Analytics, App Monetization, Guest Post, Tips and Advice

Comparing the Best Ways to Increase Ad LTV

Call App's Jonathan Raveh - Best Ways to Increase Ad LTV

Jonathan Raveh is a mobile monetization expert and the Director of Monetization at CallApp, a world leader in Caller ID & Call Recorder services.

One of the interesting abnormalities in the world of app monetization is the relatively low number of people assigned to it. UA acquisition departments usually take up much more personnel, while the main focal point for generating revenues in an app development company, is usually understaffed or assigned to the product team.

While this may not be the best policy, this is definitely the reality. Monetization is a shared responsibility across many departments in the company, including UA, Product & Marketing. This leaves any dedicated monetization employees in a serious dilemma – with low resources, where should they invest their time and effort the most? With ad monetization getting bigger even for IAP focused apps, this is a true challenge.

CallApp, a caller ID & call recorder app is one of those apps. With over 35M installs worldwide, our app is totally free to use, and while there are some IAP offers in place, most revenue is ad-related. Joining a very small team and being solely responsible for the app monetization efforts, I faced this challenge from the very first day – FOCUS. Granted, there is no limit to what you can focus on when you’re in charge of monetization. However, there is a definite time limit to (1) hours in the day and (2) Being able to concentrate without making too many mistakes analyzing data. The other major constraints are limited development resources and UX.

These limitations ultimately shaped up our 4 major, strategic responsibilities for mobile ad monetization that rise over and influence the day-to-day actions and task. We’ve put them to that to the test, and came up with some findings that helped figure out exactly what task our time will be best spent on.

Ad Frequency & Location

Right off, this is that one is the very basic element. Forget ad partners, forget business – determining ad frequency has a huge effect on the entire app eco-system. In the short run, ad location, and more importantly ad frequency influence development, usage, data, UX, user satisfaction. In the long run – ratings, reviews, PR, ASO and much more. We found that these types of changes may amount to 50% change in revenue. In term of development time, this is not an easy task, but as these changes aren’t usually done on a daily or weekly basis, it’s definitely barrable.

Focus on GEO’s

Ad monetization wise, app developers tend to give attention to 1 of the following:

  • High eCPM yielding counties
  • High impression yielding countries
  • Countries that possess 1+2

In more cased than not, attention means full attention, and that means that countries that do not generate high impression volume or high eCPM are simply neglected. In most cases, neglected GEO amount to more than 25% of traffic. In order to optimize those loose ends, there is usually a need to work with more localized ad networks, expand and complicate your ad waterfall and sometimes work with additional ad formats. Not only does this burden your development team, it also creates tons of work for the person in charge of monetization. So, a tough decision. However, this clear subjective decision that varies from one app to another, usually influences over 20% of revenues, in average.

Adding More Ad Networks

The actual deciding factor on how many ad networks an app needs, depends heavily on the level of monetization you want to achieve. The actual number of monetization networks an app needs relies on 4 parameters, known as the FORM model which we developed in CallApp: Formats, OS, Regions, Maximization. The entire model has been widely explained (here), yet it embodies another critical decision in the maximization element: how much work are you will to make to get those extra 10 percent of revenue. These 10 remaining percent of revenue require some work from the IT side (adding more ad networks), and a lot of Monetization hard-labor analytics.


Setting Floor Price

If you monetize your app using Facebook and Google (and a few others), this is a must. There are automated mechanisms in place, by both ad giants, to make sure you generate a minimal amount of revenue, but true optimization cannot be reached without designated price floors.

When it comes to price floors, there’s a major difference between Google & Facebook: While Google’s price floor (via Admob’s & AdX) tend to merely set a floor from which your eCPM cannot go under, FAN’s floor prices are actually ‘target eCPM’, a level that sets the goal for its performance to reach, regardless of any other elements – CTR, impression and mainly fill rate. However different, both price floor mechanisms are a pretty powerful tool. They require no effort from the development team, yet a lot of attention from the monetization team. Price floors are affected by anything from ad frequency, GEO’s and seasonality, so they need to be monitored on a daily basis. A hell of a lot of work, with a 30% revenue bounce potential.

After experiencing the effects of these 4 pillars of strategic monetization decisions on all sides – revenue, product, development time, monetization time, etc – we were able to visualize these strategies, to better understand the role of the monetization team.

Effects Compared To Development Team Work:

Development Resources for AD LTV

Effect Compared to Monetization Team Work:

Day-To-Day Resources

The last 7 months at CallApp taught me, first and foremost, that in ad monetization, focus & prioritization are strategic decisions. Time equals money, but it’s a lot more than your money – it’s the money you could have been generating doing something else to improve results. Not all apps will follow the same path in this time/effect/results equation, many simply just into the pool of the day-to-day duties without taking a single moment to breath and think about what they want to gain. The CallApp experience has definitely taught me that everyone should give it some serious thought. That will ultimately lead to better result in the long run.

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Guest Post, Marketing

BAAS vs. Push Service – What’s Better?

Baas offers a one stop shop but big app publisher often chose an architecture with internal DB and complementry point solutions

Disclaimer: There is no universal remedy for every single purpose: you have to see what aims you pursue and how exactly a push provider is going to boost your product.

Still, push notifications are not a supplement to a backend but a superior communication channel between you and your audience. If you feel this difference, you’ve already outgrown the “appendix” push notifications almost every BaaS platform offers. This article will help you realize you are all set to win the market using mature push campaign.

To make it more vivid, imagine your product is a car going through a race. Marketing strategy is a car engine aimed at helping you move forward and stand out. BaaS push notifications, as a part of marketing strategy, make it possible to start moving. However, it’s too slowly and you never foreknow when the engine runs too hot and gets broken. Point solution for push messaging is a dual fuel injection that empowers the engine and rushes you forward at full speed, so fast you just can’t back off.

