This article gives you insight in our marketing effort and sales from our debut iPad-only game Fingle. Before Fingle was released on January 12th in 2012, a few independent developers had shared their revenue numbers from which we made a rough estimation where to direct our effort into. Before we hit the ‘busy’ trap with releasing Bam fu, we would like to share our number with you so that you can make your estimates as well.
It goes without saying that the effort we put into selling the game only applies to Fingle in its own time and context. Fingle is a very specific kind of game that touches (ha-ha) a subject most people feel awkward with. The right people offered to help us and we were fortunate enough to see our effort positively effecting our revenue. But let us state clearly that the effort we put in was a result of our enthusiasm for the game, not our need to make money – something to keep in mind.
Just a quick note: we use Euros (€) as a currency, so keep these conversions in mind: EUR €1,- is approximately USD $1,28 or GBP £0,85.
- Period: January 2012 – April 2013
- Platform: iPad only
- Fingle revenue: €76.920,- with 117.611 downloads
- Fingle Free revenue: €3.110,- with 132.857 downloads (since December 2012)
- Fingle total downloads: 250.468
- Fingle total revenue: €80.030,-
Effort and Numbers
Fingle’s first public appearance was on the long-list of the Independent Games Festival Awards. An image of Vlambeer’s JW and his girlfriend playing the game was accompanied with a short description of the game and a short video on how the game worked. We didn’t expect Fingle to show up on the list so soon and were forced to quickly finish it’s website, a day or two later, with an email subscription form. We only gathered 200 emails in the end, probably because the form wasn’t there on the day of the long-list announcement, but 200 potential buyers nonetheless. The game was announced and there was no way back now! (Quick note: the IGF had no direct influence on Fingle’s sales whatsoever. We did meet a lot of cool people though.)
A friend in the Dutch games industry had released a game which was featured in App Stores world wide, which acquired him a few contacts at Apple. He offered to show our game to his contacts if we would make a pitch document with a description of the game and our plans on its marketing. We’ve decided to make this document available to you here. We ended up reusing chunks of the text in almost all our marketing, so the time investment in the pitch was definitely worth it.
We concluded to use the following marketing and tracking tools after asking around and actively searching and trying out different options. We’re still on the lookout for new stuff, though, so if you’ve got a great alternative, please do share it with us.
- Promoter (paid & totally worth it) and Google Alert (free) for tracking mentions of your game.
- A crowdsourced Apple App Store review time monitor (free) giving you insight on how long it will probably take to get your game through the Apple App Store review process.
- Flurry Analytics (free) for in-game statistics. We would rather use Google Analytics for Apps (free) now.
- Presskit() (free) for a full-scale presskit.
- AppFigures ($5 p/m) and Distimo Monitor (free & much more advanced) for tracking sales, downloads and revenue. These services provide you with a much better overview that Apple’s default iTunes Connect overview.
- MailChimp (free) for our mailing and newsletters.
- Tweetdeck (free) for Twitter mentions, interactions and default searches on “Fingle”, “Game Oven” and soon “Bam fu”
1) When we pressed the button to release Fingle on January 12th, we released it along with:
- a price of $1 as a release sale. We didn’t dare to make Fingle $2 before long after Valentine’s Day as we didn’t want the game to disappear from the charts. The discussion on price scalability on iOS says that you make as much money with a $5 game compared to a $1 game because it’ll be approximately 1/5th of the people that would still buy your game. Our argument to go for $1 was that we wanted to have as many players as possible, hoping for more word-of-mouth sales later.In hindsight this was still a good decision as we hit #11 games in US App Store, but it does make the App Store a difficult place to sell your game: great content being too cheap isn’t a good thing. It messes with consumers’ expectations. We wouldn’t blame developers for that: it’s all the Top lists’ fault!
- a press release to all western iOS-covering websites, including a presskit. We constructed a huge list of emails and submission forms with the help of Promoter’s index of games-covering websites.
- two narrative videos and one gameplay video found here, made with the help of filmmaker Gilles van Leeuwen. The videos were perfect content for any article covering Fingle and journalists loved it. We still think the video’s were the main reason we were picked up on almost every iOS covering website. This is also a big focus with the marketing plan for our new game Bam fu.
- a product specific website for consumers with the videos, screenshots, a list of features and a prominent link to buy the game.
- a newsletter to all the people who subscribed on the Fingle website.
2) On January 19th, a week after Fingle’s release, Apple shows their faith in Fingle, contacts us and features it world wide in multiple categories, as well as in the main games category in the US.
Fingle sales go through the roof.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t tell whether it was our pitch or journalists that got them enthusiastic, but everything was ‘on’ from this point on. We sell most copies in the US, with a record of 4.1k units on Saturday, good for $2172,- profit.
Updates and Sales
3) Fingle might be one of the best digital Valentine’s games due to its physical nature. A funny thing is that we only realized this three weeks before Valentine’s Day. We reacted quickly and pushed for an update with a new icon and two Valentine’s Day level sets – we sold it as a special holiday version of the game. The game’s sales take off once again, but instead of falling steep in sales once again, it remains to sell well for the following weeks. Good money!
