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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to take a mobile game live

Hello everyone!

I apologize for the long delay in updates - but it has been a busy last few weeks. I am just going to jump right into it. On Monday of this week I attended a workshop on how to take your mobile game live. I was expecting much of what you see on the internet (all the common sense stuff like make a good game, spend a crap ton of money, get lucky, indies can't make it anymore, stop making games, etc). However the information they presented was very valuable and helpful (some of it still was common sense). I'll go into everything I learned shortly...but first... The Burgal's Bounty updates!

Total downloads: 829
Active Installs: 173
Percentage of active users after 30 days: 20% (One of the things I learned, is that this is exceedingly high. It is typically 10% for a casual game and 5% for a mid tier or hardcore game.)
Total revenue from ads post go live: $8.35
Total IAP revenue: $3.98

All in all, these numbers are not as bad as I thought they would be given how long the game has been available, and the standard stats on Google Play or the App Store. I was rather excited to hear that we have a 20% retention rate which is really good (this is all information I have learned at the workshop I mentioned earlier).

Next thing I need to talk about is that Phat Games will once again be at PlayCrafting showing off Burgal's Bounty, so if you are in the New York City area, please join us! Tickets are selling out quickly and can be purchased here.

How is the iOS release coming along? We are a little bit behind where I would like us to be. Unfortunately there won't be much to show at PlayCrafting, but we are not far behind on our schedule. The game is coming along really nicely and should still be on target for a fall release! :-)

Now what everyone is likely ready to read about...the workshop on how to launch a mobile game successfully. Some of what I am about to type will sound like what has been said a 1000 times before on the internet, but there is some new information available that I received that does give some of us indie some hope and optimism.

1. You need to make a good game
I am just going to gloss over this one. We all have heard it a 1000 times before and we all believe the games we make are of good quality.

2. You need analytical tools
These tools include something to track crash reports, game usage, revenue, etc. This is all necessary so the game can be improved during the soft launch phase (and earlier).
Burgal's Bounty uses the following analytics tools:
a. Splunk Mint for user retention and error reporting
b. Chartboost for advertising and video ad publishing
c. Vungle for ad publishing
d. To track how far users play in the game I have been using Google Games to tell me where engagement falls off. I will be improving this for the iOS version
The iOS version will be using TapJoy to help out with a lot of the usage tracking so I can tweak the monetization side of it and have more control over it.

3. You need testing tools (and testers)
The workshop didn't mean complicated automated testing tools. It meant ways to distribute your game onto multiple devices for testing. If you are deploying to Google Play it is exceedingly easy. Google Play allows for alpha and beta testing using Google Play and Google Groups for the distribution. Apple is not so straight forward. HockeyApp is a popular one to use for iOS. There is also TestFlight which is now owned by Apple. This one does require the app to go through Apple's certification process though.

4. You need a soft launch...and a soft launch budget
This is where some indies might start swearing. According to the Pollen VC (the group that presented at the workshop), a soft launch period can last up to 4 months and cost between 15 to 20k for user acquisition. This allows you to get a good volume to gather analytics on user behavior. The game can be tweaked to engage users more fully and make more money. It can also be used to find bugs that will inevitably pop up. It is also suggested that the soft launch be done in a small subset of countries. Pollen VC recommends Canada, Australia and New Zealand for this as they average out to mimic the behavior in users in most tier 1 countries. Other options for a soft launch and user acquisition are Facebook. Ultimately, if you don't have that kind of money (which most indies do not - including us), you will need to rely on the slow, cheap, organic / grass roots approach. It's still not easy for us, but there is hope that it is getting easier. (read on!)

5. Launch - so you actually made it to launch
Once a game launches it is not necessarily going to get featured and getting featured should not be your only approach. You will need to continue your user acquisition efforts during the soft launch - whether it is buying through advertisements, or through an organic approach (social media, an established community fanbase, etc), as that will help. Higher rated games with more downloads are more likely to get noticed. For some companies this does effectively mean "buying your way up the charts". Having an Apple of Google rep will help out significantly. How to get these? Networking. Going to meet-ups helps as you may get a connection to someone at Apple or Google, or meet someone directly there. If you have a popular game Apple and Google will reach out to you - but you first need a popular game.

