Amazon Underground – Insights from a Casual Game publisher

Amazon Underground – Insights from a Casual Game publisher 

By: Martine Spaans

amazon-underground

In August 2015, Amazon announced their “Underground” project. I was attending PAX Dev at that time and immediately got a great insight in the industry’s opinion. Developers did not seem thrilled. Was this “earn per minute” model really going to work? Hesitation overall.

Well, as one of Underground’s launch partners our games have been live on the store for roughly 10 months. I’m happy to share some insights.

 

Short version: It works for games that otherwise have a low ARPU but a long-lasting engagement.

Keep reading if you want to learn the details.

 

All my games are “casual”, like Hidden Object, Match-3 or Puzzle games. Casual games usually have a lower player-to-payer conversion rate than genres that are considered midcore or hardcore, like strategy, battle or RPG’s. (We’ll leave the philosophy behind that for another article.)

With a conversion rate lower than 2% I rely on ads quite a bit for a steady income. And how do you show lots of ads to your players without annoying them? By spreading those ads over many hours of entertainment.

hiddenobjecthomemakeover

So let’s take a look at “Hidden Object Home Makeover” for example. There are 3 titles in this series so far. They all mainly rely on ad income. To complete all the goals in the game you only have to play for about 10 hours, however, the game does not end there. To get all achievement and unlocks you have to play for at least another 10 hours. And then still you can choose to continue to play, endlessly. Home Makeover 1 is about 3 years old, but still has a lot of fans that play it over and over again.

Let’s say the average player plays the game for about 10 hours.

If they play the Google Play version they will watch roughly 8 video ads per hour, so that makes a total of 80 ad impressions. With a CPM of $12 that will back out to $0.96 in revenue.

With FGL’s Enhance the eCPM’s for Rewarded Videos average around $30. If these users watch 8 rewarded videos per hour throughout the game, the revenue will go up to $2.40, but do note that this is heavily dependent on fillrate so in reality your revenue will probably be a bit lower.

On Amazon Underground you receive $0.002 per minute. 10 Hours is 600 minutes, adding up to $1.20 revenue from this player, guaranteed.

 

Sounds wonderful? Well, there are some good things and bad things about the Underground program. The bad is easy to avoid if you know where your game stands.

 

The ugly bits:

  • Zombie apps. With all apps for free and no fear for ads, it’s easy shopping here. Amazon Underground has a high rate of “zombie apps” that are downloaded and never opened. Compare it to a Steam Sale, but then without a credit card statement guilt-tripping you into playing all those wonderful games.
  • An Underground release can actually hurt your sales on other platforms. Especially on the Amazon App Store. Our main success on Underground has come from old games that were already released over a year ago and were way past their sales-peak. In one case we released the Underground-version at the same time as the regular premium version. Sales figures were low.
  • Underground is not available everywhere. For a long time it was only in the US. Rollout now started in Western Europe as well. Underground is not an all-round solution yet. It is simply not an alternative for Google Play yet because it’s too tiny.
  • Underground will not work for your beautifully crafted story-driven game that can be completed within 3 hours. 3 Hours x $0.002 = $0.36 per player.  If 36 cents is the maximum revenue you can get out of your biggest fans, your revenue for average players will turn out to be much lower. It will also not work for your idle clicker that requires only 2 minutes of engagement per day. That’s an ARPDAU* of $0.004

 

Luckily, there are reasons for rejoicing.

  • Engaged Underground players do spend more time in this completely free version of our app than players who are using the regular version with ads. We suspect that is because there are no ads breaking up the game experience or no F2P energy system holding them back.
  • Underground players seem to be very aware of the fact that they are getting free content. On our games we see less bad reviews and less complaints about lack of updates.
  • If your game has been in the Underground store for a few weeks, the download numbers will go down as the novelty will wear off. However, revenue turns out to be a steady stream for us. So once you got the player’s attention and are not lost in a sea of icons on their device, the players are loyal.
  • Speaking of being lost in a sea of icons… There is far less competition in the Underground store. Currently there are about 1300 Games in the US Underground store. Much more manageable than any other major Android store.

 

* ARPDAU = Average Revenue Per Daily Active User.

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Slow but steady growth. Over the last 6 months we nearly doubled our average daily Underground revenue without changing anything about the games.

 

So here’s my advice.

  • Is your game a Free-2-Play title? Don’t jump on Underground immediately. After a while you will probably see your revenue is going down and the peak is over. Especially if you didn’t build it with regular content updates in mind. Your most engaging users have had their fill and spent whatever the game was worth to them. At this point you can decide to throw in some marketing budget and attract fresh players, or…let Amazon do it for you!

 

Lastly, many kudos and thanks to FGL who supported me throughout the process by taking care of all technical bits of submitting my games to Amazon Underground. If you’d like FGL to help you to get your games on Underground too, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Pretio Interactive added to Enhance™

pretio logo

 

FGL is excited to announce a new ad mediation partnership with Pretio Interactive via FGL’s Enhance™ platform. Developers using Enhance™ can now access a new user-friendly revenue stream as an advertising option.

