Saturday, April 13, 2019

Comparing Launch Weeks - F2P vs. Premium - Release of our game on the App Store

Ever wonder why so many games are Free to Play nowadays?



About 3 months ago I released my mobile strategy game Carrier Commander on the App Store. Initially a $3 "premium" download, the launch of Carrier Commander got a lot of attention online, with over 160k+ views of its App Store Listing.

After the hype died down, we decided to relaunch Carrier Commander as a Free-to-play game with an optional "Full Game Unlock" in-app-purchase for $5. This release also generated some attention online, and brought a lot more players to the game.


In this short blog post I'll reveal the download data gathered from the App Store Analytics page to provide some insight into the results of Premium vs. F2P. If you're unfamiliar with the mobile publishing business, here are some key concepts you may need to know:

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Impressions: Total number of views of your store listing. This includes views where your app is one of many displayed to a user.
Product Page Views: The number of visits to your app's page.
Conversion Rate: Number of users who download your app divided by the total number of unique impressions.
Average Revenue Per User: Divide your total number of Downloads by the total sales. For a premium game this should simply be the price of the game.
Long Tail: Tendency of Games & Apps to continue making small amounts of sales & downloads for a long time after the initial hype of post-launch.

The Results


Without further ado, here's the data... 

Premium ($3) - First 7 days 





Summary: Upon release, 165k+ (non-unique) users viewed Carrier Commander's listing in the App Store. This includes users who merely saw the small listing next to other games. During the first several days CC claimed the #8 spot in gaming category "Board Games" and also recieved a lot of attention on Reddit from /r/Gamemaker and /r/GameIdeas communities. Combined, these factors account for the majority of the traffic.

Of those who viewed the link, 2,517 visited the product page. Of those, 31 people purchased & downloaded the game for $3. The conversion rate was approximately .03%. In other words, out of every 10,000 people who viewed listing, 3 purchased & downloaded the game.

The average revenue per user was $3, so with 31 downloads that makes a total of: $93.

If you've found a discrepancy between "Impressions" and "Conversions" that's because conversions only counts "Unique Impressions" meaning users who viewed the listing twice are not counted. Another discrepancy  which shows 38 App Units vs 43 App Units comes from 2 of the reports having slightly different dates

 Free (with $5 IAP) - First 7 days




Summary: Upon re-release as a F2P game, Carrier Commander's listing was viewed 8,000+ times. The product page was visited about 4,500 times, and the game was installed 1,428 times. The conversion rate raised to about 23%.

One piece of data that is not depicted above is In-App-Purchases. 10 In-app-purchases were made that week, and some of the players went on to make purchases in the coming weeks, although it's impossible for me to differentiate which purchases came from this cohort of players vs new players who downloaded the game later.

The average revenue per user for Carrier Commander during this week was $.03, with 1500 users that means the games revenue was $50.

Conclusion 


Free to Play is better. Not only does it allow your game to reach exponentially more players, but also with well designed in-app-purchases the profitability is far higher.  The rationale behind this should be apparent to anyone who plays mobile games.
  1. Players have many Free options on the App Store and are largely unwilling to spend money on a game they haven't tried yet. 
  2. Once users have tried your game they are more willing to pay money into it. 
  3. Free games are "Sticky", meaning non-paying users will download them and give you more opportunities to convert them to paying users in the future. 
If we extrapolate the Conversion & ARPU rates to my initial launch, we can see that a lot of money was left on the table by launching as a premium game.

160,000 total impressions (Initial Launch)
22% Conversion Rate (F2P Conversion Rate) 
35,000 Downloads (Total Impressions x Conversion Rate) 
$1000 (35,000 Users x $.03 ARPU)

In other words, Carrier Commander is roughly 10x more profitable as a F2P game!

Hope you find this information is useful/informative! If you did, check in next week for our podcast with Chengdu Gaming Federation discussing the implications of this data.

And if you like mobile strategy games, feel free to give Carrier Commander a try.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Building Blocks of Conventional Game AI - Pt 2



In this podcast I sit down with Charlie from Chengdu Gaming Federation and discuss the techniques developers use to mimic artificial intelligence in video games, using lessons I learned developing Carrier Commander: War at Sea in Gamemaker. Detailed notes below... ***Links*** Part 1 of the podcast - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpQDp... CGF Homepage - https://chengdugaming.com/ My Gaming Blog - http://fromgametobrain.blogspot.com/ Carrier Commander (App Store) - https://itunes.apple.com/app/carrier-... (Google Play BETA) - https://play.google.com/apps/testing/... ***Time-stamped Notes*** 00:25 Programming in Gamemaker with GML 00:46 Push vs Pull AI Architecture - 2:00 AI in Halo, Fear, Doom, Bioshock - 4:00 Group Dynamics in Halo AI - 5:00 Combining Push & Pull AI in Starcraft 5:30 Perception in Game AI (What information do you feed your Game AI) - Starcraft 1 vs 2, Fog of War & Limiting your AI’s perception - 7:20 Simulating Visual Perception in First Person Shooters - 9:00 Simulating Hearing in FPS games 9:40 Finite State Machines in Game AI - Broforce enemies finite state machine - Dynamic finite state enemies 12:30 Simulating AI (Game AI) vs Real AI 13:05 Adaptive AI - Fighting games - Recognizing player patterns 14:52 Pathfinding - Pathfinding in The Witness - 17:40 Using nodes - 19:30 Group Movement 21:30 Online Resources for Gamemaker and AI 22:30 AI in Carrier Commander 24:40 Player testing & feedback

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Breaking Down Artificial Intelligence in Popular Games - Pt 1




From simple patterns in Pacman to adaptive personalities in the Shadows of Mordor, video game AI has challenged and entertained us for decades.
In this podcast Charlie & I discuss the techniques developers use to mimic artificial intelligence in video games, using lessons I learned developing Carrier Commander: War at Sea as a platform for exploring AI in other popular games. Detailed notes below...

Links

Intel's Article on Game AI CGF Homepage
Download Carrier Commander Free on the App Store
Download Carrier Commander on Google Play (Beta)


Timestamped Notes

1:06 - 3:30 - The AI of Pacman
4:00 - 7:00 - The difference between AI and Game AI
7:30 - 11:30 - Designing Strategy Game AI in Carrier Commander
11:30 - 14:00 - Developing Decision Maps in Game AI
14:00 - 16:00 Handicapping AI for Fun & Playability in AI
16:40 - 27:00 - Great examples of AI in popular games
 - Shadows of Mordor’s Nemesis System
 - Dynamic enemy personalities in The Forest 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

New Free Version of Carrier Commander



I've received a lot of requests from players who would like to trial the game before purchasing it, so we've released Carrier Commander for FREE on the App Store.

In addition to being free, this update includes improvements to the UI, level design, and a new helicopter unit. Next up: Free version for Google Play. Check it below with these download links:

App Store - Carrier Commander: War at Sea 

Google Play (BETA) - Carrier Commander: War at Sea

Thanks for reading, and thanks to all the players whose feedback is helping shape the future of Carrier Commander!

Friday, February 8, 2019

From Idea to App Store Part 3: Releasing Your Indie Game to Testers & The World


Publishing and testing are easily the scariest and most misunderstood parts of game development! In this podcast Charlie & I discuss releasing a game from Alpha to Beta to Market, using my recently released game Carrier Commander: War at Sea as a template to help aspiring indie developers see the start-to-finish process of releasing a game. Charlie and I have both been working in the mobile gaming industry for several years, and have recorded a number of podcasts on various gaming topics. This podcast is part 3 of a series of 3 covering the entire process materializing a game into reality.

Links

CGF Homepage - https://chengdugaming.com/ My Gaming Blog - http://fromgametobrain.blogspot.com/ Carrier Commander: War at Sea (App Store) - https://itunes.apple.com/app/carrier-... (Google Play BETA) - https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.BerlinHaus.Carrier_Commander

Time-Stamped Notes

0:00 Testing - Importance of testing - My first testing experience - Beta testing in a focus group - Don’t communicate with your testers during testing - What I learned from the Beta testing Focus Group 3:40 Carrier Commander Open Beta Test - Tester feedback - Enthusiastic players becoming part of the game’s development - Bug-fixing/Testing cycle 5:40 Deploying to Android and iOS
- iOS more stable than Android - Submitting on the App Store & Google Play - Fragmentation of Devices - Online Developer Consoles & Licensing 9:02 Promotion & Marketing your game - Publishing is its own discipline - Store Assets & metadata - Making your Press Kit & Hitlist of influencers - Working with a publisher - Having a unique offering in your game that makes it stand out from other games - Some other games like my game (offline strategy games) - Story of FTL & Into the Breach development in China 14:40 Monetization of your game - IAP vs Upfront cost 17:10 About my game Carrier Commander: War at Sea - indie strategy game - 1 player campaign set in the cold war - hybrid of turn based & real time - Arms Race tech tree that spans the whole game 19:20 Setting your game in a realistic setting or not - Avoiding controversy - Militarized islands in the South China Sea - Climate Change & rising oceans

Friday, February 1, 2019

From Idea to App Store Part 2: The Challenges of Building an Indie Game





In this podcast Charlie & I discuss the long path you must traverse developing your first Indie Title, using my recently released game Carrier Commander: War at Sea as a template to help aspiring indie developers see the start-to-finish process of releasing a game. Detailed notes below...
Charlie and I have both been working in the mobile gaming industry for several years, and have recorded a number of podcasts on various gaming topics. This podcast is part 2 of a series of 3 covering the entire process materializing a game into reality.

Links

Part 1 - Getting Started in Indie Dev & Designing Your Game
CGF Homepage - https://chengdugaming.com/ My Gaming Blog - http://fromgametobrain.blogspot.com/
Erik C Lewis Composer - https://soundcloud.com/e-c-l-movie-game-ect Carrier Commander: War at Sea (App Store) - https://itunes.apple.com/app/carrier-... (Google Play BETA) - https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.BerlinHaus.Carrier_Commander

Time-Stamped Notes

0:00 Gathering your team - Making a game is a ton of interdisciplinary work and hard for one person to do. - Roles on a game development team - Unifying behind a game idea vs. “let’s build a game” - Finding Music Composer Eric c Lewis 03:40 - Facing the Challenges of Game Production - Basics of object oriented programming - Using Game Maker - game development platform - Successful games made with Game maker - Steam distribution of Game Maker 08:40 - “Juicing” your game to make it more fun - Screen shake - Chroma Shift - Particle Effects - Using Algebra for Movement - Pitch-variation in sounds - Hacking the human primate-brain - Reinforcing your primary compulsion loop transitions with maximum Juice

Saturday, January 26, 2019

From Idea to App Store Part 1: Getting Started & Designing Your Indie Game


In this podcast Charlie & I discuss the ideation & design steps needed to get started building an indie game, using my recently released game Carrier Commander: War at Sea as a template to help aspiring indie developers see the start-to-finish process of releasing a game. Charlie and I have both been working in the mobile gaming industry for several years, and have recorded a number of podcasts on various gaming topics. This podcast is part one of a series of 3 covering the entire process materializing a game into reality.

Links

Part 2: Facing the Challenges of Indie game Production - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI7-ltisuzQ
CGF Homepage - https://chengdugaming.com/
Carrier Commander: War at Sea (App Store) - https://itunes.apple.com/app/carrier-... (Google Play BETA) - https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.BerlinHaus.Carrier_Commander

Time-Stamped Notes

0:00 - 2:30 Developing from Asia for low cost of living. 2:30 - 8:00 Getting started and choosing your game idea. - Making thousands of prototypes vs. Making 1 complete game - Prototyping - Link to Previous Podcasts Mentioned - r/ game ideas subreddit - Making your game unique 8:00 - 9:30 Story of The Ember Conflict - Indie game made by devs in Beijing - Indie development is cut-throat & difficult 9:30 - 11:00 - Choosing a Genre (Strategy) and a Game Development Tool (Game Maker) - Fate of the Real Time Strategy Genres - Game Makers Deployment options 11:00 - 16:00 Drawing up your Game Design Document - Making design decisions early to saves time later - Waterfall approach to Software Design - Details of the Game Design Document - Mechanics & Compulsion Loops - Aesthetics and Theme - Replacing Tutorial Text with Good Level Design - Mobile Users habits vs. Console & PC Gamers - Importance of the First Time Experience