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Spilt Milk Studios Development Diary 15 – Freedom Part 2

By on October 21, 2011
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This is part of an ongoing series of guest posts by Andrew Smith, who is sharing all the gritty details of iPhone game development at Spilt Milk Studios.

Lots to talk about today! The introduction of In-App Purchases to Hard Lines (iOS | Android) Android sales and usage figures are in, plus the second free promotion – this time with OpenFeint.

A lot to talk over, and not much time – hopefully I don’t get too blather-y!

October we launched the Android version of Hard Lines. It’s essentially the Universal iOS version, plus the EXTREME HD version of the game all wrapped up into one package. It’s on sale at £1.49 right now, and is sitting at 4.8 out of 5 stars average on user reviews. We saw a few press reviews too that match the reception we saw on iOS (8 out of 10 etc). Jakyl are handling the port, and we simply share revenue on it. So how’s it doing after a few weeks of sales? The answer is – in line with what we saw on iPhone, until Apple featured us.

Android usage

So while we’re not excited by the results – the image above shows the usage, rather than sales figures – we’re happy that it’s kinda trending with what we know from the iOS launch. Obviously getting Google (or one of the storefront owners) to feature the game is key, and in this respect Jakyl are old-hands. Very experienced, well connected, and fingers crossed we see some movement on this with our next update. We’re able to update more frequently and more swiftly on Android so we’ll see the IAP-laden update on that platform soon (minus the mistakes we’ve made on iOS I this regard) plus we’re planning a free version too.

So on iOS we launched a new update with IAP in Hard Lines – spread across the core elements of IAP we made sure to try and make the system behind it as robust as we could and ready for more content. This update introduces in-game currency as a pickup (so nobody has to spend any money whatsoever to get all the game’s content – this is key) and a shop to spend it in. We’ve got 4 ‘tiers’ of cash bundles you can buy too (small, medium, large and infinite) plus powerups to buy. 4 of them can be bought and upgraded to perform better, while the 5th is an auto-triggering smartbomb that gets your more points on your death, and can be bought in packs of 25. The idea is we’ve got progression-based and ‘consumable’ items, which cover two of the three pillars of IAP. The third is customisation/personalisation – and that’s something we really need to think about. It’s hard to personalise a 1 pixel wide character. Or is it? Regardless, it’s something we’re going to attempt, as well as releasing more modes for the game too. Our initial offerings were certainly fun, but a little sparse compared to competing games.

So how did it go down, commercially speaking? The image below shows the specifics, but let me hit you with some figures. We’ve so far sold 49 pieces of IAP, but if you include the iPad HD mode that goes up to 544. We’ve only sold 1 of the top-tier IAP (at £54.99 I’m not surprised) but then that one sale almost matches all of the sales of the other IAP (not including the iPad HD mode).

This seems to bear out the current wisdom that allowing people to spend a lot of money on your game actually benefits you just as much, if not more, than allowing them to spend small amounts. Nicholas Lovell has talked this to death, but I believe it just a little bit more after seeing these results. Admittedly it’s only from a few short weeks, but if the relative sales stay the same I’ll be very happy. Essentially one consumer has spent so much that he has the value of 79 new customers. That is not to be sniffed at.

So while downloads have been small, the relative return has been very high. The challenge for us is to make that last, and improve on it. I see offering new modes as a big part of that (and regularly too, so consumers know we can be relied upon to release new content) as well as more powerups and as mentioned before – personalisation options.

It’s not all rosy. The reaction to our infinite in-game cash IAP was fairly negative amongst the core users. I’ve been making sure to stay on top of (and be calm in) this fairly lengthy forum thread that if you have the time to read will enlighten you as to the mindset of core gamers on iOS. It’s certainly been very revealing, but it all boils down to one misstep.

IAP sales

With the ‘infinite cash’ option, we award the player a silly version of Snake where they get to pick up their infinite cash, much inspired by Scrooge McDuck in Duck Tales swimming through his money. That in itself was fine – and I think pretty unique to our game. What we did wrong was to put it in the main game’s mode selection ‘carousel’ – which then prompted (rightly?) users to feel that they were being asked to pay for gated content. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t even really a mode at all. They saw content that they couldn’t earn access to by playing. We’re taking steps to patch it out – but some damage was done. Hopefully we can remedy it all and get our reputation back to where it was (and already we’re seeing people forget about it, or come around to our way of thinking) but it’s not a mistake I’ll be making again.

So the other BIG EVENT was our second ‘free app’ promotion. This time with OpenFeint I was pretty surprised to see it got us nowhere near as much attention or as many downloads as our first one. Maybe that’s due to a disparity in reach between OpenFeint compared to FAAD. Regardless we did see an uptake in downloads – over 12,00 at its height – and this was with IAP ingrained so we still made money. Not quite as much as from straight sales, but nonetheless it was interesting to see.

The last fortnight's downloads

The great news is that we’re still seeing a lot of updates and player hanging around afterwards. We’ve got a huge install base (over a quarter of a million in about 3 months) and the stickiness after the introduction of the Daily Challenge mode seems to be staying quite effective. The image below shows you that despite relatively slow sales day on day, we get a lot of updates for every patch we release. This is encouraging. I know I tend to check updated games once, and then move on – unless I’m into it enough to keep on checking. That is, most games that I like but don’t care about get deleted pretty swiftly, and these figures suggest to me we’ve got a fairly large audience that cares enough to update a lot – and I hope play it too!

The last fortnight's updates and sales

Frankly I’m not sure what I’ll be talking about in a fortnight. We’ll obviously have more stats on the IAP and Android stuff, but we don’t have plans for an update between now and then so… it might get really teary-eyed and nostalgic, wishing for the heady days of Apple Features. Then again we might break some invisible barrier of popular awareness and hit it big! You never know. Until then, stay Hard! (oo-err).

Fun facts:
Android sales since launch – ~300
Number of IAP purchases – 544
Best day of downloads – 82,000+ on August 15th (a Monday
Best day of updates – 44,000+ on October 12 (a Wednesday)
Worst day (most refunds) – 4 on June 27 (a Monday)

About Andrew Smith