On Monday Jul 27, 2020 ZuluOneZero released Endless Elevator on the Google Play Store for Android.
It has now been just over two months since release and I wanted to publish the stats of the game and glean a few insights into how it went. It was a “soft” release. This is an indie game by a solo developer (with possibly an undiagnosed split personality disorder). There was never going to be a budget for marketing and the money is not the primary reason why we do this…right?
What I was most excited about was that we got over 500 installs. For a new game on the Play Store with no exposure sitting amongst hundreds of thousands of games I was pretty happy about that. I even did a screen shot on my phone to prove it. I had previously released two other games on the Play Store and they got maybe twenty downloads each so I was pleasantly surprised.
The “marketing” that I did do included posting with #ScreenshotSaturday and #AndroidGames, on Twitter and Instagram. I also put a few announcements into some of the GameDev groups on Reddit and Facebook, a press release in Hacker News, but that was about it. I didn’t “Slam the Socials” from day one, just dribbled out a few notifications now and then over the past couple of months. Which has turned out pretty well. Installs were organic and fairly stable over that time. There was a big hit on the first week but it kept going in dribs and drabs every day since then.
As I said before this game was never about making money, though that would be nice one day. The primary objective was to make a good game and to improve and learn. Endless Elevator is a free game and only has the option to Play an Advertisement once your health get’s low enough to nearly die. If you are dying and want to keep playing the same game you can elect to watch an add or you can dismiss the prompt, eventually die, and just start a new game when you die. I really hate enforced ads in games that make you watch for the pleasure of playing again. This is what the game looks like when you get to that stage…
So in the past two months I’ve made $0.20 dollars. Which looks a lot better on the page than when you tell someone the game has made Twenty Cents!
My reasoning goes that at these rates if I want to make a Hundred Thousand Dollars this year then I need to get Two Hundred and Fifty Million Players in the next Ten Months. Sounds achievable.
Looking at the Unity Site they have this blog about monetization: https://blogs.unity3d.com/2018/10/12/unitys-operate-dashboard-how-to-measure-monitor-and-optimize-your-free-to-play-game-for-success/
The post is similar to a dozen others out there on the interwebs that basically say the same thing.
The gang at Unity reckon that there are three “R’s” to live operations in order to achieve success with a free-to-play game. Or rather three statistics: Reach, Revenue, and Retention.
Reach is the number of new players on Day One and on Day Seven.
Revenue is players who watch ads or buy in-app purchases.
Retention is how well your game keeps players engaged over time.
Day One retention is a good indicator of whether or not your game is any good. If players are uninstalling it straight away…well. It can also reflect how easy the game is to pick up and play. Endless Elevator is really easy to pick up and play. It has simple controls and follows long established conventions similar to other handheld games.
Day Seven retention lets you know if the game has enough content, or is exciting enough to motivate players to continue playing. The Unity people put a lot of emphasis on this stat as a predictor of overall game health. This is where my game falls down…or does it?
I really hate the new Google Developer Console for graphs. They look like crap but once you get the hang of generating them they can be useful.
First of all let’s have a look at those users… (again these graphs…if you are reading this on a mobile I’m sorry)
The graph is useless this small but the shape of it is the thing. Going up is good. There is a little grey square just before Aug at the middle of the bottom of the graph which indicates the release date. Anything before that is beta testing. Anything after it is post-prod release installs.
The graph above is the Active Users actually playing the game over the first two months since Production Release.
This is where the true picture of success turns on it’s head. The Day One stats are not that bad. When I think about all the games I try and uninstall within 5 seconds I reckon a stat above 20% is doing OK. But Day Seven shows a different picture. Seven days later and most users have stopped playing the game… but at least some players are still enjoying it. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself and it actually takes this amount of churn to get a solid player base – the jury is still out.
This is the real kicker. Sessions Per Player. It looks like people are playing it once, maybe giving it another go but rarely a third play…no retention.
Insights? Well it looks like the game get’s players and that the initial play of the game is good. Hell I even got good reviews on the Play Store (when I didn’t even ask for them). But mostly…most players are not playing more than a couple of times. The game doesn’t have enough “sticky” to keep people’s attention. It’s the computer game equivalent of a one hit wonder. A nice game, and fun to play, but not as much fun as playing Jelly Splash or Candy Crush or Clash of Clans or whatever. People will not invest their lives playing this game and to tell the truth I don’t blame them. I actually still like playing the game but it’s mine so I’m a little blinded by my own ego there.
I reckon the team a Unity would say “Hey Opportunity” or “Fortunately this is fixable”. There are strategies and development angles that we can use to squeeze more interest out of the game. We could add quests, more bad guys to kill, more variety in the environment, special events, upgrades to your weapons and multiple characters. We could even go multiplayer! More, more, more and maybe one day I will but for now I’m happy resting in my meagre laurels and planning new games to make.
As a final bonus to those of you who have read this far is the breakdown of download by Country. This I did find really interesting. We released to 151 Countries supported by the Play Store and the top countries were South Korea and Russia! Who could have guessed that? I did some research and read some reports and apparently South Korea is a big user of the Play Store but not so much Russia. Why is this game of interest to people in Russia? Was it the spy theme? Honestly anyone’s guess.
All countries / regions 500
South Korea 44
United States 38
Hong Kong 19
United Kingdom 10
Saudi Arabia 5
The other surprising thing was that no Australian’s downloaded the game (well only one – thanks mum – oh no that was my dev account).
If you are still interested in this stuff I did do this sort of thing for the last game I released on the Google Play Store and how traffic to the Landing Page generated click through’s to the Play Store Listing for the Game. http://www.zuluonezero.net/2018/10/28/indie-game-release-click-through-and-conversion-rates/