Aug 022013

Starlink has recently participated in the Free App of the Day promotion on the Amazon App Store. Before joining the promotion I did my research, and saw that there was some controversy about it, but I went for it anyway. Two weeks later, I am happy to share the results.

With Starlink being a rather obscure strategy game released with zero marketing a few months ago, its playerbase has been expectedly small: of the 2500 players before the promotion, around 80% were pirates who got it for free. Number of daily players was around 100 — which  was actually a fairly high percentage, all things considered. The sales died down quickly after the release. I think the “best” day earned around $65 in sales, but the average daily income since release has been around $10 — a rather sad amount. Nonetheless, factoring the fact that Starlink is a first game I’ve released on the mobile platforms, and that an average first-time release is only expected to earn around $500 during its lifetime, Starlink’s ~$1400 lifetime income was actually already ahead of the curve.

Enter the Amazon’s Free App of the Day promotion. The process was started by Amazon themselves who got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested — I said of course. After some emails back and forth, the date was assigned: July 19th — a Friday. Perfect for a game!

On that day, over 102,000 players have downloaded the game. North american rating of the game averaged at 3.5/5, with the majority being along the lines of “I don’t get it”, complaining about the sparse tutorial and the game being too difficult even on the beginner difficulty. Curiously enough, Japanese players rated the game 4.5/5.0 (over 7500 downloads). Apparently Japanese players had an easier time understanding an English-language game than native English speakers!

After the promotion I wanted to wait two weeks to see the effect the promotion would have on the sales of the game on all of the platforms it was available on. Now, keep in mind. I myself did nothing. I didn’t say the app would be promoted, didn’t release any news about it, no new videos, nothing! I wanted to see the raw effect the promotion would have. Some of you may go “wtf” at this, but keep in mind — Starlink for me is, and always has been — an experiment. My goal has never been to make it the next Angry Birds, but to experiment with the different platforms, methods of monetization, cross-promotion, etc.

So here is the raw effect of the promotion. Before the 19th, the statistics looked like this:

  • Amazon sales: 3 units per week
  • Google sales: 5 unit per day
  • iOS sales: 1 unit per day
  • Daily players: ~100

Two weeks later, the statistics seem a lot healthier:

  • Amazon sales: 34.5 units per day (almost 8000% increase)
  • Google sales: 22 per day (340% increase)
  • iOS sales: 10.2 per day (920% increase)
  • Daily players: 2041 (almost 2000% increase at exactly 2 weeks after promotion)

Total estimated income for the 2 week period immediately following the promotion: $1385, or almost the same amount of money they game has earned in the 3 months leading up to the promotion.

  • $646 from Amazon
  • $464 from Google
  • $186 from iOS
  • $69 from Desura
  • $20 from PayPal

So the obvious question is — from my point of view, was the promotion worth it?

And the answer is a resounding “Yes“! And if you are an indie dev who’s considering participating in the Amazon’s Free App of the Day, here’s a small suggestion for you: don’t concern yourself with the players who will obtain your game for free. Instead, think of all the players that will follow and will buy your game based on the attention it will receive and the word-of-mouth talk that will follow.

Or in other words, think of it as free marketing done right.

Thanks, Amazon!

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