Fling! released on Android

December 1, 2011

After a couple of years, over a million sales and over 10 million downloads for iphone, we’re finally venturing into Android waters with a port of Fling! for Android.

And to mark this occasion we thought it might be time to resurrect this blog, and with some future posts we’ll describe how life as an independent iphone games developer has panned out, from the initial rollercoaster ride at the top of the AppStore throuhg to today, and compare how things on Android go with the Apple AppStore ….

But for now, its enough to mention that we’re mighty proud of our Android port – we’ve worked hard to made it work on all the various Android devices as close as possible as the iPhone version. It comes with all the latest additions we made to the iPhone version – the extra levels, the new themes, the support for 6 different languages, the new Frenzy game-mode, etc. And Android users can even post their scores+progress to the same leaderboards that the iPhone users are using.

So to all the Fling! users who’ve been waiting for a version for their Android phones, or have Android friends who were waiting, grab it now and help Fling! become as a big a success on Android as it has been for the iPhone –Β https://market.android.com/details?id=com.mbgames.fling

Sitting on top of the AppStore!

October 21, 2009

We blogged earlier about how our iphone puzzle game Fling! hit #1 when we gave the full version away for a couple of days.

Shortly after that, the actual free version was finally approved. Since then, Fling! has had an amazing run, and has been sitting the past few days at #1 of both free+paid top 100 apps in the UK, and in the top 10 of the other English speaking stores – US, Australia, Canada, … πŸ™‚

It’s really been great to see just how Fling! has been so popular with gamers everywhere, and we’re grateful to everyone who downloaded it for helping make it a success.

What advice can we give from this ride for other iphone developers? Well, we might be a little afraid of giving away our ‘secrets’ to success, but really there’s no big-secret here:

  • For us, the model of giving away a trial version of an app in order to sell the full version has proven essential – while we just had the full version of Fling! available, even while it was featured by Apple, we had relatively insignificant sales or momentum. In our opinion, this trial-version model works great for both gamers (as they can try before they buy), and us (as we haven’t found any other great ways to get our apps noticed).
  • How easy it is to replicate this success with the free trial-version and paid full-version model we can’t say – obviously a lot depends on how popular a game proves to be. For example, there’s another game with a trial version sitting above Fling in the free apps in the US for the past week, for which the paid version of that game hasn’t cracked the top 20 while Fling climbed well into the top 10. And even if a game has a free version which is compelling and thus produces as high a percentage of ‘upsales’ as Fling! has, is there any guarantee that the free version will climb to the top 10 free apps in the first place? Its hard for us to say what determines this – our previous game Fuzzle had a free trial version which while also essential to Fuzzle’s success, never reached such heights in the charts (and this despite Fuzzle being featured by Apple under “What’s Hot”, which our experience is showing to be somewhat of a boost but in no way guarantees an app’s success, and despite Fuzzle being released at a time when there was much less competition in the AppStore).

One final note of advice for aspiring iphone developers – don’t assume that even if your game hits the jackpot and reaches the top 10, that you can now retire happy ….. being in the top 10 is great, but its not going to make you rich overnight – if your app spends a couple of days in the top 10, you might come away with 20,000 in sales from those two days (a bit more if you can hit #1), which at $0.99 per sale minus a 30% Apple cut may or may not make you happy … for us, we’re happy but not retiring just yet, and we’ll be continuing to add new features to Fling! to keep it hot for a while longer before focusing on our next big thing πŸ™‚

How to reach #1 in the AppStore

September 18, 2009

NumberOneWant to know how to convert an app from drowning in the sea of over 65,000 apps, selling in single or double digit numbers, into the #1 downloaded app in the AppStore within a week?

Well, we have an answer for you …. our big secret …. unfortunately it may not make you much money, but here’s how we did it – you switch the app to free πŸ™‚

Our app Fling!, despite being well received and even being featured by Apple (featured under “What we’re playing”, which it turns out isn’t as lucrative for sales as being in something like “What’s hot”), was not selling a great amount, so this week we decided to try making it free as a promotion for a few days and sure enough, like our previous app Fuzzle before it, within three days it had rocketed to the top of the free apps, sitting yesterday+today at #1, having leapfrogged over the thousands of ‘lite’/’trial’ apps and everything else that was being giving away for free.

