During the period of 2012 – 2014 I developed a small word puzzle game called Werdz Movies. Not only was this my first attempt at developing and releasing a game for mobile devices but also the first game that I had made using the Unity 3D engine. I had a lot of challenges to overcome in terms of development, focus and organisation (as life tends to get in the way sometimes). Nevertheless, I prevailed and I’m keen to share my experience no matter how small in the hopes that it will help others make better and more profitable games.
Design Phases Before Development
Before you begin development you should ensure you know all aspects of your project inside and out. Questions like “how are you going to monetise the app?”, “what business model are you applying to your project?”, “what is the colour of the buttons when they are inactive?” should be answered clearly, without hesitation and concisely.
But as the world of mobile moves so quickly and you want to make sure your great app idea is out before it’s old you may feel the need to release it prematurely. Try and resist this urge. Knowing the correct amount of time to spend designing your project before you launch it is a skill that is developed over time. But with practice you’ll get it. So for those beginning their app development journey, here’s a short list of things to think about when entering the design phase of your project.
What mechanics have you put in place to make sure that, once they have downloaded, opened and had their first session with your product, your users come back every day, week, month or year and become less likely to abandon and uninstall the app.
Business Model for project
You’re most likely entering this field because you see the potential to create and grow a sustainable business. Businesses make money, so how will you make yours?
There are a number of monetisation methods that can be used in mobile apps to generate revenue. Not all are suitable for every project so you’ll have to evaluate which is best for yours. Some of the types available are:
Ads – These can be banners, interstitials (full screen) or videos (either incentivised or earn per view). There are a wide variety of very easy to implement ad networks like AdMob, RevMob and Chartboost available for free.
In-App Purchases – Selling in-app content and virtual goods. The items can be cosmetic or those which the user can use while they progress through your app.
In-App Currency – Users purchase in-game currency using real world money. They are then able to use this within the app to purchase in-app content.
An important point to note is that your monetisation methods should always be considered and nailed down during your design phase and not tacked on at the last minute after the product had been developed.
Good monetisation methods in products should fit in seamlessly to and compliment the gameplay. Once you’ve decided what methods to use you need to figure out how to make these attractive to users so that they commit to using or buying them.
You can use an analytics tool integrated into your app to provide you with a greater insight into what’s working and what can be changed.
This is another stage that’s commonly skipped as it’s deemed as boring. Many just want to jump straight into development but documenting your design is very important as it gives you something physical and concrete to work from when your ideas run wild and free during the development phase. It’s greatest benefit is that it can help avoid, reduce or even eliminate feature creep and helps to define the project scope and schedule.
What I learned
During Werdz, although I did think about monetization, I didn’t implement it or analytics quickly enough. So by the time I had gained the majority of my downloads a lot of players had dropped out. Although the framework is there, I still haven’t plugged in the functionality to purchase in-app items. So I sort of feel that I’ve missed my chance here with this product but you never know. With the release of iOS 8 I could add in the ability to purchase in-app goods, resubmit my app, gain a lot more users and successfully monetise them. Only time will tell.
I also admit that I plugged in the ads too late. I think I put this off because I thought it would be too difficult and let life get in the way. Once it was done, I realised how much time I had wasted procrastinating. Lesson learned!
Lastly, I began documenting the project really well but I didn’t keep it up. The project was initially designed too big for only me to develop so I scaled back to an MVP which altered a lot of design. Unfortunately, I never kept on top of documenting these changes until the end. Next time I’ll evaluate the scale of the project more wisely.
- Begin with a realistically sized MVP so that documentation is easy to upkeep
- Know the what mechanics are you utilising to retain your users
- Be clear on how are you monetising your app
Learning with Werdz is a series of short posts that I am writing to help share the knowledge that I have gained while developing my first title Werdz Movies. Read all of the previous posts in the series.