4) On April 1st, a random spike hits our sales numbers as 500 people in Denmark decide to buy the game all at the same time. We’ve loved all danish since then.
5) A price drop from $2 to $1 causes massive downloads in Germany and China, resulting in a nice chart boost and a bigger long tail for both regions.
Further updates of Fingle add retina & iPad mini support, levels and other improvements to the game, but none of them spike in terms of revenue. Christmas and Valentine’s Day 2013 make an average of €250 a day, approximately 3 times as much as other average days, but don’t spike like we hoped and what we saw with the first Valentine’s day.
A free version of Fingle was released beginning December 2012 to increase the magnitude of the long tail of Fingle. Since then, Fingle Free was downloaded 133.000 times and has added approximately 20% to Fingle’s day-to-day revenue, which means it was worth the effort for us. The average revenue of Fingle in April was €40 / day while Fingle Free’s average revenue was €17 / day, combined up to a total of €57 / day. It is interesting to see that the magnitude of the spikes during the weekends is much higher with the free version of Fingle than the premium version, but there is nothing to conclude from that.
About 2.3% of Fingle Free’s downloads convert to revenue. We’ve heard that’s a good number.
When we entered the longtail beginning Q3 of 2012, we experimented with a couple marketing tools that all kind of didn’t work. The coolest thing we did was showing the game on national television for about three minutes, in a morning show mainly for women in their mid-life crisis. Being on TV is a whole experience, we can tell. But we didn’t sell more that 80 extra units that day. Wrong show, wrong time, wrong target audience but hilarious nonetheless.
Beside showing the game on TV, our effort into Dutch local news had remained minimal and for a good reason. Even with minimal effort, our game hit the newspapers but returned close to zero extra sales! One post on one of the bigger world-wide iOS websites will sell more units than our country of residence for a week.
Another thing we experimented with were Facebook ads. The problem was that for each $2 unit sold on Fingle, our return from Apple would be about €1, but in order for the ad to show up for the right target audience, we had to put in about €0.70 cents. But in the majority of the cases, people would click the link but don’t buy the game. And suddenly, this method becomes very unprofitable for a $2 app!
Team and Royalties
In the end, Fingle was made by 5 people of which two were full time employees of Game Oven and three with whom we set up a royalties contract. The royalties work in a way that every time we cross selling another 10.000 units, all the contractors receive an X amount of money set in the contract. This structure makes it very clear for everyone when and how much everyone will be paid, and has worked very well for us and the freelancers.
The two employees at Game Oven have been paid minimum wage for over a year now and Fingle continues to support the larger portion of the studios costs. The other portion is being paid with work-for-hire every now and then.
Over the past year, we’ve realised that once someone really likes your game, he becomes somewhat of a community manager. This is the kind of people you need. Marketing is not about making people talk, its about giving people a great game and presenting it in an appealing way to give people something to talk about. We too consider journalists to be people (yes, really!), as well as the editorial section of any distribution platform. The central question with our marketing has become: Why would people talk about our game?
Having said that, now that we are on the verge of releasing Bam fu and there are still not enough people talking about it, we will definitely share more early development stuff with our upcoming titles. We will give you something to talk about! But also, we need to figure out how to stay in contact with those who are talking about us and our games. We’ve yet found a way to do that. Any suggestions? How would you stay in contact with us?
Another challenge we accepted after releasing Fingle was to go multi-platform with all our next games. Spreading your chances is a really good idea in any way and Bojan can clearly handle the hassles of such undertaking. This is why we’ve been working on our in-house engine to make it work on multiple platforms from the moment Fingle was released. Bam fu is our first multi-platform release and it’s all very, very exciting.
Something we also didn’t do for Fingle is ‘business‘. What I try to express with this vague term is the stuff we heard over and over again about ‘making deals with dating websites’ or ‘develop a deodorant version of the game and sell it to a big deodorant firm.’ We thought about a few options after the game was released, but they would all require dedicated time for networking and arranging deals. We weren’t too eager to that pick up and found enough challenge in developing new games. We are still on the lookout for ‘opportunities’ though.
We are also considering to make Fingle premium free for one day. Stay tuned – or get an email when that happens.
As you’ve read above, there are a number of things we learned from selling and doing marketing for Fingle. But all in all, it remains hard work to sell games with limited resources, no matter how much people have bought our previous game or how many contacts you’ve gained. This is especially the case with iOS games where consumers don’t necessarily see themselves as gamers or fans of games. We feel more confident and have a better understanding of what will happen, but it all remains super scary.
With Bam fu, we are putting even more effort into talking with press and marketing, but its success doesn’t rely solely on our effort: it relies mainly on the effort of other people. One person at any big website or platform might not see Bam fu’s appeal and could decide not to feature it or write about it, leaving thousands of potential players unreached. That is the scary part. All we can do is keep trying, trying to reach more press, trying to reach more people and trying to show everyone how great of a game we’ve made. The future of Game Oven is at stake!