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Old 05-10-2014, 04:32 AM
carlosww carlosww is offline
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Default Monetization woes

Hello, I am Carlos Carrasco, the developer of The Spatials, and half of Weird and Wry. My background is web and desktop software development and management and this is my first foray in mobile development in ten years (last one was with Nokia Series 40 and DoCoMo DoJa. Yeah I'm old...)

We released our iPad game this week in quiet way, hoping to gather some feedback and iterate it a bit more before trying to do a PR/advertising push. The TouchArcade community has been amazing to us and provided a lot of feedback! We now have a clear path of what content and mechanics improvements we want to add to the game. But at the same time we are struggling with monetization.

The first option we considered, and our favorite one, was to make the game free for the first 1/4 of the content and then offer a single, one-time IAP to unlock the rest of the game. Unfortunately my research indicated that gamers absolutely hate this system. Am I right on this point? Anybody knows of successful games doing this?

The second option was to do premium download with no IAP. Doing this has the disadvantage of 100x-1000x less downloads, so much less feedback and buzz is generated. We discarded this because we would have needed to start with a PR push and we aren't ready yet.

We finally decided to go for free + IAP. But we didn't do it properly. Right now our IAP offerings are more of a "donate" button as more than one gamer has discovered. My problem is that I loathe any talk of "whales", "psychology", "behavior influence". I am developing a video game, not a casino. I want to do a system where a user gives me a few bucks over the lifetime of my project because she likes it, not because I am exploiting some latent addictive impulses.

Downloads have been good, we got around 2.6K in five days, which for an iPad-only game with zero marketing and unknown developers is quite good I believe. But proceeds barely got past beer money, with an appalling ARPU of around 4 cents. Version 1.0.1, due in a few days, will add a banner, which we hope will motivate more people to get the coin doubler / ad remover IAP. And we are also going to tweak the game to make the currency more useful.

We will keep trying more ideas, and we are toying going premium when we do a big content update. But at the same time I see other devs going from premium to free, so what do I know. Anybody got more ideas on pivoting your monetization strategy?
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Old 05-10-2014, 07:36 AM
ichigo1978 ichigo1978 is offline
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Some ideas inspired by XCOM like games (but your decision to go to use ad banner removing IAP is limiting your range of monetization actions):

- new paying maps/campaigns (pocket heroes 2 did it: each of 20 maps was 0.99, or a pack of 3/5 maps was 1.99 or all maps are free meaning the game was 4.99 like a "the spatials premium" edition aside "the spatials".... Also warhammer quest did it : a new campaign was IAP)

- new character or a 6th officer class (see baldur gate or warhammer quest, but it means new weapons, items...). example: a new fighter officer with psionic attacks

- new -but powerful- items (defender chronicles: for each character class, you can buy powerful items you hardly can find in maps, or for all, you can have special items such as EXP * 2 or coins * 2 items).
Example: x2 walking faster, x2 drop items, teleporter...

Other ideas but maybe too late now to implement: pay to continue (first planet free and after you pay, like hunters from Rodeo), pay to get officers (3 first officers free and all other IAP)...


All these seem requiring lots of works for you, except the items idea (and your ad banner one), I hope you manage to earn money.
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Old 05-10-2014, 08:03 AM
ichigo1978 ichigo1978 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlosww View Post


Downloads have been good, we got around 2.6K in five days, ...... ARPU of around 4 cents.

We will keep trying more ideas, and we are toying going premium when we do a big content update.

Your game is really good (and has required lots of works!), but it seems that your monetization and strategy is not as good.

As your game is a "niche" game aiming hardcore gamers (<1% of tablets owners) and not casual gamers (99%) , i don't think you can get far much more downloads in the future. So you should get money from those hardcore gamers, by increasing ARPU with first interesting IAP.

Going premium seems a good idea, as lots of (hardcore) games like yours are premium.
For marketing reasons, it will enable you to do temporary discount to get visibility and press impact during discount times, contrary to free app (1,99 is then minimum pricing, to be able to go to 0.99).

But until you go premium, i guess lots of months will be spent. Until that i hope your IAP will be efficient to hold on.

We didn't speak about communication here, but spatials games are trendy and successfull these times (in term of funding or monetization). See star command kickstarter (gamers are waiting for a space strategy game) or FTL. I regret "the spatials" didn't get even 10% of their press coverage.
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Old 05-10-2014, 08:11 PM
Destined Destined is offline
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you made a good call in going free. Without significant advertising premium model is beyond most indies.

The examples of successful premium often come from well known brands.

I will download and it give it a try because it looks like an excellent game, you should include a link!

I also think being ipad only while reducing your audience there have been many successful ipad only games.
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Old 05-10-2014, 10:13 PM
Destined Destined is offline
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So I downloaded and it is a very good game to look at however it was hard to play at first.

It took me a bit of fiddling to to figure how to start to build. I then went and explored bety and could only find 10 of the 11 seeds despite looking everywhere. So I left the planet and now had to wait ages for morale to go up. He kept asking for a ration table but I have no idea how to make one.

Also currently I wouldn't even know how to purchase anything. I will continue to give it a go because I feel it is a game I should like but so far it is a bit frustrating.

Also collecting objects seems to be a little clumsy. There is an awkward pause.
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Old 05-11-2014, 04:03 AM
carlosww carlosww is offline
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@ichigo1978, thanks a lot for the run down of IAP options in other games, you pointed to some I hadn't seen/considered yet. I am sharing this with my brother to see what extra IAP we may try.

