Designer, Research, Store Analysis
Halfbrick, developer of popular mobile game Jetpack Joyride has recently made a very interesting use of dynamic store-fronts. You might remember that Jetpack Joyride started it’s life as a premium/paid game and until recently was still paid on PSN. It’s not easy going from a paid game to free 2 play, you can ask EA, if you need convincing. The move requires a complete mindset change and this last trick by Halfbrick truly shows they have adapted to the new model.
It's not easy going from a paid game to free 2 play, you can ask EA, if you need convincing. So what did they do? If you haven’t heard already (or read about it on Gamasutra), Halfbrick recently added a new item in their store “The Wave Rider”. Adding items by itself is not so rare in games but the unique part about it was that “The Wave Rider” was sold for $4.99 as an early bird offer with a message that you can get the item for free in 4 days. This ‘time-to-free’ move was a big success for Halfbrick and resulted in 400% increase in revenues.
Here is how Halfbrick could have done this move:


Using SOOMLA Store Editor, Halfbrick almost created a store-front. They nearly selected the theme Scorched Hill and then customized it with the wizard to match the design of their game. Integrating the store is as easy as calling a storeOpen() function and it supports equippable products, upgradable, single-use and anything else a game like Jetpack Joyride needs.
Adding The Wave Rider to the Store
Here is how Halfbrick could have done this move:Adding the new item to the store is easy as clicking a few buttons. Halfbrick could have done this in less than a minute by dragging the image to the screen and updating a few text fields. Of course, the wave rider still needs to be implemented in the game.

Changing the Price

This is the easiest part with SOOMLA. With a few button clicks, Halfbrick could have changed the price of the item in the store. As soon as the price changes in the dashboard it’s is magically being updated on all end devices without any need for the users to download an update from iTunes / Google Play.

Analyzing the Results

Without any need to implement additional analytics, anything that is economy related gets reported in SOOMLA analytics. If you think about it, this is almost anything you care about in the game anyway.
Disclosure – we don’t know if halfbrick is using SOOMLA or not. It really doesn’t matter though. Any developer that wants to have a dynamic store-front can signup for a free account at and have all this power in his hands.
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The SOOMLA Project is about listening to Game developers. We already know that virtual economies are powering over 90% of the top grossing games but we wanted to know how many developers are actually planning on implementing in-game economy in their game and what other alternatives are developers using.

We asked our community of Mobile Game Developers the following question “What business model will your freemium game use?”. The options we gave were:

  • Free with Virtual Economy (in-game coins)
  • Free with option to buy full version
  • Ads (banners and full page)
  • Free and sell levels and upgrades
  • I’m making a premium game
The results are given at the chart below:
The full results in the original survey can be found here as well – What business model will your freemium mobile game use?
The trend towards Virtual Economies is very strong and combined with some other data about the number of new mobile game projects starting every month, one can reach the conclusion that there are about 12,000 games that are trying to integrate virtual economies at any given moment.
What’s even more surprising is the fact that if you combine all the coding efforts being put into game economies you easily reach 1,000 years of man work. One can only imagine what could be achieved even if 1% of this effort would have been funneled towards a collaborative project.
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Research, Tips and Advice

Unless you have been living on another plant in the past 18 months, you must have heard that In-App Purchase is a great monetization model. Publications like Business Insider and others have provided a lot of data to support this claim but the reality is that the picture they painted is a bit misleading.

As most of the revenue in the app markets is driven by games, let’s take a deep look into this market. The reality is that there are many kinds of in-app purchase methods but, believe it or not, only one of them is really effective.

There are games that allow you to upgrade to the premium version from within the app, others allow you to buy extra levels of features while some games are based on virtual economies and allow you to buy in-game currencies. All of these are considered in-app purchases – can you guess which one is making the most revenue?

Here is the punch line – out of the top 50 (grossing) games that use in-app purchases, 46 are selling virtual currencies and if we look at the top 100 the trend continues with 91 that are based on virtual economies.

So saying that virtual economies are powering 85% of the revenue in mobile apps is much more accurate than saying that it’s driven by in-app purchases.

This distinction seems subtle but it’s actually critical for mobile game developers looking to turn their premium game to a freemium game or ones that are just designing their game. If you don’t pay attention closely you might end up with a game that yields only poor revenue and might not even cover your investment.

Just to be clear – a virtual economy means that the game has at least one type of ‘soft currency’ that the user can earn by regular game play. It is not really about monetization. It’s about engaging your users and giving them ways to advance in game play, measure their progress and add an extra layer of fun into the game. So the games are not successful because their monetization is better but actually because these games are more fun and engaging that way.

While some might think that virtual economies are only used in MMO games or resource management games the reality of mobile gaming is different. There are ways to add virtual economies to just about any game genre and the top games of all genres are games that have created complex virtual economies successfully.

Unfortunately virtual economies are complex to build and take experience and time to balance but they are well worth it. So next time you hear the myth about in-app purchases being a magic solution to monetizing mobile games remember that the real answer is virtual economies.

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A few weeks ago I came across an interesting article by Inside Mobile apps saying that Google Play revenue is up 137% since January. The context to this is a continuous debate going for a few months now on the topic of which platform monetizes free apps better. A lot of data was shared and many opinions were versed and while initial data indicated that Apple’s hand was on top it seems like Google is closing in.

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For mobile game developers, the platform choice could be one of the single most important decisions they make. While most game engines today are multi-platform, there are many developers who prefers the flexibility of writing native code and use open frameworks.
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For mobile game developers, the platform choice could be one of the single most important decisions they make. While most game engines today are multi-platform, there are many developers who prefers the flexibility of writing native code and use open frameworks.

The SOOMLA project, of course is both cross-platform and open source. We already released an iOS and Android versions and will soon support cocos2d-x an open game framework which is also cross platform.

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