Developer interviews

App Monetization, Developer interviews

scoompa

I asked Victor Dekalov from Scoompa to give a short interview. To those of you who don’t know Scoompa, it’s a mobile-apps start up founded by Google veterans. They have a diverse portfolio of popular Android apps that have been downloaded over 200M times.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and the company you work for

I’ve been managing monetization and analytics with web & mobile publishers for the past 5 years. I was lucky enough to experience the evolvement of these landscapes first hand. I started by monetizing with premium direct campaigns and evolved with the industry through the rise of programmatic ad channels, to full stack programmatic mediation and content discovery in mobile.

Today I’m leading revenue & analytics at Scoompa – our apps are used by 15-20M monthly active users

Google and Facebook are enough

I asked Victor to describe his mix of ad-types, networks and mediation providers

Victor’s answer:

Up until now our approach was not to over complicate things.

We have simple flows inside the apps that trigger interstitials on natural breaks in the app usage (finished creating doc, etc). We also have banner ads on most of our screens, which in the past few months are being gradually replaced by native ad slots that fit in nicely in the apps’ UI.

We use our own in-house auto-pilot mediation system that optimizes the waterfalls, on a daily basis, separately for each placement and each country.

The vast majority of our ad traffic is split between FAN (Facebook audience network) and Google (Admob, adx) + few more we try from time to time. We consider different ad-networks from time to time but usually the opportunity cost is too high and we stick mostly with FAN and Admob.

Don’t over optimize focus on the big picture

Since ad-operations is a relatively new practice for a lot of mobile app developers. I thought it would be good to learn a bit from the expert. I first asked Victor to describe his day to day and was surprised to learn it’s not so much about optimizing the eCPM (or RPM as he calls it)

Q: What is included in your day to day as the one heading Ad-Operations

Answer:

Since most of our ad-ops are “managed” by our auto-pilot mediation platform, it frees me up to focus more on planning ads related product changes and analyzing their effect. This is key: as ad-ops people we tend to focus too much on optimizing our small piece of the puzzle like increasing RPMs (revenue per mile) at any cost. We forget that this is only the very “end of the funnel”.

You can get more impact by creating better ad interactions that perform better (lead to better conversion but also better UX and retention), working on cross-promotion and general growth, analyzing the usage of features inside the product to identify the best monetization opportunities.

Q: Can you give us an example and tips how to do it?

Answer:

One thing we noticed is that users mindfully CLICK on native ads. They do it intentionally. On the other hand banners, whose CTRs are so low that they might look like “margin of error” more than a KPI. A lot of my role is to find these native opportunities rather than just filling the screen with banners. We found that the best implementation of native ads for us is in a list of discoverable content items. This yielded a steady 2% CTR and 4-5$ RPM in US. Even when having several ads per screen.

Another thing we found is that interstitials, If implemented correctly and with the right partners, can bring higher RPMs than rewarded-videos.

So back to my 2 cents – over optimization leaves you focused on the tiny details. In the long run, being blind to the big picture will always loose you more money than what you can earn by lifting RPM by another 0.5%.

LTV is hard to calculate – power through the excel

A lot has been written about KPIs and the importance of LTV. I asked Victor if he shares the same views and he shared some interesting perspective about the challenges with LTV.

Q: What are the KPIs you are actively tracking and some benchmarks

Victor’s Answer:

ARPU/LTV – this is important since it’s the ultimate monetization goal. For a utility app you should shoot for 2-4 cents in top GEOs and 1 cent elsewhere. At least that’s what we are seeing.

Tip – Don’t give up on ARPU and LTV analysis. In most cases, it’s not easy. You need to work with several data points, they don’t always “speak the same language”, you need to spend hours pivoting and vLookuping in excel…… It’s worth it! You’ll find great insights that’ll contradict your instincts, and in the end you might double down on a BI tool that will help you streamline those analysis.

Impressions per session – we don’t try to optimize this one up but rather balance it – too much ad inventory devalues each impression. Too many ads reduce retention. Those 2 things are hard to come back from, and rather than obsessively optimizing for the upper limit I suggest to use common sense and practice restrain (of course, after you’ve analyzed your range). For us we balance for 1 interstitial per session and 4-6 banners.

RPM/eCPM – did I do something to change performance of the ad format? Is there an industry/seasonal trend? The variance is pretty high between ad formats and GEOs. For USA: interstitials should average 6$, natives should be 2-3$ (for very large native ads can be same as interstitial)

Note that RPMs can change industry wide by 50% from one period to another. It can happen in a matter of days, and can influence just one ad-source and not the other.

Finally, I recommend finding your top 5 GEOs and optimizing them. Even when you have a very diverse WW user base, often 5 countries can account for over 50% of ad revenues. Think about it when you’re spending all your energy on localizing for Africa.

Calculate ROI on new SDKs and factor implementation effort as well

With new tools and ad-network SDKs coming to the eco-system all the time, I had to get Victor’s views on how to find the right partners.

