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Revenue, expenses and statistics of Starlight X-2, a mobile puzzle game

This post details (with actual numbers) the revenue and the expenses of Starlight X-2. It's a mobile puzzle game released on Android and iOS in June 2020.

Starlight X-2 is a puzzle game released on Google Play and iOS in June 2020. Six months after release, it’s a good time to evaluate the success or failure of this project.

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For those interested by the big picture, here is a simple visual summary of the expenses and revenue of the game:

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With Frozax Games, I’ve specialized in puzzle mobile games (even though I just released an hypercasual game last month: 3 Seconds). Starlight X-2 is my 8th mobile game, and 7th puzzle game. It’s based on lighting, space and planets.

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The development of the game lasted about 6-8 months, between November 2019 and June 2020. I quickly got a working prototype in the end of December. After a few tests with friends and family, I realized the game was interesting and promising, but quite difficult to understand. After a lot of time spent iterating on the tutorial, I found an artist and we worked together during the first lockdown in France (from March 2020). The game was released in mid-June 2020 on Google Play and iOS. It has only 9970 downloads on Google Play and 920 on iTunes.

Expenses

  • Art: €1200. This was a low price because of my relationship with the artist.
  • Translations/Proof-reading: €1600. The game is translated in 16 languages. Also, there are much more texts than in my usual games because of features such as “Did You Know” that gives fun facts about space to the players.
  • Advertising (Facebook): €2100. That’s quite a lot. And once again (see my previous experiences on UA), it was really not worth it. Acquiring players through advertising with a puzzle game seems difficult, or at least I don’t know how to do it (see below for details).
  • ASO: €630 ($750) I hired a company to improve ASO in August. Without much surprise, I didn’t see any change or improvement at all…

Total: 5530 €. Of course, I didn’t count my time developing, designing and releasing the game here, just external charges.

Revenue

The business model of the game is quite classic:

  • Free download
  • There are sometimes interstitial video ads at the end of levels.
  • You can unlock new levels or get more hints by using rewarded video ads.
  • You can purchases packs ($1), hints ($1 or $2) and remove interstitials ($1).
  • You can subscribe to get everything for free (weekly: $2, monthly: $5 or semi-annually: $20)

Screenshot_20201213_100643_com.frozax.starsandasteroids

As seen on the first image of this post, most of the revenue comes from ads: €1852, then in-app purchases brought €423 and subscriptions, €279. You can also see the split by in-app type, and by subscription duration.

Split per platform

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Split per country

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Ad campaign

As usual, I found that the most difficult is getting downloads. Finally, with the small download numbers, the revenue are not that bad (€0.23 per download).

The chart/table below show the summary of my ads campaign (“de”, “fr” and “en” is the targeted language of each ad).

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As you can see, I couldn’t make profitable user acquisition. CPI is really high, and the engagement of acquired users was terrible compared to organic. Even though I gathered a lot of useful information and experience, acquisition was again a failure [if you know how I can get better, contact me!].

ASO

The ASO was basically money wasted. Once again, except for the experience. Now that I think about it, I didn’t hear from the company for a long time… Are there really efficient and serious ASO companies? If you know some or work in this field, please contact me as well!

Conclusion

For now, the game is still not profitable and download numbers are still too low these days.

I think I should have released the game earlier, with fewer features. I especially think of the feature “Did you Know?”. The game displays various facts about planets and stars and the end of levels. While this is a great feature in my opinion, it might have been a better idea to cut this feature for the initial release. It took a lot of time to design and generated a lot of texts to localize (and increased the localization overall cost), and it’s not the core gameplay. I could add this feature later, when/if seeing interest for the game.

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The game itself is also quite complex. I honestly still think that it’s one of my most interesting puzzle game. But even myself, if I’m not in the mood thinking too much, I find it hard. I’m sure there’s an audience for this kind of games, though.

Hope you liked seeing these numbers. Feel free to contact me on any social network (Twitter, now on Discord, too) and comment here if you have any questions about this article or anything else!

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