How to get the best out of your gaming app #AppsWorld

How can game developers get an organically growing user base, happy gamers and profit?

It’s a lethal cocktail, and it’s not unreasonable to think that only the very biggest game companies need apply. But there are plenty of good practices devs can utilise, as discussed by a panel of experts at Apps World from companies such as Microsoft, Millennial Media, Tag Games Limited and Papaya Mobile.

One of the clearest messages which came out was that the commercial, monetary aspect needs to be looked at immediately, as part of the design process.

“It has to be set up from a commercial perspective from day one,” said Ollie Clamp, director of publisher services at Millennial Media.

“[Developers] build this beautiful game and everything else is an afterthought. Put your commercial hat on, take your developer hat off and think where the ad place will be, and build the game around that.”

Oscar Clark, evangelist at Papaya Mobile, agreed but saw it slightly differently. “If we’re halfway through it and we haven’t thought about a business model, then you’ve made a mistake. But it’s not the end of the world.

“If we try and shoehorn models which aren’t conducive to the game, then of course you see these screw ups – you slam in a payment wall or try to add in advertising. There’s so much more you can do but you have to invest time, effort and passion in doing it,” he added.

And according to Microsoft’s Paul Mackinnon: “Make a decision – this is something you want to integrate into your game.”

But how can money be made? Advertising, be they in-game, interstitial, is the obvious way, but it may not be the future to keep your gamer base happy.

As Chris Sweis, CEO of JunoWallet noted: “It’s not about monetising the user with advertisements, it’s monetising the user with activities inside the app.

“No longer does advertising play such a big role inside the app’s future. Developers start realising that their value is the intrinsic value of the app itself, and by selling those tools, making it an incentivisable process…that is a whole new marketplace that offers developers a way to engage the user and not have the attrition that is noticeable after the first 30 or 90 days.”

Freemium vs premium: which is best for you?

According to Clark, you’re a ‘zombie’ if you’ve decided to make a paid gaming app.

“People talk about freemium being hard, but making a paid app is harder,” he said, adding: “If you’re making a paid app you are a zombie – you are the living dead but you don’t know it yet.

“Freemium means we can’t be lazy anymore. We’ve got to work harder, and appreciate what the players are getting out of the experience.

“We’ve got to think about fun first, then monetisation.”

“There’s no secret sauce,” added Paul Farley, managing director of Tag Games. “There’s no special way of getting freemium right every time. I think it’s still very, very hard to compete.”

But it’s worth noting that chasing the rankings isn’t the be-all and end-all. Clark’s opinion is that the in-game purchase is the way forward.

“The bottom line though is 70% of revenue on the App Store has come from games not in the top 100. We do obsess with constantly being at the top. Freemium is about more than getting to the top of the rankings; it’s about building better games and monetising them better,” he said.

With regard to franchises, which evidently have a massively strong, continually evolving user base in order to keep going for so many years, they must have found a secret. So how do you keep consumers plugged in to a successful franchise?

According to Jason Avent, MD at Boss Alien, you’ve got to work out why the game is so successful and then “turbo-charge” the successful areas.

“I think what’s happened in previous incarnations of the games industry is that we’ve failed to innovate when it comes to new versions of the games.

“Things like Call of Duty have been going and going for a long time. I think you get fatigued, you have to keep innovating.

“If you’ve got a high volume of users already, you’ve got a massive opportunity. It’s hugely important to invest in the users you’ve got and move as quickly as you can to capitalise on them,” he said.

Make the user number one

Above all, consensus was agreed on the key aspects of user experience – make the user feel individual and wanted.

“You have to find these users that you can reward handsomely because these users will become evangelists of your product. One day that user base will exponentially grow because of what you did early on,” said Sweis.

He added: “It is super important you do everything possible to give an amazing experience to your user.”

Aj Grand-Scrutton, CEO of Dlala Studios, agreed. “The first thing we did was make a three month quick turnaround bite size game,” he said.

“With three to 10 minute game play, you’ve almost got to be rewarding them every minute. Keep telling the player how awesome they are, because that’s what they care about,” he added.

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