So what does this mean? Well …. we would say that this shows that a reasonably polished, good-looking app that users are happy to pay a few dollars for, can probably reach #1 in the free apps by going free …

And while this is undoubtably cool, and the idea that an individual or small team can (still) make a small iphone app and with zero marketing dollars have it potentially seen+played by millions of people is really amazing, what this doesn’t tell you unfortunately is how to make $$$ by doing this ….

In this regard, our thinking is that we hope the word-of-mouth etc might make up for the loss in potential buyers, and that this will help prevent our app being lost in the sea of apps. And if not, well at least the about 500,000 users who downloaded it in those four days will get to enjoy our game, who otherwise might never have heard of it πŸ™‚

flingsales

Fling! released in AppStore

August 17, 2009

Its been a while since we’ve blogged here, but this was because we were working hard on our follow-up puzzle-game to Fuzzle, which is now finally approved+available in the AppStore! (click here to view it in the AppStore)

If you liked Fuzzle, we strongly encourage you to check out Fling! Containing 10,000’s of unique puzzles, its guaranteed to give many hours of enjoyment.

So far its been getting overwhelmingly positive reviews (with a 5-star average in the AppStore so far!). Like with Fuzzle, we plan to keep improving it continually, so are looking for any suggestions/feedback about what users would like us to do next. And we encourage everyone to review / tweet / share it so that everyone can experience this unique puzzle game.

Enjoy πŸ™‚

The ins+outs of life in the AppStore

December 9, 2008

With Apple’s ITunes AppStore predicted to grow into a billion dollar market, and containing over 10,000 apps already, a lot of people have written about the AppStore ‘goldrush’, and speculated about the difficulty+prospects of entering this crowded market. As a small games developer with valuable ‘insider’ knowledge on the workings of the AppStore, we thought it would be worth writing about our experience, sharing our sales data and the lessons we learned along the way, to help anyone considering jumping in understand what to expect.

Our main app to-date is Fuzzle, an addictive puzzle game which has been quite successful – sitting in the top 100-selling apps for the past month and a half, albeit at the low price of $0.99. Its seen a lot of ups+downs during its time in the AppStore ….

Fuzzle

Fuzzle

Initial Release

When we first released Fuzzle at $2, we saw about 100 downloads on the first day, and this quickly dropped such that after about four days we were having about 20 downloads a day, with the trend looking to continue downwards. Note that we did attempt to promote the app, in terms of releasing a video on youtube and submitting it for review on many sites etc but, as I’ll illustrate below, getting sales is mainly about AppStore visibility, and we had zero.

Free Promotion

So we quickly realised that this wasn’t going to cut it – we had (in our opinion) a great game which the reviewers+users that did try it tended to love, but it simply was getting no visibility. Thus we opted for a free promotion. This promotion was a great success, in that in the space of 3-4 days Fuzzle was downloaded about 120,000 times, and rocketed up to the top 10 free apps in the AppStores around the world.

Our next step was to switch the app back to being $2. This caused the app to firstly unnervingly completely disappear from sale for some time, but when it reappeared it was at the #1 position of all paid apps in the AppStore! This was due to a ‘quirk’ that used to exist in the AppStore, exploited before and after us by a number of apps, whereby the position is determined by number of downloads independent of price, so a free app switching to paid would find it very easy to reach the #1 position of paid apps. Apple later fixed this so its no longer possible.

Anyway, the net effect was that Fuzzle had about 1,000 purchases in about three hours, before Apple then reset Fuzzle’s download count to zero. Fuzzle also received a ton of one-star, negative reviews from other developers annoyed that we had ‘tricked’ the system. In our defense, we’d like to say that the main reason we did this was to the publicity generated from 100,000s of users trying our app, and we couldn’t help it if the AppStore worked in this way. Given that many apps both before and after us did this very same trick, and lasted in some cases days in the Top 10 without Apple kicking them out of the top, we actually felt pretty hard done by for a while, in the way we were treated by both Apple and other developers.

Note that case this illustrates a small part of the ‘ugly side’ of the AppStore, with developers playing all kind of tricks to try to work the system – developers writing up positive reviews for their own apps, or negative reviews for other apps as we experienced, or even paying users to write reviews etc, releasing a $999 ‘I’m Rich’ app or releasing a nice application for free, but once its popular and has good reviews updating it to add a ton of advertising etc.

In any case, the large number of reviews etc that resulted from our free promotion pushed our download count back up to average around 100/day for the next week or two, so generally we’d call it a success.

