数据分析独立开发者在App Store的成功机率

标签: 头条推荐 手机游戏 资讯频道 app store 成功机率 | 发表时间:2012-01-19 08:21 | 作者:fanbinzhen
出处:http://gamerboom.com

作者:Emeric Thoa

之前在育碧时,我的工作是创造大型AAA级掌机游戏,我也已经有了一些经验,但是2千万美元的预算,200名开发团队成员、售价70美元、3百万销量等大规模开发过程与我新展开的工作,即作为独立游戏开发者并没多大关联。

《愤怒的小鸟》一跃成名,《植物大战僵尸》成为了游戏典范,《涂鸦跳跃》变成了成功的代名词,而在我开始“独立”创作生涯不久之后,《割绳子》瞬间爆红,成为了周销量破百万的热门畅销游戏。但是除了这些“幸运儿”,真正能够在网络上获得成功的游戏真的是少数,这就意味着我们在开发《SQUIDS》时面临的是完全未知的未来。

Squids(from akappleug.org)

Squids(from akappleug.org)

从那时起我就开始不断追踪各种数据,并撰写此文与大家分享1年半前我从同样是独立游戏开发者并且面临着相同处境的同行们身上学到的经验。

对App Store的认知误区

首先,我将阐述我所认为的App Store陷阱,这也是很多非资深iOS开发者很容易踏进的误区。我们可以从很多角度去看待App Store,但最重要的是App Store到底能够为你带来多少利益。

误区1:iPhone和iPad用户很多,所以任何优秀的游戏都能够赚取丰厚的利益。

这是一个很容易犯错的数学题,就像是你可能会说“好吧,App Store中有2亿名用户,而我们售价1美元的应用只要能够吸引到其中1%用户,这便意味着我们能够获得20万美元的收益!”

注意:

*很多iOS用户没有信用卡。例如使用iPod的儿童或青少年。他们只会下载一些免费应用。

*88%的游戏下载是免费的。虽然《愤怒的小鸟》获得了数亿次的下载量,但是我们需要注意,这同时也包含了简装版本和免费版本。

*不要忘记还得向苹果出让30%的抽成。实际上20万美元的收益真正拿到自己手上就只剩下14万美元了。

所以关键在于,即使你拥有强大的用户基础,但是其实很多玩家并未在App Store中消费,所以不要被这些“潜在”用户数蒙蔽了双眼,应该尽可能理性地看待问题。

误区2:制作一款iPhone游戏成本低,省时省力

如果是与《刺客教条》或者《荒野大镖客》做比较,这点自然没有错。iPhone游戏的制作过程自然无需花费5千万美元巨资,或者花费4年开发时间。但是除非你致力于创造一款《涂鸦跳跃》的仿制品,否则你还是需要投入一定的精力。如果你想节约开发成本,你便只能拥有一个较小的团队(可能只有2名员工),并至少经历6个月的时间不断完善才能最终创造出成品游戏。

估计iOS游戏预算:

*2名成员的工资x6个月的时间投入

*音效设计的独立承包商费用

*参加GDC或其它能够提高游戏曝光率的活动所需的费用

*所需的计算机硬件(一台新电脑或者硬盘驱动器或者一台iPad)的费用

*开发软件的授权费用,因为软件开发商也需要以此谋生

*购买网站或者Dropbox帐号的费用

*进行QA的费用

总的来说,如果所有的费用加起来,你至少需要不低于4万美元的成本预算(我的估计值应该算少的吧,在今天竞争如此激烈的App Store中,如果你想取得较好的成绩不投入10万美元以上的资金恐怕是不行的)。

误区3:不断更新游戏有助于提升销量(游戏邦注:这也被称为“《愤怒的小鸟》神话”)

当你告诉别人自己正努力成为一名独立开发者并致力于创造iOS游戏时,他们可能会拍拍你的肩膀然后说道:“嘿,这是一个与传统游戏产业完全不同的领域。即使你在发行游戏时遭遇了失败,如果你能够继续保持游戏的更新,你便能够取得最后的成功。在六个月后你便能够比发行后的第一周赚到更多的钱。《愤怒的小鸟》就是一个典型。”

如果是在2年前,这个观点还是有点意义的,但是放在当下来说,事实却不是如此了。如果你的发布真的失败了,但是你却仍然保持游戏更新,游戏的运营可能真的就会出现好转。但是你肯定不希望面临这种发行失败吧。App Store中盛行着一种“发行效应”(首次发布对游戏后续运营甚为关键),其目前影响更甚。

在游戏的最初发行时,如果能够获得苹果的推荐,进行游戏推广,赢得某些奖项或者获得媒体的广泛报道等,游戏的下载量便能够显著提升。而内容更新却不能做到这一点(除非是修复漏洞)。内容更新,如增加新关卡等能够更好地保证用户基础并构建一个良好的游戏社区,但是却不能真正增加游戏玩家数量。然而这也不是意味着你应该彻底放弃内容更新,而是希望你不要盲目地指望通过这种方式实现可观收益。

