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Fantasy RPGs, the Holy Grail of game dev, and how to promote them the new old way.

Some say RPGs, especially fantasy or dystopian, are the Holy Grail of mobile game development. First honorable heirs to desktop/online (MMORPG) games, then additions and rivals to the late, they have become an integral part of the same big-budget industry of happiness. We have heard that regardless of the fact that you can create an acid-visuals/addictive/simple as hell hypercasual gizmo and rest on your banknotes laurels, making an RPG is a matter of honor. Whether we do not know what metaphor suits it most – a crusade? A seppuku?


Anyway, if you have somehow participated in the process, you must know why in the first place, and we are here to answer the more earthly question:

How do you promote an RPG? What if it’s a fantasy RPG?

We both remember that you need not only new players but also the paying ones, assuming that you were wise enough to choose freemium or fixed price monetization models. After all, it’s too expensive an occupation to be altruistic. So, where do we start? (hint: if you’re bored of the regular advice stuff or just want to minimize your reading jump to the bottom where we share our real media buying expert tips based on a recent real case)


Start from the basics: know that what you offer is a good choice and be ready to explain why. We’re going to drop the commonplace usability, design, call to action and incentive stuff because there’s plenty of recommendations of the sort on the Internet. 


Only a quick reminder: people who are prone to play fantasy anything,(well. mostly)  love a good and engaging story to let them escape the grey reality for a while and impersonate something noble and mightly (or vile and mighty, if that’s the antipode of the real-life personality). Tell that story!  Books did not (and still do not) have the moving images and 3d graphics to engage the audience. To start the fun, promise a story!
What we mean is: we see “you’re the one to save the kingdom from eternal darkness” or “unchain the princess” (the latest does not necessarily lead to an RPG though) every once in a while. The approach still works with an unsophisticated user, but you need a different kind or promises when talking to an oldie. What’s the best way to tell tales? A text or a video. 

Find the most intriguing points in your storyline and start unwrapping them step by step. 

Why not move from good old ‘Once upon a time..’ to things that might make a player urge to discover what’s next?


A plot is impossible without a character. Find the reasons to love/hate/want to take after or want to destroy them, and you’re almost there. Making them both traditional and outstanding in some way is a heavy plus.


If you fail to speak of your own achievements (doesn’t mean you don’t have them), refer to someone else’s.

Promote your differences with respect to the tradition.
We have tried using the creatives that were references to another cult game, they worked well but only with a narrow audience.

So, here’s a list (not full, of course) of what works:

  1. Nostalgy
  2. Referring to some uncommon knowledge (geek-only or pretending to be one)
  3. Storytelling (with nuances)
  4. Being modest (in descriptions)
  5. Being excessive in descriptions, but keeping the language good
  6. Extremely beautiful visuals
  7. FOMO (like missing the chance to start early and rise higher)
  8. Influencers (surprised to see them here?)


What doesn’t work

  • things too complicated (for instance, too abstract)
  • things too creative (leave them for utilities)
  • design award winners / material design – we suppose that people have the fantasy images somewhere in their head put in store in times when material design had not been around. When we speak of the younger generations who neglect material design as well..well, maybe some inbred values are just contagious 
  • brain-teasers / anything that requires problem solving
  • humor (though we had high hopes)
  • over-traditional things like “Become a lord of the kingdom” did a relatively bad job. We knew that, we told you.


Do you have anything to add? What is your RPG success/failure story? What could make you download such game all of a sudden

How to market an app (nearly for free)?

Obviously, it’s cool when you have a dedicated team of professionals working on your app promotion 365 days a year for a stable wage or revenue share, be it a mobile marketing agency or an in-house media buying team. These are the ways we, as an agency and as pure realists, always recommend as optimal. But what if you have spent everything on development and want to find the cheapest method to promote your IOS or Android app or maybe you aspire to advertise your app for free?


Before we start, we need to mention that hundreds of thousands of downloads for free happen once in a blue moon (maybe, just a bit more often) and are a result of you suddenly having created something unique (that didn’t exist before) or your app catching the hype vibe and going viral. Other ways are hard, systematic work. 


How do you market an app, then?

App promotion, like anything on Earth, is best-started ab ovo – from the very beginning, ideally, even before you release an app.


Step one. Pre-release marketing


  1. Do general research. Check out your competitors once again, find what’s missing on the market, your unique proposition, your strengths, and weaknesses. Those will come handy when you create your first ad campaign if you ever plan to have one. If not, you still need to do ASO and plan your coming out! Keep in mind the regions you’d like to target first and plan the localizations.
  2. Do keyword research. At least, get to know the range of services to gather and analyze them, maybe subscribe for a free trial (but remember you are going to need one after the launch too). Choose your app category carefully, this will help avoid misleading the users.
  3. Define your target audience once again. There’s a nice technique for that – impersonate your average users: draw a couple of portraits, for example, a 27 y.o. blue-collar in need of a stress release or a housewife aspiring for some personality goals.
  4. Tell everyone you are making an app. Literally, you need all of your friends and colleagues to know you are making something that might be of interest to them so when the product is out, a kind of buzz is created. It’s not even marketing, it’s only natural.
  5. Also, all those people might become useful again when you need beta users. They might take notes on the UI, design, and the involvement level they felt. Ask them to check out if everything is obvious, easy to use, and fun. If it’s not, you still have time to make edits! 
  6. To support your claim, create a website for your app to look trustworthy in the first place. Maybe, you could even start a blog about the development process and the issues aligning with it. This will not only boost brand awareness even before the launch but also might bring a piece of advice/support from fellow developers. Who knows the troubles of app creators better than them?
  7. Also, if you manage to create some buzz, you can create a separate pre-launch landing page where the users can subscribe for early access. There are special platforms designed for indie and not-so-indie start-ups that can be used for gathering early access subscribers as well, for example, The Startup Pitch or Product Hunt.


