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How my game achieved success without promotion

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AxPetre, Nov 30, 2017.

  1. AxPetre

    AxPetre

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Posts:
    62

    Abstract

    This post is intended to be inspiring for beginner developers who wonder whether they can achieve success with their games, despite not having any promotion budgets, nor contacts in the gaming media, nor any other kind of helpful resource, except for their own skills, abilities, and vision.


    Game
    - "Turboprop Flight Simulator 3D";
    - Android game (iOS and PC versions planned for later in the future);
    - Free with only optional ads (no mandatory ads, and no purchases);
    - Ads provided via UnityAds, AdMob, and Chartboost (AdMob was added last but it's now the most important of the three);
    - Released on April 19th 2017 on Google Play Store;
    - Created in a total of about 14 months (not continuous time) by solo developer;
    - Updated for an additional 7 months after release (so far);
    - Made with no budget and no external assets (except an old version of NGUI);
    - No promotion (almost, see "Brief history" below);
    - 2.8 million downloads (so far);
    - 4.6 stars rating on Google Play Store;
    - More than 10,000 dollars generated (So far. Edit: note that the game isn't optimized for maximum revenue; for example: if it would have mandatory ads after every mission, then the revenue would almost quadruple).


    Developer
    - "AXgamesoft", but actually just "Alex";
    - Solo developer;
    - Fits almost every extreme geek stereotype (introvert, isolated, reclusive, unsociable);
    - Perfectionist, but lazy;
    - Almost no social media presence: never active on the personal Facebook page, no Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts but never used them at all, no Snapchat, not anything else...;
    - No money when started making the game;
    - Supported development with freelancing projects.


    Brief history
    I started working at my game in 2015, in an on-and-off fashion, in the down-time between the freelancing projects that I took to earn my living. The project suffered from scope-creep and feature-creep, to the point that I had to cut a lot of it just to be able to launch it. The released game was a severely downgraded version of what I initially intended to make, and it wasn't in a finalized state at the release time (and it's still not finished today either).

    After I released the open beta, I tried contacting "influencers", mainly online publications and YouTube game reviewers, but I had no success.

    After production release, I tried to promote the game with Facebook ads. So, I tried an ad campaign for 5 Euros which ran for 2 days, and although it reached almost 3000 people and did cause a noticeable "bump" in the number of downloads, it didn't lead to a sustained increase in numbers, and as soon as the campaign expired, so did that "bump". Overall it wasn't worth it at all, but it was just 5 Euros that I lost and not 500. After that, I gave up on the promotion attempts.

    In the first month after production release, the game didn't received much attention, and its install rates were rather pathetic, but were actually growing slowly and exponentially. On average, in the first week it would get like 12 downloads a day, then the next week 30 / day, then 90 / day, then 500 / day, so eventually it reached a sustained average of about 12,000 / day (with a one-time maximum of 30,459 / day).


    The "SECRET" for success
    The saying "If you build it they will come" is actually true, with one very important condition: if the thing that you build is good enough to compel the people who stumble upon it to tell others about it. The secret to release a successful product or service is to take advantage of the people's innate impulse to share information about the things that they consider amazing. Particularized to game development, this means that you have to release games which have HIGH PRODUCTION VALUES, or that are addictive, or both. Since the "addictive" factor is an illusive hit-and-miss thing, it's wiser to focus on high quality instead of trying to create the next "Tetris", or the next "Flappy Bird".


    What I did right (and you should do too)
    - Made a high quality game (for a mobile game within its category);
    - Made a game that looks good in screenshots;
    - Released it after a reasonable amount of development time;
    - Made a proper store listing page on the Google Play Store (including a little ASO);
    - Updated it many times after release (and I still am);
    - Tried to keep the in-game "annoyances" to a minimum (kept ads to optional only, and improved the controls many times in the updates);
    - Always kept in mind that the success of my game depends on impressing the users sufficiently so that they feel compelled to tell others about it, effectively doing the promotion for me;
    - Aimed for as high a rating on the Google Play Store as possible. This is more important than you might think, because I noticed that when my game reached a rating of 4.6, its download rate increased immediately (the very next day) with about 25-30% more than what it was when the rating was "just" 4.5.


    What I did wrong (and you should avoid)
    - Scope-creep and feature-creep;
    - Tried to promote a free game with ads. Although, if you have a paid game, then it might be worth it or even necessary to promote it with ads.


