How much do indie mobile games make?
So, you have a vision. You’ve been playing around with a few game engines and you’re finally ready to make an actual real game. If you’re reading this, that means you’re serious and you’re probably someone who intends to finish what they started. You don’t have a lot of money, but you have a lot of time, and if there’s not enough time, you plan to make sacrifices in order to get that time. However, before you commit, you want to make sure your indie game idea is worthwhile, and that is why you’re reading this article. Either that, or you’re just curious about the industry. Whatever the reason, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve been developing games for the better part of my life and have finally released a mobile game that has been a financial success. How much of a financial success? Well it’s been almost a month since the launch of my company’s new game Epic Loot and so far it has made around $2,500. Considering the fact that only $1,500 was initially invested into the project, it’s safe to say that the game has been a success.
So, how did a solo developer such as myself go from $0 a day to nearly $100 a day when over 60% of developers never even make back the initial $100 fee that Apple charges them to publish their app on the store to begin with? Well, I don’t have a simple answer for you. All I have are my experiences, and in the future I definitely plan to share them with you. For now, let’s just focus on where that money is coming from because after all, my game is free. So how am I making $100 dollars a day when I haven’t spent a penny on marketing and everyone who downloads my game can play it for free?
In-game advertisements represent around 40% of my revenue. The other 60% comes from In-App purchases. Ads in mobile apps and games have been around for years so the sight of them won’t scare away your users. The older the player is, the more likely they will be turned off by the ads in your game since ads represent an inconvenience to the player and soak up a decent amount of potential gaming time. Most free mobile games utilize some sort of inconvenience to incentivize their users to pay money in order to remove them. Clash of Clans uses gems to speed up the production of in-game buildings and units so you don’t have to wait. Super Mario Run flat out prevents you from continuing the game after you reach a certain point. Epic Loot makes you watch a video ad for a few seconds after completing a mission.
All these methods are effective ways to drive the sales of In-App purchases. You can buy gems in Clash of Clans with real money, pay to unlock the full game in Super Mario Run and dish out $2 to enjoy Epic Loot without any interruptions. Ads are great because they provide a way to monetize non-paying (usually younger) users while also posing as an inconvenience to fuel the sales of In-App purchases. In this regard, ads are a multipurpose inconvenience.
Like all free games with added inconveniences, you will get the odd 1 star review that says “too many ads” and it will drive your app ranking down. However, understand that these players only represent a small portion of your user base and the fact that they took the time to review your app often means they were enjoying the game but just got turned off by the inconvenience you placed. If your product is fun to play, and people genuinely enjoy it, the negative reviews regarding your game’s implemented inconveniences will often be drowning in a sea of positive ones describing how much the players are actually loving your game.
So in short, if you’re going to put inconveniences into your game, make sure the product is sound and that it has a lot of replay value. The more times the player finds themselves returning to your app and playing your game, the more inclined they’ll be to actually spend money in it. Which brings me to my next segment.
Now here’s where the fun begins. If your game is good, and you’re creative enough with how you structure your In-App purchases, you stand to make a lot of money. I’ve mentioned already how you can purchase an item for $2 in Epic Loot that removes ads, but I have yet to tell you about the “Big Backpack” item.
In Epic Loot, you begin the game with 12 inventory slots where you can store your food, weapons and gear. At the start of the game, 12 slots is more than enough space but as you progress you’ll find it more difficult to find a spot to store your goods. Well, for $5 dollars you can upgrade your backpack to gain an additional 20 slots! This is a perfect example of a non-intrusive In-App purchase that only enhances the game for players who wish to pay, and doesn’t upset the ones who don’t. There’s also another purchasable item for the same price that allows you to save your gold if you die during a mission and lets you barter your items at a higher cost to shopkeepers.
If all three of these IAPs sound good to you, then you can purchase “The Bundle” which includes all of the items mentioned (ad removal, inventory storage upgrade, gold saver) for only $11 dollars instead of $12. The package also includes 3 bonus Lootkeys! What are Lootkeys? Lootkeys allow players to open special chests and unlock new gear. You can find these keys in-game during missions or you can purchase them with real money if you can’t get enough of them! As you level up, more powerful chests will appear and they will cost a lot of gold to acquire. Although you can easily get gold just by playing the game, players also have the option to buy more gold with real money if they choose. Are you beginning to see the pattern?
Epic Loot’s monetization strategy demonstrates how all your In-App purchases can work together with one another prompting your paying users to continue buying stuff for a long as they wish. Fair warning though, don’t go too crazy with the amount of purchasable items you put into your game. There’s nothing worse than having a potential buyer be thrown off from spending money in your game because you made the mistake of having too many avenues for them to go down. For this reason, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Be clever and creative with how you implement your IAPs and you will definitely see a return on your investment.
Will I continue making $100 a day as the months and years goes on? Probably not. The mobile game scene is constantly evolving and apps rise and fall every single day. The lesson is to stay vigilant, keep learning, and adapt accordingly when opportunities to make money present themselves. Anyone can be successful developing games. They just have to give it their best effort.