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Hipster Zombies - Data Analysis
by Martin Nerurkar on 12/03/13 09:43:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Crossposted from the Sharkbomb Studios blog.

Alt text

I hope you like numbers, cause this article will be chock full with the beasts. Not only that, there will also be graphs! I’ll be looking at the performance of Hipster Zombies over the entire lifetime. That includes, among other things, downloads and revenue for iOS, Android, Ouya and Samsung Apps.

Hipster Zombies: Numbers & Graphs

Hipster Zombies: Numbers & Graphs

Let’s start from the beginning:

Soft Launch

We decided to try our hand at one of these fancy soft launches. To that end we silently released Hipster Zombies on Google Play. The game went live on the 10th of March in Austria (as a test for Germany) and Canada (as a Test for the US). It was on for five days before we launched for real.

Here’s a look at the downloads during that time:

hz_softlaunch

As you can see there was only a single download during that time. From an Austrian account no less. To be honest, we expected a bit more downloads and attention, simply from being new in the store listing, yet that did not happen.

  • Learning 1: A silent launch without marketing is not a launch at all.

Instead of some downloads, we got something else though:

Android Piracy

Even before we released Hipster Zombies on the 15th we already had pirated APKs flying around. Obviously that was from that one Austrian, who grabbed the soft launch copy, presumably just to crack and distribute it. So pirated before release? Achievement unlocked, I guess. So we were off to a good start but how did things develop from there?

hz_android-piracy

This is a graph of all downloads on Android seperated by marketplace. The blue set are all downloads that went through the Google Play Store, the red are all those that did not have a marketplace set. From what we can see they represent the pirated copies.

Oddly enough there’s one huge spike from the 30th to the 31st of May. We have no idea where it came from but that was about 2500 downloads in a single day. We also had pretty good growth with the pirated version, probably because we were in some nice, exposed spots on the apk piracy websites.

Regardless, what you can see it that piracy makes up about 50% of our total Android downloads. Looks scary but we don’t really feel like we’ve lost much revenue there, especially since we’re a free-to-play title. If Hipster Zombies was an upfront payment app we’d probably feel different.

  • Learning 2: Don’t underestimate the speed of pirates. They could be a great multiplier to get the word out.

But where did all these pirates come from?

hz_android-piracy_source

As you can see most of them come from China. We’re assuming that part of that is because the Google Play Store is not available in China and there is simply no other way to get Hipster Zombies ;)

Total Downloads

So on to more positive things. How did we actually do in terms of legal downloads? The following graph gives an overview over the total lifetime downloads of Hipster Zombies so far. As you can see we released Android first, then iOS, OUYA and finally on Samsung Apps.

hz_downloads

The graph does not represent uninstalls but you can clearly see the launch effects. It’s a bit difficult to read from this graph but the iOS launch effect seems to be a bit more pronounced but not to hold on as long. What is evident though is that Android makes up the majority of our total user. Here’s a closer look:

hz_downloads-byappstore

  • Learning 3: There’s lots and lots of Android users.

So we had downloads, but how did people like the game?

Mobile Reviews

One of the good things on mobile platforms is the ease with which users can review and give feedback. Granted, there’s often lots of frustrating feedback but it’s nice to get a feeling for how well your game is received.

hz_review-average

So looking at the average review for the Google Play Store we end up at around 4.5 stars after a total of 160 reviews. That’s pretty satisfying to us. The 5.0 rating on iOS should be more satisfying but considering that it comes from only 5 reviews, that’s by far not representational.

  • Learning 4: The Google Play users like Hipster Zombies.

Speaking of the amount of reviews given, here’s a look at the number of reviews given per week.

hz_review-frequency

As you can see on iOS and Google Play, there’s an initial spike from friends and family. Where iOS stops completely, Google Play keeps the reviews coming consistently. Why? Well one reason is that we put in a review prompt on Android sometime in mid July. But that can’t be all of it because you can notice a clearly higher frequence of reviews before that time. Our assumption is that this is because it’s easier to write a review on the Play Store than it is in the App Store App.

And if you’re wondering why we did not put in a Review Prompt on iOS: Initially we didn’t have the plugin and when we did, we just forgot about it.