Here are some of his thoughts about tools

I mostly use excel and SQL (workbench) to combine ads data with analytics data from Flurry, Google Analytics, Fabric, etc. Don’t spring for expensive and time consuming BI tools, if you can’t estimate how much ROI you’ll have from such a project.

From previous experience, and if you have the time resource, I extremely recommend creating pipelines to streamline all this data into a unified database (redshift, bigQuery, etc) and using a data querying and visualization tool to give you easy day-to-day access to all your main KPIs. You don’t have to go for the big and expensive solutions (like Tableau), there are great and lean (and MUCH cheaper) solutions out there that will do for 90% of use cases. I recommend redash.io

And about adding more ad-networks

We always want to add more networks to our stack and increase average yield per impression, but we always ask ourselves these questions : can this action improve our LTV by more than X %? Will it be more profitable than investing the same development time in new apps and features? So far the answer is usually “NO”.

Cross promoting is key

Q: What do you think about user acquisition for ad supported apps?

Victor’s Answer

Buying mobile users, for a utility app, hoping to be ROI positive by monetizing with ads, is a dead end. Unless you truly believe that you have a home-run app that just needs some advertising to get discovered and become viral. If you plan on generating an average LTV that’ll be higher than the cost of user acquisition (actual CPI + overhead cost), know that for 99% of use cases it’s just plain impossible

A great publishing business is one that has diverse properties. It can utilize cross-promotion to expose masses of users to new releases, instead of relying on paid advertising or chance.

Q: Any other tips you want to share?

A: Read!

Our landscape is full of people eager to share their experience and results. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel or try-fail every single idea. On the other hand – be sceptic. Not every blog post is relevant to your business and not every piece of data is objectively true 😉

 

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Developer interviews, Fun Stuff

August Rockstar – Durvesh Naik

Our next Rockstar of the Month post takes us to India. There, we meet Durvesh Naik, a passionate gamer and a motivated SOOMLA community member. Led by the “sharing is caring” mantra, he enjoys helping people as much as being helped by others.

What is your favorite game and why?soomla tees

I love almost all genres, mainly strategies, FPS and sports. The Call Of Duty series is one of my favorite for PC, WWE’13 for consoles and Clash of Clans and Asphalt on Android. Then there are other titles like Assassin’s Creed, Counter-Strike, NFS, Road Rash, Mario, Don Bradmon Cricket 14, FIFA series, which are all great fun to play. I really like a majority of games.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?

Open source helps all kinds of people by bringing them together and creating high quality technology with their extensive talent. It helps different types of teams as well, be they small or big. It gives studios the ability to take the basics and customize it to their needs.

SOOMLA is not just open source, but also has a lot of invaluable features which have been built with years of hard work, trial and error, and with a great free community. That’s what I love about SOOMLA, it has the passion for the mobile gaming industry.

I know the feeling when you try to implement new things in a project and then get stuck somewhere because you’re not familiar with the technology. Simple, small errors seem huge at the time and it can waste a lot of time sitting and trying to figure it out. Helping in the forum allows me to actively participate and help other developers.

Also, the satisfaction of solving others’ problems is just a brilliant feeling. I think everyone should try to do it. My favorite phrase is, “sharing is caring.”

How are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?

We are currently implementing almost all modules of SOOMLA including Profile for Facebook login and leaderboard, the LevelUp module for unlockable levels, missions, rewards, as well as Store for in-app purchases and virtual currency, together with the SYNC module for storing data online.

What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?

I see many new developers tend to have very innovative ideas that would make their games a big hit, yet they lack good graphics or addictive features to top the charts.

One should remember that, “your game should always look pleasant to the eye and deep enough for audience to comeback again and again.”

What are your plans for the future?

Our short term goal is to publish the WIP game. In the long-run, we’d like to publish more games and expand our little studio.

Thank you Durvesh for helping the SOOMLA community, you’ve helped a lot of people. Make sure to check out Durvesh’s guest post on the SOOMLA blog, SOOMLA Upgrading Made Easy.

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Developer interviews, Game Design

Paparazzi-RunThis might be the first time you hear of the game Paparazzi Run, but something tells me it won’t be the last. It’s an upcoming endless runner game created by the Level Rewind development team, built for mobile platforms.

In the game, the player takes control of a movie superstar that has to run across the red carpet, surrounded by (obviously) the paparazzi. As you run along the three-way path, you’ll encounter various obstacles like movie tapes, equipment boxes and microphone holders, as well as coins for in-game purchases, large coins for in-game mini-games and puzzle pieces for extra content.

What makes this game really stand out is the graphics. Paparazzi Run features stunning hand-drawn visuals which would put even the best Cartoon Network animators to shame. SOOMLA got the chance to interview the CEO of Level Rewind, Fabio Cujino, and talk a bit about the game, the creation process, as well as monetization methods implemented.