Yet let’s go step by step.

To Each His Own

As stated in the disclaimer, it all depends on your goals, on what you are going to achieve with the help of your project. BaaS with push notifications is undisputedly the right choice for small apps with simple logic and basic push requirements. In other words, if your team consists of you and your idea only, it’s definitely a point in outsourcing a database for your project. The cloud backend lets you focus solely on the UX and business logic of your app, replacing your entire server infrastructure with an API-driven service. You’ll also get push notifications but in limited functionality mode. Anyway, it’s still enough to say meaningless “hello” to all your subscribers at once, but you won’t go beyond the simple push that way. No way you can guarantee to one million subscribers they will get notified the time and the way they like.

So, if you have a complex app and business goals to achieve with push notifications, BaaS is not the solution you are looking for. If you want to quickly prototype and run a proof of concept app – you’d better outsource backend.

4 Point Solution Perks BaaS Users Miss

Segmentation is a power feature not available through BaaS provided push

When you decide to use push notifications in marketing strategy, you want to have clear returns on your effort. And it’s impossible to make money out of push messages just by saying “Hello, Marianne”. It’s much better to say “We hope you are having a great weekend, Marianne! The red jeans you’ve added to your shopping cart are still trendy. Take a look at related items!”.

You will need advanced segmentation features to address the audience individually, the time when they are most responsive. That’s the right way to deliver them the reason and urgency to make a purchase.

Here come the marketing possibilities a point solution offers. Services like Pushwoosh has advanced segmentation that helps you precisely target your audience across different types of segments. Need to notify female users aged 25-35, who spent more than 35$ making in-app purchases last month? Not a big deal! Use Tags and Filters to collect additional data from your customers and send relevant messages to every single user, inviting them to visit your app.

Not all solutions deliver push notifications with the same speed

Delivery speed is a point of interest for every push provider. When your job is to keep notifications running fast and smoothly, you are interested in making guarantees for your users. The volumes may vary, but you are sure delivery speed is safeguarded when you sign an SLA with a push service.

Let’s say you are going to address 100000 users with a push message. If something goes wrong and notifications are being delayed – you can always rely on the previously signed SLA. As a result, both parties benefit from this mutual commitment.

The full solution approach of BaaS limits your flexibility

It is really important to stay flexible when you have an application released. The market is changing and you may need to evolve to stay ahead. BaaS is not a one-stop-shop for app development, you may require custom code, 3rd party integrations or complicated business logic on your stored data. Bummer! As a BaaS user, you are bind to use features your provider offers, but no more. By the way, these features are most likely proprietary, so you can’t migrate from your backend provider to another BaaS. Moreover, if you are a Firebase user, you are vendor-locked, and we all remember what happened to Parse, no matter how good it was.

In that case, having an internal database infrastructure is much more flexible, since you are fully in control of your product. Push notifications and other point solutions complement your feature set when keeping database infrastructure internally.

Point solutions approach proves more cost effective than BaaS in the long run

It might be profitable to let someone host your backend and handle your pushes at the very beginning. This entire database headache doesn’t bother you and you are free to create a design of your dream that drives tons of conversion. Everything is great and you are happy…until you make it. Out of the blue, you realize your app needs functionality that requires your own backend code. When you get 100,000 users and hit storage limit, you’ll be surprised to see BaaS can’t manage your custom needs. On Firebase free plan you have 100 simultaneous connections. It means you can handle 100 users at the same time, making 1 call for each of them. Or even 50 users at once, if making 2 calls for each. And what if you decide to boost your marketing campaign using push notifications? You’ll get cropped functionality incapable of sending targeted push messages and addressing your audience effectively. Gosh, it all hurts!

You’ll be forced to find another backend solution or DIY your database. It will result in extra development efforts, extra costs and extra time spent, which are lethal for the product.

Why should you doom yourself to titanic efforts? It will be much more reasonable in long-term perspective to deploy and maintain your own backend and let professionals run your push campaign. For example, you can reach 500,000 customers with unlimited push messages, and that’s just the free plan Pushwoosh offers. When you have your own backend infrastructure, you are unaffected by provider limitations and free to try each and every feature a push notifications solution has. After all, isn’t it the genuine goal of a trial period?


Well, it’s surely no crime to use push notifications offered by a BaaS platform. Depending on the project size and complexity, this solution can help you bootstrap your product and get to the market as soon as possible. And that’s great for model-view-presenter applications.

However, if you are seeking for long-term benefits and push messaging is a major part of your marketing strategy, you are good to go. A point solution is your lucky ticket.

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Game Reviews, Guest Post

10 Best Celebrity Games for Mobile

Top 10 Celebrity games for mobile

Leveraging celebrities in your apps has become more popular in the last few years. One advantage of having your game endorsed by a celebrity is that fans of the celebrity will likely download and try the game. In addition, you get an almost automatic featuring by the app stores when you include a celebrity in your game. A 3rd benefit is that even users who are not fans per se are more likely to feel familiar with the game when they see an ad for it. This translates into higher conversion rates and lower CPI for acquiring new users.

Another advantage of using the star power is that your game stands out naturally. Most game companies face a problem since innovating in game-design is dangerous and sticking to proven models guarantees optimal retention and monetization mechanics. The flip side of sticking to familiar game patterns is that it’s hard to differentiate your game. Using a celebrity, however, lets you enjoy proven game designs while still having a way to stand out.

The List – here are the best celebrity games for mobile

While there are a lot of games out there crafted upon celebs, I have decided to pick 10 games of my choice in this post. While I have played most of them, I like the remaining ones for some reason or other. So let’s begin with the count-

Gordon Ramsay Dash

This is new and fresh and it had to do good by all means. Being a Gordon fan myself, I was anticipating this game for some time now. The game brings in a mix of world tours, customizable chefs and an online leaderboard where users can challenge their friends. But the best thing about this game is Gordon’s presence throughout the challenges.