The latter is a combo thing: you need a community member to publish your product and they can give you an additional shoutout. You can pitch your idea in any form you like, gather feedback, and respond to it. The platform is best used in a combination with a landing page. Discounts for your first subscribers are highly appreciated and usually work well, but there are the whole lists on how to launch there best.


  1. Plan your visuals: from branding kit to your first banners and application store images. Why not create an introductory video, either a teaser with key features and the greatest visuals of a thorough onboarding how-to longwatch.
  2. Find a famous person (i.e blogger) and see if they could give you a shoutout for early access or a free lifetime subscription if that’s applicable. We hope we don’t need to explain what an influencer can do to the product marketing in 2020. Do not focus on a specific area of so-called expertise, though if a person specializes in exactly what you do, that would be a perfect combination.
  3. Prepare for the analytics. Think of the key in-app events that might become your key performance indicators and choose a tracking/analytics system to install into your app. If you start fast, you don’t want to lose and leave unanalyzed a single install! Don’t be scared of the top solutions on the market here: they are trusted by most of the buying/agency partners and, again, if you’re keen on a DIY marketing strategy, those would work properly and be a great helping hand in your KPI analytics. Their basic plan rates are, in fact, absolutely tolerable for the complete beginners/indies.
  4. Choose your social media presence. It’s highly likely that you do not need to be everywhere, concentrate on where your target audience dwells, and why. For example, where is the place they spend most of their leisure time? Where do they read the news? What’s the medium they are most likely to share your product with their friends?
  5. After you do this, go for a content marketing strategy. We don’t state that you need blog articles two times a week for millions of downloads, people download apps from the stores, not from Google, in general. Still, why not share your thoughts/dev progress/news from now to then if that is not too hard for you? Any chance to raise awareness is appreciated. Make sure people have the opportunity to comment on what you write, maybe use a dedicated authorization platform for that, like Disqus or, if you want it open-source, Commento.
  6. Schedule the release date (pick a realistic one). This will help gather your resources and better organize the steps we have mentioned before.
  7. Find media for a [free] press release. Create a list of websites/blogs/channels that write about and review the same app categories as yours. You can either do it in bulk (good old mailouts still work..from time to time) or choose your favorite ones for a more individual approach.
  8. We’re absolutely certain that you have done a lot of thinking concerning app monetization models and the have chosen or almost chosen the one that fits your requirement, but if you haven’t – do this!


Having done all of the abovementioned, you haven’t paid a cent yet and in the same time success is almost in your pocket (well, if your app is worthy of anyone’s attention)


Steps to follow immediately after the launch


  1. That might seem obvious, but as soon as the app is out, you need the maximum number of people to know about that, so publish as many announcements via different types of media as you can, using the media lists and agreements you have reached on a pre-launch stage.
  2. Do not forget to use your own social network accounts. You have done something cool, and you want the world to know about that, so why be ashamed?
  3. Do not cease to give and collect feedback. Even if in the first two days after the release you have a bunch of issues to solve, you (or any helping hand) should respond to and save all of the users’ bug reports/concerns/recommendations/ emotional feedback, especially even if it’s outside the app stores.
  4. Revisit your app store presence. Take another round of reading ASO recommendations, look for insights from the market leaders, perform A/B tests, make additional creatives: store description and the images literally are the face of your app, so it must be perfect, to say the least.
  5. Offer incentives for the recommendations (installs, first purchases, etc).
  6. Sharing your app must be made easy. Add a share button and show it to a user every time they log out of the app or at the end of a session (but try to avoid annoying and frustrating users, if you have a gaming app, steer clear from asking for anything during the most active time, be it a hot battle or adding finishing touches to a clay pot.
  7. Collect ratings and reviews. To do so, plainly ask for them. However annoyed you might have been by the apps mumping for ratings, here’s high time you did the same – it’s the smallest thing a user can do if he or she likes the app or at least finds it useful. Get reviews at any cost!
  8. Give influencer marketing another round of attention. Ask as many people for a free mention as you can.
  9. Get ready to become an influencer yourself: if you see that your app is not an instant success (God forbid!), your Instagram or blog might still be. If you are ready to sacrifice your time and a bit of your privacy, why not?
  10. Use all opportunities to become a guest marketer/a guest influencer/ guest writer. If your general bio is of interest, you can at least participate in an AMA on some platform.
  11. Take part in social media group discussions as a developer/marketer of the app. Don’t forget about such platforms as Reddit and Quora
  12. If you manage to gain some social media subscribers, create activities to keep the audience engaged, the medium is up to you: a contest/giveaway (might be subscriptions, souvenirs or even a lunch with the creator if you are ready)
  13. Have you become ready to expand your team, the previous marketing steps will work for you, but searching for employees could also become a marketing tactic! 200 applicants are 200 area-related leads to download your app and form an opinion on it.
  14. Think of some additional value to your product. If you have a fitness app, consider writing quality content about training, healthy eating, and wellbeing, or, if you have a productivity tool, share your knowledge and tips on the matter. Any product that implies constant use and long time retention benefits from your client’s attitude and brand loyalty. Make it both useful and lovable.
  15. To add to the previous point, we suggest that you define your brand image and brand message. Make your product stand out of the crowd, easy to tell “us” from them. If you want to know more about how to do that, read our article about the brand tone of voice.
  16. Apps that do have many users have one thing in common: not only do they know how to make many people download your app, but they also know how to make them stick to your app: minimize the uninstalls and keep the retention rate high. Again, this is only done with proper user journey analytics multiplied by giving people what they want/expect from your app.
  17. Throw a party, if you are sociable enough. Those who have already turn down your low-budget PR propositions might be glad to give you a shoutout after they come back from your party happy and well-fed. Do not forget about your defined brand image here: serving unlimited bloody Marys might not be a very good idea if you run a classic meditation and mindfulness app!


