype, and we both agreed that this idea had the potential to become something great. Our first pivot ensued (airships can turn really quickly when they need to, you know). For whatever reason, ideas came fast, and before we knew it we were releasing our first ever title: Ambi-ON.
Ambi-ON was less than successful. We had produced a game that looked good enough, had a killer soundtrack, and played well, but due to a few key shortcomings in the game design, too little effort put into marketing, a lack of practical experience with freemium models, and perhaps just a general lack of attention for the entire brick-breaker genre itself, Ambi-ON simply failed to secure any lasting attention.
This was the birth of Mosaique. Frustrated that our beloved Ambi-ON failed to garner any popularity, we wanted to seek revenge on the entire industry and create Ambi-ON‘s exact mirror image; an “anti-Ambi-ON” if you will. Where Ambi-ON was a dark action game with a particularly sadistic tone (it even has an “Ultimate Pain Mode,” as well as a cyborg that pops up to insult you and all humankind at Game Over), it was only fitting that Ambi-ON‘s opposite should be something that was serene, calm and light. We concluded that with some judicious massaging, “VRAXIS” had the potential to become this. Back onto the workbench it came.
Our Music-First Approach
For no particular reason, during Ambi-ON‘s development, I actually created the music first. As it turned out, doing it that way served us very well. We found that using music as a guide to keeping the various elements of the game consistent was actually extremely effective. Compared to post-it notes on a whiteboard or concept art, music has a far stronger capability to evoke emotion, and it’s that emotion that can be used as a compass to guide the design of a gaming experience. In addition, centering a game around the music also makes the planning and tweaking of game pace and momentum very easy. To fit with the profile of being Ambi-ON‘s opposite, I created a 10 minute long semi-ambient electronica track in 5/4, aiming for a peaceful, sophisticated and also accessible feel. This would become the spine of the game.
Bear started to work through ideas for puzzle mechanics that were more relaxing and fitting with the music. A game that came to his mind was one of his old SNES favorites Zoop, which had a great colour-matching mechanic, but was time-based and very stressful. He injected that Zoop colour-matching mechanic into “VRAXIS”, but left out the other white-knuckle aspects of the system. Our game was to have no time limit and very little pressure put on the player, but still needed some way to get a Game Over. We resurrected the original limited shot count idea from “VRAXIS”, and added it as a gauge style shot counter.
In line with the music, the mantra was “sophisticated yet accessible”. Puzzle games are all too often totally abstract (with good reason, in most cases), so to retain some sense of accessibility, we decided to ground the visual interface firmly in reality. This called for a design that resembled an actual hardware device instead of a software interface. The idea was that you would hold in your hand an actual functioning puzzle game, not a mobile phone running puzzle game software. This was the result:
Further tweaks were made to the colour scheme to pull it closer to the music’s slight tinge of sadness and melancholy. And finally, the name “VRAXIS” had to go. It was an awkward remnant of the old setting. We decided on the name Mosaique, intentionally choosing the French spelling for no other reason than it feeling more sophisticated to us (you guessed it, neither of us speak French) without seeming inaccessible or foreign.
The core mechanic to the game was completed, the music was done and the interface was in place. Unfortunately it was at this late stage that we realized this game would be a great experience once, but didn’t inspire much incentive for replay. Bear then had the idea of introducing a mechanism that would encourage the player to play the game every consecutive day for bonuses. As the game was completable in 10-minutes (to match the length of the soundtrack), this was the perfect complement. The short game length would impart little burden on the player’s daily schedule, and directly giving them incentive to play just a bit every day would keep them coming back.
Again, as a reaction to our inability to create a successful freemium game in Ambi-ON, Mosaique was to be proudly premium. 99¢ would buy you the entire experience. No limitations, no wallet-fondling, just good old fashioned value for money.
Mosaique Takes Flight
The release of Mosaique went extremely well. It was featured on a number of high profile sites (including Gamespot, C-NET, Joystiq, Gamezebo, and Touch Arcade), and also had a consecutive run of three weeks on or near the top of Apple’s App Store (New & Noteworthy, What’s Hot and Popular Puzzlers). Also, this:
Yes, that is Mosaique in Craig Federighi‘s demo of iOS7 during the Apple’s 2013 WWDC Keynote. Of course, an accolade like this does not lead to much in the way of downloads (who would see that screen and then go and buy the apps on it?!), but it certainly was a thrill for us and makes for a great story.