Now that I have scared you, and effectively made you feel like making it as an Indie is impossible, I am going to give you some hope. It is true, the top 100 games in the store do make all the money. But Apple and Google are doing things to make it easier to get there. According to Pollen VC, recent research is showing that the distribution of game revenue is getting distributed among more and more game companies. There has been a 40% increase in the spread of who is making money in the last year. Also, Pollen VC did quote another study saying that over 2000 indie studios did gross over a million dollars each in the last year. Depending on the studio size, that could be not very good, or it could make a couple of people very happy for a little while.

Overall, my advice, (which has changed over the last few months) is still to follow your dreams. Try and try hard, because it will eventually pay off. Making it in this industry is now like any other artistic pursuit whether it is music, art, fashion, or film. It involves skill. It involves luck. Most importantly it involves passion. So, to my fellow indies out there, don't stop pursuing the dream...but also, don't quit your day job.

- Blair

Friday, July 3, 2015

Burgal's Bounty is on - and other updates

Hey guys,

These updates are starting to get slightly depressing. This week, again without any organic growth or paid advertising our download statistics are as follows:

Total Downloads: 688
Current installs: 207
Total Ad Revenue since Go Live: $5.98
Total IAP Revenue: $0

Burgal's Bounty is now available on! Check it out!
I am going to be setting up a Phat Games page on IndieDB as well to see how much that helps!

Who would also like to see interviews with the Burgal's Bounty development team? I am planning on doing these soon, so stay tuned! These interviews will hopefully include some from the original Phat Games team members: The "Phat Phour" as I have cleverly started calling them. :-)

Here are some new features that will be coming with the new Burgal's Bounty iOS release(which will also be included in the Android version as well):
1. Improved targeted monetization.
2. All levels in the game will be free. No in app purchases to buy more.
3. An additional 11 levels for the iOS release making a total of 77 free levels.
4. Additional graphics!
5. Improved tutorials (again) to help people get into the game.

I apologize if I have repeated myself on some of those, but I am excited for the iOS release and progress is really coming along. In the next couple of weeks, the game should be entirely playable in a early state.

What are you doing on July 29th? Come join Phat Games at PlayCrafting again as we show off Burgal's Bounty on the iOS!


File IO in Unity C# for iOS

Hi all,

This is going to be a pretty technical oriented blog post for me. I rarely do these, but the more I work with Unity, the more I feel that I want to share as much about my experience in hopes to limit the hardship of others who use it in the future.

If you may recall, the Android version of Burgal's Bounty uses SQLite for game save information. I chose SQLite largely because SQL in general is really easy to use. There was native support in Android for it. And it took me very little time to implement it and get everything up and running. I also know that iOS supports SQLite natively as well. I assumed that a lot of the code would be portable, because if both Android and iOS supported SQLite, Unity must have some support for it too...right...right?

Well... Unity actually does support SQLite. However, I ran into a ton of issues when compiling it to Xcode. It also took me forever to get Unity to support SQLite (I had to download a few extra DLLs and import them into my Assets\Plugins folder among a few other things). I found that much of the Unity community forums lacked complete information. All I was able to find was tidbits here and there. Unfortunately, I will not be talking about implementing SQLite in Unity for iOS today. I decided that it was going to take too long to do, so I abandoned that. As a result I needed a new approach for data saving for the iOS version of Burgal's Bounty. I chose simple file streams. Not even binary files - straight up textual file streams. Easy enough.

I have never made an iOS app or game before. I did not know much about the iOS file system structure and where the iOS lets you save data (in hindsight, I also do not know much about Android, but perhaps more than I do iOS). Anyway, you can only save data to your application specific Documents folder. The Unity documentation seems fairly sparse on this. You can find it in Apple documentation, but not necessarily how to "browse" to the appropriate folder using Unity. In short, to cut through the chatter on Unity's forums and find exactly where you can save your files to with low effort - simply set your file read and write path to this location:
You will be able to read and write files to this location on iOS. I do not know if this will work for Android. I hope this saves you some time during your development. I know it would have saved me some time if I could find consistent information in one place with Unity development. :)