我们很幸运，于2011年8月15日周一时成为FAAD推荐的“本日免费应用”（Free App A Day）。我们在周天将游戏转变为免费，从下图中就可以看出此举吸引了许多用户下载我们的《Hard Lines》。5天内获得了19万的下载量，这意味着当周我们接触到的潜在用户已经超过了游戏发布到当周这段时间内的用户数。那么，这是否意味着免费是推广游戏的唯一出路呢？从我们的情况来看，我认为这种想法是正确的。这是款新游戏，一个原创IP，是我们工作室的处女作，而且游戏风格注定其难以通过截屏甚至视频来传达吸引力。这便是为何我们尝试让游戏每个步骤都富有趣味性的原因，但是这种方法并不如那些抢眼的图标和授权品牌效应管用。
在上图中你可以看到《Hard Lines》获得FAAD推荐当周的排名，尽管游戏排名的提升确实很棒，但是很显然并没有给我们的销售带来持久效果。不过，能够在免费街机游戏中排名第8，在所有免费应用中排名第47其实已经算是小有收获。我应该将游戏所取得的这些成就添加到《Hard Lines》在应用商店的描述中。
之前提到的《Hard Lines HD》不佳的曝光度让我觉得最好要再发布独立的《Hard Lines HD》版本。我认为这不会对IAP的销售造成影响，而且肯定能够让品牌获得更高的曝光度。高清模式销售量如此不佳肯定有许多原因，或许是因为将其命名为《EXTREME HD MODE》而不是标准的《Hard Lines HD》使我们失去了大量的用户。至于这种改变能够发挥其作用，只能过段时间方能知晓。
就《Hard Lines》的未来而言，我说了很多关于IAP计划的内容，但是并没有过多阐述为何我们花如此长的时间才取得成果。原因很简单而且是无法逃避的，我们的项目没有全职程序员。这令我们感到惭愧，但是我们会做出相应的解决方案！其中部分内容便是在类似FAAD的推广期间发布新IAP商品，包括消费类和非消费类的。OpenFeint将在9月末在免费应用推广中推荐我们的游戏，这使我们有足够的时间来为游戏添加真正有趣的IAP内容。上次我谈论过每日挑战模式。我们希望这会让游戏更具粘性，让人们养成每日玩游戏的习惯。这样玩家便可以赚取更多的Hard Cash，希望这样能够让他们更频繁地使用他们拥有的东西，也希望他们能够购买货币来节省时间。
SPILT MILK STUDIOS DEVELOPMENT DIARY 12 – HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS
I’ll not bother with a roundup intro, as the lovely girls and boys at GamesBrief have done a lovely job of putting all the articles so far in their own meta-page. Go check it out.
Despite the game being out for over 2 months now, we’re still seeing the odd review pop out of the woodwork. Tap! Magazine gave us 4 out of 5 this week, and a few small non-English sites are still covering us too. It’s nice from an ego-boosting point of view, but as previously discussed the impact of reviews on sales is minimal to the point of being irrelevant for Hard Lines.
Free game downloads
So then, the juicy stats and thought provoking insight starts here. We were fortunate enough to be featured as the FAAD ‘Free App of the Day’ on Monday the 15th August 2011. We turned the game free on Sunday to make sure there were no hiccups, and below you can see a nice chart that shows how many people downloaded our lovely little game Hard Lines. Over 190,000 downloads during the 5 day period means we reached more potential customers in that week than we had in the entire time the game had been out. So does that mean free is the only way to go? Certainly in our case, I believe so. It’s a new game, original IP, first from the studio, and it’s styled in a way that means the appeal of the game is difficult to convey in screenshots or even video. That’s why we try to be funny every step of the way, but that doesn’t quite sell it in the same way an iconic character or license would.
So we had a great start to the week – the first day saw over 82,000 downloads. A really strong start, and we were hoping to carry on at roughly that level for the week. Silly of us to think that way really. That was the only day we got exclusive promotion, and the downloads fell quite swiftly afterwards. Not as sharply as when we went back to paid, but more on that later. Day two of the FAAD promotion saw the downloads drop to around 60,000, then by day 5 we were as low as 7,000. Not quite the long tail we’d been told to expect. Regardless, that’s still more than we’d ever sold on a single day at any price, so I was optimistic going back to paid for the weekend.
Paid app downloads
Again, my optimism was misplaced. A recurring theme? Yes, and beside the point. After the very rapid fall off in downloads over the week the fact that during the day we switched from free to paid we went from 7,000 to less than 500. A big drop, and bigger than we were told to expect. Well, since then we’ve found out a lot of developers see the same thing, but we hadn’t done our due diligence. So after a week of rising up the free charts and riding high on fan mail, twitter buzz and a ton of user reviews we were brought back down to earth with a sharp bump. Still, those figures might hold up right? Positive word of mouth from those tens of thousands of new users would most definitely see Hard Lines in the charts and some success off the back of that? Well… the short answer is no. There seems to be some sort of hiccup on Apple’s end for that day as there is no ranking data available for that day (nor for the next except for iPad) but the Sunday sees us back down to roughly our normal sales level – around 50 a day.