The 99¢ price point has meant that Mosaique hasn’t been hugely profitable, although it has successfully recouped all of our marketing costs. Regardless, we are simply happy to have achieved some modest success with a “proudly premium” game in the casual puzzler genre; a genre that is so saturated with high quality freemium alternatives. It’s also been a deeply gratifying experience having some degree of popularity for something we created together. It showed us that there is merit in the process we followed, and also great potential for the future of our creative relationship.
Patience is a Virtue
There was one interesting road bump in our development process for Mosaique: when you follow a process that involves a rough playable prototype that is eventually refined with finalized graphics, do not lock down the graphics too early. If there is any additional work required on the prototype to improve user experience, game features or replayability, by adding final graphics too soon, all you are doing is creating inflexibility and possibly reluctance to consider all options.
The visual and interactive elements of Mosaique were all fully formed at the time we realised the game needed more replay incentive. Had the game still been in a light, flexible and adaptable prototype stage, I’m sure that there would have been potential for a far greater range of solutions to the problem of replayability, and also greater freedom for brainstorming.
So for our future games, we intend to try and complete a fully encapsulated prototype prior to adding any finalised graphics. Hopefully this way, all the core elements of the game will be more visible without the distraction of pretty graphics, and drastic changes can be more efficiently applied if necessary.
Winning Blimp is gravitating towards platforms that are conducive to more interactive bandwidth and extended play sessions. They are always looking to connect with players, developers, and artists, so feel free to get in touch through Facebook or Twitter.
Abylight is a Barcelona-based independent video game development studio founded in 2004 by Nacho Garcia, Alberto Gonzalez, Daniel Lopez and Ricardo Fernandez and based in Barcelona. The studio has been developing titles since 1990, resulting in more than 60 titles for various platforms, such as the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, and Sony Playstation Portable. Abylight has also released games for digital distribution platforms such as WiiWare, DSiWare, PSN, and iOS.
After the initial development and publishing of Fish’em All! and Stop Stress for WiiWare in 2009, Abylight sadly found itself depleted of resources. Only a very tight core team survived and no financial room was left to invest in any kind of independent development. Around the same time, the Nintendo DSi was released and the DSiWare digital store was launched. Earlier, in 2008, Abylight developed Elite Forces: Unit 77 for Nintendo DS, which meant that we had several development kits and all the legal authorizations necessary ready to develop for the platform. Although technically a DS is different from a DSi (i.e. camera-wise), we sorted it out easily, just ignoring those differences in our first productions. Moving from WiiWare to DSiWare was not an issue at all. The decision to focus on the DSi platform would eventually lead to the creation of our first iOS project: AfterZoom.
An idea is born
Looking into what kind of games had been published on the DSiWare service, our studio head Nacho Garcia realized that there are only a couple of games on the marketplace using the camera as a game play feature. How can we play with the camera? What fun can we have with this feature? Hot topics at that moment were augmented reality, hidden objects, collecting and time management. This got Nacho thinking and one day, walking through a park and looking at the fallen autumn leaves laying on the ground in heaps, he imagined what would be seen if one was to use a microscope: there would be lots of tiny creatures.
And so the initial concept for AfterZoom was born: turn the camera into a microscope to capture microbes, collect them and exchange them with other friends. But how could we easily implement such advanced features into a limited console like the Nintendo DSi? The first challenge would be funding. A first draft was prepared to attract local investors, but with no success. So we decided to let the idea rest for a while (as so many ideas do), until a better moment would arise. The idea fell in the good-but-not-possible-yet drawer and Abylight concentrated on developing and releasing the Music On series for Nintendo DSiWare.
Looking for funding
The work we got from various services and developing the Music On-series did wonders for Abylight
The work we got from various services and developing the Music On-series did wonders for Abylight. Money was finally coming in again. Moreover, the Spanish Ministry of Culture set up a grant where a videogame can be submitted for funding. Long story short, on July 2010 we received a small grant from the Ministry to develop a game. The grant, however, required the game to have an educational side. So the game, at that time, was simply titled Microscope. In the summer of 2010, we produced an evolved concept of the game and pitched it to publishers in order to get the rest of the sum needed to complete the development. However, with no success.
Because of the grant requisites, we had to develop the game within 2010. Adding some income from other games we had released on the DSiWare service, we were able to finance the rest of the development of AfterZoom. The decision was made to downscale the game to concentrate on the three key gameplay features and develop it independently.