What inspired you to create these characters? Are they someone you know in real life or are they simply a figment of your imagination?

The game is about coming to Hollywood to make it big. So we thought about people in general, since there is no specific look if you want to make it there (and if you don’t have it, surgeons are ready to make you match it 🙂 ).

comparison

To those who can’t spot the difference: The real Danny Trejo is on the right

We wanted a couple of badasses in the game. So if you check out The Cuban (they guy with the pony tail), we decided to find the meanest Latino we know. Who could be better than Machete himself, so we went for Danny Trejo as inspiration, but with additional pounds in different parts of the body (specially the arms), to make the character bouncy and heavy during runs. We did more or less the same with Tuff (the female brunette character). We made a mix of K-pop and Lara Croft, to create an evil good girl.

Then we needed their opposites, so we went for a regular blondie and a James Dean kind of guy. For the big guy character (Blond muscular guy), we took Mr. Incredible and Johnny Bravo as inspiration and enhanced his non proportional body parts to make him heavy.

The game was made by a team of people from more than 10 different nationalities. What can you tell us about your experience working with such a diverse team?

I came from Israel after living in Colombia and now I am a Danish citizen. So I see a lot of potential in bringing different people together to create something unique. In the environment where we placed our studio, people from big companies like Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks drop by here and there to teach at the school beside our offices. It’s also where the game’s animator studied. The school’s amazing reputation attracts people from everywhere, so the mix of people for game or movie productions just happens automatically.

We did not plan to be from 10 different places, but I think a group this diverse will result in more culturally rich games. Everyone has a saying, an asset, piece of code or comment to make the game experience their own.

Do you think endless runner games are the perfect mobile genre?

paparazzi run screenshotEndless runners can be a lot of different things in my opinion. The short game loop, the mission structure and the jump and run mechanics appeal to a lot of players. We added the swipe up and down in a new perspective, shooting and destroying to add action to it. People know runners and what to expect, so that might make them good matches for mobile. But today mobile is about so many things, and the games being published are so diverse and cool, that endless runners are just part of the bigger picture.

How long did it take you to finish the game? What were your biggest challenges?

We work for a big publisher in Scandinavia too, so that takes up most of our time (and makes most of our money). So we always struggle to find time for our own productions. That made the production of this game longer than expected, but we don’t really have an exact timeline of how long, since we worked on so many other things at the same time. With a team of three to five people, I think a game of this kind can be produced in three months though.

Will you bring the game to Windows Phone? Why did you decide to make it free?

As all mobile game developers know and feel in their pockets, one way or another, monetizing a mobile game is complicated. We wanted to make a good game, cool artwork and gameplay, and at the same time make it possible for us to earn some money. So we decided to go free to remove the wall of fear people have created when deciding to spend a dollar or two on a game. Free makes it easy for people to decide to download. The Windows phone is on our list of potential platforms, we are just not big enough to focus on too many platforms at this point.

With video ads, pop-up and in-game purchases, you have three types of monetization. Which one works best for your game and do you know why?

We released our game and had it out there for almost a week. We were then contacted by a publisher we had talked to before, so we removed it from the store. Now it is waiting for a relaunch on their side (the publishers side). Because of that we did not manage to collect a lot of data, but so far the video seems to be a good way to make money (Unity Ads) and the Interstitials look fine (Chartboost). In regards to IAP, the game needs to be in the market longer for us to know if people will buy extra.

You created a store for coins, however you said you don’t expect people to use it that much. Then why bother?

There are two currencies in the game, coins and mojo. The coins are the soft currency and we hope people will play enough to collect a lot of it. Our hope is that people will notice that coins come from playing more, and thereby stay in the game longer. The Mojo is the hard currency and it can be purchased at the store. Our main goal is not to make a lot of coin sales, but to let people know that there are quite a few items that might be nice to have to improve their game experience.

Paparazzi Run is expected to return to the digital stores soon. In the meantime, make sure to follow the game on Facebook and check out the trailer below. As Fabio Cujino said himself, he’s always willing to answer more questions to any curious individuals on Twitter, as well.

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Developer interviews, Fun Stuff

July Rockstar – Čeněk Štrichel

This time around we’re going to the Czech Republic in Europe. There sits Čeněk Štrichel, developing games for both Android and iOS. He’s a enthusiastic developer, an active member of the Soomla forums, and a passionate gamer.548891_10201428524462429_1896629100_n

What is your favorite game and why?
I like many games, but for me, the best games are Mirror’s Edge and Starcraft. Mirror’s Edge was the first game I played immediately after I finished it, but on higher difficulty, of course. I’ve been playing Starcraft for the past 14 years. I first played Starcraft with my friends on LAN and then online. If you fight against a protoss named “Cenda” it’s me.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?
First of all I didn’t know SOOMLA was open source. I kept seeing it on the Asset Store, but I was afraid that it would be too complicated for me to add to my games. I am not big programmer, but more of a 3D generalist. I was surprised to see how easy it was to use the Soomla framework. I am glad that I can use the system for social sharing and in-app purchases, so I wanted to give something back. As I mentioned I am not big programmer, therefore I am helping with another project of creating a 3D Soombot mascot.soomlabot

I really started using open source about two years ago. I used to use commercial software, so I was shocked to see how great open source software is. For example, I changed my Softimage for Blender and I will soon switch from Photoshop to Krita.

froggieHow are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?
I am not using all SOOMLA features yet. For now, I use Store and Profile and I cannot imagine how I would have done this alone. I am very happy that the good guys of SOOMLA do it for me. And I’m also appreciative of the amazing SOOMLA community that helps as well.

What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?
My games, I hope! 🙂 But in fact there are many great games. So the only thing missing piece is another way to play. I think that Oculus or similar virtual reality can help fill this gap. I really believe in projects like Google Cardboard. Everybody has a smartphone and if it will be some cheap device for virtual reality with a phone, it has big potential.

What are your plans for the future?labyrinth_shadow
I have many ideas for new games. I am currently working on a simple first person shooter. Later, I want to do a massive update for my first published and most successful game Froggie Jump. When I say massive update I mean total rewriting, better level design, and a lot more. Maybe it will be better to do Froggie Jump 2 🙂 I want to also add multiplayer to my games, Labyrinth Trap and Voxel Fly. But I really cannot wait to start working on my first game ever. I had to stop development because I still had a lot of ideas for this game, but not enough experience to finish it in high quality. I made a promise to myself that I would finish it one day. It is survivor horror game (it’s a theme I just love). I hope that it will be done during next year.

A big thanks to Cenda for helping the SOOMLA community. Make sure to check out Cenda Games online and on Facebook, and don’t forget to try some of his games!

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Developer interviews

June Rockstar – Ricardo Wing Alcázar

Ricardo WingThis month we’re sending a big thank you all the way to Costa Rica, where Ricardo creates mobile games in his one-man studio, Sugar Wings Games. Ricardo diligently works on his own games, but is also a huge contributor on the Soomla forum. We’re recognizing him this month for his continual efforts in helping other indie developers.

What is your favorite game and why?
Well, that’s a pretty hard question because I have a lot of favorite games. I enjoy the Tomb Raider Saga, Halo Saga, Super Mario 64, Super Smash Bros, Final Fantasy, and even some of the old school games like Lode Runner, Ice Climber from NESS, and TETRIS. But if I had to choose one, my favorite game would probably be Zelda Ocarina of Time.

It’s not just the characters, puzzles, hidden treasures, storyline and other great things the game has, but the music is legendary!  You know it’s a successful game if you can hear a little bit of the track and recognize which game it belongs to. Every time I hear the Zelda soundtrack, I can recognize exactly where it would be in the game.  Zelda’s also living proof that Super HD Graphics does not necessarily determine the quality of a game.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?
As a developer, I am always trying to reach new goals, implement new tools and improve my coding skills. And in all honesty, sometimes it takes me longer than I expect to achieve my goals. So I enjoy helping others so they can avoid the learning curve that I had to work through.

I also know how it feels to be in front of the computer staring at code that should work, but doesn’t and it’s only after 4 or 5 hours that I can finally solve the problem. Sometimes the error can even be something simple, but I can’t see the problem because I was staring at the code for too long. Having someone look at your code with fresh eyes can help discover mistakes faster and save time.

Open source projects are great for everybody from single developers like me to huge companies.  Having the chance to contribute in the development and maintenance of an open source community is always an amazing opportunity to grow, learn and help others.

How are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?
I am developing a space shooter game with a small twist and a great storyline. I am using Soomla LevelUp for level control and Store for managing the entire game economy.

Ricardo Wing logoI am also planning on implementing Grow for analytics and Profile for social integration. It’s hard to do all of this by myself, but I know it’ll be a great feeling when I’m done and have an excellent game.

What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?
The industry is becoming saturated with games that really don’t cut it. Most of today’s games are copies of a successful title or a remake of something old, like Flappy Bird or 5 Nights at Freddy’s. I think that today’s mobile gaming industry is lacking innovative developers that want to bring something new and fresh to the mobile entertainment industry.

What are your plans for the future?Ricardo Wing game logo
I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that I would like to keep developing games and continue learning about the gaming industry. I really want to make a hit that will grow my studio, so I can develop all the games I have in mind.  Being able to enlarge my studio would allow me to make my games faster.

Make sure to check out Ricardo’s most recent game, Pop Balloon Attack, available on iOS, Android, and Windows. Thanks Ricardo for all your help and if you have any Soomla questions, you know who your man is!

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Developer interviews

May Rockstar – Tom Jenkins

May is already upon us and that means we’re spotlighting a community member thSoomla_TJenkins_shadowat has shown commitment to helping the Soomla community. This month is Tom Jenkins, owner of After Insanity Studios. If you’re on the Answers forum you’ve probably seen him around and he’s actually probably helped you at some point. Tom’s an indie developer from Virginia making his dreams come true of developing games. We asked Tom a few questions about his path in the gaming world and here’s what he had to say:

What is your favorite game and why?

I grew up when computer gaming was in its infancy. So my first gaming love was Avalon Hill board games like Squad Leader and role playing games like D&D. Naturally, with computer gaming I gravitated toward strategic simulations. Today that genre has Creative Assembly’s Total War series, Paradox’s Crusader Kings 2, and Europa Universalis. But I don’t really have a favorite, it depends on what I’m feeling – one day I might want to play XCom and another X3 Albion Prelude.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?

In my last game, I almost immediately saw discrepancies between the App Store reports on sales and my analytics on sales.  I took a chance in that game and didn’t set up purchase verification, but that was a mistake, so I knew thTJenkins_Store_shadowat my next game would need receipt verification. I also decided that my next game would need a virtual economy. I’ve used other libraries for wrapping the various App Stores in Unity, so I rated them on verification and virtual economy. My previous libraries didn’t measure up to what Soomla provided.

Soomla provides a verification server, so I don’t have to setup and monitor yet another server. They also provide a good virtual currency model and I therefore, don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Lastly, Soomla is open source, so if I want something that the framework doesn’t provide, I can add it myself. In fact, within a few days of using Soomla I realized I needed a feature for checking afDodgin Dragons_shadowfordability, so I added it and pushed it up to the master repository. Since then I’ve added some things and fixed others. With a structured open source project you lower your risk.

It’s that last point, lowering risk, that has always drawn me to open source projects. I’ve been involved with various open source projects since the 1990s, some good and some bad. In my opinion, the most successful projects are those that lower the risk of usage for the target audience.

How are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?

In my latest game, Dodging Dragons, I’m using Store to model the virtual economy, Profile to handle social networking on Facebook and Twitter, and Soomla Vungle, which handles providing rewards for players that watch video ads. I also have rewards for AdColony videos even though there isn’t a module. It was relatively easy to add reward handling to my AdColony implementation; perhaps I’ll get a chance to turn it into an actual module one day.TJenkins_Ad_shadow

What do you hope will occur in the industry in the next three to five years?

I hope the mobile gaming market continues to get bigger and for the mobile gaming platforms to improve. The type of gaming experience you can provide someone changes when your draw calls, verts, and tris thresholds are raised. Just a few years back, if you were over 25 draw calls and some thousands of tris you were pushing the platform. Now, you can triple that without blinking.

I’m also looking forward to the growth of the virtual reality market. But that might be because as a kid I wanted to drive a TRON cycle.

In your opinion, what is the biggest issue the gaming industry is facing? How can it be minimized or resolved?

There are a number of interrelated things that do cause me some sleepless nights. It’s an age old issue that is going to be exacerbated by what has been happening with the game engine companies this year. There is such a low barrier to entry for developing a game; I mean it’s really low as the two largest and popular engines (Unity3d and Unreal) are now free. As we all know, there are hundreds of thousands of games produced every year. With an even lower cost of entry we may see an even larger explosion of games – arguably with not all of them being “ready for prime time.”

Also, the trend of game distribution is being concentrated into a handful of distribution places and there is a growing requirement of not just creating a good game, but also getting in front of consumers. It’s very easy to be swallowed up by the noise; your success now is not determined by how good your game is, but by how many eyes see it before it’s buried. As the cost of acquiring players increases, the probability for a small developer decreases. If distributers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Steam ever decide on a tiered distribution model with slot fees, you’ll see a drastic change in the indie market.

Thanks Tom for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights! We truly appreciate your time and effort in the Soomla community. Make sure to check out After Insanity Studios and Tom’s Github account!

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Developer interviews

Making the Move and Going Social with NextpeerNP_LOGO_ICON_250X250

We had the opportunity to sit down with Nextpeer’s CEO, Shai Magzimof, to discuss their newest social SDK.

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves, the team, the vision, the journey.

Nextpeer was founded in 2011 with a simple goal, to help developers add multiplayer to mobile games. We wanted to bring the fun and enjoyment of multiplayer games we had back on PCs to the mobile era. In 2014, our multiplayer SDK was integrated into more than 7,000 games and the gamer activity across the platform was staggering. We started to communicate directly with our gamers and to collect some very interesting feedback. We quickly realized that gamers want more than just multiplayer, they want to connect with the people they play with, communicate, share their experience and invite friends to the games they love. This led us to create the Nextpeer Social SDK – the most powerful social SDK for mobile game developers.

2. Tell us about your new product – what has radically changed in Nextpeer?

The Nextpeer Multiplayer SDK allowed any game developer to add a synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer tournaments into basically any mobile game. Our latest SDK offers much more than that. Once integrated into the game, you get a complete social network with all the functionalities you’d expect in such a network, including player relationships, messaging, a news feed and much more.

iPhone_android_screens@2x

On top of the standard social network features, the multiplayer functionality has been further extended. Players can challenge friends for matches, show-off their moves with in-game snapshots and even meet new people by inviting a random player from anywhere around the world for a match.

3. What are the hardest problems you guys solve for developers?

The problems out there for mobile game devs are pretty well known, the top two being discovery and retention. The staggering amount of apps, and games in particular, available today in both the AppStore and Google Play Market makes it super difficult to move the needle for game developers.

When developers use our SDK, they are essentially connecting their game to a community of gamers who play other Nextpeer games. Those players are always looking for new, fun games to play. Discovery is done in a variety of ways, for example, players can check what other players are playing by looking at the stream. This is a revolutionary new channel that can help game developers attract new players to their game.

ANDROID_STREAM (2) (1)

Another helpful tool the SDK offers is the friends invitation screen. Players can invite friends from various social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp to join them in the game.

Come play Safari Party with me. Download the game from https://r.nextpeer.com/eyJnIjoiMTIzIiwidCI6M30 and search for my Nextpeer ID 1RP62 or my name Dror Hadadi.

The SDK also includes a massive feature set to deal with the issue of player retention. As we all know, retaining players is super important in the monetization process for games. For instance, players can interact with others via challenges and messaging. Those generate push notifications and social triggers which can lure the player right back into the game. Research also shows that socially engaged players are more “sticky” and tend to use the game more often.

Even after those basic social features, the Social SDK, much like its predecessor, offers instant multiplayer features that can be integrated into any game. Multiplayer is an important aspect of any mobile that wants to remain relevant in today’s competitive app market. The latest version of the SDK offers even greater flexibility when it comes to multiplayer gaming (now offering three different multiplayer modes – synchronous, hybrid and asynchronous) and it’s now even easier and can be done in even less time. Eager developers can even create advanced multiplayer games where players can see each other and interact in real-time. This can help the game differentiate itself from the rest of the market and capture the value it needs.

4. Which platforms does Nextpeer support?

The Nextpeer SDK supports gameplay across both iOS and Android so that players can interact and play regardless of the device they’re using. Game engine plugins are available for Unity, Cocos2d-x (both versions 2 and 3), libGDX and UIKit. We even have complete open source sample games with multiplayer for cocos2d-x and Unity.

5. How much effort does your new SDK save developers who want to implement multiplayer and social?

Building your own servers, including maintenance and support for cross platform devices is very expensive and time consuming. If someone wants to build a game, the last thing they want to do is deal with databases, Facebook IDs or matchmaking algorithms. Nextpeer takes care of all of that, leaving developers to focus on the really important aspects of their game. It’s up to the developer to decide if they’d like a simple high score challenge or utilize the more advanced capabilities which allow for a fully interactive multiplayer game. The SDK definitely can save months of valuable time.

6. There are lots of social and multiplayer SDKs out there. How do you guys stand out?

Nextpeer is currently the only social layer that can connect a game into a thriving network of players. This allows us to basically guarantee discovery and exposure for games. In terms of multiplayer, Nextpeer doesn’t lock you into one device category or social network, Nextpeer allows players to play head to head regardless of the device they’re using. It doesn’t matter if your players are on Android or iOS, our SDK supports gameplay across both platforms.

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7. What does Nextpeer offer to developers who’ve already incorporated a multiplayer solution?

Since the SDK offers way more than just multiplayer, games that currently have an existing multiplayer solution can just as easily utilize it. Our focus is about creating a community within the game so that the game can enjoy better discovery and retention.

8. What if I’m just a single indie developer? Is Nextpeer the right solution for me?

Integrating the SDK into your game shouldn’t take more than a few hours and the basic plan for Nextpeer is free. This makes this a perfect fit for indie developers or anyone that just wants to start out and explore its abilities.

One of our more famous success stories about a game that integrated Nextpeer is 2048 (by Guntis from Estoty Entertainment Lab). Guntis developed the leading 2048 game on Android and is one of the better examples of how a single indie developer can make it big. With very few resources he managed to reach the top of the Google Play Market, overtaking big studios with huge marketing budgets. With Nextpeer, Guntis was able to add amazing social features to his game, features that only a few years ago were only accessible for top level studios and companies.

Another great example of indie success is Muoyo Okome. He was an anonymous indie developer that toyed around with various casual game titles. The thing for him was that his games were all too similar to what was popular in the market. After integrating the Nextpeer SDK into one of his games and making it multiplayer the game soared to the top of the AppStore, netting Okome thousands of dollars a day. In this case, Nextpeer proved to be the game changer in the making of that AppStore hit.

9. Can you share some numbers?  How many developers and end users has your platform attracted to date?

Nextpeer has already attracted 7,100 developers who have shipped more than 8,100 games to various app stores. The SDK itself is present in over 175M game downloads and players have already played enough multiplayer tournaments to fill up 10,000 years worth of time.

10. To wrap up, what message would you like to convey to all indie game developers out there?

Life is not easy for an indie developer. Game development is pretty hard by itself, not to mention the battle that ensues post development in the AppStore. Indies need to focus on breaking the “use it once or twice” usage habit that players habitually have.

When we created Nextpeer, we wanted to tackle those issues head on. The Nextpeer platform hosts a very large community of gamers, and by simply connecting your game to Nextpeer, developers can benefit from improved discovery almost instantly. Our social features can boost any game’s retention, and help turn those players into actual paying customers. Integration is super simple and our basic plan is free, there’s hardly any reason why developers shouldn’t at least try it and see how it performs for them.

A big thank you to Shai for sitting down with us and sharing Nextpeer’s latest additions. We can’t wait to see how the new SDK performs and make sure you check it out!

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Developer interviews

April Rockstar – Eliot LashSoomla's Rockstar of the Month - Eliot Lash

Soomla’s recognizing active, passionate community members each month. This month we want to spotlight, Eliot Lash, a former Disney mobile employee turned indie game developer. He was recently in the Soomla offices and we had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with him and hear about his time working in the gaming industry. Eliot is originally from San Fransisco, California and is currently traveling the world coding games.

1. You originally worked for Disney mobile, why did you decide to go Indie?

I have had a dream of making my own games full-time for many years now, since before I joined Disney. I had a great four years there; I was privileged to have so many talented people to learn from, and even just to get paid to make games. I finally got to the point where I wanted to really go for it. I now have a lot more experience and some savings to live off of while I try to figure out how to support myself independently.

2. What motivates you to participate in the Soomla forums? And in the Open Source community in general?

I love open source and open content. Much of the world benefits from free, open source software in ways they may not even be aware of. The health of our technological ecosystem is hugely dependent on open source as its foundation. People might be aware that some software they use every day is open source, like Chrome or Firefox. But also if you use a website or even a smartphone, chances are it’s running on some flavor of the Linux or BSD operating systems.

Open source is a breath of fresh air because it’s something altruistic in a world which often seems purely profit-driven.

I benefit immensely from the growing body of open source and open content. I plan to use media from Openclipart, Freesound, and ccMixter in my games in addition to a number of awesome open-source frameworks like TouchScript, and don’t have to pay a cent. As a programmer, an open source framework is so much better than a proprietary one, since you have the ability to see what’s truly going on, fix problems, and add features on your own. And even with projects that use a permissive license like Soomla where I have no legal obligation to release the source for my modifications, I often do. I like knowing that the work I’ve done to benefit myself can, with very little effort, be put out in the world where people I’ve never even met can benefit from it too.

The domain we’re in is not a zero-sum game. When we share and cooperate, we all benefit. I believe that for us, a rising tide lifts all boats.

So when I discovered Soomla Store, I was delighted to find an open source framework that met my needs perfectly. Because it’s open source, I’m able to scratch my own itches and improve it. And I felt it was only right to contribute these changes back to the community. 🙂Graphics from Eliot's website.

3. How are you incorporating Soomla into your game?

At the moment I am using Soomla Store to handle in-app purchases on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. I am also trying out Soomla GROW for analytics. If my future games need social or progression features I’ll definitely check out the other modules; integration is pretty easy and having a whole system like this working off-the-shelf lets me focus more on building the game.

4. What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?

Diversity and innovation. A few years ago there seemed to be an exciting promise in mobile because there were all these wild, experimental games coming out and many seemed to do pretty well. Now, it seems that things have started crystallizing more into genres, not to mention the glut of clones.

It’s great that game development is becoming more democratized. The barrier to entry has never been lower, although we still have a long way to go. The medium of games sorely needs more diversity of authors and players if it’s going to blossom into a ubiquitous art form. Mobile has helped here, but we are now facing the same discoverability problem that is happening in other forms of entertainment like music, books, and films. The internet has made it viable for more creators to connect with a niche audience, but we’re missing a better way for people to just find all that stuff that fits their tastes; most of them don’t even know that there are alternatives to the big mass market stuff. This is a really hard problem to solve (Netflix awarded a $1M bounty for a 10% improvement to its suggestion algorithm a few years back) but I’m hoping that we will see significant progress on it over the next few decades. And the curation approach seems promising too, I like what Steam is trying out there.

5. What are your plans for the future?

I’m just getting started with my indie game stuff, so I’m hoping that I can figure out how to make a living from it which seems like it will be challenging.

I don’t know if I want to make games forever. I’ve also thought that other things could be rewarding, like working with an organization that’s trying to improve education or equality.

6. 
What do you like to do in your spare time?

This is probably not a surprise, but I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, cooking, riding my bicycle (it’s a recumbent!) and getting out into nature when I can. I also love reading books and comics, and listening to awesome podcasts like 99% Invisible, Planet Money, and Reply All. And of course I love watching Netflix and playing video games when I actually make time for it! Right now I’m trying to get through my massive Steam backlog, and I’m really excited for Broken Age: Act 2 to come out.

