It is month since my spare-time solo-project Bubli was released Google Play (and three weeks since it was released on Amazon Appstore). The release was quite a remarkable happening for me personally as, even though I had participated in development of commercial titles in my past, Bubli was the first real indie game I had developed. For me that meant that I had to dig into lots of new things such as marketing and PR.
There was lots of assumptions I made before hand and lots of learning on the way, of which I'm eager to share if you wish to hear about them. I will also go through different statistics of the game more in-detail to not only trust my gut feeling on things.
I will not go in-depth descriptions about Bubli itself in here, but summarize it shortly as casual puzzle game that combines two familiar genres, slingshot shooter puzzle and match-3 bubble shooter. This provides unique, yet familiar, gaming experience.
But to get into the topic itself, you can find more detail by checking the game on the Google Play or Amazon Appstore and try it out yourself.
You are also welcome to take a look at the game trailer (of which was one of the learning things for me as well to get video captured, edited and published in YouTube!)
I have been collecting quite a bit of statistics about Bubli through Google Analytics and they will be acting as main source of statistics put together. I will also compare them to statistics of freely available "Swrve New Players Report 2014" as it is one of the rare reports that seem to have some sort of real data from bigger numbers and averages trying to bring sort of industry average figures for free to play mobile games. I might also be totally lost and it might also be bad data to compare with, but then you can correct me and point me to better comparison figures.
I go the figures through quick and shortly with just few words and comments and summarize most of the things in the end.
Number of downloads (including both stores): 222
There are no excuses, this is really poor number and largely a disappointment.
Reviews / average rating: 30 (5.0*)
Decent number of reviews compared to number of downloads, partly due to the fact that lots of marketing was viral and through social media and therefore might be biased by "friend reviews".
Percentage of players playing given number of sessions
||5 or more sessions
So, Bubli manages to get players to try more than once more often than average but hits quite onto average with 5 or more sessions. It is good to take a note though that Swrve values are from 90 days period where Bubli's values are from 31 day period which would most likely provide small improvement for some of Bubli's figures.
Player retention rate
In case of Bubli, amount of the data in evaluation period is not big enough to evaluate 30 days retention, so currently only 1 day and 7 day retentions are evaluated.
1 day retention (Bubli / Swrve avg) : 33,4% / 33,9%
7 day retention (Bubli / Swrve avg) : 13,7% / 16,4%
Which indicate that the retention figures are quite around the average.
Following is average retention for 10 day period. This indicates quite strongly that the retention rate slows down for certain number of players in around 13% and that could be a core group who is playing the game for more.
Percentage of players who played through all the levels: 15,3% (34 out of 222)
Which is somewhat in line with earlier data that indicates that around 13% of players are playing for longer term than for few days.
Average playtime / player: 42 minutes
Summary and thoughts
So, now with all of those statistics, it is good to share few thoughts about them and what has gone nicely and what not.
As we can see from results, many things indicate that player retention is quite an average. In any case it is no bad, but it is neither jumping up as an exceptionally good. Some numbers could be indicating that the long term retention could be higher than usual average, which is usually considered to be other way around with puzzle games.
Quite a big number of players have also played the game through, which is partially due to the fact that the number of levels is bit low for this kind of a game.
The low download counts are truly a shame. As it is seen that the game as it is could be decent success with current retention rates, it is worth to give some thoughts of why the download numbers are low.
I'd personally think that low numbers are mostly indication that it is very hard to get into mobile market with zero marketing budget anymore as early visibility is needed to get on the lists to be noticed by bigger numbers of gamers. I practically tried to make my way through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and of course I am thankful for all of those who spread the word. However, in big picture the numbers never got big enough for Bubli to end up high enough in charts to be noticed (on its peak, I think it was number 81. on new releases chart of Finland).
I also noticed that it is very hard for this kind of casual puzzle game to get visibility in gaming media, without paying for review. Trying to really put effort on contacting different related web sites with detail on multiple different occasions did not really bring any concerete response in form of reviews or published press releases. I'd really be curious to know what was the thing that turned down possible reviewers to not even pick the game up and give it a try, but for now my assumption is that reviewers must be overloaded with different kind of casual puzzles and are more interested to give their time to something different.
Lots of marketing failure can also be put on me as it has been a massive learning project for me in so many ways.
What will happen next.. Is this the end of Bubli already?
Actually I don't see all of this as end of Bubli yet. The fact that Bubli has already been reaching average retention figures show that with some retention focused tweaking it could end up with clearly above average retention figures. Bubli doesn't yet take advantage of for example social media features, of which could easily be implemented to improve retention. Bit harder work, but also possible option, would be to add new levels and perhaps a new game mode. Added levels or new game mode would at least provide improved retention for that 15% of Bubli addicts who have already played the game through. Of course, if possible, it could also be useful to find some ways to decrease the early retention drop. However, it might be bit hard as it seems to be more business-wide phenomenon. If we count out first day retention, then we have 34% left of which 15% who has played the game through is already near to half. That would also suggest that they should be taken in account one way or other.
In addition, improved marketing could provide Bubli a chance to fight for its place on sun, even though it is of course increasingly harder in given marketplaces the longer time passes from initial release. Maybe some help would be in place for this part to improve the success.
And of course there are plenty of devices and markets that still are missing Bubli. Due to the fact that Unity3D as chosen middleware supports numerous devices and the porting is easy, it is very likely that Bubli will still find its way on some other devices as well.
However the things go on, it currently seems that Bubli will get at least one more chance to try to fly in form of update that is scheduled to be released during summer. The main focus will be on social features, and of course some new levels for those 15% who have played the game through are also in plans.
And learning continues, of which I am of course planning to share with you all as well.
It has been a pleasure to share some of these experiences with you. I will also welcome all the feedback, ideas and suggestions that all of you can provide for me to learn more and maybe take Bubli to next level.