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Starting out in mobile games – Triolith Entertainment
This is a guest post by Magnus Söderberg, CEO of Triolith Entertainment (Facebook | Twitter), an independent developer for iOS and Android; having released two games – Thunder BANG and Wisp – they are now working on their third game, Megatroid. Almost a year has passed since Triolith was launched, and in this post Magnus shares some lessons learned in these early stages.
Someone once said to me that learning new things takes time, but sharing that knowledge won’t take long. In this post I will be talking about our first year in existence, sharing what we learned about marketing mobile games and making your way in the world as a new indie developer.
Who are Triolith Entertainment?
We are a bunch of half-crazed Swedes who studied game development at the University of Skövde in Sweden, and also studied a year of entrepreneurship while starting up the company. Official launch was March 2010, but we started working on the company 9 months before that. Basically, we have been living on student loans for this entire time, but we are slowly getting to a point where we can hopefully get paid.
Thunder BANG was our first game, and development started a few months before we started the actual company. After some time we got a new coder, learnt some new things about Unity 3D, and decided to redo the entire project from scratch. It was a painful but wholly necessary decision, as the whole project was chock-full of learner’s mistakes. Total development time was roughly 5 months (including prototyping and R&D). We released the game, on April 1, about a month after we officially formed Triolith Entertainment.
Bad decision! I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say that the game we thought would be a huge success was a total failure: people didn’t understand either the humor or the point of the game. We got comments about the whole thing being assumed as an April fool’s joke.
Thunder BANG conversion and revenue
Total paid downloads to date: 142
Total free downloads to date: 4878
Our ad-supported version has had more downloads, but we are not making much money on it: total free downloads so far is 4878 and we are getting between 20 to 80 free downloads per day at the moment. Revenue so far from ads… a whole bucket of $60, great isn’t it?
As far as marketing is concerned we did it all ourselves. Marcus, one of our designers, did most of the work emailing review sites and posting on forums.
Due to the bad ratings and comments we decided to not release the game on iOS. However, we did not accept defeat! We did some patches based on the few constructive criticisms we received and then focused on producing our next game, Wisp.
Wisp floats into the Android charts
Wisp, or Wisp: Eira’s Tale as it’s called on iTunes, is an ambient labyrinth adventure with no time limits or scores to keep. It’s a relaxing game where you guide the wisp Eira home through a forest maze while listening to nice relaxing music. On 29th April we released Wisp on Android and it didn’t do that well. We did make a few sales, but still not enough to make a living. After porting the game to iOS (having had some initial problems registering on iTunes) we released Wisp: Eira’s Tale and in one single day the iOS sales beat 1½ months of sales on Android. My developers were pretty disappointed about Android at this time but I stayed optimistic.
I “accidentally” mentioned to the Android support that my developers were a bit unhappy with the results on Android. Seeing the results on iOS, they apparently had a look at Wisp and, all of a sudden, we started to get a lot of downloads. We had no idea what was going on! A few days after this started I had a look at the market app and what do I see? We were featured!
This was a big boost to our sales and we are still seeing the effects of this a few months after the feature. While on iOS we have almost no downloads at all any more. What we learnt from this was that once you get on the Android charts it’s a lot easier to stay on them than on iOS. In total we have so far made about $9000 on iOS and $6000 on Android.
We also tried the go-free-for-a-few-days approach with Openfeint’s Free Game of the Day. This would have been great if we had any in-app purchases in Wisp, but sadly we don’t. We did, however, get a bucket of downloads as you can see in the picture. First peak is our first Openfeint Free Game of the Day and the second smaller peak is our second Openfeint feature.
The first promo gave us about 64000 downloads and the second promo gave us 21000 downloads.
So during this first year what have we actually learnt? Well, a lot more than we’ve ever learnt from going to the University! Learning by doing is the best way to learn. It might not always be the most fun way to learn, for example when your game get beaten to pieces by the collective Internet, but as long as you can learn from your mistakes and move forward it’s a lot more rewarding in the end.
Marketing a Mobile game
Marketing either takes a LOT of time, or a LOT of money but it is necessary. The days when you could toss a new game on the market and see it soar to the skies and make loads of money is over. We’ve hired a firm called Peppermint P to do our marketing for our next game, Megatroid. Also, start with your marketing as soon as you possibly can. Even if it’s just a concept image, post it and get some buzz out there.
If you don’t have a big IP/franchise associated with your game, the way forward today is going Freemium, which is exactly what we are doing with Megatroid. We think it will do a lot better than our other games, simply because it’s a lot better adapted to current market trends. We’ve allowed ourselves to extensively polish the game, in order to deliver what we believe will be the next game everybody will talk about!
We are also working on some other promising things which I sadly can’t tell you about, but what I can tell you is that they would not come into motion if I had not been networking as much as I have.
One of the most important tasks for a CEO is to network: get new contacts, be nice, share as much as you can and people will take notice of you and the company and good things will happen eventually. A really good place to network is conventions: if you spot me at Casual Connect, come over and say hello!
Finally, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]