Development of the Kinetic Novel: costs, revenues, statistics, tips, conclusions post factum

    Greetings to my colleagues, I

    finally got around to translate my article, which I published several months ago on Gamasutra (it was reserved by the editors). I believe this brief but informative material, based on my own experience, will be of interest to fellow indie developers and those who are considering "whether I should not gash my little toy with blackjack and whores."


    The article uses data on the development, promotion and sales of its own kinetic (visual) short story Fall of Gyeson Steam and the AppStore, as well as comparing your own experience with the numbers, methods, results and conclusions of other colleagues of the indie developers with whom I communicate, and guys working in medium-sized studios (Russian, German and a bunch of American ones), stamping casual games on for more than 3 years.

    Let's start with the real financial and time costs of development, as well as the financial results and conclusions:

    COSTS *:
    - $ 15,800 (8 months) - drawing
    - $ 3,000 (2 months) - video
    - $ 2,000 (2 months) - script writing / dialogs / editing
    - $ 2,000 (4 months) - programming
    - $ 1,500 (2 months) - modeling
    - $ 1,500 (instantly) - engine
    - $ 1,000 (1 month) - audio
    - $ 100 (instantly) - installment is either Steam Greenlight or AppStore.
    DEVELOPMENT COSTS (TOTAL): $ 26,900 (12 months **).
    * cost of my personal time invested in the project is not taken into account; exactly, as the cost of promotion is not taken into account (which in studios is often several times higher than the cost of the development itself, but for which indie developers usually have not enough money).
    ** "theoretically", it is possible to organize the execution of part of the work in parallel, but de facto for many emerging reasons an indie developer (especially a beginner, especially working with freelancers) is unlikely to be able to organize this (in any case, when working on his first indie -play).



    AppStore Downloads *:
    - Total - 809 **
    - Russia - 284
    - United States - 215
    - United Kingdom - 38
    * model of monetization of the kinetic novel “freemeum”, when a player is free to leaf through part of the novel, and if he liked it, he may gain access to the rest. In our case of Fall of Gyes, the size for which the rest is purchased (if you like the introductory one) also remains free - the player “donates” to the developer as much as he wants. Therefore, the game in AppStpre appears to be relatively free (the GET + button is lit on the installation).
    ** 809 total downloads according to AppAnnie statistics; but according to iTunesConnect 924.

    AppStore Sales:
    11 sales for $ 1.99, for a total "net" amount of $ 14. And this is taking into account ASO, when the application was in the top 10 in sci-fi and visual novel (iPhone and iPad).

    AppStore Reviews:
    Mostly 5 stars, but only in Russia they were amazed by units (judging by the reviews and experience of colleagues, due to the fact that the game is not translated into Russian). I didn’t buy any paid reviews or installations - all downloads and reviews are free. It is curious to note that out of a hundred Russian media, only 2 did not require money for publishing “any whim for your money”: (I wanted to give links here, but I thought they could be considered a violation, so only comment if necessary). Of the local American, almost no one does paid reviews for indie and free games - everything is free if you like the game. And since the comic book industry in the USA and Japan is very developed, many took up writing.

    And fast forward to STEAM (My Favorite Platform!) *:

    Steam Sales:
    * A fixed price ($ 9.99) was chosen for Steam, similar to the price of this graphic novel on Amazon Comixology.

    Steam Downloads:
    - Russian Federation - 21.2%
    - United States - 18.1%
    - Canada - 12.1%
    - United Kingdom - 9.0%
    - China - 6.0%

    Steam Reviews:
    Positive (7 reviews).


    It is worth emphasizing that initially the development and distribution of the kinetic short story pursued three goals:
    - to test the production technology of interactive narration in order to prepare for the production of hand-drawn narratives in the style of Telltale Games games.
    - introduce as many new players to the After Reset setting as possible(solid science fiction, post-apocalyptic), which we are developing.
    - Compare in practice the target audience of the AppStore and Steam.

    1. The vast majority of the Russian audience of AppStore, most likely, belongs to the “ Torshinsky audience ” (in particular, does not know English, does not want to learn it, and will put a rating of one even on applications received for free). At the same time, the Russian audience of Steam, on the contrary, is closer to the aristocratic CORE / Khabrahabrovskaya and is quite friendly towards English-language projects.

