The struggle for the souls of players or how I tried to enter the mobile market

It all started a year ago when my first game (I work as an indie in my free time) was quite favorably received by the Desura audience. “We need to move on,” I thought, and began to prepare the game on mobile platforms. No sooner said than done: $ 25 to your Google Play account, Unity forums to help, and more!

Despite the fact that Unity (namely, this engine I use for my game projects) allows exporting to different platforms without any problems, I still had to suffer. The very first launch of a compiled apk on an Android device brought a quite obvious crash to the desktop. That's where the real work went on to optimize my rather heavy game. However, the fun began after being published on Google Play.

Once and somewhere I read a clever phrase that the real work begins after the release of the game. “Come on!”, I said to myself, “I’ll drop a couple of posts on Twitter at well-known forums, and I’ll row money with a shovel.” Naive…

I must say that as the monetization of the first game, I chose to display ads. Just in time for the completion of optimization work, the Unity Assets Store was selling one of the adMob plugins. This was the reason for the choice of the advertising network. No Google Play services and even statistics were connected. To be honest, I considered the release of my Android game as a kind of experiment, I wanted to "probe" the platform and get the necessary experience. Therefore, the transfer of the game to the mobile platform was rather rude. No, I'm not saying that the game crashes or does not start on weak devices. Despite the 3D and rich effects, it works quite successfully with 512 memory and weak chips. That's only originally it was created for the desktop and for small screens the control was not so hot.

The first few days only brought disappointment. Nobody saw the game. Placing the corresponding news in my tweet feed gave only a few downloads and I had to deal with PR very closely. Workdays began when I surfed the Internet in search of contacts on thematic blogs and sites, registering on forums, writing posts. All this activity slightly increased the number of downloads, but did not lead to any breakthrough. More than 30 letters were written, and this is not counting the sending of information in the contact forms of sites. The result is almost zero ... Here, of course, I a little crooked - there were answers, but only with purely commercial offers. Unfortunately, I simply did not have money for promotion.

The situation changed a bit when I posted the news about the game on the official English language forum Unity. Thanks to one of the regulars of the forum, I received an offer from the Giftiz team for free placement of the game in their application. That's just the deadline for the start was set a month and a half after the publication of the game. Of course, by this time the game had left the category of “new”. However, giftiz brought the game several thousand players.

In accordance with the disappointing results of my first company, I made the following conclusions:
  • Thematic sites and blogs are not interested in my game. It is likely that the problem is in the game itself. Nevertheless, it is a fact; sending out letters did not give anything.
  • It’s quite effective to use forums. True rotation on them be healthy. It’s important to fuel readership and respond to all comments.
  • There is an effect from reddit. I used subreddits IndieGaming and playmygame
  • Very good result from using giftiz. Only for the timely launch of giftiz'a need a paid approach
  • You need to get rid of all the mistakes and not rely on chance. Alas, updates on Google Play appear in a few hours
  • The absence of any sociality.

If you are interested, here are the forums where there was at least some kind of return:

Besides posting on Google Play I tried publishing in alternative stores. I will not be unfounded, but I will give a summary table with the results (installations for the whole time):

  • Amazon ~ 100
  • SlideMe ~ 5500
  • Opera ~ 7500

Compared to Google Play, alternative stores SlideMe and Opera showed a much better result, but there is just a giant fly in the ointment. I earned almost nothing on all these thousands of players. The reason is adMob just didn't show ads.

Given the cones, I started to create a new game. This time I designed the game exclusively for the mobile platform. Approaches to GUI organization were revised, the internal structure of the application was changed, and ease of localization was provided. As an experience, I screwed up some social chips.

The new game has become a kind of mix of platformer and runner (now 2D). As a unique feature, he added the ability to draw all kinds of obstacles or bridges on the screen during the gameplay. But most importantly, I seamlessly implemented Google Play ratings.

To keep the players, he introduced some competition into the game, when before launching the next level a peculiar slogan with the name of the best player of this level is shown. At least with the pair test, this feature really spurred interest. I also wanted to introduce pushas - reminders, but so far I postponed them due to technical misunderstandings.

Since adMob proved disgusting in alternative stores, I added another MoBFox ad network. In it, I liked the ability to integrate other third-party grids. You may have to use it someday. By advertising, I decided not to oversaturate the game. It is shown during the second and subsequent restart of the current level and when loading each odd level. It is shown exclusively full-screen, without any banners. Interviews with friends showed that this approach does not annoy the players and is even perceived by them favorably.

As a result, the game was posted on Google Play, Opera, SlideMe. Now traditionally the main android store shows a modest number of downloads. But the decision to fasten and integrate Google Play ratings into the gameplay is encouraging. It is interesting to see how the players are fighting for the tops.

By the way, the new ad network proved to be much better than adMob in alternative stores. So at least some advertising is shown, but the filling wants to be better. Given that in the Opera and SlideMe stores the game appears on the main page for a while in the list of new ones, downloads are much more active. Of course, ratings had to be disabled for these stores. So, I think, maybe it's worth screwing something like Parse?

At the moment, given the launch of two games, I came to the conclusion that Google Play is very bad for a startup with a zero budget. Perhaps, with the number of published games, it will be possible to take full advantage of the cross-advertising offered in AdMob. So, now in the first game I mainly show banners from the second game. And a certain percentage of transitions are already observed. Perhaps this, plus a more active dialogue on the forums, will help the second game to rise a bit. Wait and see…

Tip! Dedicated to all those who could not launch a home campaign in AdMob (i.e. advertising their applications in their own programs). Although google insists that this function is free, but if there is not a certain amount on the account, the campaign will not start. I spent a lot of time trying to start showing my banners and only after making 100 p. into the account, my promo earned.

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