Game design, Game Reviews

fireliner_iconI want to start this review off by paraphrasing SOOMLA’s VP Marketing, Gur Dotan, who recently said, if you can’t afford high-end graphics, you should focus on gameplay and nostalgic call-backs through 8-bit visuals and stuff like that.

Available on Google PlayHowever, if you can afford it then, by all means, please go for it (he didn’t say that, I did).

Spartonix seems to be that kind of a development team. Having only three games at the Google Play Store, they seem to be relatively new to the industry, but the games they create, and this one – Fireliner: Wild Space Battle in particular – are a joy to watch and a joy to play.

However, just as practically any and every game out there – it has its flaws.

Fireliner is an arcade shoot-em-up game built for the Android operating system. It’s set in outer space and features you, sitting in a space fighter jet, firing missiles at other space fighter jets.

Visually stunning

fireliner screenshot 1

The game offers extensive customization options

First thing you’ll notice when you run the game is that its graphics are beautiful. The main menu features a combination of “spacey” dark-blue, light-blue and yellow colours, and features a Daft Punk-esque soundtrack to compliment the environment of the Great Dark.

Pressing the Play button first sends you to the shop, where you can buy and upgrade specific ship parts. These parts are built in 3D, in great detail, and rotate slowly to give you a more up close and personal look. Every part has its features, like top speed, acceleration, health for the ship, damage and attack speed for weapons, etc.

This gives the game high replay value, which is among the biggest challenges and one of the most important factors any game needs.

Playing fail

However, after the initial delight, playing the game itself gave me a profound feeling of ‘meh.’ The ship fires by itself, and all you need to do is move it around, making sure you don’t get hit. It kills off any challenge the game could have brought. I’m guessing the developers decided for this approach to make it easier to play the game with one hand, probably so that it can be played while riding a bus or something like that, but there have been better solutions, like using the phone’s gyro for movement, and the finger for firing.

This way, the levels are simply too easy to pass. There is one interesting detail I spotted, which I’ve never seen before. The level spawns various power-ups, like a shield, faster weapons, etc. If you don’t pick them up, the enemies will, thus making them stronger and harder to defeat. This is the first time I’ve seen a CPU controlled enemy, in a game like this, do this and it really opened up the game quite nicely.

fireliner screenshot 2

Looks nice, but too easy to complete

For those who are not interested in the overall competitiveness of a game and are just looking for something to kill the time, Fireliner will do just fine. It has a huge shop with many upgrade features, some of which are locked on your experience level. The more you play and the higher experience level you achieve, more upgrades for your ship will be unlocked. This is a great way to keep players interested and honestly, one of the rare examples how experience gained in the game can be used in a proper way.

The road to monetisation

I also like how the game handles monetisation. It earns its keep in different ways, either by ads, or through the purchase of the in-game currency needed for the ship’s upgrades. The currency can be obtained by real money, by liking the developers’ Facebook page, or by watching a video ad. The last one, rewarded video ads, seems to be increasingly popular and apparently very successful.

Closing comments

All things considered, Fireliner: Wild Space Battle is a good game. If you’re a diehard competitive gamer, always looking to compare your success to the success of others, then you will find little joy in this game. However, if you’re more of a casual gamer just looking for some space destruction fun, this game will have you hooked for hours. It’s easy to learn, very comprehensive and rewards you for staying with it. It looks and feels nice, its visuals are stunning and the shop is extensive.

Featuring more than a hundred levels, it will take some time to complete and with various customisation options, you can create a battleship which fits your play style.

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Guest Post, Tips and Advice

About the Author:

Amanda Cline currently works for Xicom – Android app development company. She is an avid IT personnel with special interest in writing blog posts that serve as handy guides for individuals looking to build a strong career in IT services and solutions.

The growing popularity of mobile game apps aren’t hidden from anyone. Thanks to the efforts put in by app developers, there are mobile games that can be cherished by people of all age groups.Amanda Cline Featured Image If you too have recently developed a mobile game or plan to build one, then stay informed that there’s a lot to achieve than simply entertaining the gaming lovers worldwide. Well, you can go ahead and monetize your game to earn a good income instantly. One of the most vital points that should be kept in mind, is that the users of your game shouldn’t get upset while you’re busy focusing on implementing your strategy of monetizing the game. Don’t fret because with this post, I aim to highlight some of the simplest tips to help you earn quick cash from your mobile game. So, let’s get on with uncovering each tip one by one!

Offer Novelty on a Regular Basis

Amanda Cline Offers

Ensure to update your game app regularly in addition to offering the app users some novel that would make them stay in your app for a duration of time. For instance, you can choose to give handy customization options, small rewards for sharing details about your game among friends and family etc. Additionally, you must also ensure the smooth functioning of different UI elements that have been incorporated within your app. Some of the key UI elements that I’m referring to include the button functions, cursors, font size, keyboards etc. Here, you may even opt for choosing one of the most renowned mobile application development companies which can help you in proper alignment of your app’s UI elements.

Choose the Pay-Per-Episode Monetization Model

Best suited to make money from serious gamers, the Pay-Per-Episode monetization model allows you to break down the mobile game into bite-sized episodes which can later be sold at discounted prices as compared to the original one-time cost of the entire game. Apart from working as an excellent option for monetizing your game, the Pay-Per-Episode model would allow your app to enjoy a higher presence on app stores which are already loaded with hundreds of look-alike game apps.

Make the Most of In-App Purchases

Another easy way to make money via your game app is to offer the players an opportunity of purchasing in-game items using the in-game currency. Here, don’t make the mistake of designing the app in context of a game where it is mandatory to grab the in-game items for playing the game. The players must be wooed via in-game content that’s available in the form of new characters with exclusive abilities, impressive power-ups that offer a unique player experience, tempting skins, new levels with distinguished challenges and a lot more.

Offering Cash Rewards Can Do the Trick

Amanda Cline_Pay-Per-EpisodeHaving worked for fitness and shopping apps, the concept of paying users real money is beneficial for monetizing even mobile games. As an app developer, you can get on with taking stake for the players by enabling them to make several bets on the result/outcome of a particular round in the mobile game. For instance, if you’ve created a bowling game, then you can offer players a unique flexibility of placing their bets starting at $0.50 about how they will perform in the game. In this way, you can conveniently augment your advertising revenue.

Embrace the Freemium App Monetization Model

While a majority of mobile game lovers prefer downloading and playing the free versions of games, there are some advanced/serious gamers who never refrain from paying a sum of cash in order to access the premium version of the game. Hence, as an app owner/developer, you can get on with offering a free “lite” version of your basic mobile app in addition to charging a specific fee from gamers who showcase their interest in gaining access to the advanced levels within the game. A vital point that needs to be kept in mind is that the premium levels of the game must include exquisite tools and features that can make the gamers say WOW. Moreover, don’t forget to mention the benefits of making payment for the entire game. Doing this will undoubtedly tempt the free gamers into upgrading to the premium version for the app.

Cross-Marketing Your App is a Viable Option

Quite similar to the ad exchange program, the trend of cross-marketing the app will serve as a contemporary method of advertising your game app to the world of game lovers. You can get in touch with renowned mobile game app developers and ask them to display your app’s download link within their app. In exchange, you too can provide a link to the app that was developed by the respective app developer. Additionally, you can also opt for an effective affiliate marketing program wherein you can advertise other developers’ mobile game apps within your app- receiving a specific amount of cash from them.  

Conclusion

Now that you know the top tips on quick monetization for your mobile game, it’s time to choose the one that will render you maximum returns on your mobile game and help you grow your income by an impressive level.

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Game design, Game Reviews

IconI love puzzle games. I love slick-looking mobile games. I love slick-looking, mobile puzzle games. That can only mean one thing: I love Memory Run.

Available on Google PlayMemory Run is a slick-looking mobile puzzle game (you don’t say?), built by Toughwin for the Android mobile operating system. You might remember them from 99 Slides, a game I also recently reviewed.

As it turns out, 99 Slides was (only) a part of Memory Run. The latter is a much wider game, comprised of five categories, each having six minigames. Categories featured in the game are Calculation, Memory, Logic, Visual and Concentration.

Each minigame has a unique gameplay, with Calculation forcing you to calculate numbers to finish the game, memory asking you to remember certain sequences, and so on. 99 Slides is featured in this game, as a part of the Visual category.

Going smooth

memory run screenshot

The puzzles will have you hooked fast

Similar to 99 Slides (which makes sense, considering the same people built both games), Memory Run uses simple and slick graphics, with straight lines, a soothing colour palette and a quality music background. The menu is simple and with nothing but four large buttons (Play, Achievements, Music On/Off, Exit), it throws you straight into the action.

Now I have to admit, I was a little confused at first, without any description whatsoever to introduce the game to me. But on the other hand, it was interesting to explore the game and learn by myself what it has to offer. It didn’t take long before I knew exactly what the game wanted from me and how to achieve that. Shortly after, I stumbled upon a real written tutorial on the game, which explained a couple of details, including its monetization system.

Quiz shows

In truth, the game reminds me of the old quiz shows we used to watch on TV when we were kids. With five categories and six minigames, the game can be completed in an hour or so, which means it lasts approximately the same as a TV quiz show. Every category is different, and every minigame is interesting in its own right.

The Replay Value

However, just because you completed the game in an hour, doesn’t mean you finished it. Every time you run it, the quizzes are different, meaning you can play it (almost) forever, and never play the same game twice. The best part of it is that categories are not locked – you can play any one you like, at any point in time. The minigames are also time-limited, and that limit is usually around a minute.

The game runs on “energy,” which is being spent as the game is being played. After you have spent a couple of hours with the game, you will run out of energy, and then you have to wait for some time to pass in order to regain it. In case you don’t want to wait, you can purchase additional energy.

Just like rewarded and video ads, this approach to monetisation feels great. You’re free to play, casually, but if you want to go a bit more hardcore, then you have to pay for it. I’ve also seen a couple of static ads, but they’re so rare it’s hardly worth mentioning.

A rare flower

memory run screenshot 2

Where’s the box, yo?

Unfortunately, the game is not completely bug-free. I have managed to break the game while playing the Concentration minigame – where the box which you have to shove across the map disappeared and there was no way for me to finish the level, or go back to the menu. I had to restart the whole game.