    What I didn't do (but you should if you know how)
    - Alpha and beta-testing with users that you know, trust, and who can explain in great details the bugs and the ways to reproduce them;
    - Translate the game in other languages than English (but make sure to have English);
    - Successfully contact "influencers";
    - Create and maintain a community before and after release (unless you are as unsociable as I am, in which case just forget about it).


    What you shouldn't do
    - Don't make a low quality game;
    - Don't make a game which doesn't look good in screenshots;
    - Don't show ads before the very first level / mission, nor in the midst of a level / mission (this is guaranteed to generate rage-quitters);
    - Don't make a game that relies on multiplayer unless you know for sure that many people will like it enough to sustain the online mode;
    - Don't release a simplistic game and expect it to become a success, because you might get demoralized by its (predictable) failure;
    - Don't wait until your game is perfect and fully completed, because you will never get there and you'll spend years and decades tweaking it. Release the game as soon as it's good enough, and don't worry if it's unfinished, because everyone expects more to come in the updates.


    What to expect if your game becomes successful
    - Users pestering you with questions about when the update is coming;
    - Users pestering you to implement their ideas in the game;
    - A few users who actually like your game blackmailing you with 1 star ratings unless you deal with their pet-peeves;
    - A few users asking you to release a paid version or to add in-app purchases;
    - Various individuals and companies contacting you to propose partnership (refuse unless it's Google or some other major name);
    - Various unknown companies contacting you with requests to add their "shady" plugins in your game (refuse always, especially if they promise amazing rewards);
    - If you haven't implemented AdMob, you can expect a representative from Google to contact you and convince you to use AdMob (which I did eventually);
    - If you're a lazy person, discover that you become even lazier once you have a comfortable passive income, and that your plans for future updates and games take longer and longer to complete. So lazy in fact, that you begin procrastinating by writing posts about how to release a successful game, instead of finalizing your game's update which is long overdue.


    [Update]
    A few words about ASO (App Store Optimization)
    After this post, a few users have pointed that there are games which have high production values, yet haven't achieved success, and an example of such a game has been shown to me. That game, although being of high quality, seems to suffer from insufficent exposure on the play store. So this section contains some tips about how to make your game more visible on the stores:
    • Give the game a good name. On Google Play Store (and most likley also on the App Store and Steam) the name is very important because the keywords extracted from it are the basis of the search and discovery process. Use a name that includes references to your game's type or category. Note: you might have to sacrifice the name's simplicity in favor of having the right keywords in it;
    • Create a good icon for your game. The icon is the first (and possibly the last thing) that a potential user will see, so it's worth investing some time and effort to make it right. The icon must be attractive, yet simple enough so that it's easy for the brain to make sense of it, even if it's exposed to the icon's image for just a fraction of a second (as is the case when browsing through the myriad of games on the store). Don't make overcomplicated icons, because they mght be impossible to be deciphered and analysed by a "busy brain" and will instead be interpreted as "noise" and ignored. Also, pay attention to the color pallette that you're using in the icon (and in the game in general): some color combinations are harmonious, while other combinations are just atrocious;
    • Write a good description. On Google Play Store, the game's description is the second most important source of keywords (after the game's name). Make sure to have a high ratio of useful keywords relative to the total number of words in the description. By "useful keywords" I'm referring to the ones that are relevant for your game's type. Example: if you're making a platformer, then the keywords you might want to have are "run", "jump", "platform", "platformer", "adventure", "quest", "treasure", "coins", "gold", "monsters", etc... Although repeating some of those keywords in the description's text is a good idea, the common wisdom for ASO is to not repeat any of them for more than 4 or 5 times, because the search engines might add penalties for over-repetition of the same keywords;
    • And, of course, add plenty of good looking screenshots and a trailer.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
    JamesArndt, eses, blablaalb and 39 others like this.
  2. willemsenzo

    willemsenzo

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    Thanks for this great post. :)
     
    AxPetre likes this.
  3. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Excellent write up. I had a similar experience with facebook and twitter ads for a paid game on Steam. $300 down the drain.
     
    AxPetre likes this.
  4. Ony

    Ony

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    this.
     
    Apposl, Teila, hopeful and 4 others like this.
  5. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Please don't take this as knocking your achievement. It looks like you're heading in a great direction and you've already achieved a bunch of stuff that many don't, plus you're sharing what you've learned from it which is awesome.