Finally, developing AfterZoom
Development started on September 2010. We cut down the planned collection of micro-organisms from 300 to 50 species, limited the A.I. (as originally the game should have been played more Pokemon-like) and disregarded the multiplayer feature, both from the technical and the gameplay point of view. Basically, we thought of the project as a prototype of what it could really be. Still, some issues did arise.
Issue #1: the gyroscope
We weren’t going to break because of this big issue, we faced the situation with perseverance
The Nintendo DSi is a console that doesn’t have a gyroscope, which is quite essential for an Augmented Reality game. This meant that we had to develop an optical flow algorithm to establish how the console is moving based on the captured image of the camera. The original Optical Flow Algorithm was developed on a desktop with a webcam, Intel i7 processor and using floating point numbers: everything worked just fine. The DSi, however, has a slow ARM Processor and uses fixed point arithmetic. So when we ported the optical flow algorithm the entire process was very slow, not even reaching 3 frames per second. Moreover, the quality of the captured image was very low, especially in bad lighting situations (i.e. indoors). These issues brought the team to the brink of desperation and almost capitulation. After all, this main feature didn’t work as planned, meaning we might had to cancel the project.
However, we weren’t going to break because of this big issue. We faced the situation with perseverance. We proceeded to optimize the optical flow algorithm: making endless image contrast tests, reducing the analyzed area captured, interpolating frames and assisting the player (when in a situation the game gets two ambiguous readings, it will always produce the expected result). In situations with bad lighting we added keyboard control to avoid errors. This way, we managed to overcome the issues and continue development on AfterZoom.
Issue #2: colourful landscapes
Surface detection is basically done by determining the dominant colour captured by the camera. The problem that arises is that depending on the illumination while playing, the camera of the console changes the captured colour.
In order to solve this and harmonize the game experience, we did two things. First, we reduced the range of playable colours, eliminating colours that could be easily confused, like orange to red. So when the camera captured orange produce the gameplay destined for red. Second, the game would assist the player, generating the required element at each moment in order to avoid ambiguities.
Unfortunately, after overcoming these and more issues the project was delayed. Besides, we weren’t sure if we would receive a worthy return from our investment. But at least we were finally working on our game.
Publishing, on our own
We couldn’t succumb to the inevitable need to leave a project behind after so many hardships
Several times we felt like the pressure was too much and we thought about just finishing the project and be over with it. But we couldn’t succumb to the inevitable need to leave a project behind after so many hardships and we really took the time to polish it. As a result, the development officially ended on April 2011. At the time, we already had 10 published games on the Nintendo DSiWare service. This meant we knew what we were doing and we knew some tricks. The first thing was giving the project a commercial name. The original one, Microscope, wasn’t good enough. We wanted a new title and we had a couple of requisites: it needed to start with an “A” and it needed to be a self-explanatory. We settled on AfterZoom.
After coming up with a title, we produced a trailer for the game, to be released on the DSiWare service. Actors, voice-overs, cameras… everything! We knew we needed to communicate our game as good as possible. Because we were directly talking to the final consumer – the kids – there was no mention of the educational side effects. The trailer focused just on the fun part.
The game was released in America on July 14th 2011 for a price of around $5. In Europe, the game was released on July 21st 2011 for 5€. As it turned out, we couldn’t have been more expectant with the performance of a game that we thought would not be able to turn into a profit. Sales numbers weren’t that impressive at first. But then, what normally would be a downfall turned out into an unexpected rollercoaster that we had never seen before.
Some time after the game was published, the sales were good, kids loved the game and Nintendo’s digital distribution channel was very supportive. On October 26th 2011, we published the game in Japan as well through Kawamoto Industrial. Albeit with a change in price: our partners felt that ¥200 yen games did better, which turned out to be true because the game immediately became a number one success in Japan.
Multi-platform, what else?
In order to optimize our developments and processes, we created an engine that allowed us to simultaneously work for several platforms
After the success of the game worldwide, we decided to adapt the game to the thriving platform of Apple: iOS and its AppStore. Because of this, in order to optimize our developments and processes, we created an engine that allowed us to simultaneously work for several platforms, such as iOS and Nintendo consoles. This way, while building this engine, we were able to also port AfterZoom to iOS.
Developing for iOS, we made several bad assumptions, like the iPhone being a lot more powerful than it really was. Graphically, we picked OpenGL 2, which worked fine on the iPhone 4S. However, the game had to work on older models too, so we had to optimize the engine and remove graphical features and replace them with fakes. Besides, the iPhone 3G lacks gyroscope, so we had to implement similar tricks as we did with the DSi. These issues only seemed minor when we were faced with the next issue: the business model.