Price Dropping and Lite Version

So the downloads were now about 100/day for a week or so, but we could see a slow trend downwards, so we knew more was needed to make this game a success.

One of our next steps was to release Fuzzle Lite – a free version but with a points limit – we estimate that this now drives over half our sales and, given the cumulative nature of the sales driving the AppStore rankings and these rankings then driving the sales (and the sales driving the app into the ‘Whats Hot’ list which further drives the sales and the ranking etc etc), its probably safe to say that without Fuzzle Lite, Fuzzle would never have made it above a couple of hundred daily sales.

We also dropped the price to $1 – because the rankings in the AppStore are based on downloads and not downloads times price, there is a strong incentive to sell apps for the minimum price if you want to get it in the top 10/25/50/100 lists on the AppStore. Many people have complained about this ‘drive to the bottom’ – its a complex issue, in some ways its great for the users who are getting some amazing deals, but if it affects developer decisions to focus on smaller, quicker-to-develop apps in the future, it could be bad in the long run. In any case, we just have to work with the system, so whatever we feel Fuzzle is ‘worth’, $1 is the price at which we have so far generated the most revenue.

Success!

The above factors combined, along with a large number of very positive reviews on various websites (i.e. here), we believe, were the driver of Fuzzle climbing from 100/day sales to around 400/day and then 1000/day, as can be seen on this graph. It also during this time made the ‘Whats Hot’ list, which helped it sit for a couple of weeks in position 30-odd of all paid apps in the AppStore.

Fuzzle Daily Sales

Fuzzle Daily Sales

Since then its slowly declining again, to around 400/day now, but overall we consider the game to have been a success even if the sales continue to decline, although we expect a decent amount of sales to continue for some time thanks to the name+publicity Fuzzle has built for itself, plus of course we haven’t been sitting on our toes – we have some big improvements planned for the future and new games on the way. In any case, its been a great ride which we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to take.

Conclusions – is it worth it?

The AppStore is all about visibility – without getting in the top lists, or getting in Apple’s ‘Whats Hot’ etc lists, and without a popular Lite version which is compelling enough for users to upgrade to the full version, you can probably only expect single or at best double digit daily sales.

With a Lite version that works, and with a bit of luck (i.e. Apple putting your app in one of their front-page lists for some time), there’s no reason why an app can’t get a foothold in the charts and start climbing, and since being in these charts is a large determinant of sales, if you can make it into these charts, plus have something like a Lite version or some clever marketing additionally driving your app, it should be possible to stay in them for some time.

But is it worth it? Our sales data, correlated with our AppStore rankings, indicate that the vast majority of apps in the AppStore probably make a pittance. Even the top 1% of apps like Fuzzle, while they can make a good amount of money, don’t necessarily make a huge amount to account for the cost of development and the uncertainty involved, and the possibly limited extent of their stay at the top. If you’re in it for the long haul, looking to build quality apps/games and maintain+port+sell them for years, then it may be a great place to start. But if you’re wanting to quickly write a simple app for some quick money, your odds of success are probably quite slim now. Its really the top 0.1% or 0.01%, those apps that make it to the Top 10 selling apps, which can then generate 10,000’s of sales per day, that really make it big (places 10-30 from our experience represent around 1,000+ sales per day, place 30-100 around 400+ sales per day)

So in a way the AppStore is a bit of a lottery. Looking at the way the AppStore is trending, while there have been in the past many somewhat awful apps in the top 10, it looks to be trending towards only higher-quality, bigger-budget apps with certain appeal reaching the top 10. So the odds of an app reaching that level for a small developer are pretty low. But there’s no reason a decent app can’t have its day/week/month in the top 100 and thus generate some decent revenue. But it looks like the days of crap/super-simple apps making tons of money on the AppStore, as a number did at the beginning, are now pretty much over. The AppStore is slowly maturing into a place where apps from big existing players (EA etc) compete with some quality apps from smaller players – its still a more level playing field than most of the alternatives that existed before the AppStore for small players to have a chance to compete, and it is an amazing opportunity for a developer to make an app available to potentially millions of users, especially if they’re prepared to give it away for free, but the super-easy money days are over – your app definitely needs to be good, and even then success is not guaranteed.

Fuzzle Christmas released!