A Facebook post for the game

A Facebook post for the game

One of the best thing about making a celebrity game is that it demands minimal marketing effort to get noticed. Once, the update is out through social accounts of the celebrity, it draws anticipation.

Gordon has been sharing updates about this game since some time and as expected it started acquiring users from the point it was launched.

Kim Kardashian Hollywood

Kim Kardashian has a huge fan following and the game benefitted from that immensely. However, what Glu got right with this one is the gameplay. When it comes to Kim, it is the lifestyle and paparazzi that entice her fans. The gameplay unfolds from the POV of a Kim Kardashian fan and this is what makes it great. Having Kim handover power-ups and goodies feels fascinating.

It is one of the greatest money-spinners in the celebrity game genre till date. According to Forbes, the game has brought 100 million since launch. The in-app purchase within the game offers a variety of items that brings in a lot of sales.

Sniper X-

Sniper X revolves around Jason Statham. The game is rated for 18+ users so expect a lot of violence and action. In other words, it is raw stuff straight away. As it is with every celeb game, Glu has built this one around social networks. As a part of Statham’s team, you are supposed to dismantle terrorists and rogue states that conventional forces cannot fight with.

As for action, burst fire assault, blasting drones with a shotgun and multiple snipers, keeps the user hooked to it. With more than 5 million installs, the game is among the popular ones released by Glu till date.

Lil Wayne-Sqvad up

I am including this game in this list because it has its own share of followers who have religiously supported and have even suggested ideas to the developers. One of the best thing about this game is a large number of 5-star ratings it has accumulated as compared to 1 and 2 stars. Lil Wayne enjoys massive popularity in the US and the world. With 50 million followers on FB and 27 million on Twitter, releasing a game on Wayne makes sense.

Sqvad up is an endless runner game where the player can make Wayne ride a surfboard through obstacles. Every once in a while, Wayne switches to a drone instead of the surfboard. The obstacles and powerups are mashed appropriately to give an engaging gameplay.

Pewdiepie: Legend of brofist

Pewdiepie earned 7 million from Youtube in 2015. With 47 million subscribers he is one of the undisputed kings of Youtube. Making a game on Pew automatically makes a lot of business sense. And that’s not all, the gameplay feels a lot like the classic Mario, hence drawing a lot from familiarity and cognition. In other words, everybody would give this game a try.

One of the unique things about Legends of brofist is its availability in Paid version only. Yes, there is no in-app purchase for the game. There are real voices of Pew and other popular YouTubers in games. Gameplay includes unlocking youtube stars and challenge among friends.

Katy Perry POP

Another one from Glu mobile that did not do as good as its other titles. One of the reasons seems to be technical deficiencies. There are a lot of one star on the game and the reasons seem to range from notification errors to issues related to loading of the game.

While Katy is a popular celeb on a global scale with 70 m FB followers, the game did not really benefit from it. Although the app allows you to record songs, make videos etc, it did not grow beyond 100k installs on Google play.

A large part of the game remains similar to Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood in which you can create your own avatar. Also, Katy gives instructions and goodies during the gameplay to score points and go ahead in the gameplay.

Tyga Kingin World Tour

Not really a popular one but it was an attempt that deserves some appreciation for sure. It is fundamentally an endless runner game where you run as T-Raww through the “Rack City”. The king is chillin but as soon as people chase him, he begins to run.

You can collect points and power-ups as you jump over the obstacles. The game comes with a global leaderboard and customizable avatar of Tyga.

Britney Spears

Unlike Gordon’s Dash or KK’s Hollywood, this game from Glu has seen moderate success. It has been successful to gravitate Britney fans to the game and has been able to touch the million mark. Ratings are also good in this game as most of the users rated it with 5 stars.

Gameplay is similar to the one made on Katy Perry in which you can play a singing challenge and rise to the top in charts. This game also allows you to create your own song and album art. Also, the custom avatar, similar to previous Glu titles, is implemented here as well.

Game of War: Fire age

While this game doesn’t include Kate Upton inside the game play it has become associated with the celeb-model through it’s TV advertisement. Game of war is a strategy game that allows users to build their empires and lead massive armies to battles of epic proportions. Players can choose their roles and can play the game as a soldier, a builder or a leader.

The game is built on a multiplayer format where you can interact with other gamers as you go forward and score points. You can also give special titles to your buddies using your power. As far as graphics are concerned, this is really a cool one.

Leo’s Red carpet Rampage

This is a clever one. Red Carpet Rampage came out when Leonardo was nominated for the Oscars last year. Everybody wanted Leonardo to win and the game was built around that trending chatter. Not the best execution, but the game still managed to touch the 500k install mark on Google Play. The gameplay is simple with a 2D infinite map of a red carpet where stars run to grab the oscar trophy.  

So here’s my favorite list of 10 best celebrity games for mobile. If you have your favorite missing from the list, mention it in the comment section below. Have a good day!

OpenXcell Technolabs is a leading app development and app marketing company. Working with industry leaders, we have developed and deployed hundreds of apps primarily for startups.

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Game Design, Guest Post

Top 9 Fantasy Card Games for iPhone or Android




This is a guest post by Katrina Manning, Editor-in-Chief for, an online lifestyle, food and tech magazine.

Fantasy card games are games where user can collect cards and battle against other players to win more cards and gain experience and levels. The emergence of Hearthstone and Clash Royale showed us that this genre can be very popular if the cards are based on the right IP.

Fantasy card games can monetize well with rewarded videos

While the game play of card games is more casual compared to strategy games they typically attract similar audience. Unlike strategy games, Fantasy card games can’t retain their users for a long period so the LTV of the users tend to be lower. This makes them good candidate for mixing Rewarded Video ads in addition to IAP in their monetization strategy. We expect to see more games in this genre add video based monetization and generating more revenue doing so.