Aside from the (probably rarely seen) bug, I can conclude that Memory Run is an awesome indie mobile game that focuses on innovative gameplay, rather than graphics, where it can’t compete with the big guys anyway. It has simple, smooth, retro graphics and a cool soundtrack. It offers countless hours of entertainment, where every time you run the game it feels brand new.

And as any proper mobile game, it is fast paced – you can play it in the bus or while waiting in line.

Good puzzle games are a rarity nowadays – most of them are repetitive, and once you’ve finished them, you have no reason to keep them on your device. With innovative gameplay, Memory Run jumps over that obstacle. The guys and girls over at Toughwin have once again done a great job and created a game that is bound to stick around on my smartphone for days to come.

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Game design, Game Reviews

iconMonster Crush Dash is a Candy Crush clone which will, most certainly, find its audience in the vast plains of the internet. The game is a match-three-or-more-tiles style of game, but instead of the usual jewels, candy or simple colours, we’re presented with monsters of different shapes and colours.

Available on Google PlayThe game is simple, learning curve is flat and it is beautifully drawn. With a couple of extras, and a well-built in-game shop, it can offer many hours of entertainment. However, it has a couple of silly mistakes that make the game look sloppy and unfinished, but once those are fixed, I’m certain it will be a great game.

The silliness

monster screen 1

Kannst du understand what ich sage?

I have to start by pointing out the negatives, mostly because they’re silly, largely pointless and quite easily repairable. The first thing you see when you load the game is a couple of monsters, a large Play button, and two options written in German and English at the same time: “Freunde einladen And get 10 Free Coins,” and “Verbinden.”

It made me wonder if the game was in German or English and after looking at who built the game, I came to a conclusion that the game was originally in German and then badly translated to English. The game was built by Sven Herzog, also the creator of Ninja Girl, Jumping Ninja Girl and Running Man games.

The second insanity I found in the game was the farm. I have written about this before and it seems I’m being haunted by it – why are people making farms for their level pickers?  Similar to other games that have absolutely no link to farming whatsoever, Monster Crush Dash starts by showing you a tiny farm with a curvy path to the sea. Along the path are levels which you pick before actually playing the game.

I get the feeling that the creator first wanted to make a Farmville clone, changed his mind halfway through, and then ended up making a Candy Crush clone, but forgot to change the level picker.

The shop

monster screen 2The game has positives which should also be noticed. The in-game shop is among the better ones I’ve had the chance to try out. It is rich (offers a total of 12 different features), has an in-game currency (coins), and also takes real money through microtransactions.

I also like it (and I spoke about it in other reviews, as well) when the shop isn’t there just to justify its existence and is, in fact, a useful part of the game. The boosts the shop offers, such as extra moves for levels which are move-limited, extra time for levels which are speed-oriented and the shake booster which shuffles the entire deck, you will find yourself purchasing extras and not feeling like you’re just wasting money.

Besides spending real money, you can also watch ads to gather coins, and share the game on Facebook.

A recommended product

Looking at the game as a whole, I have no problem recommending it to anyone. It’s a well-built, stable game with good graphics, proven gameplay mechanics and a quality shop for extra value.

It does have its flaws, which make it look sloppy and hinders the overall experience. Unifying the game’s language is a small change which will make a huge difference. Personally, I’d change the farm, but it can stay – it’s not a game changer.

I’m allergic to game farms and that’s just me.

Edit: After publishing this review, the game’s creator has reached out to us, saying that the errors have been fixed. We’re glad to be of service :)

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Marketing, Tips and Advice

Soombot Marketing

Pixels, code, and game engines. Three words game developers love. They are the passion driving the mobile gaming industry. Making characters, coding levels, and seeing it all come together in a mobile app – the best feeling ever but, now what? Games are not fun if nobody plays them. A game must be marketed and given a proper introduction to the people. There are so many amazing games, but no one knows about them. Game developers can always use the extra help when it comes to marketing. Here’s the step-by-step guide to market your mobile game.

Table of Contents:

Game Reviews

Word of Mouth

Press Coverage

Press Kit

Social Media

Forums

Blogging

Cross Promotion

Pre Launch Hype

Ad Campaigns

Game Reviews

Game Reviews

I remember drooling over the iPhone when someone decided to unbox it on YouTube. Seeing the trendy box, the sweet headphones, and the iPhone light up on video was the deal breaker for me to buy one. The same applies to video games. Gamers love gaming websites and communities. They watch strategy guides on YouTube, view shows about which games to buy, and read the latest gaming news. Your game on these game review platforms is essential. Here are a few places to consider getting your game reviewed:

SOOMLA

Our blog has a wide audience of gamers and developers and currently sees roughly 20K pageviews a month. All you need to do is fill out a form, use SOOMLA in your game and we’ll review your game.

YouTube

There are a few channels that do game reviews. Check them out:

Blogs

Communities of mobile game enthusiasts and tech junkies such as Toucharcade, TechCrunch and Gizmodo review mobile games.

A previous SOOMLA post highlighted the importance of game reviews and provides a long list of places to consider. There’s no need to constrain your studio to this list, but it’s a good start. It may sound easy on paper, but you will need a good selling point when reaching out to different communities and organizations that you want to review your game. For SOOMLA, the selling point is using our SDK in your game. For other organizations, it may be reaching a certain amount of downloads or having an innovative game worth writing about. Some well respected communities with millions of DAU may not consider your game for a review right away. A strong press release and website to hype your game will improve your chances of getting exposure in these communities.