误区4:通过新闻网站或者病毒式传播视频,便能够让游戏在App Store收获曝光度

当你制作了一款优秀的游戏,那么推动游戏成功的关键因素便是提高它在App Store上的曝光率。我曾经说过,可以通过一篇优秀的论坛文章或者一个制作精致且便宜的视频吸引大型社区的关注,但是现在看来这种做法却是在浪费时间。除非你已经在长期活跃于这个社区中,要不你便很难获得这种影响力。而病毒式视频传播更是需要百分百的运气,因为你根本不能预见会有多少人去看你的视频内容。

接受现实吧,提高曝光率是一场持久战,是你从游戏编程到发行后整个过程都需要正视的重要问题。

误区5:苹果的推荐完全是靠运气

一些独立开发商认为能够得到苹果的推荐真的需要很多运气。但是我却不这么认为。当然了,苹果的工作人员也只是诚实地展现出他们喜欢且认为质量好的游戏。但是与其它发行商一样,他们也有自己的评价标准和风险管理理念。

*他们会基于主要用户群体而挑选推荐游戏(例如,比起排名靠后的赛跑类游戏,优质教育类应用在iPad中更有机会获得推荐)

*他们会选择那些能够帮助推广苹果设备,并能够凸显设备新功能的游戏(如果你的游戏能够兼容iOS6新功能,那就恭喜你了)

*他们会推荐那些自己认识的开发商的作品(即使是在2012年,现实生活中的关系也是最可靠的)

所以《无尽之剑2》能够获得苹果的推荐并不是一种运气,因为这款游戏是出自一家非常有名的发行商之手,是一款大受欢迎的游戏的续集,是针对iPhone 4设备的应用,而且Chair/Epic与苹果成员已经接触多次。

《水果忍者》开发团队的新作品《火箭背包》,《迷你大楼》(《口袋青蛙》开发商)以及《Bumpy Road》(《Cosmo Spin》开发商)走的也是同种路线。

问题在于:如果你只是一个小小的独立开发者而没有任何发行商的撑腰,而这是你的第一款游戏,并且它并不支持iPhone 5的新功能,那么你就很难得到苹果的推荐。但是幸运的是,苹果的推荐功能并不是随机的。这就意味着我们可以朝着推荐标准而前进。

虽然App Store并不是一个金矿,但还是有许多方法能够帮助独立游戏开发商获得谋生。让我们看看谁在这个发行平台上获得了成功。

轰动的畅销游戏

就像在掌机游戏产业中存在着一些非常强大的游戏。而且很多时候这些成功游戏都是由一个较小的开发团队制作而成,但是它们却拥有强大的发行商,得到了苹果的推荐,并且有着稳定的PR支持以及广泛的新闻宣传。以下我将列出几款较为经典的游戏:

Infinity-Blade-2(from ipadshouse.com)

Infinity-Blade-2(from ipadshouse.com)

《无尽之剑》:由Chair开发,Epic发行的一款游戏。根据Epic所称,这款游戏在发行后的7个月内便获得了1千万美元的收益,其中有40%是来自于iAP。截止2012年1月,《无尽之剑》(包括1和2系列)创造了3千万美元的收益。

《割绳子》:Zeptolab开发,Chillingo发行的一款游戏。他们想努力打造一款《愤怒的小鸟》杀手游戏,但是在发行6周后却“仅”获得3百万的销量。

《火箭背包》:Halfbrick开发,并且依靠着《水果忍者》的名气打响的一款游戏。在发行一周后便拥有了35万次的下载量,而我们也从中看到了这款游戏广阔的发展前景。

《混乱与秩序》:Gameloft开发的一款游戏(灵感来自于《魔兽世界》)。作为一款售价6.99美元的游戏在发行20天内就获得了1百万美元的销售额,这款游戏一天的下载量就达到了7千次。

这些例子能让许多人充满信心地认为,只要做得好,App Store上的游戏也能够带来巨大的利益。毫无疑问,这些游戏都是有利可图的,但是我敢打赌,即使这些游戏在20天内能够赚的1百万美元的利润,但是就从《混乱与秩序》来看,其投入于开发中的成本更是不会少于这个数值。这些游戏就相当于是App Store中的《使命召唤》,《天际》以及《魔兽世界》,但是它们所创造的利润却远不如后者,甚至难以取得收支平衡。

同样地,也有一些真正取得成功的独立游戏,但是却不能称之为轰动的畅销游戏,因为它们的名气并不是后来累积起来的,而是在发行前我们就已经能预见它们的广阔前景了:

《粘粘世界》( 请点击此处查看该游戏iPad版本发布经验分享

*在PC/WiiWare平台大获成功的两年之后才登陆iPad平台

*最初售价10美元,后来降价到5美元,并且以此带来了更多收益

*得到苹果推荐。在发行后的第一个月就获得12万5千次的下载量(单指iPad版本)。如果比较来看,在WiiWare上的最高月销量是6万8千份,而在Steam上是9万7千份。

*并且最近在App Store(iOS和Mac)的下载量更是突破了1百万次。

《迷你大楼》

*是继《口袋青蛙》之后同一个开发商推出的一款免费且大获成功的游戏

*在发行4天后就获得了1百万次的下载量

*2.6%的用户购买了iAP

《The Heist》

*在发行1周后就达到了50万的下载量

*虽然没有直接关系,但是该款游戏的开发商之前曾经推出了一款非常成功的应用camera+,销量更是高达3百万,从中我们可以看到,作为美国排名第三的付费应用,它每天能够带来3万美元的收益。这也就意味着排行前十的应用每天至少能够获得1万5千美元的收益。

所以,你也有可能在App Store中推出一款了不起的应用,但是如果你是白手起家,你便很难获得像上述游戏如此巨大的成功——除非你拥有一款“撞大运”的应用。

运气

“运气”游戏,是App Store中真正难以预料的大赢家——它们的成功是大多数人所难以预料到的。《愤怒的小鸟》便是最典型的例子,《涂鸦跳跃》或者《水果忍者》也属于这类型游戏。

还有两款较为突出的游戏:

《迷你大楼》:Andreas Illiger开发的游戏。获得了超过3百万的下载量,并且连续两周以上在美国的排行榜单中占据首位。任何独立开发者都梦想着创造一款优秀的游戏,获得广泛的认可与巨大的商业利益。这是开发者自己花了7个月时间,投入全部精力完成的游戏,如果你想要模仿这款游戏,那么我敢打赌你永远创造不出一款排名第一的游戏。

《列车解密》:这是一款智力游戏,让玩家能够实现梦想为列车“铺设轨道”。这款游戏并不是一开始就取得了成功。但是根据其开发者的数据,我们知道,在美国如果是排行第一的付费应用每天将能够获得4万至5万美元的收益。

近两年来我一直在关注着法国的App Store排行榜,并发现《愤怒的小鸟》,《水果忍者》,《涂鸦跳跃》以及它们的衍生作品都未曾掉出前25名。对我来说,即使是像《Tiny Wings》以及《Trainyard》这些大获成功的游戏也未能长期占据着前25名的位置,并且自2010年以来也没有其它游戏能够做到这一点。当然了,将来也有可能再次出现这种长居排行榜前茅的游戏,这些App Store“品牌”已经形成气候,它们会率先采用苹果设备的新技术或新功能,以免新到来的游戏挑战它们的榜单排名。也许下一款了不起的应用游戏将利用Siri,即iPhone 4S上的语音控制等新功能。

现实情况

我们所面临的其实是一个现实世界。这里充满着独立开发者以及少数发行商支持的游戏。以下我还将列举出一些对你们有所帮助的例子。

《Hard Lines》

第一周:

*14条赞许的评价

*22个用户评级,均为5颗星

*在第八天的销量是452,总收益是292美元

*得到了苹果推荐(但是不是作为“当周主打游戏”,而是“New & Noteworthy”)。

其它有趣的事实:

*“N&N”的推荐帮助这款游戏在10天内就获得了将近6500份的销量

*在被“Free App A Day”网站推荐的第一天就达到了8万2千次的下载量,在5天促销活动结束后再次变回“付费”应用时也立刻卖出了500份(正常情况下,平均一天的销量是50份)。

*在2011年圣诞节,包括免费促销的内容在内,《Hard Line》共获得了25万8千次的下载量。

《Portaball》

*从2010年9月到2011年8月,销量共达到4000份(售价0.99美元)。最高一天售出160份(刚发行时)

*在免费促销阶段的销量是5万6千份

《Punch a Hole》

*得到了Touch Arcade(游戏邦注:美国苹果平台游戏资讯网站》以及PocketGamer的评论

*发行后的第一周的销量是249份

*第一周后每天能够售出2-3份

《Wooords》

*得到Touch Arcade的评论

*得到iPad中“New & Noteworthy”的推荐。连续两天的日销量达到1400份

*在美国的iPad应用排行榜中名列21

*在发行后的前20天内每天的销量都达到了700份左右,而后来也降到日销量100份

《Dapple》

*开发成本3万2千美元,发行时售价4.99美元

*得到Kotaku的评论

*发行的第一天就获得了最高下载量,随后下降到一天10份左右。在发行后的前24天内共售出131份。

《FishMoto》

*发行后的20天内共收益182美元

《Flower Garden》

*从2009年4月到2010年1月这8个多月间的收益是2万1千美元

*添加了iAP和免费版本,并在一个月内赚的3万美元的收益

*平均1周的收益是1千5百美元

《高山滑雪》

*2009年12月最初发行时并未引起太大关注

*发行后的第一周每日销售额是50美元,并逐渐下滑

*得到“N&N”推荐后销售额爬升到每日80美元,但后来又下跌到每日10美元

*iPad版本的发行虽然推动这款游戏销量的小幅提升,但是最后还是再次下跌

*添加广告:大约每日的收益是4美元(虽然有4万4918个广告请求,946个广告印象,但最终转换率却只有2%)

*Android版本每天收益是5美元

《Ow My Balls》

*一年内售出1万4千份,总收益是1万美元

*在免费促销时爬升到免费游戏排行榜的首位,并在一天内获得了23万3千124次的下载量。然后达到了110万的下载量。

*在成功进行免费促销之后的一天,游戏共赚得600美元的收益。

《QuizQuizQuiz》

*得到苹果的推荐

*以0.99美元的售价共获得了7万美元的收益

*在欧洲市场大获成功,但是美国市场仅占总收益的9%

*截止2010年8月,23%的玩家都是购买盗版版本

在分析了这些例子后的相关总结:

*得到苹果的推荐能够影响游戏的下载量

*得到一些大型网站的评论,如Touch Arcade中也能为游戏销量带来巨大的影响

*得到像Free App a Day网站的推荐能够明显提升游戏的下载量,但是却不能直接转变为游戏的销量(也就是你的游戏声誉仍然不够明显)

*免费促销活动将会促使游戏评级下滑,因为你所面向玩家并不是目标玩家

结论

《Dapple》的开发者Owen Goss针对于App Store游戏收益做了一次有趣的调查。而调查结果正如我们在The Game Bakers所预见的。

1)你制作了越多游戏,你从一款游戏中赚的的利益就会更多。

Med Per Game Rev By Num Games(from streamingcolour)

Med Per Game Rev By Num Games(from streamingcolour)

这意味着经验的重要性。

2)80%的开发者只能从游戏中挣得3%的利益。

Rev Distribution(from streamingcolour)

Rev Distribution(from streamingcolour)

这意味着只有20%的开发者能够利用游戏谋生,也仅有1%的开发者会因为这个职业高枕无忧。

《SQUIDS》又是怎样的情况?

尝试着去减少运气元素

我们在《SQUIDS》所进行的策略非常大胆。我们有可能投入比《愤怒的小鸟》或者《Tiny Wings》还多的成本但却不能获得更多利益。这些我们在一开始就知道了,并且始终以此为开发目标。而我们想要做的则是移除游戏中的“运气”元素。这个策略非常简单:

*制作一款范围较广的高质量游戏(我们知道这么做的代价非常高,但是如此才能让我们的游戏真正有别于平均售价0.99美元的iOS游戏)。

*瞄准“软玩家”。即那些喜欢休闲游戏玩家但是希望游戏能够比《愤怒的小鸟》更有深度。这也是iPhone游戏的下一步发展方向。

*创造一个游戏社区,聚集大量忠实玩家而构建游戏品牌。这就意味着游戏将普遍采取低价策略。

*创造一个跨平台游戏。因为这是一款范围较广且高质量的游戏,所以我们可以将其同时发行于iOS,PC,Mac,Android,PSN,XBLA等平台上。

除此之外,我还想提2个采取不同模式的例子,它们既不属于“一鸣惊人”游戏也不属于“运气”类游戏。尽管我们的策略并未基于这2种模式,但是这的确与我们制作游戏的理念是一样的。这两种模式主要瞄准的是细分市场的用户,并最终获得了巨大的成功。

Rubicon Development开发的《Great Little War Game》

他们采取了与我们相同的策略。他们创造了一款范围较广的游戏并发行于iOS平台上。他们针对于回合制战争游戏利基市场。但是比起我们的《SQUIDS》,他们在创造游戏的环境和标题时也冒了一定的风险。总之,他们很巧妙地管理着自己的品牌游戏,而最近刚刚发行于Android上的版本游戏也获取了巨大的成功,可以说他们是在任天堂拒绝将《Advance Wars》推上智能手机后而大胆尝试了一种新创举。

*发行于2011年3月,在8月份之前共获得15万美元的收益

*开发成本大约10万美元

*在最初出现于“New & Noteworthy”中一天的收益大约是5千美元,但是后来迅速回落至1天不足1千美元

Capybara Games和Superbrothers开发的《Sword & Sworcery》

Capybara和Superbrothers都尽可能地在做好这款游戏。他们采取的是与人们预料相反的做法,并最后大受欢迎。在正式发行的前一年,他们推出了游戏的预告片。游戏瞄准了早前那些喜欢点击式玩法的玩家,并设定了一个较高的售价(4.99美元),未添加iAP机制,并只发行于iPad平台。这款游戏的预算是20万美元,所以说开发者下了一个巨大的赌注,就像是独立PC开发者误把App Store当成Steam平台一样。但是最终,在发行后的6个月内,这款游戏的销量就已经超出了30万,并赢得了许多奖项,不仅得到业内人士的肯定,也为开发者带来了巨大的利益。真的是一款值得学习与借鉴的好游戏。

《SQUIDS》的相关数据

*《SQUIDS》历经10个月的开发,于2011年10月11日最终发行。在我写这篇文章时,这款游戏在App Store面世整整92天了。

*核心的开发团队共有6名成员,他们分布于世界多个不同国家,而工作室设于法国。我们也受到了一些独立游戏开发者(包括音频,动画制作者以及故事作家等)的帮助,并与QA公司合作融洽。

*《SQUIDS》主要iOS版本的开发成本超过了10万美元。

*我们很重视游戏的市场营销和PR,包括参加德国的科隆游戏展,西雅图的PAX游戏展,制作了2部预告片,雇佣了PR代表以及社区管理员。而我们投入于市场营销/PR的预算大约是30万美元。

*《SQUIDS》在推出时就得到了超过200个网站和博客的评论。几乎所有评论都是肯定的,除了Touch Arcade, Edge和Slide to Play。Touch Arcade和Edge。后者虽然表示喜欢这款游戏,但是他们认为问题主要出在于我们的应用内置付费设计。

*根据84%忠实玩家的评价,这款游戏现在拥有5颗星的级别(在1634名玩家的评价中有1373名给出5颗星的评价)。在所有1634个评级中只有一条是关于IAP功能的抱怨。

*游戏在“New & Noteworthy”推荐中持续了2周。以0.99美元的定价,我们一天最高的销售额是6千美元。

*《SQUIDS》连续一个礼拜蝉联法国付费应用排行首位。这就等于该款游戏每天的下载量大约是1700次。而它在美国最好的排名是33,但在美国市场所获得的收益却略高于法国。《SQUIDS》在51个应用商店的RPG类别中排行中名列第一,其中也包括美国应用商店。

*《SQUIDS》在发行第一周就达到了10万次的下载量,并获得了将近7万5千美元的收益,但是随后因为万圣节促销和圣诞假期发行的游戏大量涌现,《SQUIDS》排行状况也逐渐下滑。

*IAP占据《SQUIDS》总收益的10%。通过在游戏中添加iAP能够让那些不希望重复某些关卡去挣得星星的玩家能够采取捷径;IAP并非游戏的主要营收渠道。

*我们在12月2日更新了Universal版本,不过同时发行的还有强劲对手《无尽之剑2》。尽管我们在iPad法国应用商店中打败了《无尽之剑2》,但是这对于游戏总销量的影响并不大,仅在发行那一周为我们带来1千5百美元的收益。

*《SQUIDS》推出了7种语言的本土化版本(游戏邦注:包括英语、法语、意大利语、德语、西班牙语,汉语,日语和俄语)

*我们得到了大量忠实玩家的支持,他们不仅会为游戏撰写肯定的评价,而且还会给我们发送意见性的电子邮件。

尽管App Store并不是一个大金矿,并不能够让所有游戏开发者都变成百万富翁,但是它的出现却可以说是游戏产业中的一大变革。它让许多小团队能够以较低的成本制作出有趣的游戏,并通过简单的方法从中盈利,获得上百万的玩家基础。在App Store出现之前,我们并未看到多少独立开发者的身影,并且在独立开发世界中也不存在如此惊人的创造性。

《SQUIDS》很快也将出现在PC,Mac以及Android平台上了,我认为,跨平台游戏才是独立开发者未来真正的发展方向。

而关于利益方面,尽管现在《SQUIDS》还未能给我们带来无穷的收益,来自于iOS版本的利润只能够抵消我们的开发成本,但是我们有信心,即将推出于其它平台上的游戏版本将能够让这款游戏更加有利可图,并支撑着我们开发游戏续集。

游戏邦注:原文发表于2012年1月17日,所涉事件及数据以当时为准。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦)

Money and the App Store: A few figures that might help an indie developer

by Emeric Thoa

January 17, 2012

Eighteen months ago, when I left Ubisoft to start an independent game studio and focus on making my own games, I looked online a bit to get an idea of how much income I could expect to make as an indie.

At Ubisoft I used to work on big AAA console games, and I had some figures in mind, but I knew they wouldn’t be relevant for my new life: $20M budgets, teams of 200 hundred people, 3 million sales at $70 per unit… I knew being an indie developer would be completely different, but I had very little information about how different it would be.

Angry Birds had taken off, Plants vs. Zombies was already a model, Doodle Jump was a good example of success, and soon after I started my “indie” life, Cut the Rope was selling a million copies a week. But except for what I call the “jackpots,” there were very few public stories or numbers on the web, and this meant we were a bit in the dark when we started SQUIDS.

I have been tracking figures since then, and I’m writing this article to share what I’ve learned with my fellow indie dev buddies who might be in the same position I was, a year and a half ago.

The App Store myths

In this article, I will present all of the postmortems and figures I’ve found interesting, and I will also explain how SQUIDS fits into the overall picture. But first, I would like to quickly give my opinion on few of the App Store myths you may believe if you’re not an experienced iOS developer. There are plenty of ways to view the App Store, but my point is that you might be a bit surprised by what the App Store really means in terms of money.

Myth #1: There are so many iPhones and iPads out there that any decent game can make you rich.

This is an easy mistake to make when you try to do the math with your dev buddy during a coffee break. “Okay, there are 200 million users on the App Store. You just need to reach 0.1% of them with a $1 app and you’ll make $200k!”

My warnings:

A lot of iOS users don’t have a credit card. Think kids and teenagers with iPods, for instance. They just download free apps.

88 % of games downloaded are free. And when people say that Angry Birds has reached 200 million downloads, remember that this includes their Lite and Free versions. (I won’t cover freemium models in this post, but don’t expect freemium to be easy, either.)

Never forget Apple’s 30% cut. $200k = $140k in real life.

The point here is that the user base might be huge, but a lot of people never pay anything on the App Store, so don’t get blinded by the potential and stay rational.

Myth #2: Making an iPhone game is fast and cheap

Compared to making Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption, this one is actually true. Making an iPhone game shouldn’t cost $50M and take 4 years. (Well, neither should a console game, if you ask me.) But unless you’re aiming for a Doodle Jump clone, it’s still a bit of work. If you make it cheap, you’ll have a very small team (say 2 people), and it’ll take AT LEAST six months to get something polished out there.

A quick estimate of an iOS game budget:

2 salaries x 6 months

A freelance contractor for sound design

A trip to GDC or some other event to meet journalists

Hardware to work on (a new computer, or a hard drive, or an iPad)

Some software licenses, because software devs need to earn a living, too

Maybe a website or a Dropbox account

You’ll do the QA yourself? All right then…

All in all, you can’t be serious about making games and “earning a living” out of it without at least a $40k budget. (And I’m really being cheap here; I think to be competitive today on the App Store you need $100k.)

Myth #3: Updating your game will make your sales increase over time (also known as “the Angry Birds fairy tale”)

This is probably the story that most people have heard and that everyone keeps telling you about at parties. When you tell someone you just made the move to become an indie and develop for iOS, they usually put an arm on your shoulder and say, “Hey man, it’s very different from the traditional game industry. Even if you fail at launch, if you keep updating the game it’s gonna take off eventually. You’ll earn more money after six months than during the first week after launch. Look at Angry Birds, man.”

Well, this might have made some sense two years ago, but it’s not the case anymore—unless your launch fails. If you really mess up your launch but you keep pushing for the game, then it will probably get better, that’s true. But you don’t really want your launch to fail. There is a “launch effect” on the App Store, now more than ever.

Your initial launch—along with special events like being featured by Apple, or promotions, or winning an award and getting some sweet coverage—that’s what will make your downloads go up. Content updates won’t (unless they are crash-fixes). Content updates like new levels are good to secure a user base and to build a community, but they don’t increase the user base. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do content updates, but don’t expect the wrong benefits from them.

Myth #4: Being visible on the App Store just takes a good post on reddit or a good viral video

Once you have a good game, the key to success is visibility on the App Store. Another tale I’ve been told many times (and that I actually wanted to believe) is that you can leverage big communities with a nice forum post or a cool and cheap video. I believe now that this is a waste of time. You can’t influence a community unless you’ve already been in this community for a long time. And viral videos suffer even more from the “jackpot syndrome” than the apps themselves, in the sense that you can’t at all predict if they will get 12 million views or 300 (although 300 is more likely).

Just accept it: being visible will be a long and tough battle that you’ll have to fight from the day you start to code, to a year after the launch.

Myth 5: Getting featured by Apple is completely random

Some indie devs think getting featured by Apple is a bit of luck. I don’t think so. Sure, the guys at Apple are honest folks who showcase the games they like and think are quality products. But like any publisher, they have their editorial line and they manage risks.

They showcase games that match up with their main audience (meaning a good educational product for iPad has more chance of being featured than the 2412th endless runner game)

They showcase games that will sell more devices and use their latest features (if you can use the new iOS 6 feature, good for you)

They showcase games that come from reliable developers / publishers (if you previously published a millions-grossing app on iOS, good for you)

They showcase games from people they know personally (because even in 2012, real life relationships help you trust people)

It’s not random that Infinity Blade 2 was featured at launch: it comes from a well known publisher, it’s a sequel of a hit, it’s an iPhone 4 showcase app, and Chair/Epic have probably had beers with folks from Apple more than once.

On a scale that’s more relatable to an indie developer, the same rules apply to Jetpack Joyride, coming from Fruit Ninja’s devs. Or Tiny Tower (the Pocket Frog devs). Or even Bumpy Road (the Cosmo Spin devs).

The point is: if you are an indie with no publisher backing, if it’s your first game and if it doesn’t particularly show off the new features of the iPhone 5, you won’t get featured. The good news is, it’s actually a VERY GOOD THING that App Store featuring isn’t random. That means we can do what it takes to reach that goal.

And now what?

Knowing that the App Store is not a mine full of gold ready for the taking, there are still ways to earn a living with that dream job of being an indie game developer. So let’s take a look at who is successful on this distribution platform.

The Blockbusters

Exactly like in the console game industry, there are certain games that are simply too big to fail. Most of the time they are made by a small dev team but backed up by a big publisher, securing the Apple featuring, PR support, and press coverage. Here are a few examples with figures:

Infinity Blade: developed by Chair and backed up by Epic. $10M in 7 months with 40% coming from iAP, according to Epic. In January 2012, the Infinity Blade franchise (1+2) reached $30M in revenue.

Cut the Rope: developed by Zeptolab and backed up by Chillingo. They did everything they could to make it an Angry Birds killer (they even made a better game), but “only” managed to sell 3 million games in 6 weeks.

Jetpack Joyride: developed by Halfbrick and backed up by Fruit Ninja’s notoriety. They had 350k downloads in a week and we know it was the start of a long-term success.

Order & Chaos: developed by Gameloft (and inspired by WoW). They made $1M in 20 days with a $6.99 game, which comes out to about 7,000 downloads a day if we exclude iAPs.

These examples are what make many people think that, when well done, an App Store game is bringing in a lot of money. There is no doubt these games are profitable, but even if $1M in 20 days is certainly a lot of money, I bet O&C cost more to develop. These games are the Call of Duty and the Skyrim and the WoW of the App Store, but they don’t bring in as much money, even proportionally to their budgets.

Along the same lines, there are some games that are truly indie successes but that can be considered blockbusters because, as opposed to Jackpots, you could tell they were going to be massive hits before they even launched:

World of Goo — Link to World of Goo postmortem

iPad version released 2 years after the critically acclaimed PC/WiiWare versions

Released at $10, then dropped to $5, where it had more revenues at than it had at 10$

Got featured by Apple. Sold 125k in its first month (iPad only!). Comparatively, the best month on WiiWare was 68k copies, and 97k on Steam.

Recently hit the one million download mark on the App Store (iOS+Mac)

Tiny Tower

Freemium game from the successful brothers who made Pocket Frogs

1 million download in 4 days

2.6% of users buy iAP

The Heist — Link to The Heist post mortem

500k sold in one week

Had a 500k user database that received a newsletter at launch

Not really related, but the same devs also have a successful app called camera+ that reached 3 million sales, and they revealed that being the #3 paid app in the US means around $30k / day. We learn here that being In the Top 10 means around $15k / day.

So yes, it’s possible to kick ass on the App Store, but if you start from scratch, you probably won’t achieve the same figures—unless you have a “jackpot” app.

The Jackpots

Here are the real winners of the App Store lottery: the Jackpot games, the ones we could have expected to make a decent success, but not that incredible a success. Angry Birds is of course the most famous example, but Doodle Jump or Fruit Ninja are crazy jackpots as well.

Here are two others worth mentioning:

Tiny Wings: developed by Andreas Illiger. Sold more than 3 million copies and took first place in the US for more than 2 weeks. It’s any indie’s dream: a great game, great critical reception, a great commercial success. A game made by one guy in 7 months. It was well done from start to finish, but try to mimic it and I bet you won’t end up at #1. It’s the reference jackpot.

Trainyard: a puzzle game that made a crazy streak to first place for a little while and made us all dream. The dev wrote a super post-mortem here, and as you will see at the beginning it was not all that successful. He also gave the interesting figure of $40k to $50k a day if you’re the #1 paid app in the US.

I’ve been looking at the French App Store charts for almost 2 years, and Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Doodle Jump, and their spin-offs have not left the Top 25. What that means to me is that even Tiny Wings and Trainyard didn’t manage to stay in the Top 25 despite their great success, and that no game since 2010 has made it, either. It might happen again, but I feel that App Store “brands” have been created already and it will take new tech or a new feature from a new Apple device before newcomers have a chance of staying high in the charts for a long time. Maybe the next killer app will use Siri (haha).

The real world

This leaves us with the real world. The world you and I play in, with all the other indies and the other lesser publisher-backed games. Here are some numbers and stories I found that might help you. I want to thank all the devs who posted these post-mortems—it really helps guys, so thank you!

Hard Lines — Link to Hard Lines postmortem

First week:

14 reviews, all were good

22 user ratings, all 5 stars

452 sales in 8 days, grossing a total of $292

Then got featured by Apple (not Game of the Week, but New & Noteworthy).

Other interesting facts:

N&N featuring led to about 6500 sales in 10 days

82,000 downloads on Day One when featured by Free App A Day, sold 500 when turned back to “paid” after a 5-day promotion (normal sales are about 50 a day).

By Christmas 2011, including downloads from free promotion, Hard Line had 258k downloads.

Portaball — Link to Portaball post mortem

4,000 sales ($0.99) from Sept 2010 to August 2011. Highest one-day sales: 160 at launch

56k downloads during the free promotion period

Punch a Hole — Link to Punch a Hole post mortem

Reviewed by Touch Arcade and PocketGamer

249 sales during launch week

2-3 sales a day after launch week

Wooords – Link to Wooords post mortem

Reviewed by TouchArcade

Featured in New & Noteworthy on iPad. Made around 1,400 sales a day for two days

Peaked at #21 overall in US iPad

Sold around 700/day during the first 20 days, then fell to 100/day

Dapple – Link to Dapple post mortem

Cost $32k to develop, sold for $4.99 at launch

Reviewed by Kotaku

Highest downloads peaked at launch day, then fell to fewer than 10/day. 131 copies sold during the first 24 days.

FishMoto – Link to FishMoto post mortem

$182 grossed after 20 days

Flower Garden – Link to Flower Garden post mortem

Made $21k in 8 months from April 2009 to January 2010

Added iAPs and free version and made $30k in one month

Average income is $1500 a week

Big Mountain Snowboarding – Link to Big Mountain Snowboarding post mortem

Released in December 2009 with no buzz

$50/day during launch week, then dropped

N&N feature made the sales climb to $80/day, then back down to $10

iPad launch gave sales a small boost, then they fell again

Added ads: makes about $4/day (44918 requests, 946 impressions, so about a 2% conversion rate)

Android version makes $5/day

Ow My Balls – Links to Ow My Balls post mortem

14k copies sold in one year, grossing $10k

Reached #1 free with free promotion and had 233,124 download in one day. Then reached 1.1 million downloads.

The day after the successful free promotion, they made $600.

QuizQuizQuiz – Links to QuizQuizQuiz post mortem

Featured by Apple

Made around $70k in sales, mainly at $0.99

Main success in Europe, only 9% in the US

23% of players were on pirated versions as of August 2010

Some conclusions after reading those post-mortem:

Being featured by Apple has a great impact on downloads

Being covered by big sites like Touch Arcade has a strong impact

Being featured by sites like Free App a Day can lead to an incredible number of downloads that don’t translate into big sales right afterward (the impact on your game’s reputation remains unclear)

Free promotions might make your ratings go down because you reach a lot of players who might not be your target

Conclusion

Dapple’s dev Owen Goss did an interesting survey about App Store game revenues. The findings are exactly what I expected when we created The Game Bakers.

1) The more games you make, the more money you’ll earn from one game.

Meaning experience matters.

2) 80% of devs earn 3% of the revenues.

Meaning there are about 20% of developers who can earn a living from their games, and 1% of them have a very nice car.

What about SQUIDS?

Taking risks to reduce the element of chance

Our strategy with SQUIDS was super bold. We would spend more to develop it than Angry Birds, and earn less. That was the plan.
We would also spend more than Tiny Wings and earn less. We knew that and we aimed for that from the beginning. But what we wanted was to remove the “lottery” factor. The strategy was pretty simple:

Make a high quality game with a big scope (we knew it would be expensive, but this would differentiate us from the average $0.99 iOS game).

Target a “soft gamer” audience. People who were playing casual games but wanted a little more depth than Angry Birds. The next step in iPhone gaming, basically.

Create a community, and big user base of real fans who would help to build the brand. This meant going with a low price point despite the game’s scope.

Make it multiplatform. Because the game would be high quality with a big scope, we could then make it multiplatform and release it on iOS, PC, Mac, Android, PSN, XBLA, and so on.

That leads me to two other models I want to bring forward that don’t fit into the Blockbuster category or the Jackpot category. Although we didn’t base our strategy on their models at the time, I can say that these guys go where I want to go with The Game Bakers. They make deep games that target a niche audience and end up hitting much more.

Great Little War Game by Rubicon Development

These guys used almost the same strategy we did. They made a very good game with a big scope for an iOS release. They targeted the turn-based war game niche. They took a little bit less risk in their setting and title than we did (little soldiers might have a bigger mainstream appeal than SQUIDS, but I love my Squids nonetheless). Overall, they managed their brand smartly and have recently launched on Android with great success, taking the spot Nintendo refused to take with Advance Wars on smartphones.

Link to Great Little War Game postmortem

Released in March 2011 and had generated $150k in income by August

Development costs were around $100k

Appearing first in “New & Noteworthy” earned them $6000/day sales, but these quickly felt back to less than $1000/day

Superbrothers by Capybara Games and Superbrothers

Capybara and Superbrothers did everything right with this game. They did the exact opposite of what you’re “supposed to do” and made it a hit. They released a teaser a year before launch, they targeted a niche of click-and-play retro gamers, they priced the game high ($4.99), they didn’t have any iAP, they released on iPad only. The budget was $200k and they took a big risk overall with the game’s context. It’s as if they were indie PC developers who mistook the App Store for Steam. And yet they sold more than 300k in 6 months and won many awards, making it both a critical and commercial success. Respect.

SQUIDS numbers

My little addition to all of the post mortems listed above:

SQUIDS was developed in 10 months and released October 11, 2011. At the time of this writing, it’s spent 92 days on the App Store.

The core team of 6 people is scattered all over the world, but the head office is in France. Several freelance guys helped (audio, animation, story), and we worked with a QA company as well.

SQUIDS’ lead iOS version cost more than $100k to develop.

We put a lot of effort into marketing and PR, including traveling to GamesCom in Germany and PAX in Seattle, making two trailers, and hiring PR reps and a community manager. Total marketing / PR budget around $30k.

SQUIDS was reviewed by more than 200 sites and blogs at launch. Almost all reviews are excellent except for three that are unfortunately some of the main websites (Touch Arcade, Edge, and Slide to Play). Touch Arcade and Edge liked the game but felt there was a problem in our in-App Purchase design.

We currently have 5-star ratings from a crazy 84% of users (1,373 5-stars out of 1,634 ratings total). We have had only one complaint about the iAP model in all 1,634 ratings.

We were featured in New & Noteworthy for 2 weeks. Our biggest grossing day scored over $6,000 with the app priced at $0.99.

SQUIDS was the #1 paid app in France for 7 days. This translates to about 1,700 downloads per day. Best rank in the US was #33, which grossed a little more than #1 in France (D’oh!). SQUIDS ranked #1 in the RPG category in 51 stores, including the USA.

SQUIDS grossed nearly $75k in its first month, with nearly 100k downloads, then fell off the charts with all the big Thanksgiving promotions and Christmas releases.

iAPs represent about 10% of the revenue. These were designed to be shortcuts for players who didn’t want to replay the levels to earn stars that give virtual currency; the iAPs were not designed to be the revenue model.

We launched an update to Universal on December 2, alongside Infinity Blade 2. (No fear!) Even though we did beat IB2 on the iPad’s French store, this only made a very small sales impact and brought in about $1,500 the week of launch.

SQUIDS is localized into 7 languages (EFIGS + Chinese, Japanese, Russian)

We have had a wonderful support from fans who keep writing great reviews and sending nice emails. Thank you guys!

Even if the App Store is not a goldmine that will turn any game developer into a billionaire, it is still a revolution in the industry. It has allowed very small teams to make fun games relatively cheaply and commercialize them in a very simple way, potentially reaching millions of players. Never before have we seen so many indies and such a great creativity in the indie world.

SQUIDS will very soon release on PC, Mac, and Android, which was part of the plan from the beginning. In my mind, being multiplatform is really where the indie developer has a future as a studio.

As for the money itself, even though SQUIDS hasn’t made us rich so far, revenues from the iOS version have almost covered our development costs and we are confident that its upcoming release on other platforms will make the game profitable and allow us to develop a sequel. And for The Game Bakers, that’s what all of this is about: in the end it’s not about getting rich, but about being able to make the games we want to make, independently.( source:gamasutra

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