Pretio Interactive is a Moments-Based native advertising platform whose proprietary Achievement Moment technology serves premium brand rewards as prizes for positive game events across the hottest apps and games. Rewards not only increase in-app revenue – they improve user experience and retention! 55% of players who click on a Pretio Reward, will return to click again.

Here’s a look at the two rewarded ad placements Enhance users can choose when using Pretio:

 

Between Level: Congratulate Players for Leveling-up!

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With Pretio, developers can place a “Get Reward” opt-in button between each level. Upon opt-in, players will receive an interstitial reward offer. Players remain in-game through the entire reward experience.  

  • Opt-in rate: 5-7%
  • Average CTR: 13%
  • Average CPM: $7-$10
  • Fill: 100% Globally

 

End of Rewarded Video: Congratulate Players on their New Coins!

Double the revenue of each ad experience by placing a “Get Reward” opt-in after the completion of a Rewarded Video view. Upon opt-in, players will receive an interstitial reward offer. Players can choose to have rewards emailed to them and remain in-app, or visit an advertiser website for a quick and easy conversion.

  • Average opt-in rate: 5-7%
  • Average CTR: 17%
  • Average CPM: $12-$15
  • Fill: 100% Globally

Integrating Reward ads from Pretio via Enhance is fast, easy, and a good complement to other advertising strategies. Simply go to the Enhance partners page and turn Pretio rewards on.

 

Here’s How!

Enhance your App at enhance.fgl.com and Select “Handle Everything For Me”

pretio-blog-02

 

Follow the rest of Enhance’s fast and easy step-by-step process and you’ll have both of the above placements integrated in your app!

(To implement Pretio’s technology via the ‘choose SDKs myself’ option, contact bizdev@pretio.in and a representative will email you your credentials)

Enhance remains the fastest, easiest way to implement SDKs into your games and mobile apps. We’re excited to add Pretio’s non-incentivised rewards as a monetization option for Enhance developers seeking a more user-friendly ad experience for their games.

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Enhance™ 2.0 is here!

enhance2The newest version of Enhance™, the world’s fastest way to add SDKs to apps, is now up and running! The revolutionary technology has added many new features that not only give developers a fast way to add and test SDKs, but also gives them more control. Some of the new highlights:

 

iOS and Android supported

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Hello Apple! Yes, now you can use Enhance to rapidly deploy SDKs on iOS as well as Android apps. This was easily our most requested feature so we listened and delivered.

 

Support for more IDEs and languages.

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Our Drag & Drop Library can be used with: Unity, Android (Java), iOS (Obj-C), OpenFL and Adobe AIR. Just drag the library into your project then add Enhance codes for interstitial, rewarded video or analytics (usually one line of copy&paste code per instance) and you’re done.

 

FGL or user managed ad-mediation.

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Have your ads managed by FGL and take advantage of our on-staff ad team. This means you don’t have to sign-up for any ad networks at all and mediation is changed daily to reflect the best paying ads! Also, FGL pays out net 30, so no more waiting for 6 moths to get paid.

Already signed-up for dozens of ad networks, have a crack team of ad specialists to optimize your revenue and don’t mind waiting for payment? No problem! You can use whatever networks you like and use our great mediation tool to optimize the way you want to.

 

Improved dashboard

dashboard
Cleaner, easier to read with more information just a click away. Check out app performance, manage your Enhanced apps, get paid and more. Less time and less hassle means more money for you.

 

Improved crash reporting

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If your app is crashing, users are going to be uninstalling your app. Chasing down crash problems can be stressful, slow and will lose you money. With our crash reporting, you can find the issue quickly, remove the offending SDK, and be back up. In minutes.

 

More rewarded video and interstitial ad networks.

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We’ve partnered with even more ad networks to make sure your revenue keeps flowing. Add your favorite third party ad networks, analytics and more. We’re also adding providers at a constant pace, so your choices will only grow!

 

Check it out!

Rewarded video, interstitials, banners, analytics, crash reporting, mediation. In minutes. Go to enhance.fgl.com to upload your apk or ipa and see for yourself how easy and fast it is! Enhance™ is, as always, free for developers.

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Mobile Success Story – Zombidle by Berzerk Studio

“One of the best idle games ever!”

It’s made by Berzerk Studio so what do you expect… the game is awesome”

“It’s pure fun because… well… zombies. It’s good to be bad!”

 

A few short months ago, the runaway indie mobile hit ‘Zombidle’ took everyone’s phones by storm.  Hundreds of thousands of downloads, a feature by Google Play and a sparkling 4.4 / 5 rating propelled Zombidle to critical and commercial success.

Now, a recent update has Zombidle poised to once again have users pillaging, looting and tapping their way through Hell.  FGL secured an exclusive interview with Zombidle creator Simon Lachance of Berzerk Studio to get his thoughts on mobile success, the game development process and more:

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FGL: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.  Let’s start by having you introduce yourself to the people at home.