Disclaimer:  If a game is not competitively interesting, fun, or engaging, this strategy can flop and hurt you. Bad reviews discourage downloads. That being said, make great games, pay attention to detail, and the success will follow.

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

Perhaps the most underestimated means of marketing. When creating a game, it is easy to assume that the whole development process will take place in front of a computer. Developers and digital marketers, must remind themselves that their is an arena for marketing outside electronic devices. Restaurants pay the guy in the hot dog costume for a reason.

Let’s take a look at Flappy Bird, I remember my friends talking to me about how difficult it was. It got me, and many others, crazy about achieving a high score. The craze was amazing and it spread by word of mouth. Nothing can ensure a game download like a friend telling another friend to download an app. I know a fair amount of apps on my phone were downloaded because someone told me about it. Here’s a chart from AppAnnie showing Flappy Bird’s rise to fame:

FlappyBirdSo, how can developers encourage this? The viral case of Flappy Bird is still a mystery to many people. Dong Nguyen didn’t do much more than tweet about the game.

What more can an individual do? Attend game conventions or events related to your game. Go on the street and tell people about your game. Tell your friends to post about it. When good games obtain a loyal user, the loyal user also brings in more organic downloads for your game.

News

Press Coverage

If you think word of mouth will help your game, then you definitely want to make the news. Contact different news stations or gaming news websites and tell them about your game. This will get people talking about it.

Local news stations may showcase you as the local video game developer. If your game features a specific city, contact that city’s local station. Headlines could include “El Paso, TX featured in latest mobile game” or “Torreón local creates the next big zombie shooter for iOS.” Reach out to relevant communities for your games. If the game can help people learn Spanish reach out to language learning newsletters. If your game is about race cars, you can reach out to the large communities that support race car enthusiasts.

When it comes to the methodology, you’ll want to convince the news station to report about your game.  Journalists receive a lot of emails every day and will only spend a short time looking at yours. When emailing, be sure to:

  • Keep the message short and to the point.
  • Use a distinguishable subject line that will draw their attention.
  • In the body of the email include a brief reason why your game is newsworthy and mention aspects of your game that make it interesting and fun.
  • Make your email easy to read; use bullets, short sentences, and small paragraphs.
  • Attach a press release and relevant media for the journalists to refer to. You need to be able to quickly convince the journalist that your game is worth covering.

Press

Press Kit

Think of a press kit as a portfolio for a game. It will include all the relevant information that will summarize and sell the game to the press. The press release for every game should be different and should highlight the strengths of the game. Include some of the following to the tell the story:

Dedicated Landing Page

With 3.5 billion searches a day on Google, it is important for your game and website to get noticed. How? SEO – search engine optimization. You’ll want to have solid html, keywords, and relevant content to get noticed. The more backlinks to your website the better. Make sure you provide the url and links to different parts of your page.

PickCrafter landing page

It is also important that a website seems credible to the eye. An un-customiozed WordPress website with brackets saying [Insert Content Here] or large paragraphs of keywords are not the most appealing to audiences to say the least.

A website is an opportunity to showcase a game’s levels, characters and design at its best. It will reflect the branding of a studio. There should be interesting content that encourages people to download the mobile game. Pageviews to a website will not translate to app downloads so easily. One way to convert pageviews into app downloads is incorporating a text-to-download form in a landing page. The website can be provided to a journalist in an offline format or with a URL depending on whether or not developers want the page live at that time.

Press Release

Prepare all the content for a press release. A press release requires a few pieces of key information in order to be successful.

PressRelease

Headline

“Rodolfo’s latest game, Wreck Racers, gives a whole new meaning to road rage by blending racing and fighting. Free demo inside.”

Imagine scrolling through social media or reading through a newspaper. What headlines draw attention? What can be said about a game in 18 words? Why is your game special? Get the point across in your headline.

Introduction

Use the dateline format here and grab the attention of the reader with some captivating sentences. Engage the reader and build interest. Include the most important highlights about a game here.

An example PR emphasizing dateline format and a catchy first sentence.

Description

Elaborate on the gameplay, the features that make a game unique, and continue to develop enthusiasm for the game. Mention specific challenges in game design and how they were overcome. Suggest the importance of the game and how gamers will benefit from it. Encourage the readers to witness some features on their own and play.

Quotes

Include relevant quotes from fans, other news sources, or your team. This will emphasize the potential for positive reception. You can even quote a character in the game if it will contribute to the release.

Call To Action

The end goal of marketing campaigns is to obtain more downloads for a game. This section should encourage the reader to download the game. This should also inspire interest for journalists to visit the website and get access the exclusive content.

Contact Information

This should include information about the studio such as size, amount of projects, mission, goals, and years of experience. Moreover, it should include all means for someone to reach the studio: full studio name, email, mailing address, website, phone, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook.

Design

Place the most important information on top. This can be a game description, the history of your studio, a background on game development, or anything that you think will help you sell the game the best. Choose appealing images and logos to catch the attention of the reader.

