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GameDev Protips: Breaking Into The Freemium App Market

How to break into the Freemium app market and mobile devices.

Daniel Doan, Blogger

November 1, 2016

3 Min Read

Being the Co-Founder of a publishing firm that specializes in PC publishing, I’ve mostly stayed away from sparring in the mobile arena. However, I’ve recently began digging into the Freemium market since it has thoroughly piqued my interest. It’s all about acquisition, retention, and monetization.

Keeping your players coming back for more is the hardest thing for a game designer to do. While there are many guidelines and tidbits of advice out there, it’s still tricky. It ultimately boils down to one thing. The Freemium market is simply over saturated with free games in every genre you can think of. At least 5,000 new games (if not, more) are added to the App store every month.

There is more of a demand now, more than ever, for game designers to get creative and solve a problem, first as opposed to, just making a great game that players will want to play. Otherwise, how will your game stand out and make players want to play your game from all the other games just like it?

One interesting thing that separates the mobile market from PC is… reach and paid acquisition. It’s not surprise (well, it might be a surprise for some), but most new players for any Freemium app are captured by paid acquisition, so releasing a “free” game actually costs you money. That means you’re already in the hole. This is especially true if you’re expecting to create a return on investment plan primarily based on in-app costs. Paid acquisition, however, is very expensive, and according to some sources can be as high as $2 USD per install. If you’re a solo indie developer with a shoestring budget, this can be pretty rough, so… let’s talk about organic acquisition.

In order to do this, perhaps, it would behoove you to study commonality between mobile apps that have gone viral? What makes these apps so popular and easy to consume by their audience? Do they create a fluid, but varied gameplay, while also advocating a healthy sense of community? This sounds easy, but it’s not. Creating a viral mobile app is extraordinarily complex and involves a clear and defined player acquisition strategy.

Most designers are spending a tremendous amount of their budget on advertising. While acquiring new users is important it’s more important that those same users want to play your game more than just once. An uninstall is the same as a termination letter--it signals the finality of a relationship and a bond between game designer and player.

Now for some stats. It is estimated according to some sources that only a teeny fraction of those newly acquired players will actually spend any money on your game. Think 1–2 percent as a healthy margin. It is also estimated that players will only spend about 5–10 bucks if they even spend at all. App stores also have their hands in your pockets, usually requiring a 20–30 percent maintenance fee of their own.

Long story short, the mobile Freemium market isn’t as easy as slapping together a game, throw in some in-app purchases, and call it a day. It’s a maze of complications that deserves a much deeper look. I’ll continue the research and continue to provide more data.

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Thank you so much for reading my article! I’m Daniel Doan, the Co-Founder of Black Shell Media. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, or stalk me on Instagram for more game development and design tips!

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