This card game requires you to build a deck in order to battle against other players. The fantasy card game offers 50 cards in total, but they come with a wide variety of features. In addition, an expansion called Realms Unraveled, increases the number of cards you have. Not to mention, it comes with multiplayer support that is cross platform with either Android or iOS. You can even play against AI opponents.

Hehearthstonearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

This is a digital, collectible card game that may cause an addition. You get to choose whether you want to play as one of the great heroes or villains of the Warcraft universe. To illustrate, you can choose Jaina Proudmoore, Gul’Dan, Thrall and more.

You can then call upon allies and minions to help you win epic battles. What makes it even better is it is an easy-to-learn cross-platform app. Moreover, you earn gold that can be used to buy booster packs.

Pathfinder Adventurespathfinder

This cross-platform game is the digital port of Paizo’s Pathfinder Adventure Card game. It combines deck-building and role playing. Essentially, each deck represents weapons, special abilities and gear. You can use them to defeat themed location and quest decks.

In addition, you’ll notice captivating backgrounds, cut scenes and animations. You can choose either single player or pass-and-play coop modes. It’s just one of the many examples of the rise of social games.

Magic: The Gatheringmagic

This game launched the collectible card game (CCG) genre. It gives you a detailed tutorial including the origin stories of the game’s Planeswalkers. You can earn new cards and skills with Skill Question challenges. Furthermore, you can choose between human or AI opponents through battles and/or Two-Headed Giant team games.

dream-questDream Quest

What makes this game different is it looks like a kid’s coloring book. Yet, if you take a closer look, you’ll find a fascinating combination of dungeon crawling and deck building. You start out with a beginner’s collection of cards and a basic character. You can then search for treasure, explore dungeons and unlock new cards in order to improve their decks.

If you move forward successfully, you can soon run your character deck easily. There are major boss battles that you need to win. Not to mention, death can be permanent. On the other hand, if you do well, you can unlock endless bonuses, extra content and secret characters. You might even decide whether or not you prefer playing on an Android or iPhone.


Eredan Arenaeredan

This is both a dice and card game. From a deck of 120, you choose five heroes. You then throw the dice in order to trigger their abilities. In contrast, if you were to play Red Flush Casino, you might throw the dice and win some seriously fun prizes.

Here, you also have the elements of tabletop gaming. It is a role playing game that offers many strategies to help keep the game feeling like new. Moreover, your heroes can level up to receive new abilities. Since the dice rolls can be quite random, matches are always surprising.

Star Realmsstar

This takes the deck-building card game action to the stars. You begin with a small cadre of ships and fighters. You compete against other players to recruit a variety of warships, starbase cards and freighters. The goals is outfight each other in a battle for rulership. You’ll also get the opportunity to play short, but intense games.

Not to mention, its deck-building mechanics are quite impressive. You even get basic campaign and AI battles for free. To unlock the full game, you can make in-app purchases. This gives you harder AI, pass-and-play multiplayer and more campaigns. In-app purchases also give you the new Gambits expansion. Moreover, you’ll find varying themed missions and challenging AI.

Clash Royaleclash

This enticing game gives you a mix of tower defense with card management. Each round is only three minutes. You can play on a tower-defense style map utilizing a variety of unit cards. The objective is balance both offense and defense in quick-play rounds. A single misplay can turn the game in someone else’s favor. As you get through each match, you earn reward chests.


This app comes from Stone Blade Entertainment, the same studio that created Ascension. It takes the basic card battle game and adds positional elements. The objective is to try to eliminate your opponent’s life to zero by using creatures to bombard them with attacks. There are five lanes where you can set your creatures to attack or block. Its rules are challenging, which can means hours and hours of pure game enjoyment and strategy.


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Guest Post

Woodchippers! Postmortem

About the Author: Cyrus Kasaaian is a co-owner of the indie game company Castor Games. His passion for mathematics, programming, innovative gameplay, and unarmed combat drive him ever forward in pursuit of his two loves: creating new gaming experiences and being a martial arts instructor. To learn more about his work at CG check out or follow @CastorGames.

(1200x600) Woodchippers Postmortem

In 2012, my college friend and I decided to start making mobile games. Like many people, we heard about the big success stories and thought “hey, why couldn’t that be us?” Last year we launched our first title, Woodchippers!, after a mountain of work and great test results and reviews. So why is this the first time you’re meeting our hero Axel? Well, chances are you’re not one of the 300 users that downloaded the game. In this postmortem we looked back at almost three years of work and attempted to explain why the title was such a smashing failure, and how we’ve applied these lessons in our new puzzle game, Project: sHE.

1) Tools

The first big mistake we made was not picking the best tool available to build our game. We decided to build Woodchippers! without the help of a pre-made game engine, because we thought we would learn more from doing everything ourselves. While that’s probably true, we also wasted many, many hours on developing things that products like Unity allow you to do in one line of code.

We built the game in Java, exclusively for Android. We created the entire UI system from scratch, with a few native Android elements thrown in. Unfortunately, as first-timers, our engine wasn’t very robust and adaptable; every iteration or attempt at adding polish resulted in hours of extra work. First lesson: use the best tools for the job. Most of the work has already been done before! Investigating and transitioning to Unity was the first thing we did when starting our new project.

Our original idea was to make a very quick, simple game, to learn from and then move on. If we had stuck to that plan, building our own engine might’ve been fine, but this leads us to the next topic.

2) Overly Ambitious

What started as a simple point-and-shoot game kept adding more and more features until it became a full title, with complex weapons, upgrades, enemies, menus and so on. We developed multiple playthroughs, leaderboards, achievements, and social media functionalities. This was our first game, first major project even, and we created our own graphics, UI, and physics engine, all from scratch – none of which we’d ever done before. Woodchippers StoreThe visuals in particular were difficult, because neither of us had experience in digital art or graphic design, and it showed.