From premium to freemium
Porting AfterZoom to iOS, we expected to release a fuller version under the premium model. We worked on an improved design, 3D graphics and smoother presentation. However, while pitching the project to publishers it was made clear that, even if the game was very well received, the premium model was not interesting at all. iOS was a platform that was dominated by freemium releases. Freemium, free-to-play, that was the way to go.
But, what did we know about freemium games? Next to nothing, we played some of them on Facebook, we had some colleagues explain it to us over coffee and we had gathered some knowledge from conferences on the subject. All in all, not much.
First option: freemium
We started toying with the possibility of releasing the game exactly as it was. Instead of selling it as a premium game, we would present it as a freemium. This way the game could be released almost immediately (summer 2012), and we could start monetizing to lower any financial risks, while at the same time keep developing the game. The problem was that turning a premium game into a freemium one does not only involve adding features, elements and shopping opportunities. It is about a certain coherence and goal, which can be adapted, expanded and evolved later on.
Second option: free-to-play
Top-selling games are simple and easy, usually a copy of a copy of a copy
The second option, the one we believe is the better one, was releasing the game free-to-play from the start. To do so, we delved deep into all the information available and took a good look at our game. From the start, AfterZoom used elements that were popular and easily found in F2Ps, such as collecting, time management, missions, et cetera. So we focused on each element and researched the most successful games in the Apple AppStore: how did they get popular? How did the games work? How did they monetize?
After seeing a couple of games, we realized a couple of important things: top-selling games are simple and easy, usually a copy of a copy of a copy. We either had an opportunity or damnation with our original and unique game.
Changing the design
Console games are closed, there’s no adding features to a physical disk. On iOS you keep developing and improving after the release. The first major decision was to turn AfterZoom into a more tycoon-like game. To do so in economic terms, we also had to change how the microorganisms would be developed; instead of creating original forms we used texture settings. We prepare a schedule of how the game could grow and evolve: which features would be implemented, when and how to entice the players to keep playing after the first try, week or month. This way we tried to make Afterzoom iOS-proof.
Currently, AfterZoom for iOS is still in development. However, you can still check out AfterZoom for DSiWare. Abylight is currently working on a work for hire project and the improvement of its own multi-platform engine Afrodita V.
Stolen Couch Games is a young Dutch game studio formed by six alumni from the Utrecht School of Arts who decided to continue working together after their college projects. A part of the team came together to make a multiplayer prototype for XBLA and PSN title Chime made by developer Zoe Mode in collaboration with the One Big Game initiative. Stolen Couch Games then reformed and expanded the core team with an extra programmer and artist. Gamesauce recently featured a post-mortem on their first game Kids vs Goblins.
Early 2011, everyone at Stolen Couch Games was still in school developing our exam year project Kids vs Goblins. Jay van Hutten, a fellow year mate, was developing a game of his own called Ichi. It was a elegant puzzle game that utilized a one-button mechanic in a way that didn’t feel gimmicky. The goal of the game was to guide a ball past a number of rings on the screen. By touching the screen you rotate bumpers, which caused the ball to change in direction. You could also hold your finger down to draw a line, once the ball hit the line it would travel back in the direction it came from.
About a half year later we spoke to Jay at a congress were he was demoing his game. I (Eric) shared my interesting in redeveloping Ichi for multiple platforms and making it a really great commercial product. Jay loved the idea and the day we finished Kids vs Goblins we were working together to make a bigger and better version of Ichi.
No developers were harmed during the making of this game
Because the core of Ichi was so sound, it wasn’t hard to come up with dozens of new puzzle ideas to make the game better.
Redeveloping a game is nothing new to us. Stolen Couch Games actually started in 2010 when we got an assignment from Zoë Mode to create a multiplayer version of their hit game Chime. The multiplayer demo we made eventually led Zoë Mode to develop Chime Super Deluxe, which featured some nice multiplayer modes. While the programmers were re-creating Ichi in Unity, Jay and I were designing new features to add to the game. Because the core of Ichi was so sound, it wasn’t hard to come up with dozens of new puzzle ideas to make the game better. The final product had teleporters, splitters to create multiple balls, objects that could disappear and a few more things. Nothing too fancy, but it all worked great. The best thing we added was the level editor that allowed players to create their own levels and share them online. Since then, 11,000 levels have been shared, quite a bit more than the 50 levels we originally included with the game. Ichi launched in June, after 3 months of development, which went mostly smoothly. The actual problems started right after we launched the game.