Media

The press kit should include high quality videos of behind the scenes work, interviews, and gameplay. Incorporate screenshots of interesting moments and key elements in the game. Include biographies of the team members and pictures of your team working together.

Many developers use presskit() to help facilitate the process of creating a press kit.

Social Media

Social Media

Facebook

Facebook has a ton of groups and millions of users. This is not a platform you can overlook. Here are a list of Facebook groups to join (of course only post in groups that are relevant to your game):

It is important that a studio makes their presence known on social media and maintains an updated page. Nothing says “I lack credibility” like a social media page that has been abandoned for months. Moreover, social media has a way of knowing which users are more likely to play your game. Take advantage of this when you’re launching your app and trying to get more users.

Pirate Kings Facebook page.

Twitter

They say marketing has become getting a famous person to retweet you. Twitter is a great platform to engage with users, answer questions and promote your studio. When tweeting it’s important to use relevant hashtags. To help find hashtags that are pertinent to your game use tools such as Hashtagify.me, SproutSocial, and Tagboard. Some hashtags we tend to use are:

  • #gamedev
  • #f2p
  • #freetoplay
  • #indiedev
  • #indiegame

If you use a game engine such as Unity or Cocos2d-x don’t forget to tag them. This might help you get premiered by them and opens up their network of followers.

Here are a few other places to check out on Google+ and LinkedIn.

Google+

LinkedIn

If you’re able to post on all these social media sites, you will reach a variety of people and really market your game to a diverse group.

Forums

Forums

Forums are where huge communities of gamers live. Thousand of forums exist online and focus on everything from game design to user retention and more. This is a very specialized platform where you can find users that love to play and maybe even test games. Some forums to check out include:

Blogs

Blogging

Many young gamers out there are hoping to make their very own video games when they grow up. Similar to the special features section of the War of the Worlds DVD, blogs can provide audiences with cool facts about your game. This will build your credibility with your existing users and help you with SEO. Yaniv Nizan, SOOMLA CEO, wrote an article about the importance of blogging for startups in general. Be a guest writer or build your own blog for your game. Many game studios have their own blog. Check these out:

Cross Promotion

Cross Promotion

Cross promotion can also help market your game and reach your target audience. There are plenty of ad platforms where you can share, barter, or have direct deals and cross promote your game in other apps and mobile games. As an indie developer you can drive installs and user acquisition at a relatively low cost with the right tools and platforms. For example, Chartboost was the first to offer a direct-deals marketplace and several other ad networks followed soon after.  Tapdaq offers install trading with other games in its network.  

It should be noted that mainstream in-game advertising forms will usually show ads from big publishers with huge user acquisition budgets.  The developer risks losing users to other games created by these well established gaming companies.  These types of companies wield superior analytics and marketing strategies that will likely keep the user in the company’s portfolio and therefore you’re more likely to lose that user entirely. 

Pre Launch

Pre Launch Hype

Mobile game marketing campaigns work the same way motion pictures have trailers, websites, and social media pages before their release. Chances are a lot of this was done when the press kit was generated.  Prelaunch.me helps developers pre launch their games by allowing users to register, providing potential beta testers, and receive scores for their game.

PreLaunch

The pre launch campaign will hopefully inspire many users for day one of the game.  The first few days of a games life are the most important and most crucial in determining the success of the game. We covered this observation in our e-book of mobile data reports. A pre launch campaign will improve the chances of a game thriving in the long run and create enthusiasm for its gamers. This can lead to a community of people anticipating the release of your game.

Nintendo did this well with Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Even though it’s a platform game, the pre launch campaign brought in a huge amount of enthusiasm for players. Nintendo announced a new character for the game every week until the game was released. Players waited in anticipation to learn about new aspects of the game. Nintendo sold 874,000 copies the first day in North America alone.

Ad Campaigns

Ad Campaigns

Disclaimer: Not for studios with small wallets.

The game is launched, everything is set to go, but the studio spent all the money on the license for the Adobe Creative Suite and new MacBooks. Now there’s the expense of ads. Ads can be pricey, but they are rewarding if utilized efficiently.

Obviously, but not so obviously, you will want to target gamers, or people that will give your game a shot. Consider the first demographic – gamers. Half of the U.S. plays mobile games. This means half of the U.S. doesn’t – so you’ll want to weed out that demographic. More about this can be found in the top ten mobile game data reports e-book. This report is a must read for indie developers that are attempting to use ads.Top 10 Data Reports Book

Gamers are found playing games on their couch, in class, waiting for the doctor, or in the back seat of a taxi. These places are not specific enough to target the gamers. You can’t place a billboard or poster strategically to target these users. There is one thing all mobile gamers have in common. Can you guess what it is? They play games. Lucky for developers, mobile games are a modern arena for billboards and commercials. Games have everything from banner ads to video ads. The game you made probably has them too. SOOMLA provides a useful list of ad networks and their ad formats.  We’ve noticed a huge trend that most video ads are preforming the best.

Now let’s look at the other demographic – people that will give your game a shot. These are the fans of giraffes, Coca-Cola, fashion, and teddy bears. This demographic is a little more difficult to identify and reach. However, if your game has giraffes and teddy bears you have a good chance of getting some new gamers on board. Ads on giraffe fan pages or teddy bear stores are useful.

