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One Year Later

posted on October 27, 2013 at 3:49 pm by Steve Karolewics

One year ago, we launched Minecart Madness for Windows Phone. While we’ve been busy working on a new project since then, we thought now would be a good time to look back and analyze how Minecart Madness has done.

Minecart Madness

Launch

Minecart Madness launched on October 24th, 2012, and the free version launched a few days later on November 1st. We delayed the free version because we wanted to link the player to the paid version (only once per session), and the store link is not resolved until an app is published. It turns out that linking the player to the paid version was not very useful. After all, why pay $1 for a game that you’re already playing for free? Mobile users are increasingly accepting of ads in free games, and our ads were already not very invasive.

We had issues at launch where the game ran terribly on some devices (we’ll cover the technical side of this in a separate post). While we managed to get the problem fixed with a quick turnaround, some damage was already done – we had a few early negative reviews because of this problem.

Ad Networks

Our stance on in-game ads is pretty simple – display and rotate them as often as possible, but never when it would interrupt or frustrate the player. In Minecart Madness, obstacles can appear from the left, top, and right sides of the screen, and the player needs to see the bottom of the screen to tell where they can land. As a result, our only options were to decrease the vertical height of the game, and add an ad in that space, or not display them while playing. The choice was obvious – we only display ads in menus, or between the player dying and starting again. There’s no doubt that this decreased our ad revenue, but so would angering your players, and we care more about the quality of the game than earning a few extra dollars.

Initially, we only used Microsoft’s PubCenter for ads. Despite a pretty good number of ad impressions, we didn’t make much from ad revenue. We discovered a great library called Ad Rotator that let us easily add additional ad networks. We published an update that added InnerActive, AdDuplex, and MobFox.

After testing the waters with these new ad networks, InnerActive was the clear winner, with a much higher revenue rate, and over 70% of our total ad revenue. We can only speculate how our revenue would change if we focused on InnerActive from the start, but for any future games we create with ads, they’ll definitely be our primary ad network.

inneractive

Downloads

Despite less-than-stellar ad revenue, we made this game because it was a game we wanted to play, and we hoped that others would want to play it too. During development, we decided that we would consider 1,000 downloads to be a minimum bar for success.  We were blown away with our download numbers. As of October 24, 2013, we have 1,691,754 downloads! Initially, our download trend matched what we expected – a large initial surge, followed by decreasing downloads per day. However, on two occasions we saw our downloads surge again. To our delight, our downloads have not dropped below 2,000 per day.

minecart-madness-downloads

The top ten countries that downloaded our game are, in descending order:

  1. Russia
  2. China
  3. Mexico
  4. Brazil
  5. Italy
  1. India
  2. United States
  3. Thailand
  4. France
  5. United Kingdom

Those ten countries combined account for 1.22 million downloads. In total, our game has been downloaded in 173 countries, many of which with only a few hundred downloads. However, every download counts, so it was great that we published our game in nearly all available countries.

Brazil is particularly interesting to see in the #4 spot. When we launched Minecart Madness, Brazil required a unique rating outside of the free ESRB and PEGI we obtained, so we did not publish in Brazil. At some point, Brazil began accepting ESRB or PEGI ratings, and after being informed by a Brazilian fan of Windows Phone, we finally published our game in Brazil in late February 2013. This explains one of the later surges in the download chart above. When downloads are compared by amount of time since publishing in a country, Brazil is nearly on par with Russia, so we heavily encourage other developers to release in Brazil.

Reviews

reviews

As already mentioned, we suffered from some initial negative reviews from the game being unplayable on some phones. However, after fixing that issue, we’ve recovered and are sitting at 4 star ratings in 7 of our top 10 countries. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that Minecart Madness is a lot of fun, but there’s admittedly not much depth to it.

Before we released, we had a lot of grand designs for features to help with this, but we made (in our opinion) the right call to draw a line somewhere and just publish the game. The incentive for continued play could be higher with features such as leaderboards and daily challenges. We hoped to include some of these features in future updates, but we ultimately determined to shift focus to other projects. We still get numerous reviews regarding how addictive the game is, which we attribute to the procedurally generated levels, a differentiator we are particularly proud of. We will cover our strategy regarding responding to reviews in the Windows Phone ecosystem in a future post.

Conclusions

First of all, no matter how large or small the ecosystem for a platform may be, there will always be players. If you build something that you enjoy yourself, you will not be alone. Testing your game should feel like fun, an exploration of your own creation. Shipping is important and you will have to cut in order to pull it off. The journey of making a game does not end with shipping and, in many cases, it is only beginning. Seeing how your art effects players of different ages and backgrounds is exciting, but also humbling. We have learned from this experience and we continue to try to gain an understanding of what we can do better in the future.

We are increasingly appreciative of our players. There are nearly 1.7 million people who went into the store, looked for a game among thousands of deserving, enjoyable titles, and chose to install and play ours. That number increases by over 2,000 every day. While we are making our next game, people are still installing our current one, and that is something we will never forget. Thank you!

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