Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Comparing Prices

The App Release combo package sounds like a good deal just going by their other services. You’re getting a Press Release written ($183), 10+ App Store reviews ($98), and get submitted to 50+ review websites ($427) for $499. But if you wrote your own Press Release, and hit a site like UpHype or Fiverr for App Store reviews, you could just get the 50+ review request submissions for $427 and save yourself $60. And even then you could use iSpreadNews to submit review requests to 300+ sites for $149, as mentioned earlier. So then it comes down to figuring out if ComboApps is submitting to any better sites than iSpreadNews would, but since these services don’t post up their contact lists (understandably), we can only guess. ComboApps may focus more on North American sites, but if most North American sites expect money for their reviews, you’re back to that absurd “paying a service for a chance to pay for a review” situation.

I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I haven’t used ComboApp and they look professional and are popular and everything and a branded Press Release from a popular site probably holds more weight with Editors than a self-submitted Press Release through a free PR submission service, but these are the kinds of questions you want to think about as an Indie Developer with a limited marketing budget. This comes back to the “make Business Decisions” concept. It’s okay to spend money, as long as you do your research and have Business Reasons for spending that money, and you set goals and track the results of spending that money to make future decisions.

Twitter Mentions

I’ve found that Twitter is generally a flash of exposure. Getting a single mention on someone’s 30,000 Follower Twitter is alright, but often the big sites put out so many Tweets that no one really pays much attention to what they’re Tweeting and your mention gets lost in the shuffle. And then it’s gone within the hour. Something like a Facebook mention stays around for a couple days, and a blog entry or article gets attention for like a week. So if you pay for a Twitter mention from someone, don’t get massive hopes up…if 80% of those 30,0000 Twitter Followers don’t happen to be checking their Twitter feed at that exact moment, they’ll probably never see your mention. How useful would a Twitter post to 30,000 people at 3am on a Tuesday really be? Or a Twitter post at 9am when everyone has 50 new Tweets to go through having just started their day? Or at 2pm when everyone’s busy working and not checking their Twitter feeds?

Guaranteed Major Reviews

This is one I would read closely for detail or ask for more information on, but I could see this being decent. Odds are they’re just contacting the paid review sites and paying them to review your game, and you might save some money if you do that yourself, but hey, it’s time and work off your hands. I’d say the only reviews worth paying for are the ones by major sites with tons of traffic…but even then, it’s a big chunk of money so if you’re going to invest that, keep track of your stats and determine if it was worth it for next time. And share your findings with the rest of us. ;)

Sales/Download Generation

This is basically what I described above with buying downloads, except this sounds more similar to Admob and Flurry App Circle (which I’ll talk about in a moment) where you’re not paying the people who download your game, you’re paying for a higher priority of your game’s name or banner being displayed in their marketing system. So say there’s a website with a banner spot these guys own, if you pay $1 per download your banner comes up 0.1% of the time, but if you pay $10 per download it comes up 50% of the time. Over time you’re likely to end up with a bunch of sales or downloads out of it, but financially you’re probably losing money. Do the math before you try something like this.

Admob

I didn’t see much point to using Admob as an Indie Dev with limited money. Basically you put some money in, state how much you’re willing to pay per banner click (this is your “bid”), and the amount that you’re willing to pay determines how likely your banner is to show up in that Admob pop-up lots of Apps use. I put in $50, set my bid to the lowest possible (4 cents per click) just to see what would happen. Within a day I had my 1,250 Clicks (1,250 x $0.04 = $50) and 238,000+ Impressions (how many times the banner was displayed). Awesome.

…Except Clicks aren’t the same as downloads and there was zero increase in sales that day. So it seems like you’re basically paying for people to load your App Store page. If you’ve got a ton of money to burn, this might be a good way to use it, you can definitely get people to your game’s page, but if you have limited funds there’s just not much guarantee that this’ll pan out into sales to be spending your money on it. Granted my App Store description might just be terrible and someone with a better one might see results, but going by other people’s results that I’ve read, I’m skeptical.

I’d say save your $50 and skip trying Admob if you’re a small dev. I can’t imagine what the results would be if you dumped in like $5,000, but I’m sure not going to be the one to test that out, losing $50 was enough for me haha

If the main problem with Admob is that Clicks don’t necessarily equal sales, then what about a service that only takes money from you each time you get an actual guaranteed sale? That brings us to:

Flurry App Circle

Reading up on Flurry App Circle, I was digging the concept more than Admob. It’s the same idea, you put some money in (though you have to put like $250 minimum in, instead of $50) and set your bid (the higher your bid, the more likely your ad is shown). The difference is that App Circle only takes that bid out of your money per actual sale of your game. They determine actual sales based on something like if the user buys your game within a day of that user seeing the App Circle ad it counts as a sale as a result of that ad. Needless to say, this is a lot more reassuring. You could put $500,000 in there and if your game doesn’t sell any copies, that money stays un-touched.

Another safe way to play this is that if your game is on the App Store for $1.99, and Apple’s cut is 30% leaving you with like $1.40 per sale, and you set your bid to $1.35, you’re still netting a $0.05 profit on each sale. So in theory, you could dump in $500,000 and even if all of that goes, you’ve netted a 5 cent profit on every sale so when you get your money from Apple and balance it out with what you deposited into Flurry, you won’t actually have lost any money…that’s a pretty fool-proof system. The problem, of course, is that $1.35 is super low on the bidding scale. The average bid is $1.50 and the highest bids exceed $4.00. As of this writing, the “Flurry recommendation engine first generates ideal application recommendations to be displayed to users, bidding is then used to determine the order in which applications will be shown.” So if you’re only bidding $1.35, you’re probably not going to be shown that often. But if you’re not losing money on each sale, who cares?

One important thing I want to mention is that you can set a Daily Budget limit, which if you put any money in, you better make sure you’ve got this section filled out. I set mine to the full $250 to see what would happen and didn’t have any problems, but you don’t want to run into a situation where you fluke out and get 50,000 sales but you didn’t set a Daily Budget and end up having to owe that money. From what I’ve read, it looks like you can contact Flurry if you run into that situation and they’re pretty cool about it, but don’t be dumb, protect yourself just to be safe!

So I threw in $250 for Elusive Ninja, with a bid of $1.35 per install ($1.99 on the App Store, so a 5 cent profit with each install). Over the past month or so I’ve had 52,000+ Impressions and 6,499 Clicks, and 6 total installs via App Flurry and because I’m only paying per install instead of per Click my $250 has only dropped 6 sales worth (and Apple will be giving me that money back with a 5 cent profit when they pay out).

The end verdict on this one is that there’s no real down-side to using App Circle if you set a Daily Budget and make sure your bid is low enough to make sure you’re still making a few cents profit on each sale…but don’t expect much from it if you’re using that strategy. If you bump your bid up to like $4.00+ I’m sure your sales will shoot up fast, but if you have a $0.99 game you’ll be losing $3 per install…if you have a ton of money to spend on marketing and you’re trying to boost your sales to pull off a Super Combo, this could help you climb the charts which would hopefully pay itself off, but if you’re a poor Indie this might not be an optimal marketing avenue.

If I had a bunch of money to burn and caught a big bump in sales from some event, and I was trying to boost it up further with a Super Combo strategy and it came down to choosing between App Circle and Admob, I’d go with App Circle because you’re only paying for legitimate installs.



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