Offer walls can be considered a type of advertisement. They are opportunities that reward users for downloading your game. Additionally, they may compensate gamers for completing certain tasks in your game – including spending money. This is a great opportunity for cross promotion.

What Next?

Marketing a mobile game is not the easy part. Many indie developers know the importance of creating great games, but often underestimate the work necessary to market them. Take these tips into consideration from day one and you will save time and money while effectively marketing your mobile game. There is much to consider and, if done right, the marketing and public relations part of game development can be fun for both the developers and the end-users.

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Guest Post, Open Source

Lux ArticleAbout the Author: Aureus Interactive is the creator of Menu Starter Kit available on the Unity Asset Store. He received a degree in law and then continued to teach himself Python, Java, C#, 3D modeling, texturing and two languages. He started his game programming journey by making a casual game in GameMaker, but has since gained many years of experience developing in Unity3D. He is now active on the Unity Asset Store with modular 3D environments, various game scripts and starter kits. He also works on casual games for mobile. In his free time he enjoys reading essays about history and neurology.

Every game needs a home and pause screen and will also most likely need other screens such as win, lose, a stage selection menu and a save system screen. Back in 2010, when Unity GUI was not as intuitive as Unity 4.6, I published an asset for the Unity Asset Store with a home solution that did not need any coding knowledge from the user.

Starter Kit Image 1

From those early days I have continually updated the Menu Starter Kit, implementing the new Unity GUI, a sound manager for background music and GUI sfx, which is a multi profile save system and life system. It also supports Unity ads and has an in-game store solution for virtual purchases.

I recently had a handful of users ask for an in-app purchase system that allowed for real money transactions.  My problem was not only finding a billing plug-in for Unity to implement, but also a solution that was friendly enough for me to build over the store code. I also needed it to be easy and customizable so my final users, that have little or no coding experience, could still easily implement my asset.

I came upon the SOOMLA’s in-app purchase plugin which satisfied all these requirements. The Menu Starter Kit supports up to 10 save profiles, so I started to write a SOOMLAStoreAssets class in C# with 10 different kinds of VirtualCurrency in it, in order to keep track of the virtual balance of each profile. Then I filled the VirtualCurrencyPack with 10 duplicates of each money pack for each profile, which I had to be very careful to keep their names consistent (like: VIRTUAL_MONEY_PROFILE_0_PACK_20).

Starter Kit 2

The next step was to write a SOOMLA_billing script that not only initialized the SoomlaStore, but also had a public function that could target my old store script and act as a bridge from my previous code and the new SOOMLA features. Thanks to this bridge and for name consistency in the SOOMLAStoreAssets, now the Menu Starter Kit store can target the right money currency and pack in SOOMLA just feeding “quantity” in the original store buttons prefab with a number that matches the quantity pack.

Starter Kit 3

Starter Kit 4SOOMLA has given proof not only to be easy to use, but it’s also noninvasive, so it can be easily added to an already developed project without major changes to the code.  SOOMLA’s plugins are open source and released under the Apache license, so template makers and asset developers are free to incorporate it in their work and re-distribute it, no strings attached.

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Game design, Game Reviews

space spacy iconEver since I first installed Space Spacy I’ve been tortured by a dilemma: how do you pronounce Spacy? Is it Space – ee, Spa – psy or even Spa – ky? This mental torture, similar to why Sean Bean’s first and last names don’t rhyme, kept me up all night.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesStill, whatever the astronaut’s name, he will most certainly keep you entertained, because the game features innovative gameplay, cool music and dynamism which will make it very hard for you to leave your phone alone.

Space Spacy is a mobile game built by Warchild14 for iOS, Android and soon for Windows, and can be acquired through regular means, as well as the Amazon shop and the website.

Space Invaders upside down

In case you were wondering who Warchild14 might be, he’s a “dude inside a cave making games, naked.” I just hope the 14 in the name is not his age because that would be extremely awkward and highly inappropriate.

But let’s talk about the game more. I see Space Spacy as an inverted take on the classic Space Invaders game. Instead of being below and repelling wave after wave of pixelated aliens, the player is now on the top of the screen, trying to come down as a monster shoots at him from the bottom.

However, the player can’t shoot back – he can only dodge the monster’s missiles as he collects stars which he needs in order to descend.

And dodging is done by tilting your device one way or another, as the game uses the phone’s gyroscope for movement. This makes the game hilarious and somewhat harder than you might imagine. It’s also worth mentioning that the enemy’s AI is pretty decent. He won’t just run around shooting missiles at you, he’ll actually follow you around, so don’t think you can sit in the corner and wait for your star, while the enemy shoots around like he’s at a Serbian wedding.

Dodging bullets Neo style

screenshot1

When was the last time you saw an astronaut riding a magical carpet in a bubble?

Stars are also falling down, so not only do you have to dodge bullets, you need to also time your run perfectly to get the star without getting hit. Collect five stars, and you’ll move a step further to your goal. A level is complete when you reach the monster, which then turns into a large star which you can consume for extra points. And here’s where it gets really interesting: the second monster shoots in zig-zags.

And if you survive his attacks, you’ll be welcomed by a boss fight. So not only is the gameplay loads of fun, it also keeps your attention for extended periods of time just because it keeps introducing new elements to the game. And to top things off, there are a couple of power-ups which you can collect in-game, like armour or time warp to slow things down.

The game also monetises quite nicely. There are certain cosmetic changes you can purchase with an in-game currency, like your character’s appearance, and that currency can be acquired by watching video ads. I also believe there are things which are not purely cosmetic, but also improve your experience, but they were too expensive for me to purchase and had no description to explain what their purpose was.

The game’s graphics are 8-bit, and are backed by some great music of the same quality, which overall give the impression of an extremely well thought-out and executed game.

I also have to mention the humour in this game. It is something we (unfortunately) rarely see today, as most developers are way too serious about their product to embed some harmless fun. Space Spacy strikes the right chord with this one, not only through gameplay elements (you’ll see your astronaut riding a magical flying carpet, or a nail? (or is that a broom, I’m not entirely sure)), but also through messages you get when you die.

Looking for a flaw

At some point, the game will compare you to a “shy lady who is trying her best to meet with friends” or a “dreamer who wants to follow his father’s steps.”

Looking at the game as a whole, I can say it is a complete and good product. It has an innovative gameplay, employs the device’s hardware in an unusual manner and executes it perfectly. It has 8-bit graphics which are a joy to watch and follows up with some great solo-guitar music. It keeps you occupied by constantly adding new things and keeps you entertained with a great sense of humour.

It monetises nicely through an in-game currency and an extremely non-invasive video ad approach. Overall, I’d easily give this game a 4.5/5. The only thing that’s missing is a more detailed description of the things you can buy with your virtual money.

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Announcement, Tech Resources

SOOMLA Retention Reports

SOOMLA introduces retention reports – the best way to explain the behavior of your users in terms of how many stayed in your game and how many left it. There are many services out there that present the ability to investigate user retention, SOOMLA’s retention reports come with 3 kinds of retention types, each of them shows you your users behavior from a different angle and gives you information so you can react accordingly to prevent users’ churn.

Investigating your new users

The first type of report is the Regular Retention, here you can see how many first time (new) users visited your game.

Regular_Retention

The two leftmost columns represent how many users started playing your game and the specific day they came in. Any other column “i” represents how many users visited your game in the i-th day after the starting day.

Rolling retention of first time users

The next retention report is Rolling Retention which was first introduced by Flurry. Rolling Retention shows you how many users are still “in your game.” For example, a user started playing on day 0, and came back only on day 3. Rolling Retention will count this user also on day 1 and 2 as if the user played throughout all these days.  While this is a more “optimistic” analysis of user behavior, it treats users as equals even if they didn’t come back each and every day.  Rolling Retention is particularly interesting to look at when coupled with other marketing activities used by your studio.  For example, a push notification campaign is likely to get users back and to boost this metric.  This metric has been much debated, which is why we offer multiple retention types for developers looking to optimize their retention.

Rolling Retention

Like in the regular retention, in Rolling the two leftmost columns show the number of users who start to play on those days. Every other column “i,” represents the number of users who visited your game after “i” days or more according to the date range you’re looking at.

Take a deeper look into returning users

The last type of retention you can find on the Grow dashboard, is the Return Retention. This kind of retention is different from the others because it doesn’t consider each date as a new “day-0” cohort.  Instead, it accounts for all active users on that certain date and shows you their return rate from that day on.  In that sense, Return Retention captures a snapshot of users from multiple cohorts and observes their future retention.  It also lets you identify weak and strong days of gameplay over time.

Return_Retention

The leftmost column represents the total number of users which visited your game on the exact day, while the other columns tell you how many of them came after the i-th day.

Retention is the cornerstone metric every studio should be tracking.  The importance of this metric can be emphasized by two observations:

  1. Retention is the foundation for calculating user lifetime value, which lends its hand to revenue projection and ROI calculations of a game.  It’s also necessary to know LTV in order to conduct ROI-positive user acquisition
  2. Retention expresses your users’ delight from your product.  It’s the ultimate metric for understanding if your game is truly entertaining to the extent of keeping users coming back for more.

We encourage studios to explore retention metrics in the Grow dashboard and to understand their users’ behavior.

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Industry Forecasts, Industry News

My Learnings from China Joy

Last week I attended a huge conference in Shanghai called China Joy. It was fascinating and awesome and like everything in China it was really, really big, but I’m not here to talk to you about that.Your Ad Here Icon

One of the things that took me by surprise was that games in China don’t have ads in them. I mean, that’s almost embarrassing to admit. How did I not know such a thing about an industry I live and breath? And…if I missed something like this, what else did I miss about China?

Where are the Mobile Ads?

You might think that Chinese users are less receptive to ads, so game designers choose not to include them in favor of superior user experience. However, the reality is a bit different. It is not the game publishers choice not to include ads, but actually the App Stores in China that object to ads. There are roughly 300 App Stores in China, so users can install apps from multiple stores. This creates quite a competitive atmosphere between the various App Stores, so they do everything in their power to prevent users from downloading games from other stores. They want to own the user exclusively and that can’t be done with the way ads are managed today.

Mobile game advertising in China could be a huge thing. Mobile game advertising is already worth about $5B in thChinese Appstorese US. Think about how big it could be in China. Maybe it would be smaller, but we are looking at a billion dollar opportunity at the very least. In addition, unlike in other parts of the world, the biggest advertising company, Facebook, doesn’t exist. While this could potentially be a huge opportunity for ad networks, there are some pretty big challenges to get there.