Berzerk: I’m Simon Lachance, also known as “Lachhh” online.  I’m the co-founder of Berzerk Studio, a indie team making games on web, mobile and soon consoles for the past 8 years.  We made games like Sands of Coliseum, Berzerk Ball, Peacekeeper, SkyQuest.  We recently launched Zombidle on web and mobile hoping to fund the development of our first console games : Infernax and Just Shapes and Beats.

FGL: Now you’re a mobile game rockstar but you were one of the top web game earners on FGL as well.  What are your impressions of Mobile and Console development, coming from a Web game background?

Berzerk: Mobile looks a lot like Web games.  We saw the same trends of super quick gameplay fix on mobile.  People played web games when they were bored and had 1-2 minutes of free time.  So the games evolved in that direction.  The same happened on mobile.  Coming from a Flash background, it was easier to adapt to that audience.

It’s a completely new world. You’ve got to show your game to events like PAX,  meet people, brag about your game and get new contacts.  With Flash games you would just put your stuff on the internet and bam,  millions of people play it.  Now, you can’t do that.  You’ll end up with 2 years of development on something that you’re very proud of, but nobody hears about it so they don’t play it.

 

Enhance™ 2.0 is out! It’s simply the fastest way to integrate ads, analytics, reporting and more into your Android or iOS app! Check it out at enhance.fgl.com
FGL: So how did you utilize FGL’s services in ‘Zombidle’?
Berzerk:  We used FGL’s Enhance™ for our mobile ads.  It helped with monetization, tracking data from the game and analyzing it, educating me on the many, many, MANY ad networks out there,  and gave me contacts that finally ended up in a feature on Google Play.
  

FGL:  Any fun stories about the experience of getting featured on Google Play?

Berzerk: I have to thank you guys (FGL) for that actually.  You helped us get that feature and it got us 200k downloads in a matter of week,  thanks a lot!

During the feature,  I was in Thailand for a family trip.  I still worked 40 hours a week, but around Asia with my laptop.  On March 1st,  my wife got sick and we ended up in the Hospital (she’s fine, it was minor).  So I was alone with my three kids. In the middle of nowhere.  The day after, I received a mail saying “LACHHH YOU HAVE TO RELEASE ZOMBIDLE NOW KKTNXLOLBYE“.  I had to release the game we worked on for the past year that day, while having three kids running around.  We finally launched the game, and the day just after that, my accountant told me “Hey, you know about that money thing? Well there’s none left in the bank now.  Have fun”.
So! Wife sick, alone with three kids, in the middle of nowhere, rushing a release, while having zero money in the bank.   That’s how it went.
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We’re good now though!  Zombidle is a success, and it’s looking very good to expand the team to work on JSB and Infernax.
 
“How to present the option of watching an ads to the player is super important.”
FGL:  One of the best features of Zombidle from a user standpoint is that you’re constantly getting free boosts and gameplay rewards just for watching a single 30-second video ad.  What’s your opinion on the Rewarded Video ads that are so crucial to Zombidle’s gameplay? 
 –

Berzerk:  At first we didn’t think about rewarded videos. But we saw that it was becoming a good source of revenue for mobile games.  Since 90% of players never buy any InApp,  rewarded video is a good alternative to fund your game.

Now the key, (and I can’t stress this enough) is to make it enjoyable for the player.  Make it look like it’s part of the game.  Too often I saw mobile game with a simple “movie clapper” icon, with the text “+300 coins” aside.  It works,  but it hurt immersion.  I even saw time where it cuts the game in the middle of nowhere and go straight to an ad.  It pisses me off everytime.
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We wanted to have something that was embedded to the game’s universe. At that point I remembered an interview with Jason Rohrer.
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The guy made a game where you actually NEED to spend money to play one session.  Kinda like poker,  you have to bet a certain amount of money to even starts.  Now what he did is brilliant.  He changed the theme of its game to be “satanic”,  like an underground illegal evil game you should not be playing if you want to keep your soul. By setting that theme, it explain to the player that it’s normal that you have to pay,  the game’s a freaking pact with the devil. The player knows what he’s getting into, and accepts the challenge.
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So my point is, rewarded videos is the same. How to present the option of watching an ads to the player is super important.  It CAN be part of the game, and not hurt the immersion.  That’s how we ended up with “Devil’s deal”.  It’s popular knowledge that you are losing something when you do a deal with the devil,  so the player already know what he’s getting into.
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Second, it’s always optional.  If you don’t want it, don’t do it.  You won’t be penalized if you don’t do it.
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FGL:  Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today.  Do you have anyone you want to thank, shout-outs, or any projects to promote before we wrap up?
 
Berzerk: FGL of course! Thanks for helping us with Zombidle. It’s making us one step closer to making console games like we always dreamed of!

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You can download Zombidle and play the new update now on Google Play and the App Store:

Get it on Google Play

Get it on the App Store

 

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