  • Learning 5: The review prompt has an effect. Just add it. Especially on iOS

Halloween Update

As we mentioned before, we’ve tried our hand at a little Halloween update earlier this year. Here’s how that panned out in a graph of the daily downloads by platform:

hz_halloween

It’s a bit difficult to read with all the noise but you can see that both Google Play and the iOS App Store didn’t really move the needle much. In fact you can even see the steady decline in Google Play downloads. However the OUYA saw a spike in downloads. We’re assuming that happened because we were featured in a few of the official Halloween communications from the OUYA team.

  • Learning 6: Seasonal updates are another chance to get featured, nothing more, nothing less.

Revenue by App Store

So after all these users, how did we actually do on the money side of things?

hz_revenue-byappstore

Considering the OUYA only makes up 5% of our users but 44.5% of our revenue, that’s a pretty good cut. If you’re wondering where Samsung is in that graph: the Samsung Apps version is not monetized, it is simply released without in-app purchases because we did not really have time to deal with their store system yet.

Revenue per Download by Product

If we look at that revenue a bit different you can see which product on which plattform brough in the most money per download. And you can also see the total money per download.

hz_revenue-byproduct

The OUYA clearly wins here, with a revenue/download just shy of 0.08€. About 5.5x the revenue/download on iOS or over 15x the revenue/download on Google Play. That was quite surprising for us but might point towards the more hardcore console and pc audiences being more willing to spend money on their entertainment.

Two additional notes though: Firstly the monetization model is also different on OUYA: Instead of selling items to accelerate the gameplay experience, we only give out the first 2 levels for free. Further levels need to be unlocked in game. Secondly the OUYA team gave out some free store credit to all backers, which happened around the time of our release. We believe that this made some people more willing to spend, among other things, on Hipster Zombies.

  • Learning 7: iOS users spend more than Android users, and OUYA users spend more than both.

Time spent

So after all these words and numbers on the performance of Hipster Zombies, how did we actually get there? Luckily we decided early on that we wanted to track our time spent. Among the two of us Hipster Zombies took about 980 man-hours (or about 120 man-days or 6 man-months).

hz_timespent

As you can see the primary part of that was code work. The art aspect was also significant, followed by design. As mentioned during the Hipster Zombies postmortem, we believe that this is actually too little time spent designing and we could have improved the game if we had kept a better balance.

  • Learning 8: Art creation takes longer than you think.

The Bottom Line

So after all these numbers? How did we actually do? To be honest? Not that well…

After substracting the cut of the app stores we only made about 315€ (about $425) in revenue with Hipster Zombies. Counting all the way up from March up until now, about 9 months later. That’s not a lot, and it’s even less if you consider how much development cost us:

hz_financialsuccess

Putting in an average flat fee per day for our hours spent and adding our expenses for office, audio, plugins etc. we came up with a total project cost of about 50.000€. And that puts us pretty far away from any kind of break even.

  • Learning 9: Even a small game project is really expensive.

Final Words

Welp, we didn’t get rich on Hipster Zombies. We didn’t expect to but the financial success (or rather lack thereof) is beyond what we had hoped for. However we’re still proud of the product. We think it’s a fun little game. And so far we managed to reach over 30.000 people with a consistently high app review score. That’s a pretty nice success in our book.

However if we ask ourselves if we would do it again, we probably wouldn’t. Not that we regret the time spent but we started Hipster Zombies as a small, fun project. A pragmatic test run for us to get used to the tech and the market. While it fulfilled these goals it also ended up too big, costing too time, energy and money. Instead the next time we’ll be focusing on a project that’s truly dear to our hearts.

  • Learning 10: Spend your time on something truly awesome.

And that’s it. Any questions? Any comments? Feel free to let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.