Heavy artillery: Ads


  1. Even if you are still short of budget and want to exercise as many free ways of promoting your app as possible, you can try barter with a fellow startup app. Or partner with a platform that offers ads in exchange for your own ads.
  2. Facebook. No, we’re not pushing on how great a product Facebook ads, “it is known” and it’s just too obvious to be repeated. Now we just suggest that you think of it as a research tool to redefine your audience and check their reaction on your app. If you don’t have the funds for ads, spare some for the research, we are sure it is going to pay back.
  3. Classified ads (PPC) can serve that (research) purpose as well. If you have not done this before and do not want to refer to professionals, you are most likely to fail in terms of user acquisition (but we cannot say wonderful things never happen)
  4. Direct marketing. Strange to see the point in an article about the app promotion, isn’t it? Do not be confused – there is a trending opportunity to make people download your app right away using a QR code. You might have already seen some food delivery services or utilities on the streets – bus stops, commuter trains, shopping malls. If you are keen to try this but still can’t afford it you can give it a shape of guerilla marketing – just create a QR and a nice call to action, print it out and glue it anywhere it doesn’t harm anyone’s property and does not disturb the vicinity’s vibe.
  5. Okay, Google, what do I do if I have money to spend? Start with social media traffic sources, if your analytics is mature enough, you can try to refer to the dedicated self-service in-app DSPs. Again, we’d like to repeat that it is crucial to know all of your standard metrics, the average number of events, retention rate, and so on so that you could tell that something’s wrong with the traffic at once. Major analytics systems usually provide their users with all sorts of tips to define traffic quality.





Of course, not all of the options apply to a single app at the same time. Still, if you try and implement at least ⅓ of the above-stated strategy, your launch, and first steps will most likely be a decent success. When you market an app single-handedly or with a small team, every step counts, do you agree?

Did you manage to get through this long list of options? How many of them have you tried yet, and what is the outcome? Maybe, we have forgotten something crucial? 

We’d love to read your feedback!


The evolution of Lifestyle apps

It’s been a long time since you first noticed the lifestyle app category in your app store. The author of this does not remember their first encounter with the subject, only a vague thought of “what does this have to do with my lifestyle?” (Maybe it was Foursquare, you know, I go to cafes, so what?”. By this we mean: have you ever thought about this category as “miscellaneous stuff hard to categorize”? Has anything changed in this notion in the past 5 years? We’ll try to define what lifestyle means and follow the evolution of the notion.


So, let’s say the named app category (surpisingly!) has to do with your everyday life. Everything that can help you do things, from writing a diary and keeping track of things to do, to sharing your evening out bills with friends.

We have surfed through the list of the best lifestyle apps of 2015, enjoyed the epiphany of the fact that there was life in 2015, and even top store charts, and Instagram was very yesterday. Here are the most popular lifestyle apps as of 2015, gathered from various ratings not devoured by google rankings.

  1. Running apps (keep track of your routes, speed, share it with friends that have the same app). No, not the ones you would think of today, though the logic is pretty much the same.

  2. Money sending app, we’d even say “money sending as a social action”. Not connected to a specific bank (and nowadays all of the banks have their own apps). You were able to make all your transactions visible to your network. Sound weird in 2020, does it not?

  3. Restaurant recommendations (filters by pricing/rating/locations). Nothing new here as well. We would say that separate apps for reviews are now a bit obsolete with the development of maps and social neworks communities, but they still have treit market share.

  4. Tracking your expenses and income in a gamified way. It was already possible to add your bank statements and bills data automatically. 

  5. Barcode scanner with a price comparison option. Wonder why we don’t use it in 2020. Or do we?

  6. A runner game (Here’s what we were talking about. It’s not a lifestyle app!)

  7. Restaurant reservations. In 2015 it was meant for introverts or even sociopaths, nowadays not willing to talk to anyone and minimize social interactions making an app do everything for you is only natural. Especially in a post quarantine social distancing era. (we still make reservations and this inspires optimism!)

  8. a great marketplace app. The marketplace is great, not the app (though the app is obviously okay, alive and kicking in 2020 despite gaining a ton of powerful rivals in the past 5 years)

  9. Calories counter (diet/nutrition tracking service with additional services). Still topcharted. 

  10. The most famous revolutionary dating app. The most “lifestyle” app apart from fitness, sleep and calories stuff:) w


Another rating provides us with a more “hipster-mindfullness-utility” style apps.

Some of them are so the day before yesterday and we do not even realize they keep creating the same one-purpose apps sentenced to oblivion in a quarter or two. On the other hand, some of the trends were there to linger. We’ll let you guess what’s where.

Mailbox sorting app.

Link sharing app.

Recent purchase price drop tracking app. (you buy a tv and if the price drops while you’re waiting for your delivery, you can buy the discounted one and return the one you had purchased before. Tricky, but not at all useless.

Bill spiltting. 

Travel tickets (hotels as well) recommendations.

Automatic bank deposit maker. Steals some money from your debit card upon your accord, outs it into a deposit.

Meditatatiorelaxation app. 

Smart location sharing.

Sound design for dummies.

Replace your “new tab” background photo with a new gorgeous photo every time.

Running (seems that people won’t stop running digitalized since they have started)

TV shows schedule.

Turning unwanted 2-sec videos into normal photos. (we adore)

Another meditation app.

Document scanner app

Turning videos into gifs

Book reading reminders and progress trackers

Also, there was a first boom of short video services that were the separate-app predecessors of Instagram Stories.

Our fancy find: short travel note companion for journalists.


What do we see here in 2020? The same meditation, yoga apps, habit trackers and sleep utilities. Actually, many more mindfulness and psychic health apps than there were some 5 years ago. 

Fancy find: death reminder. Do not get scared too quickly, it’s just a reminder of our own mortality several times a day. Would you go shopping for a new tote or eat another pizza if you knew you would die tomorrow? That’s a tricky question, not necessarily answerable. Could certainly affect your lifestyle though!


What are the “old” apps that you still use in 2020? How many of them will become obsolete or funny in 5 years time? Are there any lifestyle changers in your smartphone?

Labor of love, or Trends in indie app development

It seems that the days when an non-gaming indie project was able to take over the stores and win the mass smartphone owner hearts are almost over. If you Google Search “best indie apps” , chances are the top articles will be dated somewhere between 2012 and 2016. How come? It is not uncommon in 2020 for a single developer to create a game and find a publisher to bring it to the top of the charts, but other verticals are not that lucky: looks like nowadays indie dev is more about crazy ideas, niche demands or altruistic utilities. Many things that were “ideas” and novelties 5 years ago, like sharing your travel experiences, collecting smartphone usage data or instant messaging in a funky way, have been included into major’s (Apple, Google, Facebook) great products or pre-installed onto the devices.

To what extent is this true? How do you know a trend when you see one? Where can you find daring initiatives? You don’t just go to the applications store and search for an app that doesn’t have many downloads. What is more, not all of the products are free: even if you don’t aspire to earn millions of dollars or are strictly non-profit, you need to fund the product maintenance, maybe a small team, eat and sleep, at the very least. 

So where does the fashion live? There is a great number of resources, forums and Facebook groups, but we need b2c tools, don’t we? That’s when sites like Producthunt.com and the independent Medium channel Hackernoon may come handy. Also, good old Kickstarter is quite representative of the trends, even though it focuses on things that have an offline incarnation.

We have surfed through those media and found some regularities in product categories.


Blockchain whatever. 

Not the new black in 2020, but still stirs the dev imagination. Besides, it help you get a well-paid remote job. We won’t mention any specific projects, many valuable initiatives get funded instantly (ICOs not dead, huh), so indies are more into amusement: decentralized gaming apps (aka dapps) are in plenty and, at the same time, are yet to gain the attention of of the mass player.


Social networks add-ons and communication tools, maybe get all of the information in one place.

Analyse your subscriptions and unsubscriptions, track your behavior, turn yourself into a data source.

Also, find your neighbors, people in the neighborhood to borrow a drill driver from, lunch company in the selected area, et cetera. 

Aggregate information: for example, a calendar app that gather insights about the people and companies you meet with. 


Productivity tools:

Though this niche is considered commercial, there are still loads of people who think they can contribute to your ultimate efficiency by creating a tool that is a slightest bit different/more comfy/meets one more demand than the ones that are present at the market.

How many pomodoro trackers do you see on picture#2?


Also, work utilities integration helpers. Products like Slack and Jira have loads of integrations with smaller or more specific products, all sorts of services, in fact, but new custom add-ons are created almost every day.  The author of this is planning to try one after they finish the text you’re reading.


Ecology utilities:

Find a recycling center (in the areas where waste sorting is not mandatory) of a place to hand your old kitchenware in), maybe a zero waste ( = no package goods, like soap or rice by weight), report non-organized dump site, measure your plastic/fuel footprint.

Those are usually free, but you are often suggested to donate to support the initiative



AI whatever generators/finders (mostly pictures, though)/

Make your drawn cat a more realistic one, recognize drawn concepts, create a song of the kind, turn your selfie into a portrait by Munch.

Also, all kind of shopping assistants: this trend we expect to be followed by majors, but for there’s no significant leader at the market.


Developers’ tools:

No one expects you to write code from your iPhone (doesn’t mean one never does this), but why not build something, a prototype, maybe, using a no-code constructor?

 

Mindfulness and meditation. Also, mental health and personal growth. 

When you need to stimulate positive life changes, why not try a dozen apps instead of leaving a pile of money to a psychologist. (irony aside, this is not a piece of advice, if you believe you have real medical issues, refer to a doctor in the first place). 

The latest trend is COVID-specific stress management tools. Would you use one yourself?


Fun/random offline stuff to get.

Silicon Valley style: why not get yourself a random lunch at a random time from places within 10 miles radius? Maybe, a casual clothes kit every month? Maybe, all of the mentioned in one app?



Would you yourself create an app for the fun of it (if you could)? Do you have any DIY apps installed on your smartphone?

A portrait of a gamer as a young man

There is plenty of stereotypes about regular PC gamers: their age, what they look like and what they eat for breakfast (btw, what?). When it comes to mobile gaming, it’s not that obvious. The response for “How would you describe a typical [mobile gamer”] will depend on the type of games they prefer. There are several genres based on “what they do in the game”, which are as follows:

Action

Adventure

Arcade

Battle Royale

Casual

Card

Role-Playing 

MOBA – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena

Puzzle

Racing

Strategy

Sports

Trivia

Word

Or, as an option, hardcore, midcore and casual/hypercasual (based on involvement level), and iit’s still not “hardcore gamers are men 18-25 and hypercasual is chosen by elderly women. The truth is somewhere in between, and gamers are now more often called players. Hardcore/midcore -70% male and 30% female, hypercasual is 50/50, ultracasuals – 57% female, 43% male. There are some age differences between the genres and involvement types, but mostly everything is played by everyone (no, we didn’t start the article to say that!). Unexpectedly, 51% of all mobile gamers are female, and of all the people regarded as “enthusiast players” 46% are women. 43% of women and a smaller 43% of men play more than 5 times a week. The average age of all of those is 36.3, we see that the audience slowly grows older – it used to be 27.7 in 2014, wish we could have a chance to know whether they are the same people who just aged accordingly or it’s the influence of a completely fresh audience who gave their devices a wider range of applications.

It’s safer and more engaging we compare some hume mobile gaming regions regions and try to understand if there are any fundamental audience differences. Let’s take a look at one of the hottest markets – the United States. 44.4 % of all mobile device users play games, 33.6 of them still are 25-34 years old. 

Of all the games played in the US 15% are paid (compared to the world average 5%), which proves the stereotype of the US as a paying market (also, the in-app purchases monetization games percentage is also higher). 

The top earning genres are casual games (puzzles, for instance), social casinos and strategies. 

One of the US-specific specialties is social playing. More than 40% of the recent poll respondents stated that they would prefer p2p games to play with their friends/relatives/partners. When do they play and what for?
51 % plays to relax after work/school (and 26% play during the breaks, at lunch, etc)l, almost the same number (46%) plays to pass the time waiting for something. 


How does this compare to China, a rapidly growing and undoubtedly huge market?
The overall number of gamers is said to be something less than 700 million people and heavily dominated by midcore games (156 of top 200 games by revenue, 123 of which are RPGs). The 2 “smaller” genres are casual (26, imagine this!) and sports/racing. Take into account that, despite the “games” genres’ shares, China is the biggest eSports country in the world.


The popularity of mobile games is higher than in some Western countries due to later introduction of PCs to the mass buyer in China  and therefore smaller “PC legacy” compared to Western countries, and also due to bans on console gaming and licensing issues. By the way, some older Chinese PC games were adapted to mobile successfully. 


Regarding the genre and style, 10% of top 100 games are “Japanese” (style or origin). In general, the market is dominated by local publishers (Tencent/NetEase), because cultural and language localizations matter!


Women in China have a large (almost 50%) players share, not only because of “girl-oriented” games being widely spread: female gamers enjoy include violence and aggression, though the hard- and midcore genres are still dominated by men. 


Also, there’s a common derivation that China has the most “addicted” audience.


Russia’s the sixth market in the world by gaming spend and is growing rapidly despite being very far from China (1st place) in terms of revenue. The market is almost genderly equal (52% men, 48% women), though women have a greater number of sessions and men are more frequent payers, and the most paying segment is aged 25-34. The number of female players continues growing, as it is on mature markets. Even though Russian dev market has a decent number of worldwide famous publishers, the top games store charts are not dominated by local products – and it’s nothing compared to China. Mobile games audience is generally younger than the desktop one – ⅓ of all PC gamers is 45 or older, and the number of students is slightly higher for mobile devices, though the unemployed/retired audience rate is also higher for mobile (maybe due to the fact that it mobile games require cheaper devices and this tendency seems to linger). Fun fact #1: according to the poll, apart from “fun/entertainment/brain exercise” ,they name “making myself age slower” the 4th top reason for playing mobile games. As if playing was nothing but laughter!

Fun fact #2: people who know a thing about Russian attitude to licensing/jailbreaks would think it impacts the revenue volumes (making them significantly lower), but it’s not true, or at least the revenue is absolutely relevant to the overall number of players – they still are not willing to pay for the music, but apps are somehow different! The average in-app purchase is lower in 2020 than it was in 2019 and 2018, but the totals still look good. Please keep in mind that that those revenues are generated by those 8% who prefer to pay for something in-game instead of watching ads!






Do you feel that those facts are close to reality? Is there anything you would add to the portraits? Are you an occasional player yourself?

Will hypercasual games be dead?

If you are a passionate mobile gamer, you think ‘they are loads of them, why would they be dead?’. Or, if you are an indie developer, you [might] think ‘there are loads of them, why would anyone make another one?’

In fact, that is a bit more complicated. Adjust (and they know for sure) report stated that the number of installs doubled in Q1 2020 with a clear influx of first-time users, and the sesion increased by 72%. You can blame the COVID-19 lockdown, but it could be other genres had the user got tired of hypercasual. Does it mean they’re not? Let us first take a look at the definition of hypercasual games. Strictly speaking, it can’t be called a separate genre, more like a set of features. But what are they? Well, we’ve sent a funny report that named those 4 apocalyptic horsemen:  snackable, youtubable, satisfying and forgiving, but we also believe there’s more to it:



  1. Minimalistic design and gameplay

  2. You tap to play, and you usually need only one hand to do so (so that you may play anywhere and anytime, for example, while using public transport). Roughly, the first two are “snackable”

  3. There’s sound but it doesn’t contribute to gameplay much and you can mute it without sacrificing the efficiency or even the vibe of the game

  4. Straightforward gameplay. Here every second counts. However hard it might be to show the best result, the way of getting there must become pretty clear in the beginning. If a player doesn’t understand the mechanics in the first few seconds, you’ve lost them. The “round”/level time is also short to activate a fast “effort – positive reward” cycle. That stands for “youtubable

  5. Suitable for non-gamers. No previous experience needed.

  6. Slightly (or very much familiar) gameplay. First thing – players’ onboarding goes more smoothly when they see something they already know. You don’t question yourself when you see a pictogram of a man and a woman separated by a line in a square box (weird as it seems in writing, it’s an elevator), because those things are part of modern world, as well as the knowledge of what to do with the lines of the balls of the same color.  Besides, it’s pretty hard to invent anything new in hypercasual, you know this if you have ever tried.

  7. Addictive. Basically, every self-respecting game aims at being addictive, but here they use different tricks to make the user almost succeed and want to play one more round, feel that you’re almost there, close to a casino effect. The author of this has tried some top games of the genre and noticed that they try to fail your expectations, for example, you want to finish the session in a nice way, get a moderately good result or get lucky to get a new setting or reach a new level before you go, but they seem to stop you. That’s satisfying (well, as long as you’re able to reach the level) and also forgiving, since you can’t fail epically if your round lasts two minutes and it’s possible to replay and repay for anything after watching a 5-second ad.

  8. Small size. Required for being fast to download (and try), also makes them appealing to those who have limited phone space.

  9. Genderly neutral design

  10. Free to play (with loads of ads, you can’t throw the words out of a song)
     

  11. So, is there any sense in making that kind of game?

Let’s see. First of all, many clones, already said hard to make something “completely different”.The user acquisition costs dropped slightly and are pretty low on the market, but the makers and publishers strive to reach a decent ARPU. Again, according to the report, the average ARPU is 0.13, and the top 25% of the games make $0.23 per user. The low end generated only 0.07 for player. Does that sound appealing for you? There’s rule that the more popular your game is, the higher is your ad revenue, so if you don’t aspire to be in the top store charts, chances are you’ll need to earn from in-app purchases. 

Even this you can’t do without marketing investment and huge user acquisition campaigns. Today you need a pro buying team to grab your piece of audience cake, which only the majors can afford and not everyone of them even succeed. A month is usually enough to know if a game succeeds. No one improves a game of gives it a second chance after it proved low-profitable.They’d rather ask you to develop a new one in 2-3 months, this you need to be ready for.

We have some market insights telling us this type of games has enough time to earn so far, but in 2 or 3 years we’ll see a steady decline in the profits and, accordingly, in the number of new projects.

Do you have any hypercasual guilty pleasures, or do you not even feel guilty? Have you ever thought of making such games?

How do I increase the number of in-app purchases?

You’re all settled up, your app is alive and kicking, bringing regular income and the feeling of stability that allows you to focus on growth rather than rush and stress on the executive board meeting. Congratulations, you have a short timeout before they have new super-ambitious goals  for the next quarter. Have a sigh of relief before you think of anything else. Ready?

We are 99% sure one of your next goals is revenue growth, and if your monetization model is based on in-app purchases, you’ll have to raise those metrics.


There is a lot of insider info on the point on the Internet, but only a few of the articles point out that there are two approaches or working areas: the first is all about what’s inside your app and the second one is “the rest of the world”, be it your website, PR and media activities or your price policy. We’re going to walk through both approaches and name the core points that you cannot miss (though you’ll maybe need to save some improvements for the quarter-after-next-quarter for a guaranteed picture of stable quarterly growth)


So, in-app stuff to make your users buy more with greater pleasure.

  1. First and NOT (never!) least. Whether you own a game or an eCommerce project, your checkout process must be easy, short and crystal clear. All three points matter equally, you don’t choose only one (unless, of course, you want a one-third improvement instead of full). How do you make the checkout nice and easy?
    a) make the guest mode available (“no sms and registration” isn’t a meme for nothing)

b) make the payment obviously safe (we don’t discuss that the transactions must be safe by default, but the developer’s of-course-they’re-secure approach might result in users being not so sure about the fact. A general piece of advice: if you have anything good in your product, don’t hesitate to demonstrate it. No, this doesn’t refer to your code, however beautiful it is. 

c) provide security for both financial stuff and personal information. Asking only for data you really need is not just good manners, but GDPR compliance. Surprised? If you have a web version, no one can deprive you of a profile zone for the volunteers to fill in anything they want and feed your customer database.

c) a friendly mobile web interface might become terrific in an app, so it’s preferable to redesign the checkout logic from scratch

d) don’t stop them now: show how many checkout steps there is left (we hope it’s not page 2 out of 11)

  1. You use push notifications to communicate with your audience when they’re on the phone but outside the app. A nice trick: you can send as many pushes as you want to as long as they contain valuable information. Never send a “hey,it’s been a while, why don’t you come over?” without  sale, promo, special offer information. By the way, an update is news too so it’s a way to make people curious too. Again, don’t report a bugfix (unless it has been a catastrophe), report a completely new and smooth checkout process.

  2. Use the information you have wisely and make your offer customized and dynamically changing (the best way to send them is still pushes) Birthday discounts are so relic (doesn’t mean they don’t work), but checking the device location might be a good idea.

  3. Many instructions forget about this, and we don’t. Eliminate all purchase bugs. Destroy them. Hire 2 more testers. Make failures impossible, or, at least, calm a user down and show a pop up screen notifying the database record is there for them and everything’s alright. There’s no frustration like paying real money for a virtual (virtual so far) thing with a payment being interrupted and without knowing whether those guys tracked the transaction or it’s lost forever. We mean it. 

So, as we can see, the in-app purchases are pretty much all about making the interface and processes as simple as they could be, but what about the things outside users’ phones?

If everything is already nice and easy, you need to think of what makes people want to buy things in general or enjoy their shopping more than usual. 

  1. Being rewarded for what you do is a good motivation. Offer them a loyalty program – whatever suits your business best, if you are an eCommerce product. Otherwise, think of offering extra bonuses for those who follow some in-app purchases rules: for example, buy three in-game items of the same time in a row. Make them unique, unavailable for other types of players. Also, if you think some reward points are unreachable (who would buy those magic crystals packs 1000 times if the average player buys 5?), think twice;)

  2. The next point which is closely related to the previous one: affiliate program. As we have seen recently with Zynn, it works well for user acquisition, but it also stimulates 

  3. Do not neglect e-mail marketing and remarketing. Being omnichannel increases your chances to be visible and merely grabbing the user’s attention is half the battle these days. Usually you don’t have a chance to “personify” your brand in an app, but if we deal with a good old email (letter), it’s a great chance to make the communication personal (initiated by a person, not just customized). A fast food chain had a boost in their in-app purchases by creating an imaginary person who needed their help or attention. This person started as a joke that appeared in their mailout almost by mistake, but the open rate and the overall effect was so impressive they made it their schtick, and the “person” became a local meme.

  4. Don’t let your customers get bored. Think of different discounts, offers and activities every week, and don’t forget to A/B test and memorize the most efficient types of promotion.

  5. Be creative, active and caring (about your users). If an approach doesn’t work, change it. If you follow those steps and do not see an improvement in your sales, maybe, it’s the product or the goods (offer) that need to be improved in the first place?:)


Do you know any other tricks? DM us, and we won’t tell anyone your little secrets, we’d rather give you a couple of statements on how to boost your app revenue that have been left offscreen:)

Will Zynn take over TikTok any time soon?

zynn and tiktok

Did you notice that for the past couple of days your newsfeed was filled with mentions of Zynn — an app that has topped the App Store charts and has overcome TikTok (as well as Instagram and Snapchat) by daily downloads?

We have been following them for some time now, and now we’re about to answer the one burning question: will Zynn overcome it’s young but already renowned rival any time in the near future?

Before we start, a short intro to the matter. A word dropped from a song makes it all wrong: Zynn is a full app clone of TikTok, even the interface logic (up to the button size) is the same. For those who are less familiar with the second, it’s home for short videos organized in a hypnotic way and a paradize for content creators used to be associated with Gen Z and their peculiar ways.

Zynn didn’t just come out of thin air, it is a product of Kuaishou who breathe down Douyin’s (=the Chinese creators of T) neck for quite a long-time. They are said to have brought the 2 billion dollars investment from Tencent (another to finally overcome the rivals both in China and in the rest of the world.

Now they decided to start with a hot piece of the pie — the US and Canada, and introduced a massive system of rewards — merely for registering, for watching, for inviting to use the app as many friends as you can, and there’re dollars, not cents. It seems pretty expensive, but who cares as long as their income overtops it? [no insider info, just pure logic]

So are there any chances? Let’s listen to Adsbalance experts.

Artem B, TikTok&Snapchat buying team lead:

“Absolutely no chances in the mid-term. The copycat business model never works this soon [unless there’s a giant gap between the looks of the product and the operation management talens]. The O question doesn’t contribute to the fast growth as well. As far as I know, apart from the investments, they donate their Chinese ads income to pay the American users, if you put it short.
In the longer term they might become an arch rival to TikTok and its market share, as soon as they come up with some unique functionality and work on their payback model”

Max Ivanov, head of sales (mobile apps):

“The possibility of overcoming anyone that big fast is close to zero: even is you have more that 2 billions of investments, it’s impossible to acquire or buy the relevant quantity of traffic at once.
Regarding their advertising opportunities: for now I know nothing of what exactly Zynn has to offer, but Kuaishou’s ad marketplace is in good standing and I look ahead to getting to know their new product closer, that is: to sell them” 

Katerina Rudnichenko, Business development manager

“Definitely not, I totally agree with what Max says. If they concentrate on the US though, it’s possible if they concentrate on buying big volumes and keep the platform appealing to the advertisers: there’s limited number of audiences that can be attracted to the app by incentivizing the use of it, you need other kinds of goodies. As for the ad platform, I don’t know anything yet, but I’d still be happy if we were among the first to try it”

Maria Lidvanova, partner relationships manager

“It all looks like a well-funded PR exercise for me,everybody’s talking, and it seems to work, huh? The US is a complicated (in terms of user acquisition) region, but I’d say the “overcoming” thing is entirely possible — not tomorrow, of course. In spite of my great sympathy to TikTok, they still have their cons and punch items that might be used against them, both for advertisers and end users”

As you can see, taking over a biggo takes time, and what the author of this is dying to see is the TikTok course of actions: it’s cool to be far away, but running faster and jumping higher seems a winner option. 

What do you think?

Top alternative app stores for both developers and users

Where do you download your apps? Some 5 years ago the author of this would respond: App Store. Or do you mean Google Play store? Maybe, some freaky platforms for jailbroken or rooted devices? Times do change, and now choosing your app and its source is pretty similar to shopping. If I want a regular pair of jeans, I go to the shopping mall, if I’m up to high-end selvage stuff, I might visit a local Asian vintage store, if am male and I want a pair of sexy laced something, I order the anonymous delivery to a pickpoint. Or vice versa, just because I can, and  – thank God – no one cares. 

Why should anyone ever need an alternative to most popular app stores? 

Well, the most obvious reason is: the app you need just isn’t there for you.The other might include: you want some of your downloads to be private and the great Google/Apple companies know a bit too much about your life anyway, so why not give them some rest, or you avoid their services in general (as much as you can) Or you’ll all for unrestricted and fair competition for app stores and want to support other products. Or support your fav app developer who’s been ditched by the majors for nothing. Also, keep in mind that almost 1,4 billions of people just don’t have access to Google Play, because they are Chinese. Leaping ahead, they’re not to be pitied because of that:)

Developers follow their audience and want to have the widest possible reach, so many of them try to appear on numerous platforms. Some of them just don’t fit into standards and don’t have any choice.
BTW, if you are an app developer, even a big one, we highly recommend you to consider the alternative stores if you haven’t done it yet!


Whatever your reasons may be, we are here to help you find your next downloads destination:) So what are the top IOS store alternatives?


AppValley: it’s really big and, what really matters, does not require a jailbreak. You can get loads of apps: regular – available in the original App store, exclusive – the ones that are present only there, and tweaked – regular apps with additional functionality, as well as access to some unlocked content. Also, they say it’s quite safe, but please keep in mind that the use of any alternative store is at your own risk.


TweakBox – as follows from its name, a source for tweaked (=with add-ons) apps. We don’t recommend you to download pirate content anyway, but we cannot but mention that it’s also home for hacked games. 


TutuApp – another popular IOS (as well as Android) store that doesn’t require jailbreak. 

It’s interface is quite similar to what you’re used to even though it’s Chinese!

It happens so that Apple doesn’t like some of the content available there (as well as in the other alternative stores) and keeps telling you the some apps have troubles with the certificates 


IOS stores are as common as blackberries (please vote for this calambour in the comments section) but Android stores are superabundant, and the introduction of smartphone manufaсturers’ own platforms has contributed to the fact a lot  — but let us not jump ahead.


Opera Mobile Store – millions of people still prefer Opera to other browsers on mobile devices, but that’s not the only thing they do good: the Opera app shop (don’t be scared, it’s located at bemobi-something.com, and it’s okay) is a destination for “alternative operating systems” in the first place (remember Windows Mobile and Blackberry).  Android users will find nice pickings there as well, and the fact that all applications present are double-checked and fully legal will be a nice addition for those who don’t want the so-called majors but also want everything old-school and legally transparent.


Amazon App Store  is considered to be Google Play’s greatest competitor: it gives one free paid app in each category a day, it’s (as you might supppose) 100% safe, and, as a bonus, it has a huuge list of Kindle (and Amazon TV) add-ons. Being a part of a great ecosystem of everything has its obvious cons!


SlideMe – did you know it’s older than the main Android store itself? Anyway, it’s still alive and kicking, sadly, it’s community has not been as active for the past several years, but the appealing terms offered for the developers (only 20% of all purchases is charged) make both indies and majors publish their applications here.


F-droid. We won’t be mistaken if we say that F stand for “free” here – it’s home for free and open-source software (FOSS), and the platform itself is nonprofit and is supported by users’ donations. You can either download APKs or make downloads right from the F-droid app which is recommended by the administration as a safer option. 

The selection of utilities, intellectual stuff and crazy open-source stuff is just awesome, but if you need the regular nice and easy app you’ve seen on “this and that guy’s phone” this is probably not the right destination,


APKmirrorwe didn’t tell you anything, but it has older versions of the apps! Remember this when something updates and stops working all of a sudden – a thing that happens on any Android device (probably any device in the world) regardless of price, because it’s mostly the devs to blame. Of course, it lets you download the apk file itself so consider your own risks. 


GetJar is cross-platform, big and has all the categories you’re so used to. As well as comments and a connection to Facebook, and the ability to estimate the software’s trustworthiness is an undoubtedly precious option nowadays.


Samsung Galaxy store – a kind of pioneer of “manufacturer’s” stores. Same as for Amazon, it’s not always about your cell phone (we hope you remember TVs and SmartTVs exist).


Baidu – not aspiring to think you know Chinese, we might seem strange recommending you this, but not that strange: every now and then we see someone downloading an app from Baidu because there’s some highly reasonable urge. That means you’d better check this out right now and get used to the translating, maybe explore the area — before this gets really urgent. In case you didn’t know, it’s the biggest app store for the deprived-of-Google-play part of the world, and we cannot say for sure who’s bigger tomorrow.


Also, top Chinese smartphone manufacturers – Xiaomi and Huawei (others as well) wouldn’t be themselves if they didn’t try to created their own ecosystem as a replacement for GP and looking up to Apple.  The assortments copies Google Play – the author of this wouldn’t see the difference in the selection of applications, but the manufacturers state they are 100% safe, even safer that the 1-st choice store. At least, owning a specific device and trying them won’t hurt. 



What’s your favorite alternative app store? Have you ever tried one? We’d love to hear your comments!


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