    2. I decided not to block Russia in the list of countries where the game was distributed in the AppStore at the request of the encoder / publisher. Of course, I grabbed units from an unfamiliar part of the audience, but at the same time it would not be fair, because of the audience’s part, to deprive a few Russian fans of access to content. Please note that this solution comes from the second goal set for the product. If your goal is monetarization and maximization of the cache, and you don’t have localization under the Russian language, then it will be more profitable for you to block the availability of the application in Russia until localization (if any): otherwise, grab units from the non-English-speaking majority of Russian AppStore users (their even Tinder picks up bundles for the same reason) and this will affect the global ranking.

    3. Steam remains the most indie developer friendly platform. The most extensive adequate game audience (125 million active users), MVP demand testing through the passage of Greenlight, the most convenient and extensive marketing support system at the moment. I'm not talking about Git functions at all. In general, if you are sawing your first game - my advice is, do it for Steam.

    4. The share of sales on Steam on Mac and Linux is quite high, so if you use a universal engine, then when designing, immediately consider compatibility with these two OSs, and not just for Win. This applies, for example, to the number of bones of NPCs / Characters or the writing of shaders.

    5. The average sales of your first game, which was Greenlight, on Steam will be 500-1000 $. These results are the same for dozens of colleagues, for whom the Steam release was the first experience, and who spent half a year to one and a half years developing the game. However, the ROI of each of your subsequent games will increase. At least due to the growth of fans who liked your previous games.


    (for beginners or those who are just going to try themselves as a mobile developer)

    Guys, I know how many of those reading these lines believe that it's enough to make a cool, smart and interesting toy of high quality - and you will be guaranteed a financially successful launch on the AppStore. Unfortunately, at this time on this platform, this requires much more than just creating such a game. Everyone has heard about 5-10 successful mobile games, but everyone seems to ignore millions of unsuccessful ones (I understand that it’s not interesting to write or listen to them, but we must not forget about their existence). For 2016, there are about 2.2 million applications in the AppStore, and their number is growing by 1.700 every month. To date, the AppStore is not the main target platform for indie developers; At the moment, this mobile games market is most relevant for medium / large developers.

    How much does it actually cost to develop a mobile indie game for the AppStore:

    0. We assume that you already have a Mac to develop on it.

    NB Despite the theoretical possibility to circumvent this condition, one way or another you NEED a Mac to develop applications for the AppStore. The cheapest MacBook costs $ 1,200.

    1. You buy an engine for developing mobile applications or use a free one until then (and if your application brings some threshold income).

    NB For beginners (for whom this part is written) I recommend Unity 3d. No commissions, fair price (base Pro $ 1,500 + iOSPro $ 1,500 + AndroidPro $ 1,500), native compatibility with a bunch of platforms, a huge community of developers and support, a huge market for assets. You can start creating on itfree of charge (however, when the application is downloaded, users will be given Unity), and later, if sales reach $ 100k +, they will already purchase the engine. And do not forget about the lack of the need to pay sales commissions (except for acquiring the engine itself at $ 100k + sales)!

    2. You create a small but cool mobile toy on your own within your own budget of $ 5,000. After all, is this enough for a tiny, simple, but decent toy?

    NB Today, the average market development costs (only development, without promotion) of a mobile game vary from genre to genre, but you can count on the average development budget of other players, which is $ 75,000 (on average) for a startup with a small game.

    3. You pay an annual developer account on iTunes for $ 100.

    NB Please note that this is not a one-time, but an annual fee and it is advisable to renew it before your certificates expire. From time to time that some functions on iTunes Connect break and fail, do not be afraid to write to support. It is worth noting that Apple support, for me personally, is number two, right after Steam support. They respond really quickly, keep you posted even if fixing bugs requires much more time than they originally thought, and often respond within an hour if you communicate with them on the same day.

    4. You do your own marketing preparation for the software launcher on your own, including ASO, keywords, descriptions, targeting, a commercial and connecting statistics for HADI promotion cycles.

    NB You can start without a commercial, but its availability, according to statistics, increases the number of downloads in the USA by an average of 27%. For statistics and analytics, I recommend connecting AppAnnie. Simple, informative and friendly. Do not panic if you can’t immediately connect AppAnnie to your iTunes Connect developer account (this happens quite often and is accompanied by various kinds of errors) - just report errors to the AppAnie support team and they will fix it (on average, fixes take from 5 to 20 days).

    5. Hurray! You have published your game. You notice a few dozen installations (if the game is paid) or several hundred installations (if the game is free or freemium). Apple even adds it to “featured,” which guarantees you an average download boost of 35 downloads / installations. But what next?

    6. Your next step will be to test your game as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), ie "Viability test". You will need to prepare several press releases, promotional packs, and distribute them among journalists, reviewers, and youtuber.

    NB You can write a press release yourself and send it via iSpreadNews ($ 250) and prMac ($ 150). You also, with a bit of patience, make a sheet of 150 active AppStore reviewers who should write directly. The Healthy Man Reviewer will always publish a review of your game, if he liked it, and will do it for free. Do not waste your time on “Smoker Surveyors” who publish reviews for money. As a rule, their ROMI strive for 0. For an indie developer who has the goal of testing MVP, paid reviews are completely meaningless.

    7. All these marketing efforts applied in the previous paragraphs should give you an average of about 100+ downloads / settings (if the game is paid) and about 1000+ downloads / settings (if the needle is free), or the number between these extremes (if the game freemium). After the MVP is tested (usually it will take a month), you should start to engage in “street magic” - calculate Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and Monthly Conversion Rate (CR D30).

    In general terms, you need to divide the income for this month by the number of buyers / donates in order to calculate the ARPU. And you need to divide the number of buyers / donates by the number of downloads / installations for this month in order to calculate the CRD30.

    Eg for the test, you earned $ 10 through selling the game to 10 users; despite the fact that the total number of game downloads was 100 downloads. Thus, ARPU = 10/10 = $ 1.0 and CRD30 = 10/100 = 0.1. For fully paid games, it is logical that each jump / installation is associated with a purchase, so for them it will be better for you to consider CR D30 as converting not installation to purchase, but as converting visiting a game page in the AppStore into its installation.

    NB At the beginning of 2016, the average market ARPU for free / freemium mobile games (for games with an average development budget of $ 75,000+) is $ 1.8 for the strategy genre, $ 1.4 for Action / Slashers, $ 0.9 for social gambling, $ 0.6 for Puzzles.

    8. So, now, you know how much you can pay for the acquisition of one paying user - Cost Per Action (CPA), which will be equal to Cost Per Install (CPI) for fully paid games. And you can calculate the maximum allowable CPI if your game is freemium. And having this information, it’s up to you to decide on the viability of your game as an MVP, and whether it was worth the monetization or not. The obtained indicators and their comparison with market ones should convince you either to continue development, or to make coordinating changes, or to accept active purchase of traffic, or to abandon the AppStore and treat the created game just as an interesting life experience.

    If you decide to actively monetize, you just have to buy CPA traffic at the cost of Acquisition Cost Per User (ACPU), which is lower than your ARPU, and earn on the difference and scale. The trick is that in 99% of cases your ACPU will be higher than your ARPU :)

    And to reduce the ACPU you will need to play on a scale (even taking into account the experience in traffic arbitration), which will require a marketing budget of $ 20,000 or more for acquiring users.

    NB The most famous and reliable place to acquire relevant traffic for the American AppStore is AdMob. And, of course, the purchase of high-quality, highly targeted traffic is an art in itself, full of nuances and requiring experience.

    * * *

    According to the experience of guys from medium-sized studios, which I wrote about above: in such studios on average there are always about 10 projects being developed at the same time. For each development budget $ 75-125k. The development period from design to soft launcher is 6-9 months. An agile team consists of 5 people on average. At the same time, one project out of 10 “shoots”. Which one - no one in the studios can predict and have come to terms with this, as with reality. Everyone gathers, saws the game, conducts a soft launcher, MVP test, a month (sometimes 2) pour in a budget for the purchase of CPI, and if they don’t see returns, they simply drop out and proceed to the next project.
    Such a “fast-food” dev ...

    I hope that the experience accumulated and tested by me will help someone, but will save someone from illusions.

    But the most important thing: if you are a real indie, then you need all these ROI, ARPU, ACPU etc. - can be up to the bulb. If you are engaged in a truly beloved business, and experience childish happiness from this - everything else is not important.

    Do not let the world limit your dreams!

    Also popular now: