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if I do just one more thing - "The fuzzy marketing cloud"

Marketing and monetising. These are two things i never had any preparation for. Not as a gamer. Not as a designer. Not as a programmer. But google probably has the answers. right? If I learned to make a game with google, than why not learn to market it?

Yuri Figin

November 3, 2014

5 Min Read

I am a working as a full time programmer. 
I was playing games on my father's XT PC with 4Mhz way past my bedtime.
I was working as a graphic designer long before i started programming.
And i check the Appstore every week since i bought my iPhone 3gs.

I would say i am a classic indie game developer. 
It is a wonder it took me so long to start making my own games. 

I am a partner in an indie game development company. TheRedOne.
Our first game (TUKU | Fly home) was published on the Apple Appstore on July 2014. Our second game (Madow | Sheep Happens) was published yesterday, October 2014.

Publishing our first game meant learning a huge amount of things:
- choosing a platform / engine (Unity)
- learning a programming language (C#)
- Building the game.
- Building the assets. 
- Implementing gamecenter, google analytics..
- Building a website
- Signing up to Apple. Configuring Xcode.
- What about android? Amazon? Windows Phone?

If you read this you are probably a developer too. So you probably know my list was actually much longer than i put down in words.

Oh.. and i forgot two small items at the end,
- marketing
- monetising

These are two things i never had any preparation for. Not as a gamer. Not as a designer. Not as a programmer. But google probably has the answers. right? It worked so far.. If I learned to make a game with google, than why not learn to market it?

So we put in a banner ad on our first game, and hoped for the best. 

We got featured in a Chinese blog. We had more than 100 downloads. We were thrilled. we even made 2 dollars. in a month.

But, it was our first game. You can't win everything at once, right? At least Game Center was working. And we were featured in a blog. right?

Then came our second game. Madow. It was programmed in two days. designed in one week. Marketing took one month. We upgraded our website. We made a trailer. Signed up to mailchimp. Built our amazing press list. opened a Tumblr dev blog. Opened a twitter account. Opened a Facebook account. opened a Gamasutra account :) opened a forum thread in touch arcade. in unity. In TigSource. You get the drift. 

Then we spent weeks reading through all the blogs about monetisation. Reading data from inMobi, AppAnnie, Flurry, UnityAds, Admob. Fighting between us if to sell the game, to go free with ads. To add IAP. One ad? Interstitial? One ad per day? One ad after every screen? 

Finally we took some decisions, based on... on... because... we had to decide. No real data came out clearly from all the reading. Everyone was writing something different. Everyone had a say. Everyone sounded like an expert. 

Then came THE email. Our game was approved. We sent a press release. 60 reporters got the press release. 20 opened it. 6 clicked the video linked. 2 blogged about it. And it was amazing. For two days we were drinking whiskey in front of the google analytics world map. The game is a hit. Youtube has 6 gameplay videos at the time of writing. Our trailer has more than 2000 views. Google search for "Madow | Sheep happens" fills up the first 10 pages. We are blogged about in more languages than i knew existed. Madow is played on more than 33 different device manufacturers. In more than 101 countries.

Google Analytics World Map

How did it happen? Was it luck? Was it brute marketing force? Did we do something right? Was it a good game? Were all the hours on twitter worth it? Did they have ANY affect? 

I am writing this now two days after release. Russia and China are doing great. Statistics from U.S.A. are very disappointing. Revenue from admob is much much better than our first game. But they are far from enough to make our company self sustaining. 

And i have more questions than we started. I know how to program a game. I have tons of ideas for our next games, big or small. My partner can design them perfectly, casual or premium. I can even get my head around the technical stuff of IAP, android market, custom interstitial, etc..

But this does not make an indie game company successful. this is maybe 20% of the effort. And the other 80% are blurred in a huge cloud. Should our next game be a high-end game, which will be developed in one year? Should it be a free casual game? Should we get an investor? Hire a marketing expert? Will we manage to get 10 times more downloads than Madow? Will we be able to pay for beer with the revenue? for rent? for a yacht?

And is Madow at it's peak? Or is there one more thing we can do to make it hit the jackpot? 

Every time i say "enough for today" and close the laptop, i tell my self "perhaps if you do just one more thing, it will make all the difference" - but who knows what it is?

My guess is that i am not alone. 
what do you do?

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