Merry Christmas everyone, I hope all you nice, well behaved developers were left something nice from Santa!? Santa left me an HTML 5 game development book, so who knows, you may see some HTML 5 related tutorials appearing on drmop.com soon. Who knows, an HTML 5 version of IwGame may appear one day.
2011 has been a busy year, we’ve (Pocketeers Limited) released BattleBallz Chaos paid and free versions on iPhone, iPad, Android, Samsung Bada and Blackberry Playbook. We’ve also released Funky Cam 3D paid and free versions on iPhone, iPad, Android and Samdung Bada. In addition, we developed Murder Detective, Hampton Bridge Murder for Tournay Software on iPhone, iPad, Blackberry Playbook and Android as well as helped Honey Badger Studios port their Zixxby game over from Android to iPhone, iPad and Blackberry Playbook using the Marmalade SDK.
Now for a quck appraisal of the apps we developed this year:
Funky Cam 3D FREE has shipped over 500k units on Android, around 100k units on iOS and about the same number on Samsung Bada. Revenue income from Funky Cam 3D FREE is around $10-$20 per day (15k-20k impressions per day) across all platforms. Income from paid versions of Funky Cam 3D is very poor across all platforms. Funky Cam 3D FREE is currently the No 1 downloaded app for Samsung Bada on Samsung Apps. Reviews have been a mixed back, some love it whilst some hate it
BattleBallz Chaos got a fair bit of publicity in association with the Marmalade SDK, being featured on stage at the Blackberry Dev Con 2011 as well as in an official Blackberry Playbook gaming advert, Pocketeers also received a fair bit of attention from the Blackberry press because of the speed at which we converted the game over Playbook and had it live on the store (less than 24 hours). BattleBallz Chaos paid sales have been better than Funky Cam 3D by around 200%, but ad revenue has been incredibly bad (less than $1 per day). Reviews have been pretty positive across all platforms, although we have had some Android compatibility issues which has skewed our Android ratings somewhat.
This year was our entry into the mobile market, we came in from console development, so we have had a lot to learn. In summary:
- Know your audience – We expected mobile gamers to play similar games to console (not so). We have been watching the top 100 apps and games over this year and discovered that mobile gamers do not want console style games. Instead they want low intensity, easy learning curve gaming, less competitive game play with highly colourful quality graphics and animations. Mobile gamers also expect a walk through or some kind of game introduction as opposed to a help screen that’s hidden away in the menu system.
- Marketing is the key – App stores are filled with hundreds of thousands of apps so getting noticed is incredibly difficult. Genuine free apps for obvious reasons require less marketing as users are much more likely to download them because they don’t have to pay anything. Most app stores base their rankings on number of downloads in the last X hours / days, because of this Marketing is best done in bursts to increase the chances that users will discover and and install your app in a short period of time. To rise up the charts quickly requires a lot of marketing in a short period of time.
- Ad Mobs v Facebook advertising – Both are quite useless unless you have a LOT of money to spend on a campaign, although we did find that Facebook ads did work better than AdMobs
- Freemium – Although we have not tested the great freemium theory, a majority of app revenue is coming from the sale of additional levels perks , items and other in-game consumables (much like the Zygna facebook model), so this is something we are going to test out in 2012.
- Android platform – Whilst the Android platform is cool and all, it just isn’t much use for making money. In fact, if the Marmalade SDK did not support the Android platform ten we would most likely drop it altogether. Its ok, if you want to make a few bucks from ads, but not worth investing a significant amount of money into. That said, we are yet to try out a freemium based model of monetisation, so we will give it another chance this year.
- Price playing – We discovered that we can increase the visibility of an app or game by regularly dropping the price to very low or even free. Users notice the price drop and download discounted products in droves (everyone likes a bargain!). This can push your apps position up in the charts temporarily. We have found that dropping our price to free for 2 days can give you a sales boost for 7-14 days.
- Lite versions – We found that releasing a limited lite version of BattleBallz Chaos didn’t affect sales much, we had very few converts to the paid version. That said, BattleBallz Chaos is the completely wrong type of game for the mass mobile market
- Cross promotion – We found that cross promoting apps and games worked quite well. We placed a large full sized ad into each of our apps, effectively advertising each others availability. We may try a system such as OpenFeint’s in 2012 to increase exposure
- Don’t expect to get rich quick and don’t expect anything to be easy – We’ve spoken to many mobile developers this year and the general consensus is that mobile development is easy, but marketing is incredibly difficult. Very few developers actually make it into the top 50/100 which is where the money is at. The journey to the top is long and difficult so be prepared for the long haul and wave good bye to a lot of time and money. if you are not prepared to gamble then walk away from mobile development altogether.
- Cross platform is a MUST – If we had simply developed our products on either Android or iOS we would probably have packed up mobile development this year and moved onto something else. If it wasn’t for the Marmalade SDK’s cool cross platform technology we would probably not have stuck with it. Going cross platform will increase the chances of a hit as you are catering for many platforms with very little extra effort or costs. Going cross platform also generally increases your return on investment (ROI).
- Don’t believe app the hype – App publishers, app stores and ad networks will say anything to hook you into using their services. Just be sure to research them before putting in the effort. Their advertised figures will usually be massively out of date. Insist on current figures and see what other developers are saying about them around the web.
We also began the development of IwGame this year, an open source cross platform game engine for the Marmalade SDK community. We began development of IwGame for a number of reasons:
- Lessen the learning curve for Marmalade developers and provide a solid game engine on top of the Marmalade SDK
- To help promote the Marmalade SDK to mobile developers
- To help promote Pocketeers Limited’s development services and apps
So far we are very pleased with IwGame and plan on continuing its development all the way through 2012. We also plan on putting our own internal engine on hold for a while to focus on creating games and apps with IwGame to show developers live apps and games created using the IwGame engine. Also, depending upon the success of IwGame this year, we may port the engine to Windows Phone 7 and HTML5.