What things I learned in two years of development and promotion of mobile games

Today I’ll tell you what new I’ve tried in application promotion and monetizing, and what it led to.

1. Introduction

At the time of the last publication there was a small game ‘Space Monsters’. Only 6000 downloads for the whole time.

Released at that moment ‘Quick Brain’ (22 Sept. 2014) showed a good start and reached 5000 downloads by the 18 Nov. 2014. Main flow was coming from unidentified sources, and it took over a half of year to change the situation in favor of Google Play.

What’s now:
Downloads — 998.500; (update: 05/07/2017)
Active — 165.000
Dayli active: 9000–11 000
Daily new: 1500–2000

Further I’ll describe steps I made to keep the project glowing, how prevented its fading, and what helped me to brought it to the top (I use appannie.com to check position).

2. Promotion

2.1 Free

I asked every person I could to download and surely to rate it. (Working well for the market and you also get a comment). I found a long list of forums and posted on each as much as possible. (Worked perfectly but not all of the forums worth time spent).

Finally the list of free favorites:

4pda— 14.200 article views (Russian language)

forum.xda-developers— 12.000 article views

trashbox.ru — here I got huge user inflow. By the 8 Nov. 2014 it were over 2000 downloads from forum representative written a comment. (Russian language)

Since the publication post is disappearing in history. Easy to solve at 4pda or xda — new version, update or just want to get on top? write it as a comment on you article and it’ll get on top. Communicate with commentators, each message also update post. Trashbox is the same but here is enough to edit post and it’s again on top (I was even admonished).

2.2 Paid

Paid promotion — I came to it only after a year. Active base was growing sustainable, slow, with no surprises. And I became bored. I wanted some rapid growth.

Nov. 2015 time to find ways of paid promotion. Idea of buying paid traffic wasn’t good. I bought a lot of users, price was high, but what is the worst that they are motivate and aren’t your active users.

Maybe some of you have positive experience of buying traffic, it would be nice to hear your opinion?

Vkontatke was the best variant, cheap and easy to use (For Russia countries). For a year only in Vkontakte I spent 1139$ and got 37.000 downloads. On the average 0.03$ for each user. The most important is to find your target audience, to draw attractive image. I used as mobile apps targeting as advertisement in communities (It’s better to use unique post in each group, which will suit the most for the topic. Then it’ll be a profit). And of course all depends on the app.

Pros: price, big audience, easy in use.

Cons: CIS audience, difficulties with post updates and editing.

I advertised uninterruptedly, spent 10–15$ a day. It was enough to get some positions in top. But I didn’t take risk to spent more to get the leading positions in top because it wasn’t worthy. With the help of such advertisement I managed to increase active audience in 2–3 times. I managed to get leading positions of category tops in some countries. For example Belarus and Latvia didn’t leave such a profit as Russia. But all you need to get on top in small countries is some hundreds downloads a day.

Maybe you have advertisement experience. Maybe It’s necessary to spend more each time to get on leading market top positions?

Which of this posts do you like more?

In sober fact all depends on whom you show it. I performed an experiment. I used both of them at the same time, the only different is in image and target audience. So the first variant works perfectly for women of 13–16 years with the game interest. CTR was 4–5,5%, every third person follow the link and download the game. This image worked for men much worse.

The second variant was effective for mixed audience under 17. At the average CTR at was 4,5%. Not bad.

Conclusion: aim your advertisment on your target audience. You can test it advertising the same but for different age, interest, country and other groups. So you’ll find the most effective audience and will not spend extra money on attraction. Don’t be lazy to do that. Unfortunately acceptance of a single post in Vkontakte can take a day, and also there are difficulties with editing. Change the name — that’s all, consider you won’t edit the post. Change the text — day long wait for acceptance. Age, sex, country,interest can be changed immediately. Advertisement rate also don’t update, you have to make a new advertisement.

Facebook / Instagram

Advertisement is far more expensive. Spending 300$ I got 1500 users — 0,2$ each. Targeted USA and Europe. Most came from Europe. Result is positive, with the help of that audience I got in tops of european countries and still hold that positions. USA turned out to be very expensive and hard market.

I used Instagram mostly. It’s interesting that it’s possible to interact with the post, like it, comment on it. And the more audience respond is the cheaper you get the user.

It took me a while to understand what are this comments. ’10,10,10 etc.’. Turned out it’s a good interaction between user and advertisement image, his involvement in advertisement process.

But in January of 2017 we improve our advertisement for facebook / instagram and now we can get more users with coast 0.03–0.09$ by user. (Europe and USA, Canada, Australia etc.)

3. Monetizing

· AdMob — banners and fullscreen advertisement

· purchasing — paid advertisement shutdown

· video advertisement

· coin purchasing

AdMob bring the most income. I earn now 18–40$ a day (Most users it’s Russian countries and Europe).

Coin purchasing it’s only 15–20% of all purchases, and purchases it’s only 30% all earn! (either I set incorrect coin balance, and everybody has enough or it’s a bad monetizing model for such app type).

To be more flexible I decided to make custom advertisement show frequency setting.

Each advertisement has its ID, in AdMob I watch which of them bring most income, which are clicked most, examine reviews and set setting flexibly. As advertisement setting influence on advertisement shutdown frequency, income and app rate. It’s not easy to find perfect balance between all that exponents.

{ “ad_rules”: { “banner”: { “home_frequeancy”: 4, “levels_frequeancy”: 1, “multiplication_table_frequeancy”: 2, “training_start_frequeancy”: 2, “quick_math_gameplay_frequeancy”: 2, “true_false_gameplay_frequeancy”: 3, “training_gameplay_frequeancy”: 3, “game_over_frequeancy”: 2 }, “fullscreen”: { “home_frequeancy”: 50, “levels_frequeancy”: 5, “multiplication_table_frequeancy”: 4, “training_start_frequeancy”: 4, “quick_math_gameplay_frequeancy”: 0, “true_false_gameplay_frequeancy”: 0, “training_gameplay_frequeancy”: 0, “game_over_frequeancy”: 5 } } }

4. Increasing rate

App rate is an important index for users and it influence on app location in tops.

So I decide to show custom dialog. If user rate app at 4–5 stars we immediately redirect him to Google Play. In other case we give an opportunity to add a comment, which we send to mail. Here we get rid of negative rates. Because it’s common case of 1 star with the comment ‘good!’.

One aspect — always respond to your app comments. It’s often helps to change user rate in your credit.

5 Comebacks

First of all I inculcate everyday reminder, which remind you the same time everyday that it’s time to practice, with the possibility of shutdown or changing the time of notification. Through the august with the help of only this reminder app was opened 17.800 times, which is 20% of all users per month. It increased near all of the positions in tops, and hold the tops became much easier with the less spends on advertisement.

Firebase Notifications turned out to be not a very flexible with bugs tool, but very useful. Using it time at time use push notification sending you can bring back lots of users. The main idea is not to overdo it, because people don’t like constant notifications, especially that they can’t shutdown in app settings (unfortunately I still haven’t done it’s possible to turn off notification for Firebase).

(Now I started use OneSignal for push notifications, because for me it’s most flexibility)

Small life hack:

It’s a common case for Google Play, that your app ‘Designed for phones’ and near is a notification that your app isn’t optimized for tablet computers! And no matter how hard you try to download apk that notification is still here, and traffic is wasted for not being in tops for tablets.

Solution: if your app is correctly displayed on tablets and follow this rules (you can see them here https://developer.android.com/distribute/essentials/quality/tablets.html) then write a special order form (here https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/contact/tabletq?hl=en)


Maybe I act amiss trying to optimize app not worthy. But it’s like a child which is difficult to leave and forget. It’s always pleasing to see positive reviews, which reminds you what for and whom for you are doing this. And finding backdoors and optimize some little things, make it better and better is such a delight. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, comes fear of a mistake to great audience. Each time your mistake costs more, especially with the audience growth. (Thanks Google for beta testing, for phase introduction.)

I promised to be brief. So I divide post into some parts.

Next time I’ll tell you what part app translation played, which Google tests I run, and how I analyzed user interaction, and what I did with it. I’ll tell about video for Google Play, and how it was, and how I changed app category. If you want more information in some of topics, I can expand it.

Thank you for the attention.
Best regards.