We knew that many people would consider Ichi as just another puzzle game, so we had to let people know how special the game really is. We spent about a week contacting the press about our game and we got a nice amount of coverage. But press alone won’t make your game a hit. If you read any guide on marketing for mobile games you always get to the point were the importance of getting a feature by Apple/Amazon/Google is expressed. We already got a feature on the Mac app store for our first game, but our published arranged that. We didn’t have a direct contact within Apple, so we had to come up with a way to contact them.
Luckily we had a few device IDs that belonged to Apple employees on our Testflight account. So we found out the matching email addresses and we send separate emails to every one of them. 2 of them, responsible for the iOS AppStore, loved the game and showed the game to the rest of the team. Our contact from the Mac AppStore was in love with the game. We Skyped for a few hours and everything was set.
We’ve seen developers doing no marketing at all for their games because they believe they’re games will sell themselves. This is mentality is wrong. Just look at the top grossing games on iOS. Almost all of them spend enormous amount of time and money on marketing. Only by spending time and money, will you actually earn money.
The lessons we learned from this is that you should be prepared for something you can’t predict or test.
The launch of Ichi went great. We were selling thousands of units a day and those numbers were actually increasing the days after the launch. But than something went wrong. Suddenly the game would crash once it has launched. This had never happened in any of our tests before. Why did the game crash all of a sudden? It turned out that the firewall at our server provider, which hosted the user created levels, was malfunctioning. Since we had never encountered this before we weren’t prepared for this. As you can imagine we were pissed off, but the gamers were even more pissed off. The 1-star ratings were poring in, so we had to work quickly. Within a day we made a quick patch that made the game run again. We submitted it and Apple was kind enough to approve it in record time. But the harm was done. The sales momentum the game had was gone. Sales plummeted because of the bad reviews. Instead of getting thousands of sales at $4.99 a piece we were down to hundreds.
The lessons we learned from this is that you should be prepared for something you can’t predict or test. We expected our server to send just numbers to the game, instead it was sending lines of random code. For our next games we’re making sure that the game handles these rare cases the correct way. One day of extra development time is better than losing thousands of dollars in revenue.
At the end of 2012 only 300 people out of 400.000 bought the in app purchase, an insanely low percentage
We wanted to use in-app purchases in the game to earn some extra revenue post-launch. We were thinking of putting an in-app purchase on the level editor. So if you wanted to make your own levels you had to pay a dollar extra. But we opted against this because the editor would generate content for the game. Content is important so we couldn’t make the overall package weaker to earn some money. Instead we asked for an in-app purchase when the player played more than 10 user-created levels. We guessed that only 5% of the players might create a level and 70% would play user created levels. More people means more revenue. Unfortunately this tactic didn’t work.
We launched the game with 50 built-in levels and player could play 10 user created levels for free. At the end of 2012 only 300 people out of 400.000 bought the in app purchase, an insanely low percentage. Why did almost no-one buy the in app purchase? We think it’s because people were done with Ichi after playing 50 build in levels. Nobody is going to play 10.000 user created levels, let alone 100. Ichi’s retention wasn’t high enough.
Getting a lot of players, quickly
Instead of letting our game die we looked at “free app of the day” deals.
A few months after the release of Ichi sales were basically dead. We were making about $15 a day, which didn’t get us one step closer to world domination anytime soon. So we had to do something. Instead of letting our game die we looked at “free app of the day” deals. The first free app of the day deal we did was Free App A Day (FAAD). In one day Ichi was downloaded 130.000 times. We were blown away by this number. After this we contacted Amazon USA if they could feature us. They loved Ichi and featured it as their free app of the day. After that, Amazon Europe featured Ichi as well. AppEvent did the same, resulting in another 30.000 downloads from mostly the Netherlands
Free app of the day promotions are great. Unfortunately it is unlikely that your app will become super popular once the promotion is over. We earned only $80 from the days after the FAAD promotion. But still it is better than nothing. One good tactic might be to get a lot of downloads using these promotions and then switch to a freemium model. You will have hundreds of thousands of players who will generate revenue though ads and/or in app purchases.
Critically, Ichi is a great success. We’ve gotten wonderful reviews and players seem to love the game. But commercially the game hasn’t done that well. We barely broke even on the development costs. Most of the revenue came from the Mac version, mainly due to the feature by Apple. iOS came in second, revenue-wise. The Android, PC and Linux versions didn’t make more than a few hundred dollars. Despite all of this we feel that Ichi was worth our time, it was great developing it and we delivered something we’re proud of.