- Martin

tl;dr

You’re busy? Here’s all our learnings condensed:

  • Learning 1: A silent launch without marketing is not a launch at all.
  • Learning 2: Don’t underestimate the speed of pirates. They could be a great multiplier to get the word out.
  • Learning 3: There’s lots and lots of Android users.
  • Learning 4: The Google Play users like Hipster Zombies.
  • Learning 5: The review prompt has an effect. Just add it. Especially on iOS
  • Learning 6: Seasonal updates are another chance to get featured, nothing more, nothing less.
  • Learning 7: iOS users spend more than Android users, and OUYA users spend more than both.
  • Learning 8: Art creation takes longer than you think.
  • Learning 9: Even a small game project is really expensive.
  • Learning 10: Spend your time on something awesome.

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Comments


Wendelin Reich
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Very valuable info, thanks!

David Paris
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Thanks for the details Martin!

Always interesting to see the straight numbers on how someone's project plays out.

Andrzej Marczewski
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Great and honest appraisal. Valuable to anyone looking at publishing a game!!

Martin Nerurkar
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Glad I could provide some value. This took quite some time but the insight was worth it to us, and it's even better if the world out there can benefit from our data and interpretations :)

Ryan Christensen
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Very interesting on the OUYA revs, probably because of the feature and higher price point but this validates the indie consoles a bit in terms of revs for indies. Great info, thanks for sharing!

Rob Graeber
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They made ~100€ in revenue from OUYA..

James Coote
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Considering OUYA has such a small install base (especially compared to the others), that's not bad.

There could yet be hope for OUYA if it can grow its install base while keeping those sort of ARPU figures

Carl Kidwell
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Thanks for sharing Martin!

Its funny when I do my own numbers I usually leave out charging for my own time because it puts me in the red :-) Nice to see you made some money even accounting for your time!

Martin Nerurkar
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Hey sorry for the confusion but nope, we made no money at all. The $425 are the money that went in NOT subtracting the money that went out. Sorry, I'm not a native speaker but I thought that that's what revenue was.

Rob Graeber
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Your use of "revenue" is correct, I think what's throwing people off is this:

"After subtracting everything we only made about 315€ (about $425) in revenue".

Usually you don't subtract anything when declaring revenue, so it's kinda confusing.

Martin Nerurkar
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Ah right. Well I meant subtracting the store cut. I'll change the wording. Thanks for the tip!

Troy Walker
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so, net profit ~400, but that covers your startup, licenses, and salaries?.. i'm guessing though.

I must have a low-bar expectation, but I would consider that a success on first game release.

what was your monetization model.. micro transaction or adverts? and is that what the pirate circumvented?

G Irish
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They only had $425 in total revenue, not profit.

Martin Nerurkar
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Yes, that is correct. There was no profit whatsoever.

Monetization model is F2P micro transaction. Piracy circumvented that - the pirated apk has no connection to the store and thus no way to spend money on the game.

Ahmad Jadallah
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Between this and the other sales analysis for Ethan: Meteor Hunter posted two days ago, I would say the scene is looking rather dark at the moment, specially that between the two, they have covered all platforms from mobile to android consoles to desktop to PS3 with more or less similar results!

It appears that doing a small focused and polished game and putting all your heart into it is not the golden solution everyone makes it to be. There has to be a way to make a viable living out of being indie.

Steve Cawood
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Make a game people want. That's the solution. It doesn't matter how great or polished a game is, if it's not something people want it won't sell. You have to think more businesslike and less game developerlike. Try and find something that you're interested in making that the people want, that's the key and that's not too easy.

Peter Eisenmann
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Could not agree more. You must hit a nerve with gamers, intrigue them somehow. Always ask yourself "if I would roam the store and saw this game by accident, why would I want to get it instead of the bajillion others sitting right next to it?" And this within a time window of a few seconds at best.
Easier said than done :)

I think "Hipster Zombies" could achieve this simply by having a damn fun name; only potential issue I see is people being overfed with the zombie thing by now. But I will definitely try it out these days.

Martin Nerurkar
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I'd actually disagree while agreeing. Being more businesslike would mean making more risk-averse games, more clones - cause those are proven to work. I don't think that's a good way forward. To be honest, Hipster Zombies was chosen for very pragmatic reasons: It's funny, the game is simple, the name was catchy and the concept triggers some memes. In hindsight we should have gone with something more developery, less businessy.

Peter Eisenmann
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Thanks a lot for these numbers!
One question, how exactly did you do the soft launch on Google play? Did you use a single APK and simply limit its availability first, or different APKs?
I am kind of worried that launching in a limited market will affect the appearance in the "new" category when doing the full launch later on. Hard to find any information on this...

Krishna Teja
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I am worried too. I am pretty sure doing a soft launch will affect our rankings in the store. We will miss the valuable time we get when we launch our app. Launch time is very crucial and will decide our future downloads. I want to know if there is any other way? or Am I missing something?

Martin Nerurkar
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We did the same APK, only made it available in Austria and Canada. We saw no reduction of a launch effect though.

Martin Nerurkar
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We did the same APK, only made it available in Austria and Canada. We saw no reduction of a launch effect though.

Martin Nerurkar
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We did the same APK, only made it available in Austria and Canada. We saw no reduction of a launch effect though.

Martin Nerurkar
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edit: oops. quadruple-post ^^

Peter Eisenmann
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thx!

Peter Eisenmann
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Thank you Martin.

G Irish
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The article says they did a 'soft launch' but there's no mention of what they did for the hard launch. What type of marketing did they do, if any?

Maybe they did a marketing blitz that was too much to describe in this article, but if they didn't do any marketing for their game it would be no surprise that they didn't make any money. The days of just launching a game on an app store and relying on gamers to find your game and give you money are long gone. You can't get away with that on a console, and you certainly can't get away with that on mobile.

Martin Nerurkar
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Well, I believe I mentioned that we didn't have any money for advertising (might have been in the postmortem. hm.). So what we did for Marketing/PR was what we could do ourselves. Forum posts, press release, press contacts... These are very limited in their effect though.

G Irish
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I think that's an important part of your story; I think most indies have limited resources to spend on marketing, so I think it'd be interesting to hear what your experiences were with the channels you used. In particular on forums and social media.

For instance, how many people viewed and responded to your posts? What did users say? What forums did you visit?

Martin Nerurkar
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Well that'd probably be a completely new article all by itself. In general though: Nothing really brought any significant results.

S D
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If you find yoursef interested in sharing that potential article, I would absolutely love to read it. Thanks for the ones you've published already!

R. Hunter Gough
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Good article, and it matches up pretty well with my observations and experiences, too.

I think you're comparing apples to oranges on #7, though; you had a completely different payment model on OUYA, and as you said, all OUYA owners got free credits right at that same time. I suspect that if the OUYA version had had the same payment model as the other versions and you hadn't aligned with that promotion, your OUYA numbers would look a lot closer to your other Android numbers.

Here's hoping your next project does better financially! :)

Martin Nerurkar
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Well that's why I pointed it out in the text. I still think the difference is so significant that it's beyond those factors (monetization model & credits)...

Curtiss Murphy
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This article took courage and I commend the author. I also want to second what was said earlier - being a business means making products that people want. As an Indie, I develop things outside the norm. And yet, to make revenue, I had to understand my customers intimately. Even after I did that, I still spend hundreds of hours struggling to find an appropriate F2P model.

Linh Ngo
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Thanks for the info including actual revenues. I downloaded the game on Google Play, and it looks like your game was inspired by Zombieville, USA. However, it feels like a step backwards in terms of gameplay.

You can only move up or down, so no way to collect items by entering houses. Also, the need to touch bags and coins takes you out of the gameplay as I already need both hands to control vertical movement and firing of weapons. The weapons are rather weak needing many shots typically. It would have added to the "cool" factor if at least initial levels didn't require more than a shot or two.

Having three onscreen buttons for weapons is more complexity than needed, but I can see how that plays into the strategy. Overall, it's very polished, but as a game, it wasn't super compelling enough for me to continue after two levels. Might've good to have a big hipster boss zombie as something to break up the tedium at the end of each level. Perhaps add more beta-testing into your learned lessons?

Ultimately though, games of this genre have to be better than Zombieville, USA for them to succeed (and much better since that's been out for years and is well-known). As a small aside, since you're writing for an English audience, I'd change wording from "Learning 1..." to "Lesson 1..." in the future. Best of luck in your future games!


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