Behind the sales numbers of mobile hit Badland
Frogmind was founded in 2012, by two developers from Trials developer RedLynx. In 2013, they released their first game, Badland, and immediately got 100,000 downloads at $3.99, which was great, but sales took a nose dive after the first weekend, going down to 1,000 downloads per day, and eventually less.
"Now we faced this problem," says CEO/coder Johannes Vourinen at his GDC session. "We only had a plan to make the game, and nothing else." So they had three options -- keep working on the current game, with updates, or they could develop a sequel, or a new game.
"We were only two guys with no previous game company experience, so even hiring one employee felt challenging and risky," said Vourinen. "And there was this feeling, as we saw this download curve, what if it goes to zero? So we decided to stay just two guys, and keep developing Badland. We love the world, and we had so many ideas left. We wanted everyone to be able to play it, not just iPhone and iPad users."
So they went through a plan for monthly updates, which gave them download and purchase spikes. This was mostly from new featurings in the App Store, "and also existing players returned to play again and they probably talked to their friends," he said.
Vourinen found that price drop campaigns were also quite good. Since they started at $3.99, they could do 50 or 75 percent drops. In the end they found that price drops still gave them a revenue spike. "Price drop campaigns seem to work automatically, because there are so many apps that track discounts out there," he says. They also did a free week campaign, which resulted in a major download spike, with the game reaching 7 million downloads in a week.
But it didn't help the game's sales, in the end. "We went from basically zero sales, to 2 million, then back down to zero. It had almost no effect on paid downloads after that. I know there are a lot of free app of the week apps that tell you there's a big effect after the free week campaign, but at least for us, this didn't seem to happen."
"We had no in app purchases, so being free actually wound up being free." What it did give them was exposure for the game. "We got so many new opportunities to explore," he said. So they started porting the game to other devices, from Blackberry to the Android store.
At this point, Vourinen shared some interesting numbers. For Blackberry, "the market isn't very big, so the total downloads are like 7,000 at the moment," he says. "Although we were top grossing, in the top three, during the launch."
Then there was Android. "We spent some time exploring the Google Play store, and we didn't see so many good examples of paid games, especially compared to iOS. Users seem to be used to getting their games for free, or maybe they're forced to because they don't have credit cards."
So they decided to change the business model to free, with video ads. They launched in late 2013, and reached 6 million downloads, with an ARPU of five cents. That was 30 percent from in app purchases, and 70 percent from video ads.
Next they tried the Amazon Appstore. Ads didn't work so well there, but they wound up with 130,000 downloads, and an ARPU of seven cents.
Ultimately, their average revenue per day was heavily weighted toward premium purchases. Partly because the game has been out on iOS longer, but also because of the nature of the game. Badland has thus far wound up with this split of average revenue per day -- iOS app store with 63 percent , and Google Play with 35 percent.