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.


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.