As a two-man team, this was way too much to be able to focus attention on making any given element great. Combined with the fact that our homemade engine made iterations take forever, we became completely incapable of giving the game true polish. The final product contains mostly first and second attempts at any given thing, because we didn’t have the time or experience to develop them better.

To any aspiring game developers out there: make your first few games quickly, and then move on from them. They can’t possibly be perfect, because your craft isn’t perfect – practice, practice, practice.

With Project: sHE we had a much better idea of what we were getting in to, so we broke our features into categories: “Launch,” “Post-release updates/DLC,” and “Expansions.” This allowed us a lot of flexibility, plus a natural marketing thread. This format is just as good for indies as it is for major AAA games.

3) Usability

In terms of actual gameplay, we planned out Woodchippers! to a large degree and we actually love how the game turned out. All our players who’ve learned the basics have loved the game and gotten sucked in. It’s incredibly addictive.

However, that “who’ve learned the basics” caveat is huge. Woodchippers - Player Retention V1Most people who turn the game on don’t get past a few levels before giving up, because they find it too difficult and they don’t understand what they’re doing. Between the lack of polish and the unintuitive interface, people’s initial reaction to the game is largely negative, and they don’t last long enough to get to the fun part.

Our first attempt at a tutorial was interesting. We just wrote out, in a text box, instructions for how to play. Then we gave it to friends and asked them to test the game. They literally did not read any of it. And, of course, they were lost. At one point there was a menu where a giant flashing arrow pointed to the next button to press – a friend said “I don’t know what to do next” after tapping every other spot on the screen (incidentally, we added an achievement to the game titled “Why Won’t It Read?!” for ignoring the directions enough times).

The point is, we learned that we can’t just tell people what to do, we had to design our interface to make the correct options be obvious and natural. We came upon a dialog system that was a much better way to communicate, and made a number of other interface improvements so that players stopped getting completely lost. After many iterations and rounds of testing, we finally got the interface to “usable.” Sometimes even “fun” (due to the dialog)! But never quite “natural.”

In Project: sHE, we made a specific point to simplify the user experience as much as possible. For example, Woodchippers! has 3-4 menus before you can shoot stuff. This time around we designed our game to launch directly into the gameplay, without so much as a title screen. The overall polish and design of the game push the player naturally to interact with it how we intended. For each menu and button we ask ourselves “is this necessary, or are we falling into doing things how they’ve always been done before?”Woodchippers Screenshots

Lesson: plan your interface and your tutorials early on, they will need a lot of development, and they can sometimes shape the gameplay itself. Also, keep the tutorials as flexible as possible – as the designer, it’s hard to tell what’s intuitive for someone else. You probably won’t get it right the first time (or the second, or the third, or …).

4) Marketing

Our initial idea of marketing went something like this: “If our game is awesome, people will give us money. Otherwise, they won’t. Fancy marketing speeds things up, but if our game is awesome then everything will work out.” i.e. the “Field of Dreams” strategy.

This, of course, was wrong. There are tons and tons of great games out there, and most do not get any attention. Now, it’s unfair to say that Woodchippers! is an unqualified “awesome” game, for the reasons mentioned above (though it really is fun when you get the hang of it). But no one would even know, because no one knew it existed. We didn’t talk about it, even with friends, until after the release. We had no social media presence, until after the release. We had no public testing of any sort. In fact, this is the first real online discussion of the game – and it was released a year ago.

There are plenty of other resources online that know more about mobile marketing than we do, but a couple of things are clear: we didn’t start early enough and we didn’t do enough overall. Not that it would’ve mattered, because of our last point…

5) Monetization

Of the ~300 people worldwide who’ve played Woodchippers!, the only ones who created any revenue were our families. It’s almost embarrassing to think about the number of years we put in to this game.

Our first mistake was thinking that we could just tack on some in-app purchases to monetize the game. This is hugely wrong. Effective IAPs should be designed into the game from step 1, with the rest of the game design planned around it. Adding IAPs requires answering too many questions that you will be too far along to pivot on at the end:

  • How does the transaction flow fit within the context of the game?
  • What resources should you sell in the store and how do they impact gameplay?
  • Can the player also obtain premium content in-game without spending money?
  • How can the game be designed to maximize the appeal of the premium content?

Even when considering IAPs that don’t affect gameplay, early planning is still needed. For example, buying a new costume for a character is more appealing in a game where other players will be able to see it. Effective IAPs are profoundly linked to the details of the game itself, and by adding them at the end we ignored this fact and it was a big mistake.

One thing that Woodchippers! does well is drive players to the in-game store – it’s a prominent button on every screen, we have our own internal advertisements scattered through the game, and you’re prompted to visit the store whenever you run out of a resource. This is a strong element. PremiumUnfortunately, the conversion rate is virtually zero, because none of our IAPs are interesting enough (or necessary enough) to buy.

In the end, IAPs are a really hard thing to get right. A first-time developer probably won’t pull it off. For Project: sHE, we knew that the game we wanted to make wouldn’t mesh with the freemium model, so we avoided IAPs altogether and made the game a direct purchase. It was clearly the best monetization strategy for the game we were creating, so we planned it that way from the start.


Woodchippers! is a fun, addictive, unique game – but most players fail to realize it, because the lack of polish (due to a custom game engine and massive scope creep), awkward interface, and challenging learning curve prevent players from investing in the game in the first place.

But even if the game were perfect, it wouldn’t matter, because no one would’ve heard about it with our negligent marketing strategy.

And if by some miracle the perfect game created a storm of word-of-mouth advertising on its own, we still wouldn’t make much money due to poor IAP design.

Having fun gameplay is obviously important, but it’s easy to miss all the other factors that affect the game experience, and even then, marketing and monetizing during the current mobile app rush is incredibly difficult, a topic that we still haven’t figured out. But hopefully through sharing our learned lessons we can help some aspiring developers avoid the mistakes we’ve made so far.

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Guest Post

What are eSports?

About the Author: Garrett Weinzierl is founder of PlayWin Multiplayer, a cross platform eSport enablement solution that allows gamers to play against their friends for fun or real money. Join today at

(1200x600) What are eSports

Much has been written about the eSports ecosystem, yet it is unclear what actually constitutes an eSport. Anyone can look and see the development of PC based games such as Starcraft or League of Legends and see that these games are part of the eSports ecosystem. But what at a fundamental level is it that creates an eSports community? Before we can move on to the innovation of mobile eSports we need to discuss the three core elements that are required for a game to evolve into what is commonly considered an eSport:

1) Competition: A game must have a clear way for players to gauge performance against one another. While Mario Maker is a great game, it doesn’t present a clear way for players to judge themselves against one another based on their creations. (But the possibility does exist for a speed running community to develop around the levels that are constructed.) Head to head based games remain the most common, while time and score based games have a huge opportunity for the expanding asynchronous market.

2) Multiplayer: Many people have some confusion over what constitutes multiplayer. At the most primitive level, multiplayer functionality can be as simple as a leaderboard. This dates back to the earliest iteration of competitive gaming, the arcade. Arming yourself with a handful of tokens and deciding that your initials will occupy the top spot. However, with modern technology we have developed an entire niche of eSports that are centered around this concept. Speedrunning allows gamers to play against each other for the fastest time within a simple set of criteria. However, traditional multiplayers games where you choose your teammates and/or opponents will always remain a stalwart due to the unique social aspect that only knowing your competition can provide.

3) Ecosystem: The final piece required for an eSport community is the most difficult. The gap between games that meet the first two criteria and what we commonly consider eSports is where this third requirement lies. Large companies like Blizzard and Valve enlist the support of a variety of federations to promote their professional scenes and brand their games as eSports. Ho2016-02-26 15.14.41wever, this presents an inherent barrier to the average user trying to form a competitive scene around their game of choice. This is where the innovations on mobile platforms are poised to make the biggest difference in the expansion of eSports.

Mobile platforms have several built in advantages in how they will grasp the mantle as the preferred eSports platform of the future. Mobile devices are quickly becoming the most ubiquitous and heavily used devices to game on. While they will not displace the PC as the preferred eSports platform for longer session games such as DOTA2, a new era of shorter games optimized for the mobile experience will begin to emerge. This has already started with early innovators such as Vainglory and Critical Force optimizing the MOBA and FPS genres for mobile. The upcoming collectible card game, Clash Royale, looks to further improve a genre that is well suited for the mobile experience into shorter, faster paced games. Yet the biggest innovation on mobile will be the advent of democratization platforms such as PlayWin, Skillz and Grumblr that allow users to play real money challenges against one another. This removes the ability of large corporations to control how their games are branded as eSports and gives the choice to the game community.

In the future, gamers will be able to initiate their challenges without the oversight and bureaucracy of third party enablers.  This is the critical element of expanding what are commonly considered casual games into bona fide eSports. A simple puzzle game such as 2048 could be enabled with a competitive multiplayer platform allowing gamers to play directly against one another or in a larger tournament based format. With the shorter game sessions and the ability of people to initiate the challenges without outside interference, we will quickly see an entire new world of what people consider eSports to emerge and take center stage.

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Guest Post

Exponential Rise of Online Social Games

About the Author: Maria Antony is a digital marketer and specializes in SEO, content marketing & conversion rate optimization. A computer engineer by education, passionate about gaming and she also loves to write and read about updated gaming technologies.


Being able to socialize is one of the big factors that make human beings distinct from other species on Earth. For centuries, games have been a great source of socialization among human beings and our ancestors perhaps conceptualized them to give rise to social circles. If we talk about the present, online social games share the major chunk of the video gaming market since people now like to play games that offer them not only entertainment but a way to interact with other players too. Below are some factors that contribute to the immense popularity of online social games:

  • Connectivity to millions of like minded people
  • Rise in numbers of internet users worldwide
  • Competition, achievements and leaderboards
  • Stress buster
  • Score sharing on social media
  • Cost-effective environment

Online social casino is one of many examples of online social games. Social media sites, like Facebook, have played a key role in making social games so popular. Coming to an important point here, mobile games are becoming a new trend and steadily cruising towards surpassing PC games. This pie chart shows the percentage of mobile internet users in 2015 against PC internet users in the same year.

Users graph


The number of mobile internet users are expected to only grow in coming years and account for 63.4% of all internet users worldwide by 2019. Rise in popularity of mobile devices has also greatly impacted the gaming market. More and more gaming apps are being developed for mobile to download from Play Store, App Store etc. As screen sizes of mobile devices have become bigger, players find them suitable to entertain themselves whenever they have spare time. Mobile apps have many advantages over websites and web apps, perhaps people find them apt to carry them in their mobile phones and access from anywhere.

With mobile games, developers also get monetization opportunities. Most developers have inclination towards development of games that are based on freemium model concept. A freemium gaming app is free to download  and a freemium gaming website is free to register, however in-app purchases are always there for developers to mint money.

Monetization opportunities with in-app purchases

Via in-app purchases, players buy virtual currency or points to move to more advanced levels of the games they are currently playing. Also, there is social-quotient involved in these games as we human beings like to give gifts to each other. Players have the option to send gifts or goodies to fellow players by making in-app purchases. Clash of Clans and Game of War are developed for mobile devices and currently have millions of subscribed users world over.  

It’s no hyperbole to say that mobile games have become new video games, and the biggest factor is users can access them from anywhere. Workers refresh themselves during breaks by playing games on their mobiles. Playing with more players evokes the feeling of competition and gives rise to more engagement, which in turn results into more in-app purchases. Mobile technology advancement has mutually benefited both the users and app developers. There is an app for almost everything in current digital arena and gamings apps top them all.

Check out the infographic below to gain better insight into how the future holds great growth opportunities for mobile game developers.


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Guest Post

Cubes: My Journey into the Indie World

About the Author: My name is Marc, I live in Barcelona and in the past year I founded the indie studio Kinematic Games and I created my first game, Cubes. If you want to read more about the process I recommend following my blog Indie Thoughts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

(1200x600) My Journey into the Indie

My journey began in late 2014, after my university graduation as a multimedia engineer. I was looking for a job for some months, but I knew deep down I wouldn’t find anything that fit what I wanted to do. In the end, I decided to create my own game and with the game came the studio.

My professional experience until then wasn’t related to gaming and the only experience I had was making a game with four colleagues for the videogames subject in my last year of college (that’s when I heard the word Unity for the first time in my life) and my final project. The project was a VR horror game made for Oculus Rift and that’s what really gave me the confidence necessary to start developing a professional game on my own. kg_logo_alpha

It was a decision that I was half super confident with and half totally crazy because I had never done anything like that. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to face the next months, but the idea of creating a game all alone was super exciting to me and I became unstoppable.

The process taught me a lot, but my first lesson was to keep it simple – very, very simple. That meant having to start all over about three times because my first apparently simple ideas were too complex. And while simplifying the ideas I realized that I had to boost my imagination to create a great game with no resources. After that, I brainstormed a bunch of new ideas and days later I was back to the game!

During the development process I also needed help from other people, sometimes a friend who was a designer would give me advice, sometimes a colleague or family member to test the early versions of the game or most of the time the two life savers of the game, were: the developer communities (Unity answers, Stackoverflow, etc). I was able to find or ask any question I had about any problem and other developers would help me. SOOMLA was also a lot of help and brought my game to a whole new level. Even though I created the game all alone, it’s been crucial having other people near because one always needs a hand sooner or later.

I consider myself a casual gamer with a strong artistic sense, so I wanted my game to fit that description. I set out with 4 main goals to achieve.

1. Find a funny, engaging and challenging game mechanic.

I wanted the player to have fun while playing and at the same time feel: “I’m sure I’ll do better next time.”

What I did:

  • I started with a basic mechanic, but I ended up making six variations of it (Arcade, Continuous, Epileptic, Expert, Inverse and Shooter).
  • I thought about more mechanics to try in case some didn’t work or in case I want to expand the game someday.

2. Define a very specific visual style.

My goal was to make the player see something nice and clean at all points in the game.

What I did:

  • I very carefully picked the color palette and the combination of colors.
  • I created a global style and made variations for each mode.

3. Maintain my values.

I think that values are one of the most important things to remember while developing a game because it’s where you put your personality as a game designer.

What I did:

  • For example, one of the things I knew from the beginning was that my game wouldn’t have any ads in it.

4. My worst critic.

Even though you have incredible ideas in your head, sometimes when you try them they aren’t as good as you thought they would be. So this usually starts an internal debate about leaving the idea as it was or throwing away days of work to search for a better one.

What I did:

  • Always went for the second option. If I wasn’t completely satisfied with the result I started again until I was.

In brief, that’s how I ended, more than a year later, with my game Cubes.

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Guest Post

Our Cost of Advertising for PAX South 2016

About the Author: Aloha and Konnichiwa! My name is Jason Sio and I’m the founder and CEO of Apartment 507, which is a startup company based in Japan that focuses on investing and publishing indie games. We recently partnered up with an indie game studio that we met in Tokyo and are ready to show off our first mobile iOS/Android game called Fluff Eaters. We will be debuting at this year’s PAX South event in San Antonio, TX. Please come visit us at Booth #15055.

(1200x600) Advertising-for-PAX

Ask anyone who is into gaming, and that person might have heard of PAX. Each year the PAX event invites more people than the last. For any game developer hoping to get their games noticed, this annual event is a potential gold mine of opportunities to connect with the right type of people who come for only one reason: games.


Official Fluff Eaters Advertisements PAX South

Let’s face it, for any indie developer looking to attend a PAX event, you know it’s not going to be cheap especially if you’re on a tight budget. This is where partnering with a publisher really helps with the cost of attending events and paying for marketing ad space. But what if indie developers don’t want to partner up or just want to take a financial risk? Just exactly how much does it cost to attend a single PAX event? In this article, I will break down the basic marketing cost as a startup gaming publisher and attempt to reason why we decided on the things we did and did not.


First and foremost, you need to rent a booth. By having a booth, you allow people to interact with your game, collect leads, and connect with people in the gaming industry. The cost of renting this year’s booth at PAX South cost a reasonable $1,250 for a 10’x10’ booth. This is the smallest and cheapest booth that a PAX South event offers. If you want to go bigger, you must have some serious cash to burn. The cost to hang with the big boys can go as high as $45,000 dollars, which is no longer classified as a booth, but an island. As luck would have it, we got moved to a new spot at the last minute to float near the big boys.


When it comes to exhibiting at an event as big as PAX you have to stand out from the rest of the crowd. We decided we needed a way to reach the eyes of attendees and renting a booth was not enough to have over 60,000 visitors notice our game. So that’s where paid advertising comes into play. When it comes to advertising, PAX offers various options. Options include everything from having your logo on the lanyard ($6000) to becoming the official bag sponsor ($10,000). Since money isn’t growing on our trees, we opted for an ad space in the official PAX pamphlet. We had two choices, a half page ad or a full-page ad that would fit within our ideal budget. A half page ad cost $1500 and a full-page ad cost $2000. We decided to go with the full-page ad so people are more likely see the ad while flipping through the booklet.

