Fourth Woods Games Profile picture
Jan 29, 2018 25 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I released #Palindraw about 4 weeks ago.…

It's my first deliberate attempt at #IndieGameDev and it's been an interesting experience. I wasn't sure what to expect.
The main functionality of the game was developed in about 4 weeks of evenings and weekends. Several months were spent on generating and hand picking the levels.
The levels are procedurally generated given a RNG seed and a few parameters. I wanted to have a nice balanced progression through each set.
I have several test devices though most are Samsung. I assessed the difficulty of interesting levels while I tested over the various devices over several months. I also ran through several emulators though the #Android emulators are still painful to use.
Needless to say, after several months of this testing "all" the bugs were worked out and the app never crashed.
I incorporated in-app billing so users could have the choice of permanently disabling the ads. Android does not make it very easy to test this in my experience. I was able to complete test purchases and consume them so I could try again.
I set up a test user incorrectly at first and had to refund myself. :-P
6 months of testing and tweaking, setting up IAB and releasing a closed beta for more testing. It proved to be extremely stable I was ready to launch.
To launch on #GooglePlay is easy. Getting exposure is hard! I let the app on the store for a week to get a few more "test" users with other devices to verify it's stability. Downloads were slow but that was OK.
I posted about it on Twitter and Reddit and some #IndieDev sites but to get exposure it needed to be advertised. Using the revenue from my last game* I set a budget for this game.
*This game was my first deliberate attempt. My last game was an accident. I didn't expect it to get as much traction as it did...
Anyway, I set $25 a day at 0.20 per install. I wanted to limit to USA only at first so I could try to get visibility on the new releases charts. First day, I had like 2 installs and and a few cents in charges. Second day wasn't much better. No where near my daily budget.
After a few days, I opened it up to the world. Now my budget is used and I get about 300 to 400 installs a day. Almost NONE in the US. It seems it's really expensive to advertise in the US and other western countries.
The bulk of my installs so far are in India and the middle east. That itself isn't a bad thing. I'm glad people are enjoying the game though I haven't localized it for that area yet. This will probably give me incentive to do that sooner than later. :-D
What I learned is bidding for ad space is relatively cheap in non-western countries compared to western countries. I still wanted to get more exposure in the US. As of right now I have about 1200 active installs in India and 21 in the US.
Wanting to get more exposure in my own country, I set my ad campaign back to US only and upped the per install amount to 0.50. My installs dropped again to around 2 or 3 a day and never came close to exhausting my budget.
Upped to 0.75 then $1 still low installs. If $1 per install is still too low to effectively compete in the US then the barrier to entry for #IndieDev is much bigger than I thought. If a user purchases the app that I paid a dollar for them to download then I'm out 0.30.
If they uninstall it, I'm out $1. If they keep it, it will take about 2 to 3 months to get the money back through advertising. (That amount is based on the average daily users/average daily revenue I get with my previous app).
The goal however is to get enough exposure to get listed high in searches or in the charts. Once a good listing is achieved then organic installs take over. It's just really expensive to get there. :-/
Another thing I found is once the installs took off, the crash reports started rolling in. :-O What was stable for me seems to crash readily in the wild. Well, not a lot. Less than 1% of users experience a crash.
I've identified where the crashes are. The dreaded NPE or undocumented exception from a 3rd party API. Problem is, I can't reproduce them. I rolled out a few fixes so the app doesn't quit but I don't know the cause. :-(
The biggest issue I'm still trying to work out is the IAB is crashing. I had one user in the US purchase the ad free upgrade. So I know it works. I had several people in India and middle east attempt the purchase but every one crashed.
On top of that, I get the same chromium.webview errors that I get in my other app. I'm assuming from the advertising library. Frustrating because there's nothing I can do to fix it.
Anyway, it's been interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing how this year turns out. I'd really like to get more Western exposure. I mean I do live here. I suppose if I grow enough elsewhere someone here may notice? :-D

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