    Without further context, the income figure and duration you've quoted aren't what would be considered "comfortable" in my part of the world. You'd still want at least part time work or some other kind of income or support. And depending on your perspective and goals, you might also need to consider the 14 months of dev time you put in.

    Obviously this is highly context sensitive, though. There are places where you can probably live quite comfortably off that figure, there are plenty of reasons you might be inclined to discount the 14 development months, and "success" doesn't have to be measured in dollars alone.

    The reason I raise it is that I've heard many stories of people getting into games to make money based on success stories without realising the realities behind the numbers. Something which is a true success for one person might not be workable for another.
     
    theANMATOR2b, Robiwan, Kiwasi and 4 others like this.
  6. sokki

    sokki

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    Nice text and motivational indeed :) Pair promotion does not guarantee that your app will get traction even if its a bad app. What works, is that the app must be good in order to work, which is achievable (you as example) even without paid promotion.
    I'll just add that forum showcase, youtube videos, youtube "lets play" videos, is mostly free, but it could be a powerful promotion.

    Anyway, nice to see a good game getting a good way throughout the dense mobile market. Keep it up!
     
    theANMATOR2b and AxPetre like this.
  7. hippocoder

    hippocoder

    Digital Ape Moderator

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    Regarding income:

    It doesn't actually matter because people can't actually use any of the data the OP provided unless also doing a flight sim. It's a great story and the findings hold true with my own experiences (make something half decent and they will come) but the income side doesn't make sense unless also making a flight sim for niche flight sim buffs on mobile. It's pretty specific and different niches have *wildly* different income potential.

    Regarding promotion and exposure:

    Still, the advice given is excellent for any niche, but bear in mind flight sims are a very strong niche and people DO actively seek them out - it doesn't have any real competition vs for example, the FPS or platformer genres.

    Making a platform or FPS (again, just a popular example), people would not be actively seeking out your game with any real desperation because they have an endless variety of platformers and FPS games placed in front of them. This is where promotion will help, and I don't mean advertising.

    I would say that the advice is pretty specific to the kind of game that was made, and people need to understand what that means.

    The take away though? Make something good.
     
  8. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    You actually make some good points which I will address below.

    Currently, 7 months after release, the monthly passive income from my game would put me in the lower middle-class in the US (also keep in mind that I haven't yet released the iOS version, which I expect it to almost double the revenue). As I'm from Eastern Europe, the current income is quite comfortable for me. But the only thing that a person from North America (for example) would have to do more than I did, so as to reach higher middle-class levels of passive income with a game like mine, would be to release the game for Android and iOS simultaneously. Because of this, I think that the advices from my original post are mostly valid even for developers from countries with high costs of living (maybe except Monaco, Emirates, and such).

    As for the initial 14 months of development (+ updates time), the cost for those will likely be fully covered in time by the total revenue generated with the current game and the next ones which will be built based on the same engine / framework created in that development period.
     
  9. GhulamJewel

    GhulamJewel

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    2.8 million downloads that is very impressive! I was thinking at that many downloads you would have way more than $10000 dollars.
     
  10. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    The main reason is because I set ads to be optional only (all ads are rewarding in-game currency), and no in-app purchases. For example, yesterday (according to analytics) my game was started for a total of almost 160,000 times, but only had 51,000 ad impressions. So, you can imagine that if I had one ad impression after every mission, then the number would be somewhere around 200,000 impressions at least, and the revenue proportionally higher. In future games I'll have to rethink this and find a better solution that produces a higher revenue, but at the same time I don't wish to degrade the quality of my game(s) by bombarding the users with unsolicitated ads.
     
  11. Quingu

    Quingu

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    Congratulations! Making 10k USD in around 2 months is definitely a good result for a solo developer.

    It seem to me that you don't know why you are successful. "Make a high quality game" is not an advice. It's common sense. It looks to me that you got lucky with a very niche, unique game. You made a mobile flight-sim. I've never heard about many such games. Hell, even on Steam there are almost no flight-sims, and for a good reason: they don't sell and are hard to make.
     
  12. GhulamJewel

    GhulamJewel

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    Thank you. It is very motivating and a excellent write up as all the above points I fall into and can relate having no links and not into social media etc lol hence no one knows if i create something.
     