December 9, 2008

Fuzzle Christmas went live today – a free version with an all new, christmassy look and music. The full version of Fuzzle is also being updated to support switching to this new look + music in the settings menu, so that will become available to all users who have purchased Fuzzle some time this week. So Merry Christmas to all Fuzzle users πŸ™‚

Fuzzle 1.4 live!

December 1, 2008

A major update of Fuzzle went live today!

It features new difficulty levels – kiddy (super-easy) and insane (super-hard), and also new game modes, notably a ‘see the future mode’ in which players can see the locations of upcoming balls. This allows for a more strategic game, which we hope some players will really appreciate, and are looking forward to hearing feedback.

It also allows users to now see the top 1000 scores in any high-score list (by scrolling down), rather than just the top 10 (as lately the top 10 lists are becoming extremely hard to break into – there are some crazy scores out there). In a future version we also plan to allow for top scorers to upload their games when submitting their high-scores, thus allowing for other users to view their strategy and allow doubters to see with their own eyes how its done.

The update also has many more minor changes – the settings menu is reworked to be clearer, with more information available to explain the various options, as well as more hints to new users to avoid some common misunderstandings. We are continuing to work on improving the game, and welcome any user suggestions+feedback so we can keep making Fuzzle better.

Top 50-selling app for over a week now!

November 17, 2008

Over the past week Fuzzle has sat between the 30-40th position in all apps on the appstore (in the US)! It seems that a combination of a number of things have contributed to this success:

Firstly, a number of positive reviews on some major websites seem to have boosted Fuzzle, such as these:

Secondly, we dropped the price from $2 to $1, and this really seemed to boost sales (more than making up for the fact that we get half as much from each sale). We are now considering keeping the price at $1 forever.

Thirdly, we did some improvements to Fuzzle Lite, and this helped it to rise in position among the free apps, and it appears that many of the buyers of Fuzzle are people who tried Fuzzle Lite and liked it enough to part with 99c to buy Fuzzle.

Fuzzle Lite released!

September 25, 2008

Today Fuzzle Lite was released, allowing users to discover how great Fuzzle is before they buy πŸ™‚

Along with the Fuzzle Lite release, Fuzzle was updated, in response to all the user feedback we’ve been getting. In additional to some stability fixes, it contains more difficulty levels (with the default easy level being easier, and a new medium difficulty level being similar in difficulty to the old easy level) to satisfy a broader range of users. It also contains a ‘clockless’ mode for users looking for a more relaxed, thoughtful game. And an alternate input mode for users prefering to tap twice rather than drag-drop to move stones.

A further update is also underway – it contains support for three undos per game. This should help some users who make occassional mistakes moving. Plus it allows you to try your luck again when that ball comes in exactly the position you didn’t want it!

Also, we aim to have global high score support in this next update, although we are still testing to ensure everything is working perfectly before releasing this feature.

There also seems to have been some confusion among some users with Fuzzle having been free for a short period and then Fuzzle Lite coming out free – we had a promotional campaign whereby we gave Fuzzle away for free for a short period of time. This generated a lot of good publicity for us, and meant some lucky users got the full game for free. Now we have Fuzzle Lite as the free version for users to try, so have no more need for such promotions, so Fuzzle will remain at it standard price $1.99.

I’ll write a blog later going into detail about how we switched from free->paid and how this worked with the AppStore’s rating system πŸ™‚

Hiding the status bar fun

September 19, 2008

One issue a few iPhone game developers like me have run into is that for most games you want to have the status bar hidden. Now theoretically this is quite simple to do, by simply having UIStatusBarHidden ticked in your Info.plist settings.

And in fact, this was working for me, until at some point I made some other modifications to Info.plist and it the status bar suddenly started being shown. Looking around the net, I found other people mentioning the same problem. One solution mentioned was disabling the status-bar with the code:

[application setStatusBarHidden:YES animated:NO];

Now this code does works, but the problem with it is is that until the code is executed, the status bar shows – so your splash screen will come up with the status bar still showing, which is kind of ugly (you can still see this effect in some published apps/games).

The solution to my problem turned out to be that in editing Info.plist I’d somehow switched it from being in XML format to a key=value format file, and in this format the setting just wasn’t working (you can simply check by viewing Info.plist in any plain text viewer/editor). I converted it back to XML format, and voila, it worked again! Hope this helps some developers stuck with the exact same problem πŸ™‚