What the Future Will Hold

My estimation is that by the end of 2016, there will be ads in mobile games in China. The more innovative ad networks, will find a way to work with the App Stores to offer ads inside games while respecting the needs of such App Stores. One way this could happen is via white labeling. Basically, the stores will take the part of the ad network by leveraging advertising technology from ad-networks outside of China. For the App Stores it seems like the best move. They will make additional revenue while keeping their game publishers happy. However, there is one problem, ad networks tend to be better when they are bigger. There are advantages to scale for both sides of the network. For advertisers, bigger networks means they have to deal with less interfaces and get more reach for their ads. For publishers, scale means better fill rates and more ad diversity.

Therefore, I’m anticipating that soon after, the App Stores will grow their own networks. Therefore, three types of services will evolve:

  • DSPs focusing on aggregating all the App Stores into a single interface for advertisers.
  • Network-to-network marketplace between the App Stores.
  • Publisher side dashboards allowing publishers to monitor and manage their ad monetization across different App Stores while still respecting the boundaries.

These are, of course, my opinions and estimations. I’ll be monitoring this market closely to see if I was right. If you have other thoughts about how this market will evolve, feel free to share.

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Game design, Game Reviews

volcano iconVideo games that also try to raise awareness of an issue currently plaguing humankind are by default boring and dull.

Available on Google PlayMost often, such games are done by people who just want to get that good-paying project out of the way so that they can devote their time to creating games they really love – most usually ones where you get to kill a lot of people.

Exceptions are always there to prove the rule, and the game I am about to review, called Volcano, is that exception.

How to save a dying planet

Volcano is a well-built, high quality mobile game that also does a great job at raising awareness that the industrial revolution is killing the planet. It also argues that the only way to save the planet is to destroy the industry by firing large fireballs out of living, talking volcanoes.

The game was built by Arbuz Games development studio for the Android platform, and in it you take control of an angry volcano that peacefully lived on his little planet, until “intelligence” came along.

volcano 1

Look at that angry face

As you might imagine, this intelligence starts popping up like acne all over the planet, spawning oil wells, oil rigs, nuclear power-plants, electrical power-plants, large CO2-emitting factories and so forth.

However, our Volcano will have none of it, so he starts launching fireballs all over the planet, destroying the pollutants, all while maniacally repeating “I love this planet” and “Sorry! No, I’m not!”

The Gameplay

The game’s mechanic is quite simple: you’re presented with a small planet, and as pollutants start appearing, you have to take them down. Placing your finger anywhere on the touchscreen and simply dragging it to any side will show a trajectory path for your future fireball. Once you have taken aim at the target, release the finger, and the fireball is on its way.

Simple, yet very effective. The challenge of the game is to be as fast and precise as possible. The pollutants will, at some point, start appearing at an ever-increasing rate, and if you’re not fast enough, they will take over the entire planet.

This can’t go on forever, though. There is also a pollution meter on screen, which shows how badly the “intelligent” life has messed up. Leave them untouched for too long and you will lose the game.

The game also features various power-ups, such as 2x speed for your fireball, a meteor shower and something which I can only explain as global warming, but all of them are actually there to help you get rid of your enemies.

volcano2

I wouldn’t want to mess with this guy

It was odd to see these power-ups (I counted six), yet I never saw an in-game shop to buy them. The only way to get them was during play, when they appeared. I personally saw this as a great opportunity to monetise the gameplay, but was missed.

The game features a total of three stages (three different planets), each having 20 levels, plus an extra endless level. The first level is obviously Earth and is free to play. The second and third levels are alien planets, with the second being unlocked by sharing the game either on Facebook or Twitter, and the third being purchasable.

The Visuals

Volcano is a good game, but it’s the visuals that make it really stand out from the masses. The game looks absolutely stunning, with its hand-drawn graphics, cute animations and unbelievable details, even though everything on the screen is tiny to begin with. Everything about the game’s graphics is downright perfect – from the volcano’s angry expression, the oil rig’s animations, the slow decay of the planet, to the fireball’s explosion.

Each planet is unique in its own way with different colours and different pollutants.

The Verdict

Volcano has a tough job of being a cool and entertaining game, while trying to raise awareness about a certain troublesome topic. However, it seems to be doing the job with style though. The game looks beautiful, with hand-drawn planets and tiny details, all topped off with very smooth and quality animations.

It doesn’t lack audio, either. Even though somewhat repetitive, the game’s music is subtle enough not to be annoying, and the volcano’s voice which keeps saying “I love this planet” and “Oops! Muahahaha!” really adds to the atmosphere (no pun intended).

The game’s monetisation is an area where progress can be made, as the game has just enough room to improve. It earns its keep through ads, the “purchase no-ads” feature and the third planet which can be bought for real money, but I’d also love to see an in-game shop where the various power-ups, already featured in the game, could be purchased.

But the in-game shop or virtual currency is not a game-breaker, especially not when you have such a high-quality product on display.

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SOOMLA - An In-app Purchase Store and Virtual Goods Economy Solution for Mobile Game Developers of Free to Play Games