    AxPetre likes this.
  13. Refeuh

    Refeuh

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    Interesting post-mortem, thanks for taking the time to write the post.
     
    AxPetre likes this.
  14. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    This is survivor bias: Your game made it past the 'selection process' and you attribute that to factors such as production quality without looking at data of the entire pool (i.e. the games that didn't 'survive').

    The author of flappy birds could just as easily say that the secret to success is a frustrating game with low production value.

    Just because you happened to build something successful without promoting it does not mean its a general strategy for success. The stores are littered with unsuccessful games with high production values.

    - - -

    All that aside, congrats on making something that people like and thanks for sharing your story.
     
    theANMATOR2b, Refeuh, Kiwasi and 3 others like this.
  15. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    A very frank observation, but useful, I think.

    When somebody succeeds at something, us onlookers tend to think, we'll they knew what they were doing.

    Clearly OP knows how to make a good game, and clearly from this write up he is very intelligent and good at self-analyzing. And this doesn't mean that any of his conclusions are in fact wrong -- but as always, there is such a myriad of factors contributing to his success it is really almost impossible to boil it down to just a few key points.

    Nonetheless, excellent thread, both as a source of inspiration and good, useful takeaways.
     
    theANMATOR2b and AxPetre like this.
  16. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    It's possible that my analysis is not entirely accurate since the sample data only includes my own game and my own experience. I wish I could have all the data, so as to be able to extract the exact factors which contribute to success (or failure).

    Can you please show me an example of such a game on Google Play Store: free game, with high production values, which was released at least 6 months ago, and didn't achieved at least 500,000 downloads yet. Further restrictions: that game must not be one that crashes a lot, nor one that has atrocious controls, nor one that overwhelms the player with ads, nor one that is essentially just a short free demo requiring in-app purchases to continue playing, because all of these make the players unwilling to recommend such a game to others, thus almost ensuring failure. I'm really curios to see a free game that has all what is needed to succeed, and yet it failed, because in my browsing on Google Play I have yet to encounter such a game, although I found many that had 1M+ downloads while being kinda meh.
     
  17. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    If that's the case then you must have generated considerably more than $10,000. I live in a rural part of Virginia and the rent here can easily approach $1,000 per month and in the nearby cities the rent will always be above that mark unless you manage to qualify for low income housing.

    Of course there are some exceptionally cheap places to live but of the ones I'm familiar with none of them have Internet.
     
  18. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    It's more but not a lot more.
    Also I should make it clearer: out of the 7 months since release, just the past 3 months account for the most of the total earnings, as the monthly income has been increasing steadily as my game's user base increases. So, don't think that in all the months since release, the earnings have been at the level I mentioned in that quote. In the first month the earnings were almost zero, in the next three months they were so-so, then it begun pulling strongly.

    Yeah, those costs make things much harder for an independent developer. I don't know if I could have sustained my game's development with freelancer projects if I had such high expenses.
     
  19. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    Firstly your game is a critical success in terms of its downloads/ratings but commercial success only based on your very low threshold.

    A good definition of commercial success is one of the criteria that Indie Fund use as part of their investment thesis: "Do we think the game will make enough money so we can recoup our investment and the developer can make their next game without any outside funding?"

    14 months + another 14 months to make the next game. For me with a family of 6 in Melbourne thats 250k minimum (and that would involve changing my lifestyle significantly e.g. moving the kids out of private schools, etc ).

    Now I think with the high ratings and number of downloads a good monetisation strategy that doesn't sacrifice your ratings could easily make you 250k+. So I think your game WILL be a commercial success, but at this stage by many peoples criteria it is not.

    As to your challenge, this was easy, took me 30 seconds to find this:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FrozenBots.Maxim
    - 4+ star rating
    - Under 500k Downloads
    - No complaints of crashing.
    - Over a year old.
    - Free with No ads (or at least so few that I didn't see one in ten minutes of play).
    - Higher production quality (graphics/UI at least) than Turboprop.
    - Heaps of content.
    - Controls feel really good which is quite hard for platformer on mobile.

    But there are literally hundreds. Type in any generic name/genre/etc, set threshold to 4 stars, and scroll down a few pages. Click games that have names and icons that look like the publisher cares. About 1 in 5 will be games quality indie games, with no reports of crashes, few ads, low downloads, etc.

