tl;dr – The faint rustling of leaves…
In summer 2015 I released an app, in summer 2015 I didn’t bother to market my app. This is the story of what happened next…
Super Soccer Sim is a simulation of football leagues, presented in the style of the popular ‘Soccer Saturday’ sports show on British TV. If that sounds interesting to you, then please stop reading this and go and download it from one of the stores! [iOS/Android/WP]
I’m a game developer with an already popular game that thankfully pays my bills and has done so for 10 years. Additionally a few years ago I launched an SaaS startup that is growing rapidly and will likely eclipse my first business in terms of revenue in 2016. As a technology geek I’m also often found playing around with Linux scripts, 3D VR glasses and even maintaining a social life. Very rarely do I find myself bored, with nothing to do, with hours to fill.
My plan with Super Soccer Sim was to teach myself the ropes so to speak, when it came to App development. To go through the process of developing then releasing a game to each of the three main stores, and end up with a game engine that could be used in more projects going forward. Monetizing the game was not a priority, but I did flirt with the idea of using ads or in-app purchases.
I’m telling you this because I think this is exactly the thought process that most other programmers who wish to create an app go through.
Whilst the game was based on earlier source code from an Xbox360 game I wrote and released in 2009, large parts were rewritten, and the underlying GUI was created entirely from scratch. Overall I would say that I spent 4 months developing the title, though spread over more than a year and a half. The game has a rating of 4.1/5 on Google Play, so 82% as a traditional review score percentage. Reviews use words such as ‘addictive’, ‘love this game’, ‘good idea’, ‘good little game’ and ‘good’. The type of person that the game was designed for, tends to say that it’s pretty cool and enjoy’s it. It’s also unique, there is nothing like it on any app store.
So far so good. I have a reasonably good app, that’s part of a niche market for sure, but that goes down well with the intended audience.
Football is the most popular sport on the planet, sites such as whoscored.com and soccerstats.com are extremely popular. So there will be millions of people on planet earth that would be ‘primed’ to enjoy this game. Additionally the game is free, and also free of adverts, and being fast to play makes it entirely suitable for mobile devices.
So to summarise, there must be hundreds of thousands of people out there who would like to have Super Soccer Sim on their phone!
With work on other projects keeping me extremely busy in the second half of 2015, I had very little time to devote to spreading the word about Super Soccer Sim. Therefore it has become a good example of what happens to your decent app with a decent potential audience…. if you do nothing.
If you want people to enjoy your art, you have to expend as much effort letting them know that it exists as you do creating it.
I didn’t do that. Below is exactly what happens when you don’t do that. This isn’t about money, from day one I gave the game away for free, with no ads. It’s about knowing that somebody out there is getting tonnes of downloads for a crappy game stuffed with adverts, whilst yours sits on the ‘app store shelf’, gathering dust.
The game is available on four different app stores, covering all the main devices. It’s free to download and contains no ads.
4286 installs in total
2830 installs from Google Play/Android (released 2 July 2015 – 199 days, about 14.2 installs per day on average)
680 installs from App Store (released 16 Sep 2015 – 130 days, about 5.2 installs per day on average)
544 installs on the Windows Phone store (released 30 June 2015 – 202 days, about 2.7 installs per day on average)
232 installs from Amazon App Store/Android (released 22 August 2015 – 156 days, about 1.5 installs per day on average)
So that’s about 24 downloads per day on average over all the stores and formats. About 8500 downloads a year at the current rate.
(I would do a similar graph for Windows Phone downloads – but Microsoft provide such a hideous data reporting service that it would take an hour to come up with any sort of graph – a graph that would be based on weekly data not daily, as daily only goes back three months… – sort it out Microsoft!!)
Special Note: The Google Play spike in late August 2015.
In August 2015 I remembered that I had opened an account with Chartboost, as I had added the ability to display Chartboost adverts in my game engine. Wanting to properly test my code I had invested the minimum £150 (which I wrongly presumed I could withdraw at any time). With the money sitting in the Chartboost account I decided to run some adverts for Super Soccer Sim. I set my budget to £100 and chose some basic parameters.
I returned a day later, to see my account £1450 in the red! It turned out that those developing the Chartboost system were unable to code it to stop ad campaigns when a budget had been reached. They explained that this was due to my non-existent filtering. My reply was that the weaknesses of their system was not my fault or responsibility, and that a budget is a budget. They agreed and wiped the £1450 debt from my account.
What this did do though, was in effect give me £1600 worth of advertising for £150. What you can see is that even that unexpected boost did not drastically affect the downloads for the game. I was paying per download and perhaps added 850, costing nearly £2 per install!
The only other advertising I did was to pay £5 for someone on fiverr.com to post on some Android forums about the game. As you can see from the graphs, this did nothing to increase installs.
So, You Created A Nice Game, You Want People To Play It, What To Do?
From the above data it’s easy to see that doing nothing does not work. 5000 installs isn’t nothing, but it’s also not that many in a world where 1.7 billion people have devices connected to one of the four main stores.
Paying for installs to generate momentum might sound like a sensible idea. Until you do the maths. Reaching 100,000 downloads this way might well cost you £200,000. Far in excess of what anyone wants to invest in a ‘hobby’ project.
This leaves only one viable alternative, which is thankfully free, in monetary terms at least. It’s taking the time and making the effort to create a fan-base for your project from scratch.
If you’re going to create a piece of art, you owe it to your creation to shout out about it as much as you possibly can. In the modern world there are 1.7 billion sets of eyeballs straining for something to look at. You can get your fair share of attention, but you can’t get it by being silent.
Create YouTube videos, write developer blogs, email people and ask them to write about your game, upload screenshots, tweet screenshots on a Saturday, offer to speak at gaming events, offer to be interviewed, write articles like this(!). In fact, close down Visual Studio and do anything, anything is better than doing nothing.
Do nothing and you’ll have a great game, that nobody has heard of, that nobody cares about, that won’t brighten up anybodies day.
Spend 50% of your development time on promotion, and it’ll lead somewhere. Not to 100 million downloads, but maybe, just maybe, to 100,000. You owe it to yourself to at least try….
For my next app I’m going to be forcing myself to shout about it from the rooftops, but not just yet, I’m too busy coding…….. :/