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Selling an iPhone game: The sales figures in detail

By on August 2, 2011

Paul Johnson is the co-founder and managing Director at Rubicon Development. He’s give us his insights in the sales figures for Rubicon’s latest title, Great Little War Game, currently available on iOS.

This post originally appeared on and is reproduced with permission.

Great Little War Game has been out on sale now for about three months. It’s available in HD format for iPad and Retina devices, and there’s a low definition version for 3GS phones too.

We just passed a milestone income from Apple of $150,000

Development costs were about $100,000 so we’re already in profit which is kinda cool for our first serious outing into genuine indieland.

Getting the right pricing model

We’ve tried pricing all over the place. The odd thing is that the income remained fairly consistent at about a grand a day come what may. We’re currently on a price of $2.99 and $4.99 which I do think is probably fair in comparison with other titles on the store.

These are hardly Angry Birds numbers but I’m pretty happy with them. We spent some time at the top of various charts, but have plummeted out of the important ones since we upped the price, as they’re based on downloads and not gross.

The effect of chart position and reviews

An interesting observation is that being outside of the top charts has not affected our sales in a noticeable way – chart position doesn’t seem to reinforce itself with positive feedback, and I’d go so far to say that charting is actually irrelevant to sales. That goes against everything I thought I knew and certainly sounds dodgy, but the numbers don’t lie.

We have 930,000 “players” right now, but 750,000 of those picked the game up free when we went with FAAD for a week. That kick-started sales of the non-HD version of the game and because we have a couple of good value in-app purchases, is netting a worthwhile sum by itself – both in new sales and in-apps from previous freebies.

We hit the holy grail a few days after launch – the front page “all categories” version of New and Noteworthy. We were doing about $700 per day before that and it quickly peaked to $6,000. Sadly that only lasted a few days before a fairly rapid drop off, even though we were on N&N for a full month. I guess the money that made is nothing to cry about but tbh we were surprised and disappointed that this bubble rapidly burst – originally we were hoping to do those figures each day for the whole month.

The spike in the pic where the green dots are indicate when we got a five star review from the biggest iOS games site on the net – TouchArcade. You can see a nice spike there, but it didn’t last long and didn’t exactly exponentiate. Seems that “big” reviews are handy but not something to fret over either.

The magic formula

I hope some of you can get some use out of this. If you can deduce anything from it, please share it with me. Having tried a variety of things from reviews, Apple features, sales, giveaways, etc. I’m no closer to having a magic formula than I was on March 20.

In summary, I consider this project a success. It’s not going to buy us any Ferrari’s, but it is actually turning a profit big enough to carry our wage bill while we develop the next big thing, and hopefully that’ll continue for some time. There is an Android version imminent and PS Vita version whenever they release the bloody thing, so maybe by then we’ll be making some proper dosh.

About Paul Johnson