    And don't forget the long tail, there are hundreds of thousands of games with under a thousand downloads. They aren't all bad.

    EDIT:

    Production quality is one factor which can help in building a successful game. However it's also a factor that has a significant cost (it can take a lot more money and/or time to build a high quality game), and thus needs to be treated with some caution. On the other hand there's more to life than money, and producing a high quality game is typically more satisfying in the long run.

    In the end I dispute your premise that high production quality is either mandatory or sufficient to achieving commercial success. Its not mandatory because obviously there are lot of crappy games making money, and not sufficient because as per above there are a lot of quality games not making money.

    But its pointless to keep arguing. I've made my point, you are welcome to promote your own :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
    theANMATOR2b, Kiwasi and angrypenguin like this.
  20. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    Yeah, when I meant successful, I was referring primarily at downloads and ratings.
    As for commercial success, as I mentioned in other replies and as you point out, some tweaks to the monetisation strategy would easily make it a commercial success too, according to higher standards.

    Yeah, I looked at that game, and indeed it seems to be high quality, yet not successful enough, which is a bit strange for me, and seems to question my assumptions.
    I did found a few things wrong with the game you exemplified, and while I don't know if they completely explain its lack of success, they almost certainly contribute to it:
    • The game's name "Maxim the robot" doesn't include any reference to the type of game that it is, which harms its search ranking and organic discovery on the stores. Better names would have been: "Maxim the jumping robot", or "Maxim the Robot: Run & Jump", or something similar which includes references to the game's type. And the greatest name would have been "MARIO the Robot: Run & Jump";
    • The game's icon is not good. To be clear, it looks great, its color palette is very attractive, but its problem is that is indecipherable for a "busy" brain. When one scrolls through the huge listing of platformer games, the brain is innundated with imagery which have to be quickly analysed and categorized. Images that are unclear get treated as noise and ignored. The icon for "Maxim the robot" is essentially just a colorful noise for a "busy" brain and this harms its organic discovery also;
    • The game has a "Family Friendly" badge. This is a bonus for a parent looking for a safe game for their child, but it's a malus for a 12 year old kid, to whom the "Family Friendly" thing just means "BOOORING". And not only that badge is the problem, but I played the game for a bit and it oozes "Family Friendly" in the graphics style and especially the music. I'm not sure what the target demographic for the platformer genre is, but a "too safe" style might be more repellent than attractive;
    • The game's store listing isn't properly optimized for keywords. The ratio between useful keywords and total word count seems small. By "useful keywords" I'm refering to the ones assciated with platformer games: "run", "jump", "explore", "discover", "adventure", "treasure", "monsters", "challenges", etc...;
    • The game doens't rank at all when searching for "Mario-like games". Other games from the same category manage to rank for that by including in their title or description the "Super" keyword, which in the search engine links to "Super-Mario";
    • The game is a bit large at 78 MB package and 145 MB installed. This is probably a small factor (which is why I placed it last on this list), but it is a factor. My own game is half that size and yet I keep getting users who tell me that they had to uninstall my game to make room on their devices and then they reinstall it at a later date (FYI: they tend to mention this in the context of losing their progress because my game doesn't have cloud saving).
    So, yes there are other factors than quality at play and I did mentioned the ones related to store listing in the original post, but I should have probably emphasized them more.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
    theANMATOR2b and angrypenguin like this.
  21. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    That's important information, because I was going to point out that ~$20k a year - the figure I extrapolated from your numbers - is not what I'd call "lower middle class".

    Also keep in mind that business income is not the same as personal income. A sole-proprietor business earning, say, $60k is not the same as the individual in question getting paid a $60k salary. Because if you're working for someone for a salary they cover your working costs and pay you, whereas if you're working for yourself then you have to cover your costs out of that income.

    Again, I'm not knocking you or your success and achievements. I'm pointing out that for anyone looking at this as an example, they need to do the research and the full math for themselves taking everything about their own circumstances into account. Here's one of many examples of someone who didn't do that.

    Or you could try promoting it. ;)

    The first thing I always think when people say "I succeeded despite not doing the helpful thing that everyone says to do" is "sweet, how much better could you have done if you did follow the advice?" Sometimes the answer will be "not a lot", but only sometimes.

    I tried to use the names of similar famous games for search terms when putting one of my own early titles up years ago, and even the automated submission system told me to get lost. Maybe things have changed, but I suspect that using a key competitor's main title word right at the front of your own title might be a non-starter.
     
  22. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    In my case I don't think is worth it. When I tried that ad campaign on Facebook I spent 5 Euros or almost 6 Dollars and I estimate that I got between 40 and 60 installs worth of that money. Let's be generous and say 60; that means one install cost me 10 cents, which is not bad, in fact I think is even better than what advertisment networks promise. But the problem is that the revenue per install in my game is a lot lower than 10 cents. Now, it can be assumed that the person to whom I successfully advertised my game will bring some friends too, and maybe those friends will bring some other friends of their own, but I can't be sure if that reach will be 1 more user or 100 more users. Also my game has no shortage of new users installing it right now, so I don't really need this currently. And is much easier, cheaper, and reliable for me to tweak the monetisation method inside my game, instead of spending thousands of Dollars to acquire more installs.

    Yeah, I think the big companies like Nintendo have trademarked those names extensively.
    But there is a way around this: Suppose you want your game to rank for the keyword "Mario". Then the easiest way is to use an alteration of that name with a letter or two changed to adjacent ones on the keyboard: "Nario", "Jario", "Maruo", "Naruo", "Jaruo", etc... That might work because the system takes in consideration the possibility that when the user typed "Mario" in the search box, that he/she might have accidentally pressed on the wrong keys close to the intended ones, so "Nario", "Jario", etc might also show up in the results. I know this is kinda of a dirty exploit, but if you made a good game, yet due to some obscure reasons it ends up buried in the store, then it's worth trying more desperate measures.
     
  23. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    The Secret Maryo Chronicles. Searching for "Mario" never resulted in "Maryo" for the ten pages of results I checked.

    http://www.secretmaryo.org/

    Granted the keys are a bit further away but the pronunciation is very close to the real name.
     
  24. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    Well, I wouldn't expect it to. You replaced "i" with "y", but these letters are NOT ADJACENT to each other on the keyboard, which is what I was talking about.
     
  25. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    I would have expected it. Pronunciation aside the game is literally described as a Super Mario clone and has been around for ten years. If it isn't being found whatsoever I have little faith that inserting a different character would find an unknown game that just appeared on the market.

    Most likely the results for inserting an adjacent letter would be identical to what they are now... results for "Mario".
     
  26. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Even big businesses are having issues with that these days. Still, that's not the only way to promote something.
     
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  27. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Well, you are essentially promoting it with this thread just by mentioning it. After I read this thread, I went and checked the game out even though I don't ever play tablet games. That isn't another download, but doesn't site traffic increase visibility?
     
  28. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    No, because we're developers on text-dense forums, hardly what the gamers look at on their mobile. What you want for a mobile game, is for people to find it on mobile. That mostly ends up being word of mouth and store exposure.

    People who hang around forums aren't really the main customers for any games. Site traffic doesn't increase visibility by any meaningful amount because you don't really want strays. You want to hit reviews hard, and be promoted by a store, or have a game that just has people talking / pops up on youtube.

    I'm not saying its useless, games that thrive on long tails like roguelikes really benefit from this sort of marketing (sites, etc, classic stuff).
     
  29. yoonitee

    yoonitee

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    Yeah, I've never really promoted any of my stuff either. Wouldn't even know how. Sometimes the games seem to catch on and sometimes they don't.

    Make a good trailer and screenshots. That's probably the best advice. (Also, make a game that will look good in a trailer!)

    After the NMS fiasco, I expect it will be a little bit harder for indie developer to be trusted promoting their games.
     
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  30. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    How does one game in a sea of games make any difference to gamer opinion? What you say is illogical.
     
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  31. sowatnow

    sowatnow

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    Greatthanks for sharing. Gives some hope lol.
     
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  32. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    No, not at all.
    Let's do the math:
    - This post has been seen so far by 700 people, so let's say that in the end it's gonna reach 2000 people;
    - Out of them, I guesstimate that 10% or less will have the time and curiosity to install my game (remember this site is for developers, most of whom are busy working at their own games and getting advices at solving their problems, so they don't have time to extensively play my game and generate revenue for me);
    - So, 10% of 2000 gets me 200 more installs (at most);
    - But I got 13,000 new installs just yesterday, so 200 is just a 'drop in the ocean'.

    I made this thread because, when I was working at my game, I had strong doubts whether is even possible to achieve success without some kind of promotion, marketing, community, connections in the industry and game media, etc... Now I know that is possible, so I decided to share that information for the benefit of the developers who are now in the same situation in which I was some time ago.

    I could have wrote the original post without mentioning my game at all, but then you would have no reason to believe that I have the experience required to give any advice.
     
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  33. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    20k is not even what I monthly invoice my customer for one month of work :p Which is a big problem, I make too much money on my dayjob so I can't motivate myself to work half time and work more on my game.. :/
     
  34. nipoco

    nipoco

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    You're apparently a genuine guy, who worked hard on this game, without shady tactics.
    So well deserved and kudos to you.

    Especially considering you achieved that on Android, which one of the most overcrowded platforms.
     
  35. frosted

    frosted

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    User Review
    "This is hands-down the best free flight simulator I have encountered."

    I think this is the key. You found a niche and made the best in class entry for that niche.

    I would have never guessed that there were tons of people looking for free mobile flight simulators!
     
  36. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    If I may ask, why do you seem averse to those things?

    I completely understand not wanting to do paid advertising, it's not a solution that fits every need. (Though I suggest that a $6 experiment perhaps isn't of a scale to give useful information.) Still, there's other approaches you can take, and it seems that you've a very clear target audience and a very clear niche market. You've gained excellent starting traction without promotion, which suggests to me that you might be in a great position to grow by starting to do some promotional activities. You know your audience and your niche, I'd look for stuff you can do which is specific to them and fits with your business' messages and attitudes. (Ie: the honest, no-hard-sells thing that's already doing well for you.)

    Also keep in mind that while you're absolutely right that certain activities might have a small direct effect on your downloads, there can be secondary and tertiary or other long-term effects. For example, getting a bunch of extra downloads doesn't just get you the downloads, it can also push you further up the charts, which might in turn get you more exposure through the storefront itself.


    Anyhow, looking at this from a purely business perspective, what you've done here is an excellent job of validating your product. People clearly want it. It is literally selling itself. That's awesome! But I'd also be treating that as a starting point. You've got a strong, valid product - what can you do with it from here? What opportunities does that give you? That doesn't mean you should turn greedy and start squeezing your audience for every cent (to the contrary, you've built your success from doing the opposite, so I'd stick to that), I'd think of further things you can do that are aligned with your current success to build more.
     
  37. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    There are many different ways to promote your game. Advertising is simply one of those methods. You can always just post about it on forums, post about it on reddit, contact YouTube personalities and have them showcase the game, etc.

    TotalBiscuit has an extensive video covering how you get games featured through him.

     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  38. Senkoy

    Senkoy

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    I'm sorry, but for every success story there are thousands of failures. There are plenty of great games out there that were lost in the endless sea of games.

    Also, only $10k from that many downloads? That's actually VERY discouraging. Not trying to be negative, but I would expect much higher profits from such a high number of downloads.
     
  39. Refeuh

    Refeuh

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    There's no "magic formula" for guaranteed (relative) "success" ; but it's always interesting to read from other's analysis - there is something to learn in every experience.
     
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  40. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    Sure, but I tried to give some tips so as to minimize the possiblity of other people's games becoming failures.

    Three things:
    1. I have ads set to optional and no in-app purchases. I made a calculation that if I would show ads after every mission the revenue could get to almost four times as much (see my third post in this thread);
    2. I haven't released the iOS version. That would almost double the revenue;
    3. From the two points above results that if a game like mine would be optimized for revenue, then it could produce up to eight times more than it does now. On top of these, adding in-app purchases and paid pro versions of the game would bring even more.
     
  41. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Alternatively you might make considerably more selling the game. My own searches turned up an article that suggests the majority of apps on the store are paid and that Apple users in general are used to this approach.

    http://blog.apps-builder.com/paid-vs-free-apps/
     
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  42. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Sounds cool. But forgive me for saying so.. and I know it's only "so far"... but, $10,000 in revenue from almost *3 million* customers.... does not sound like a very good return.
     
  43. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I thought I was a pessimist.

    Attitudes are important. Clearly the OP had a hypothesis, and he acted on it. F*** the statistics! He did his experiment, and it worked. Does that mean his is the only way? Or the absolute best way? No, but he has had a positive return, which is success. And he FINISHED SOMETHING..... all by himself at that.

