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Kinetic Novel Development: costs and tips

Costs and tips for iOS indie devs based on our own experience during the development of The Fall of Gyes: sci-fi kinetic novel.

Richard Nixon, Blogger

March 18, 2016

6 Min Read

Morning, guys.

Since the beginning we’ve tried to be transparent and feel that this is one of the most important features for an Indie developer to strive for. I’d like to share our general report about costs and timing for The Fall of Gyes kinetic novel development. I believe that might help to other Indie devs who plan to develop similar titles.

Link on the game's Steam store page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/440100


- $15 800 (8 months) - painting
- $2 000 (2 months) - writing/proofing/editing
- $2 000 (4 months) - programming
- $1 500 (2 months) – modelling
- $1 500 (instant) - engine
- $1 000 (1 month) - audio
TOTAL COSTS: $23 800 (12 months**).
*my own time is not included in this quotation.
**it might look like you can manage all processes simultaneously, but in doesn’t really work that was in practice.



Extra intel for mobile app dev (for rookies or dreaming mobile indie devs):

Guys, I know how many of you think that to make a cool, smart, and interesting high quality game is enough to manage a launch on AppStore and be financially successful. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more just to break even and nowadays there are about 2.2 million apps on the AppStore and it grows by 1,700 every month. Right now AppStore is not the primal platform for indie devs, it is primary instrument of medium/large developers/publishers pushing out phone games.

Simply put:

0. I suppose you have a Mac to develop on.

N.B. Despite the many time consuming and partially broken ways to bypass this, one way or another you NEED a Mac to develop for AppStore. The cheapest one is a MacBook for $1,200.

1. You bought an engine for mobile apps for $3,000.

N.B. I recommend Unity 3d. No commissions, reasonable price, all mobile OSs compatible, strong support community, huge mobile assets market. You can start work on the game on free version of the engine and upgrade it by the release to Pro+iOSPro ($1,500 + $1,500). If you decide to publish on Android it will cost extra $1,500 for AndroidPro.

2. You make a small but cool mobile game yourself with a budget of $5,000. That’s enough, right?

N.B. Average market costs of the app development vary from genre to genre but you can count on a minimum of $75,000 (on average) to startup a new indie dev game.

3. You pay for the developer account on iTunes for $100.

N.B. This is an annual price and you need to make sure it’s paid up every year so that your certificates won’t expire. From time to time some things are broken on iTunes Connect, but don’t be afraid of Apple’s support. Those guys are my number two (right after the Valve’s Steam support). They reply fast, keep you updated even if they’re stuck with fixing bugs, rand eply the same hour if you correspond with them the same day.

4. You make market preparations by yourself including ASO, keywords, descriptions, targeting, adv movie, or statistics.

N.B. You can launch without the adv movie but its presence boosts downloads in USA by 27% on average. For the statistics and analytic insights I recommend AppAnnie. It’s easy, informative and friendly. Don’t panic if you see a few issues trying to connect with your dev iTunes Connect account – just report to the support of AppAnie and they with fix that in 5-20 days.

5. Hura! You published your game. You see several dozens of downloads (if it is paid app) or hundreds of downloads (if it is free/freemium game). Apple even put it to “featured” that granted you around 35% boost in downloads. Now what? Well, it’s probably going to take you at least two years to recoup your investment, and all you can do in the meantime is to keep working and keep pushing your product.

6. Next you need to test your game as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You need to prepare several press releases, promo packs and spread them around to journalists, reviewers, and You Tubers.

N.B. You can write the release by yourself and spread it around on iSpreadNews ($250) and prMac($150). You can also find about 150 active AppStore reviewers worth reaching out to. They review your game for free (just send them a key). Do not waste your time for “paid” reviewers. For the indie dev and the task of MVP in hand – they are useless.

7.All the marketing stuff above should grant you about 100+ downloads (if it is paid game) or around 1000+ downloads (if it is free/freemium game). Now you need to make some "street magic" - the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and your Monthly Conversion Rate (CR D30). In general, you need to divide sales by customers to calculate ARPU. And you need to divide monthly customers to monthly downloads to calculate CRD30.

E.g. in a month you get $10 in sales from 10 people who paid you from your 100 overall downloads; thus, ARPU = 10/10 = $1,0 and CRD30 = 10/100 = 0,1. If you got 1000+ downloads from 10 people for free/freemium game with $10 income in total you have ARPU = 10/10 = $1,0 and CRD30 = 10/1000 = 0,01.

N.B. Average market ARPU for free/freemium mobile games (for such games I market with $75 000+ of development budget) are $1.8 for Strategies, $1.4 for Actions, $0.9 for Social Gambling, $0.6 for Puzzles.

8. Now, if you know how much you can spend on one user you should make a decision if the MVP value of your game is worth monetizing. This will tell you if you should develop it further, or if you should drop it and treat it as just an experience. Once you’ve made up your mind, purchase traffic with Acquisition Cost Per User (ACPU) lower than your ARPU.

The trick that is in 99% cases your ACPU will be higher than your ARPU :) To make it competitive you will need at lest $20,000 of marketing budget for acquisition.

N.B. The most famous place to purchase relevant traffic on your AppStore app is AdMob. The purchasing high relevant traffic for apps is quite an art form and it is full of nuances.

* * *

Well, I suppose, the inside data above will help new Indie devs on their way to the dream.

Thank you for your rooting and support,


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