‘Free App of the Day’ is not the Paid App of Tomorrow
So what does that tell us? It seems that, unlike the previous (Birthday) free spike, this one did not increase our daily paid downloads by one iota. It’s puzzling to me, but I can offer some ideas as to why. Essentially the FAAD program is aimed at, primarily, cross promotion and users of their own app. Users who, by the very fact that they have the FAAD app are only interested in free apps. As soon as a new free app is out, they’ll get that and move on in droves. Every day sees a new one, so even if something is rubbish (or good!) they don’t have long to wait to fulfil a yearning for that next new free game. The FAAD initiative does get some mainstream coverage, but frankly it’s not something we’re likely to do again without a much more sticky and IAP-laden game ready to take advantage of the influx of new users.
Above you can see the rankings for the FAAD week – while it was nice to get high up it clearly had no lasting effect on our sales. Still, reaching 8th in (Free) Arcade Games, and 47 in All (Free) Apps in the USA is a nice claim to fame for the game. Speaking of which, I should probably go and add that to Hard Lines’ store description!
In app purchases
So how did our (limited) IAP fare during that tumultuous week? Our iPad ‘HD EXTREME’ mode is sold in the game via IAP and you’d expect we saw a fairly chunky rise in sales for that period, at least keeping in trend with the sales we see when we’re not reaching 190,000 new gamers.
Fooled you! Of course it didn’t. Clearly the IAP is not signposted very well within the game, and users are finding it confusing as to what the update offers. Sales spiked a tiny amount during the week, but it only doubled for the week. Not complaining – sales are sales – but it would’ve been nice to see a slightly bigger spike.
The aforementioned poor visibility of Hard Lines HD makes me think we might be better off releasing a standalone Hard Lines HD binary. I doubt it’ll hurt the IAP sales, and it’ll certainly give the brand a little more visibility. There could be a lot of reasons why our HD mode isn’t selling particularly well – naming it ‘EXTREME HD MODE’ may be different enough from the standard ‘Hard Lines HD’ that it is lost on most consumers. Only time (or an experiment) will tell. Watch this space.
Developing new in-app products
Moving into the future for Hard Lines, I’ve spoken a bit about our IAP plans, but not much about why they’re taking so long to come to fruition. The reason is as simple as it is unavoidable – we have no fulltime coders on the project. It’s a shame but we’re coping! Part of that coping is to release a bunch of IAP – both consumable and non-consumable – in time for the net FAAD-like promotion we’re involved in. OpenFeint are featuring us in the free app promotion at the end of September and that gives us (we think) time enough to get some really fun IAP into the game. I talked about the Daily Challenge mode last time. We’re hoping this makes the game more sticky, and more prominent in people’s daily gaming habits. That way they’ll earn more Hard Cash, hopefully want to spend what they have more often, and maybe start buying the currency to save time when they really want what’s on offer.
I’ve no idea if FAAD is more or less successful in general terms than OpenFeint’s equivalent. But there can be no doubt that a big push akin to that we saw a week ago, accompanied with decent amounts (and variety) of IAP, will see a revenue spike of some kind. I hesitate to predict anything about the size of the spike, but there should at least be one. You see, my optimism is being tempered LIVE over the course of writing this piece. Real-time character development!
Making an Android app
But we’re not simply counting on one platform and the lure of IAP anymore. Oh no. We’re looking at releasing Hard Lines on multiple platforms. First up will be Android – we’re looking at a pre-Christmas release (vague I know!) for this, and it should have feature parity with the iOS version (except online leaderboards… which, for a variety of reason, should arrive post-launch) and should add a small amount to our monthly income from the game, while also raising its profile for the other opportunities I’m looking at. I’ll not spill the beans quite yet (I’d at least like some screenshot proof to accompany any more announcements along those lines) but bear with us. Grand plans lay ahead.
So overall I’d classify the last 2 weeks as follows: FAAD has been a mild disappointment (though we’ve still got a fair chunk of active players), as have the iPad sales. We’re taking our sweet time with the next update but it will be worth the wait, and the future is looking fairly rosy for Hard Lines.
Would the FAAD week have been different with more ‘social’ features or more IAP in the game? Maybe. Hopefully we’ll have an answer when we get involved with OpenFeint’s efforts in September.
Next fortnight is likely to be fairly quiet but intense one for us as we update the game with our IAP and prepare for that free push. Bear with us for more intrigue, stats and who knows… maybe even some murder (of written English, more than anything).
See you in a fortnight! (Source: Games Brief)