Cosplay Outfit

Three out of five members of our team (including me) will wear a purple cat onesie ($38.95 each), which were ordered through Cosplay Shopper. We originally wanted to have one of our fuCosplay outfitlly-grown bearded men dress up as a Japanese school girl outfit, but decided against it after talking to the organizers of the event saying that might violate their “no booth babe” policy.

The purple cat onesie outfits will sure turn anyone’s head when passing our booth. Not one, but three purple cats at our booth will allow us to bait unsuspecting prey to come to our booth.

Print outs

We could have stopped at the one-page ad and not spend any more money on marketing materials, but we didn’t. We wanted to make a presence at the show and felt that we needed some free swag so visitors will remember us afterwards. In my past experience at gaming conventions, the things I actually keep from shows are unique stuff that I collect. Those things are buttons and beautifully printed posters. When it comes to having things printed, early planning is key. Most organizers that handle events will have an early bird printing discount for various types of print jobs. We jumped in early on having our vinyl poster printed at $19 per sq. ft., which saved us from having to pay a standard price of $28.50 per sq. ft.

We also decide to print 200 A3 sized posters ($54.95) at a local print shop. We called a few places and the prices varied greatly. It pays to do some research first. For the postcard, we went to Vista Print. They were the cheapest place for postcards. For buttons, we ordered them through Wacky Buttons in two designs, 1000 each, for a total of $352.31.

Fluff Eater Buttons

Official Fluff Eaters Buttons PAX South

When all is said and done, we’re looking at around $4500 in total cost to setup our booth and prepare the necessary marketing materials. The cost maybe hard to swallow for an indie developer, but we believe it’s worth the initial investment for any indie game studio to show off their game. It’s also worth noting that travel and hotel cost has not been factored to the breakdown. In a sea of competitors vying for the attention of guest, it is utterly important that game studios reach as many people as possible while staying within their budget.

Cost Breakdown:

10’x10’ Booth: $1250

Full page PAX Ad: $2000

Purple Cat Outfits x 3: $116.85

Vinyl backdrop poster: 256.50

200 Posters: $54.95

5000 Postcard hand out: $335.98

2000 Buttons: $352.31

Renting one extra table and two chairs: $60

Snacks and drinks: $50

Miscellaneous (markers, duck tape, clips): $50

Grand Total: $4526.59

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Guest Post

A Mobile Marketer’s Checklist for Holiday User Acquisition

About the Author: Terry Koh is a UC Santa Cruz Banana slug, tech loving, PR/Marketer with an addiction to entrepreneurship and the startup environment. Enjoys all things digital and would almost prefer if every book simply came in PDF format. Born in the Silicon Valley and often found at the cross-section of social and media.

(1200x600) Mobile Marketer’s Checklist

From holiday gifts to the latest smartphone envy, millions of mobile devices are activated this time of year, signaling huge growth opportunities for app marketers. But as the holiday competition begins to heat up, converting this seasonal high-tide into app installs will require a well thought-out strategy. Here is a user acquisition checklist to help guide you through the holiday rush.

☑ Submit early

Historically, the App Store review process is known to take longer and in many cases pause altogether during the week of Christmas. Be sure to submit your app well before the annual slowdown giving you time to boost app rankings and discoverability in time for the install surge.

☑ App Store Optimization

Your app store page is the final gateway between a user and their install. It’s critical that your presence here is optimized. This means having a catchy title and a stand-out app icon, as well as a detailed set of screenshots, demo videos and descriptions utilizing keywords relevant to your audience. It’s also important to pay close attention to your app’s reviews and ratings, since neglecting this can lose you potential holiday downloads.

☑ Goals and KPIs

Defining your campaign goals and KPIs ahead of time will be the key to its success. Understanding this will determine the best campaign type for your app and help keep you on track for ROI.

If organic uplift is a must-have, consider exploring a burst strategy, a common tactic for new apps. Burst campaigns focus on acquiring a high volume of users, which in turn increases your app store rankings and likelihood of attracting organic installs.

If your goal is to drive revenue, plan for a series of sustained campaigns. Users generally have more time and money to spend during the holidays so this is a great time to make a push for IAP. Capitalize on this by targeting these high spenders and funneling them to new seasonal content in your app.

☑ Soft-launch

Like ‘dipping your toes’, soft-launching allows you to test the waters before committing a full campaign launch. For instance, if you plan to acquire users in the United States but have cold feet, consider launching a test budget in a comparable market like Canada, where the market and its audiences behave similarly. Extrapolate what works and apply to your primary market. Soft-launching or ‘test-periods’ should generally span a minimum of 20 days to give you enough performance data to make actionable decisions.

☑ Test your creatives

Take advantage of the holidays by branding your ad creatives with festive themes. Compelling visuals and copy will certainly help capture users caught up in the holiday excitement and encourage their install.

That being said, it’s key that you A/B test your variations and implement only the highest performing combinations. Avoid compromising on well-performing content in an effort to push holiday creatives.

Target & Optimize

Publishers sit on a trove of first-party data which can be used to optimize campaigns. Sharing this data with your campaign managers will assist them in finding ‘look-alikes’ and audiences most relevant to your app. Conversely, you may forego any targeting, and let the early data speak for itself. An optimization approach allows you to discover new audiences while incrementally scaling high performing users. Whichever method you choose, be sure to work closely with your partners to keep your campaigns on track.

☑ Continue into the new year

A record breaking 10 million iOS app downloads occurred in January this year, jumping from 9.2 million downloads in December the year prior. App marketers can take advantage of the impending rise in installs by continuing momentum into the new year. As holiday competition fades and marketing costs settle back down to their annual averages, January and February can serve as great months to acquire new users. It’s also an excellent time to re-engage lapsed users acquired from the holidays as the first several weeks of an install are crucial for long term retention.

Got any other holiday user acquisition tips you’d like to add? Comment below or tweet us at @Supersonicads.

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