The Indie Game Developer Survival Guide

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Can an indie survive in the mobile world?

It may look like games for mobile is a paradise for indie developers, but truth is that it is quite hard to be noticed among the swarm of apps.

In this presentation, Raul shares the tips & tricks he has learned about how to survive as a mobile indie game developer for the past 3 years, including a post-mortem of all the games of The Pill Tree and also a post-mortem of The Pill Tree as a company.

The Indie Game Developer Survival Guide

  1. 1. Raul Portales @sla_shalafi raul@plattysoft.com The Indie Game Developer Survival Guide
  2. 2. The (Mobile) Environment
  3. 3. The Mobile Advantages Huge amount of potential customers Simple distribution channels
  4. 4. The Mobile Problem Lack of dedicated, quality channels (aka Discoverability sucks)
  5. 5. Apps != Games
  6. 6. Surviving is tough
  7. 7. Survival Tip #0 Lower your expenses
  8. 8. Do not rely on overnight success stories
  9. 9. Advantages of being indie Quick to react Personal touch
  10. 10. Competing with AAA Quick to react Personal touch
  11. 11. Fun Visually Appealing Works (no crashes or freezes) Players know about it
  12. 12. Don't reinvent the wheel
  13. 13. Don't try to do everything alone
  14. 14. Know your Players Measure EVERYTHING
  15. 15. Single Player Multiplayer Freemium Free2Play ?
  16. 16. Objective Figure out the market ASAP
  17. 17. Single Player Advantage Easier to build
  18. 18. Premium Advantages Easier to build Simpler to monetize
  19. 19. Chalk Ball 2-3 months of development Single Player Freemium 10K/200K downloads
  20. 20. Chalk Ball Graphs 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 20110300 20110320 20110410 20110420 20110510 20110530 20110610 20110630 20110720 20110800 20110820 20110910 20110920 20111010 20111030 20111110 20111130 20111220 20120100 20120120 20120210 20120220 20120310 20120330 20120410 20120430 20120520 20120600 20120620 20120710 20120720 20120810 20120830 20120910 20120930 20121020 20121100 20121120 20121210 20121220 20130110 20130130 20130210 20130300 20130320 20130410 20130420 20130510 20130530 20130610 20130630 20130720 20130800 20130820 Column B Current User Installs
  21. 21. Current User Installs 0 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000 80000 90000 100000 20110410 20110420 20110510 20110530 20110610 20110630 20110720 20110800 20110820 20110910 20110920 20111010 20111030 20111110 20111130 20111220 20120100 20120120 20120210 20120220 20120310 20120330 20120410 20120430 20120520 20120600 20120620 20120710 20120720 20120810 20120830 20120910 20120930 20121020 20121100 20121120 20121210 20121220 20130110 20130130 20130210 20130300 20130320 20130410 20130420 20130510 20130530 20130610 20130630 20130720 20130800 20130820 Column B
  22. 22. Success: Survival costs covered Failure: Did not got enough traction
  23. 23. Fact 90% of the dowloads while Featured
  24. 24. Objective Get more downloads and traction
  25. 25. Free2Play Advantages Easier for people to try it out “Better” monetization
  26. 26. SpaceCat 4-6 months of development Single Player Free2Play 1.5M downloads
  27. 27. Chalk Ball Graph 0 50000 100000 150000 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000 450000 500000 20110620 20110710 20110730 20110810 20110830 20110910 20110920 20111010 20111020 20111110 20111120 20111210 20111220 20120110 20120120 20120210 20120220 20120310 20120320 20120410 20120420 20120510 20120520 20120610 20120620 20120710 20120720 20120800 20120820 20120900 20120920 20121000 20121020 20121100 20121120 20121200 20121220 20130100 20130120 20130130 20130220 20130300 20130320 20130400 20130420 20130500 20130520 20130530 20130620 20130630 20130720 20130730 20130810 Column B Current User Installs
  28. 28. Less than 10K players bought the DLC
  29. 29. The ARPU was under 0.01$
  30. 30. Success: 1.5M downloads Failure: Absurdly low income
  31. 31. Implementing In-App billing is difficult It is on the same level of complexity of creating a fun game
  32. 32. Fact Chalk Ball income > SpaceCat income
  33. 33. Fact We got “popular” thanks to SpaceCat
  34. 34. Objective Make the game I wanted to make
  35. 35. Multiplayer Advantages Better word of mouth More engaging
  36. 36. Codemon Almost 8 months of development (First version after 4-5 months) 7 people involved Almost 50K downloads Never featured by Google
  37. 37. Codemon graphs 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 20120430 20120510 20120520 20120530 20120610 20120620 20120630 20120710 20120720 20120730 20120800 20120810 20120820 20120900 20120910 20120920 20121000 20121010 20121020 20121100 20121110 20121120 20121200 20121210 20121220 20130100 20130110 20130120 20130130 20130210 20130220 20130300 20130310 20130320 20130400 20130410 20130420 20130500 20130510 20130520 20130530 20130610 20130620 20130630 20130710 20130720 20130730 20130810 20130820 20130830 Column B Current User Installs
  38. 38. Success: Great user retention Failure: Not enough downloads
  39. 39. Be prepared Someone will try to cheat
  40. 40. Fact Even for a completely Free game it is hard to get downloads
  41. 41. Fact Codemon ARPU >> SpaceCat ARPU
  42. 42. Still working on improving Codemon ARPU
  43. 43. Are these the future?
  44. 44. Fact I make more money freelancing one month than with my most successful game in one year
  45. 45. Apps != Games MTG Tracker makes more money per day Than any of The Pill Tree games (now long tail) per month
  46. 46. Survival Tips Recap
  47. 47. Survival Tip #1 Make the game you want to make
  48. 48. Survival Tip #2 Small projects, ship early
  49. 49. Survival Tip #3 Build a relationship with blog editors
  50. 50. Survival Tip #4 Go for Single Player, Premium games
  51. 51. Survival Tip #5 Measure EVERYTHING!
  52. 52. Survival Tip #6 For updates, define objectives first
  53. 53. Questions?
  54. 54. Raul Portales @sla_shalafi raul@plattysoft.com The Indie Game Developer Survival Guide

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