@Destined, many of those little bugs have been fixed in two new versions. 1.0.1 has been in the review queue for a few days so I hope it gets the OK early next week. 1.0.2 has more significant improvements and will be submitted as soon as 1.0.1 is released.

The main take away of this week is that this bird needed some more time in the oven, in terms of both development and release strategy.

Short/mid term we are going to keep the iPad version free and support our current users with bugfixes and small improvements. If we get to a point the IAP balance feels right we may try to promote it further (right now we are doing zero marketing and PR!). We don't discard doing IAP experiments during this time.

At the same time the main focus of development will shift to integrate more content and flesh out current systems, specially the station, with the intention of making a one-time big "2.0" release. We are also thinking of doing this development in the open with an early access system for the PC/Mac builds (we are already in Greenlight: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfile.../?id=257083077 but we will distribute from our own page during this time and/or if we don't get approved.) PC builds will have different economy balancing and will be premium since day 0.

Thanks for the feedback TA! I will keep making noise and writing walls of text!
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Old 05-11-2014, 05:22 AM
Destined Destined is offline
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I played a bit more. It is a real challenge to figure what to do next. I have got a number of rooms extra but it is really unclear how to unlock more rooms and get extra things for each room.

I figured sometimes items are hidden by the terrain but you can get the extra seeds by killing wildlife. I played a while and haven't met a single bad guy.

Overlay the art for the game is great. It doesn't surprise me the IAP isn't doing much for you because you would have to play a LOT to need it or see any benefit in it.

You clearly have a lot of potential here but I don't feel you have done much testing before release. If I were you I would actually pull it from the appstore. Make the improvements and release again with a slightly different name.
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Old 05-11-2014, 05:25 PM
ichigo1978 ichigo1978 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlosww View Post
Short/mid term we are going to keep the iPad version free and support our current users with bugfixes and small improvements. If we get to a point the IAP balance feels right we may try to promote it further (right now we are doing zero marketing and PR!). We don't discard doing IAP experiments during this time.

At the same time the main focus of development will shift to integrate more content and flesh out current systems, specially the station, with the intention of making a one-time big "2.0" release.
)
To improve IAP interest, I'll suggest to reduce item drop rate on planet. We receive 50 character items aside foods or money and recycle 95% of them because of their useless stats. Maybe cut to 75% rate and increase high value items drop rate. There is no need to buy IAP if we still get 100 stuffs at a planet.

I also suggest your items to be more useful (rather than finishing at recycling or crafting.
Look at UFO / XCOM: item drop by aliens are all useful but rare (ammo for weapons, unknown powerful weapons to discover, components to build ships or weapons...). In your gameplay, i dont know how (maybe ressources such as iron or wood to build base elements)

I also suggest you make it more simple to guess an item interest.
Displaying a pistol with a power of 8739 with health +32830 is not easy to compare with another one with 7389 / 34736. A number like 18364 give player impression you generate random numbers.
Maybe a power of 8 with health + 32 is better against 7 / + 34 to figure out.


Beyond this, i fear IAP won't be successfull because of a game core problem:
after several game hours, i feel like the game is lacking of interest and lots of players might give up carry on playing: planets missions are the same - walk, fire and get items-, building base is easy, no diplomacy or strategy required...
See for ex in game like yours:
XCOM: aside missions, you have alien research challenge, to get more powerful weapons
civilisation: aside battle, you have diplomacy talks with ennemies
Heroes of might and magic: aside battle, you have to gather 10 types of ressources + money in map to build factories to be able to produce a soldier.

I'm then frustrated with your LINEAR game mechanics and It might prevent people to buy IAP.

Maybe the game you might get ideas (regarding items and IAP) from is defender chronicles 2.
It is a tower defence with a character, and tons of items to buy. Even if there are lots, as the game is highly hard, you must get some powerful ones to win easier (lots are free but a little but excellent number are IAP). There a shop there where IAP is concentrated.


Another idea: just let player build a square room (for ex, 10 * 10 room) in one click. Building each tiles of the 100 tiles has no interest. It takes less time and you go to the main point: be able to build the room components such as bed or recycler

Last edited by ichigo1978; 05-11-2014 at 05:34 PM..
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  #9  
Old 05-12-2014, 04:47 AM
carlosww carlosww is offline
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The drop rate has been reduced in the next two updates, and the second one will have much improved colony shops with a variety of items and prices, not just super high quality ones, to make the currency more useful.

A more developed crafting system with primary resources as you mention is slated to come with a 2.0 version, we will start working on it in a few weeks. Also we will rebalance the stats on items, the numbers go up too much, too fast.

Indeed the problem with linearity/boring progression is rooted in having only fully developed one aspect of the gameplay (combat on campaign missions). Or long term vision is to have the game be much more station-centric and sandbox-like and not combat-centric. We were expecting to continue to expand the content in the open, but clearly the App Store is not appropriate for this. For this reason we will concentrate on improving the current iPad version as-is while at the same time we do an early-access like releases for PC/Mac with 2.0 content and mechanics. Once 2.0 is ready we will also release it for iPad.

As for the tile building, if you meant the blueprints (the cyan tiles you draw with your finger), you can already select a rectangle by dragging your finger instead of just touching the map. If you meant the fact that your staff has to build the floor tile by tile, we won't change this. Think of an ant farm, you can see the little workers building the station. We want the feeling to resemble more SimCity or Dwarf Fortress than Clash of Clans.
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Old 05-12-2014, 06:45 AM
Destined Destined is offline
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I played a couple of hours and didn't even get to combat lol
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