    I mean, what do you people want to read here? "I made a small game by myself and now I have enough money to by an island." Get real. I feel like perhaps some people who live in expensive ass places are a touch jealous that OP can be humble enough to appreciate and perhaps live on what they would call two months rent?

    I think a key take away from OP is that he very cautiously played to customers desire for an ad free/ad minimized gaming experience. Sure, it might mean less take away in the short term, but it very clearly played a role in his ongoing success.

    If you treat every endeavor as a "getthe most profit right now" type of deal, you will probably limit yourself in the long term.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  44. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    No, that's not what most of the posts are suggesting at all. What most of them suggest is that they want to read "I made enough money to justify neglecting promotional tactics and neglecting good monetization strategies". Unfortunately there is enough evidence, both from this game and other games on the market, that this isn't realistic.

    At least if you're trying to make game development your job. If you're merely doing this as a hobby then it's wonderful but if this is your sole source of income we need to be realistic. Outside of third world countries this amount for the period of time it took is generally at or below the poverty line.

    Though it definitely beats minimum wage for some countries (USA is $7.25).
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  45. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    Well, because I'm not good at doing promotion, and when I launched the game I had no money either.

    That's a good point. Maybe next year I'll make a promotion experiment at a larger scale and then I'll share the conclusions here or in a new thread.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  46. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    If you are not confident in your ability to promote the game, maybe you could see about hiring somebody to help in that regard? Reinvest some of that money you made.
     
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  47. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Thanks for sharing AxPetre - I remember commenting on your game - about the title being simulator but the game being less realistic - and more fun which was a better design choice. ;)
    How did you deal with them? Ignore em'?
    Did they offer anything in return - other than disputable better roi?

    Sounds like a good platform to port to without much effort. Upres the textures and convert the input to controller support with rewired. Probably double your revenue in less than a month.
    The main difference I see in comparison is a nice looking platformer (not niche) vs a nice looking flight sim. The competition for one is extreme compared to the other.
    I'm not versed on ASO - but I think that platformer would have benefited from relating itself to Sonic more than any other popular game.
    Yeah - like seeing who is hosting some PC flight sim forums and purchasing some ad space for those. ;):cool:
    Checking out ALL flight sim, realistic drone, remote control airplane communities and advertise.


    Edit: Wanted to add/ask - have you considered offering additional cosmetic in-app purchases for reskins of the planes?
     
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  48. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    What does the number of customers have to do with the decency of the return? That's based on initial investment, not the number of people you reach in the middle.

    Keep in mind that with digital distro it costs little to nothing to reach extra customers. Google or Apple or Valve have that almost entirely covered for you. So reducing revenue per user while increasing user numbers is valid if you can do it.

    I think that a more interesting statistic would be how many of the almost 3 million customers are generating revenue? Can they be given opportunities to generate more revenue? They've already demonstrated willingness to engage in revenue generating activities.

    When I started programming I wasn't good at it... ;)
     
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  49. frosted

    frosted

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    I can see some people finding it distressing that after that many downloads the net is only $10k.

    Most people wouldn't even dream of 3 million downloads.

    I'm sure OP could have milked his customers for more, but the fact that he didn't milk them probably played a large role in why he got 3 million downloads in the first place.
     
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  50. AxPetre

    AxPetre

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    I ignore them, yes. And also I sent feedback to Google Play to modify the system so that when a user rates an app with 1 or 2 stars, the app should be automatically uninstalled from that user's device (I doubt they'll do it though). This way it compels the users to give more accurate ratings rather than using the rating system as a blackmailing instrument.

    No, they didn't offered anything special. But I intended to use AdMob anyway, so as to diversify my ad providers.

    In a way I've been doing something similar to that from the start, except the users unlock new features by watching ads, and not with actual money. My type of game is well suitable for the implementation of in-app purchases, because a lot of users ask for more aircraft types, more islands, more features, and some have even expressed the desire to purchase such in-game items or to get a paid pro version with everything unlocked in it. But, for the moment, I don't intend to do any of that because I'm busy with other things, and I just don't need the headache associated with setting up a merchant account, publishing my home address, tinkering with poorly functional plugins, dealing with refunds, implementing cloud systems, etc... Eventually I'll do it, but I have other plans right now.