Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Zombie Outbreak Simulator for iOS: Sales report (binaryspacegames.com)
67 points by mikek on Apr 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

Thanks for posting realistic and honest figures. As developers we can become obsessed with building things, and inflate the potential return. I can understand your frustration, working at such a high level, building, marketing, debugging, drawing artwork, etc., only to have what seems like pennies on the dollar come your way.

It takes guts to share, so thanks.

Thanks! :)

I just read the 4 hour work week book. He actually talks about the 80-20 rule. 80% of returns come from 20% of work emphasising on the effectiveness of your actions not efficiency.

Applied to this, they could have enjoyed the initial success and moved onto better things. The later effort seems like beating a dead horse.

or maybe this is just my hindsight bias.

I don't think this has as much to do with the Pareto principle as it does with long tail economics. I get the distinct impression from the article that the author and his partner are considering doing this full time as a career. They clearly have a long way to go, but especially in the beginning, they stand to gain a great deal by getting their apps in the $30-50/day revenue area than letting them stay (I tried to avoid the word "languish") in the $15-20 range.

I assumed both are closely related (I'm no economist). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_distribution My original comment was to put just enough effort to capitalise on the first few parts of the distribution.

As an outside observer, indie game development is still doesn't seem sustainable. I've read too many stories of people with initial success and try to build a company around it to finally fail. There are too many variables in play to build predictable revenue.

There are of-course exceptions, it mostly involves making as many games as possible and praying one of them clicks (Zynga, Rovio etc). In such a market, the competition is ruthless. Both perfect competition and complete monopoly are not favourable[1].

[1] http://blakemasters.com/post/20955341708/peter-thiels-cs183-... (Read from "IV. Capturing Value")

It's an interesting strategy that I've wondered about before - make lots of games until you make a hit, or at least have lots of things bringing in a small amount each. Even internally, it's worth prototyping lots of ideas to find the best one to develop into a full game.

However, with over 700,000 apps on the app store, it's incredibly hard to get noticed at all. Therefore I think there's some value in working on something over a longer time frame, trying to build up a community around it.

Back around September of last year Jay and I were at a bit of a crossroads - keep going with ZOS/C3O, or switch to something else. In the end we decided to part ways, Jay left Binary Space in December and I decided to keep making updates for ZOS and C3O. I'm buying out Jay's share of Binary Space by giving him a share of revenue for the next several years.

Back in 2010-2012 we were trying to build Binary Space into a legitimate business - ie something that could support us full-time. I agree that indie game dev is incredibly hard to make a living from. I've now scaled my ambitions back to it just being a hobby. It's a fun hobby though, and it makes enough money to pay for itself :)

There is nothing about marketing right? I mean real marketing not just by cutting the price. For me it is one of the main reasons they didn't earn a lot, specially with the video game industry. For instance, it is not surprising to see the marketing at 60% of expenses, and it can be even more.

They should send keys to journalists, do a real marketing strategy with trailers, put ads every time they do a big update, talk to the community, etc. Marketing is a core of the formula to be rich and successful. In an entertainment industry, more you can give emotions to your future players more you increase the rate of conversion and their future value (trailer, teaser, quality of gameplay, etc.), and at the same time if you put these ads on as much people as you can, it directly increases your own wealth.

It reminds me this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/173068/congratulations... And for the equation you have the excelente book "The Millionaire Fastlane" by MJ DeMarco or more quickly: http://personalmba.com/billionaire-formula/

We spent about $1600 on ads, resulting in about 3,000,000 impressions and about 2,000 clicks through to the app's promo page (http://www.class3outbreak.com/iphone-ipad-ipod-touch/games/z...). From there it's impossible to tell how many of those people bought the game, but I assume it's much less than 100%.

Those clicks cost us 80c each. This is not effective for a $1 app which gives a 70c profit after Apple's 30% cut. Even for a $2 app, it would only be effective if about 60% of people who clicked the ad bought the app - it seems unlikely that it would be anywhere near that high.

Most advertising seems to cost about $1 per click. Based on the cost per click and the potential return from a sale I don't think advertising is cost-effective for promoting apps. The only way it might work is if you spend tens of thousands of dollars, so you're on "all" the websites and so "everyone" becomes aware of your app. Therefore it gets talked about, and each click results in potentially more than one sale, by spreading through word of mouth. This also only works if the game is good enough :)

I mentioned briefly in the blog post that we got a few reviews written up. Jay contacted dozens of review sites and sent out about 20-30 review codes. We had a poor response.

In the end I think the only marketing that was really effective was that we had an existing community around the web versions of our games - at the time of ZOS's release we had about 30,000 visitors a month to our website, and about 8,000 fans on Facebook. I think this is the main reason that we did as well as we did :)

IAP is not meant for selling bombs. IAP is meant for selling full version of an app from within a demo.

I would argue that this is what Apple had in mind initially, before it got re-purposed by "inventive" marketers as an in-game milking mechanism. You can say all you want that "it works" and "everyone's doing it", but it's a very tacky and inherently disrespectful way to treat your users. Not too much unlike the gym membership and telco contracts. These works too, but it's a predatory model that everyone hates. I mean... c'mon, selling bombs to nuke zombies didn't work that well? What a surprise.

The bombs ended up being about 45% of revenue, so I think that financially that's a "success". Of course the total revenue is still not great, but I think that has more to do with the overall appeal and/or visibility of the game than saying that bombs failed.

But yes, the bombs still bother me from an ethical point of view.

I think freemium / consumable IAPs can work, in a way that leaves players feeling like it was worth their money. However I don't think they really suit the 'gameplay' of ZOS (it's not even really a game - more of a toy).

A while ago I read this article, which talks about the risks of optimizing for short-term revenue at the expense of increasing player churn and ultimately losing out in the long term: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/188197/the_metrics_are...

In the next update for ZOS I'm planning to make the bombs free. I think they were an interesting experiment - they earned a bit of money and were an interesting learning experience. However ultimately I've learned that IAPs don't make sense for the type of game that ZOS is.

Apple is sometimes very strict about enforcing the way things were meant to be. With the number of apps using IAP for buying items within the game, I would wager that Apple meant IAP to be able to buy just about anything that exists within the app.

They wouldn't want to kill the hen that lays golden eggs, would they?

As I said in another comment - if you look back at how software licensing worked before the AppStore time, it's a long stretch to assume that Apple could foresee the current use of IAP, that's of purchasing small expiring upgrades for the apps. It's really a new and largely unexpected development.

> It's really a new and largely unexpected development.

Not really, pay to play gaming has been around for a lot longer than smart phones and the associated apps. However, it's questionable how much Apple tried to foresee what the future use of IAPs would be.

Before the first highways were built, I doubt people would have expected hotels and fast food restaurants to become an almost parasitic infection around off ramps, but they did.

It's often more about the idea than what the idea can do.

Disagree. IAP in games can be used to offer premium fun stuff that users want to pay for like boosts, or getting ahead in the game. Nothing wrong with it, as shown in the massive success of games with IAP. Majority of games allow you to earn everything yourself over time without spending money, but if you want to spend money to get them earlier, you can. IAP being used for full version of an app from a demo is slowly dwindling down in games, in favor of the Free to Play model.

This developer added it later and it's more of a fun thing to do, so not the best way to do IAP, but there's more to IAP outside of demo --> Full version.

You simply repeated what I said and stepped around the main point - "everyone's doing it" and "it works" doesn't make this practice any less tacky.

C|Net repackaging installers and stuffing them chokeful of 3rd party malware clearly works great! Nothing wrong with it.

Norton Antivirus scaring the shit out of unwitting users with its messaging also works wonders for subscription renewal. Nothing wrong with it too. See, even other AV vendors are now adopting the practice. Who we are to question it, right?

You want them to pay, you must create a pain point, which is fine and this is what demo/shareware/nagware models are based on. But if your plan for monetizing your game is to continuously discomfort your users, then your product is basically a perpetual crippleware and the ethics behind it are inherently repulsive.

It absolutely makes sense. And I don't find it tacky at all. When you consider the cost of creating a game, especially a really good one you have to do what you must to make it profitable. If users are overwhelmingly showing that they prefer to pay for a game only after they have gotten into it and invested themselves in it, who are you to say that this is a tacky business tactic? You do realize that in this new freemium era, the games that do well are constantly getting updated with more content, more levels, etc etc offering a lot of value to users. There must be a reason that the highest grossing apps in the app store are using this model... It's actually refreshing to see that making games can still be profitable, as it was looking grim there for a while with all apps in the app stores racing to the $0.99 price point.

Its not just in the app stores either. Look at games like League of Legends. Personally, I much prefer a system where I can decide to buy content that I want, than a system like WOW where I'm forced to pay a $15.00/month payment just to connect. By your standards though, we should probably just assume that our users are idiots that can't resist our slimy business methods of enticing them with content that they want to buy. Comparing it to the scare tactics of AV software is just ridiculous. These are games, that people are playing for fun. If they want to pay more to have more fun, let them!

Can you point to supporting documentation that indicates IAP is "meant for" that?

Which part of "I would argue" has hinted you that there's a supporting documentation? If you rewind back to the AppStore debut time and remember at how things worked then (and tens of years before that), it'd be the most plausible conjecture.

The part where you think you know Apple's intent, and the only possible way to know that is if they talked about it somewhere.

Ah, right, right. And pedantic nitpicking is a great way to support conversation.

I'm trying to figure out why you think IAP was "meant for" this and not that. And you keep dodging it, even though you made a factual statement that you should be able to back up.

OK, but that seems completely overwhelmed by the simple fact that Apple explicitly supported consumable IAPs from day one.

Can you point to supporting documentation that indicates that?

Don't know about the "I would argue" part but this part, "IAP is not meant for selling bombs. IAP is meant for selling full version of an app from within a demo" looks like a claim.

I liked the car-purchasing power throughout the article to give meaning to the values. I would suggest the freemium model though.

The free version was an obvious fail. I bet it cannibalized sales as well. Should be removed.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact