The Fatman in Space Challenge wrapped up this past Tuesday. The contest ran for 26 days and there were 117 downloads during that span. There were 3 prize winners: all 3 earned the $100 prize, and 2 of those went on to get the $300 prize. Congratulations to those winners!
Overall, I learned a ton and got great feedback. It was a great experience and I am happy I did it, so in that regard it was a success.
In terms of marketing the game and making a profit though, it was not too successful. The ad revenue was a paltry $7.62, and zero people paid the $1 to remove ads. You need a lot of users to get decent revenue from mobile ads -- this revenue came from 2467 interstitial impressions and 80 clicks. However, most of the ads were served to a small subset of users so I wonder if that factors in to the revenue calculations.
Obviously, the contest was not monetarily profitable. On top of giving out the prizes, I also paid to advertise the contest. Looking at advertising cost, the cost per new install was a bit lower than if I just straight-up advertised the game, but the revenue per user was still practically nothing. So if you just look at net profit for this contest, I would have been better off spending all the money on paid advertising.
But I learned so much about what things work well in the game and what needs improvement. I got experience running and detailing a complete contest and now have a better understanding of what's needed to create a successful mobile game. It was also just very interesting to follow the progress of players and see how this contest affected playing time.
The most encouraging thing is that I still think there is a market for this game, and I have a better idea of what that market is. The prize winners, who invested many hours in this game (a minimum of 15 hours each), all seemed to enjoy the game. They gave some really nice feedback. There are certainly improvements to be made though. I think it will be worth implementing some changes to make the game appeal to a wider audience and grab the attention of that audience stronger and sooner.
Before the contest, the drop-off rate was quite significant -- many users did not even complete the first level, and fewer completed the second, and so on. Only 7 completed the fifth level (Laser Temple), which I consider the point in the game where you really start to get a feel for the controls and figure out if you like it or not.
I was hoping that this contest would encourage people to invest more time. But interestingly, it hardly made a difference to the majority of players. I think a large part of that is the difficulty and the uniqueness of the controls. The game does not fit in with the typical expectations people have for mobile games.
It makes sense why so many mobile games follow similar formats -- that's what works! The time people will devote to a new, unfamiliar mobile game is very short. Especially when the game comes from an unknown developer and the game is not strongly vouched for.
I wonder how much more the prize money would have to be to notice a significant increase in the investment of players. Based off of this contest, I am reluctant to think it would be worth it, and I wouldn't have enough money to try so anyways.
And I think that's the core issue with making a game like this successful. I shouldn't have to pay you to invest time in my game.
Maybe if the game was made by a well-known developer, it could be successful as-is. But I currently don't have that luxury.
The attention-span for a new mobile game is very fleeting. A successful game needs to latch on to your attention right away and hold on tight. Which reminds me, I think I need to go on a walk now to catch some Pokemon.