Well, there you have it, April’s Rockstar of the Month, Eliot Lash. We’d like to thank him for his involvement in the Soomla community and for visiting us in the office. Make sure to check out Eliot’s personal website and Github account!

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Developer interviews, Tips and Advice

When I’m looking back on what I have learned in the past year about free to play game design and virtual economies I’m realizing that Ben Cousins influenced my thinking about these topics quite a lot. Ben is the GM of DeNa studio in Sweden, a former EA executive and a pioneer of the free to play space.ben cousins

His speech about the optimization he and the team did with Battlefield Heroes is a great resource any free to play game designer should watch and learn from. I’m including it in this post for your convenience. The story there is that they started off with an ARPU of $0.25 and were in a risk of upper management cutting their funding. With their back to the wall, they managed to make changes that resulted in an increase of more than 100%.
I specifically liked the section about balancing the unfair advantage that purchased virtual goods can give some players. In this section Ben refers to the ‘chance for critical hit’. While the point he made was different, I took a valuable lesson about the importance of chance based mechanics. Chance based mechanics allows the game designer to tweak them globally or sell users virtual goods that tweak them. Unlike other changes to core game mechanics, changes to chances and odds are rarely detected by users.
 

Another big way in which Ben influenced me is the move from Console game design to mobile and tablet. Console games are often considered the peek of creativity and a producer would usually have more resources since the expected revenues are higher. Ben was quick to identify that users are no longer willing to pay $60 for a game they never played and that the world of consoles is tied up in a historic handshakes between the distribution channels and the publishers and is having hard time adapting to the change the market demands. Following this realization Ben focused his efforts on free 2 play games and publicly criticized the practice of selling games at a $60 price point in a controversial interview.

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I know most of you are really into selling Virtual Goods in your games. I recently interviewed Ron Gavriely from SellInApp who presents another way of generating revenue from mobile apps.

sellinapp logo

Yaniv

Ron, can you tell me a bit more about what does your company “SellinApp” Does?

Ron Gavriely

SellinApp helps mobile app developers generate revenue from the sale of physical merchandise. Its a complete end to end solution, that includes both the eCommerce code (a native SDK) as well as all the logistics needed (sourcing, billing, shipping and customer support).

Yaniv

That’s great. I know many app developers are looking to generate more revenue. Do you have an estimation of how much revenue a developer can make from Merchandising compared to Ads or In-App Purchasing of Virtual Goods?

Ron Gavriely

These options don’t really compete with each other, as the same app can offer all these options at the same time. While you cannot have advertising within a paid app, you can still sell physical and virtual goods. In addition, virtual goods only work within certain app categories, mainly games, while physical merchandise works within any app.
If I had to compare the revenue, I would say that physical goods outperform ads and are on par with virtual goods, depending on the implementation of course. While you can expect fewer sales, you can generate a lot more revenue when selling a $50 physical item then you can from a $0.99 in-app purchase to disable ads.

Yaniv

That’s a great point. The Merchandising revenue is truly incremental to any other revenue generated from the app and it sounds like it can add up to nice sums for developers selling high ticket items. Can you give some examples of popular physical merchandise items?

Ron Gavriely

Every app has a different demographic of users and therefore offers different relevant merchandise…

We offer car related accessories (windshield mounts and smartphone chargers) via navigation apps ($15-$30), musical instruments via music apps ($20-$70+), sports accessories in exercise apps ($10-$450) and branded merchandise in games (smartphone covers, t-shirts, hats and more for $15-$45). Developers earn %15 of any transaction generated in their app.

Yaniv

Nice selection indeed. Do you have any tips for developers who are interested in adding Merchandising to their apps? Is there anything that requires planning in advance?

Ron Gavriely

Nothing is needed in advance, though it would be easier to integrate if they know where they want to add the “shop” button.If a developer wants to have custom printed merchandise, then having white backgrounds and images with only a few distinct colors would make the merchandise cheaper, but its not as critical as getting users to use their app 🙂

Yaniv

Yes, getting users is always the first step 🙂
Bonus question – What is the coolest piece of merchandise you have seen sold in an app?

Ron Gavriely

The app isn’t live yet, but we will offer printed cake tops soon…We located a supplier that can print on sugar paper using edible ink and we plan on selling cake tops for a famous app brand I cannot yet disclose (but it has hundreds of millions of downloads, so you can try an guess who I am talking about). Its probably the most unique product we currently offer.

Yaniv

That’s great news and indeed a very unique Merchandise. Now I’m curious about which app it is :-). 
So Ron, If a developer is interested in using Sell In App, how does he get started?

Ron Gavriely

Go to http://www.sellinapp.com/developers.html read more about it and register. You can also talk with us on the chat in the website.

Yaniv

Great. Thanks a lot for your time.

 

 

 

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