Why the monetization in Zuki’s Quest has failed
today we want to write about why we are going to change our monetization model for Zuki’s Quest from free with iAp to paid.
Zuki’s Quest was release on the 20th of November and has been out in the wild for about 2 weeks now. With Apple giving us a tremendous amount of love in form of an almost world wide featuring (best new Game #13 in US and 122 countries + a small banner in games) for the first week, followed by a second week of massive featuring, we could reach top #20 in Puzzle games for the iPhone within a few days. Several posts on big Blogs like PockerGamer, 148Apps or Appadvice brought us additional attention.
Until today Zuki’s Quest was downloaded 103.000 times with 32.000 downloads from China (31%), 22.000 dls from the US (22%), 6.000 from Russia (6%), 5.000 from Thailand and Brazil (each 5%), 2.000 from Mexico (2%) and the rest of the 29% of downloads came from about 100 other countries.
These are very good numbers for an unknown studio that has put $22 dollars in Marketing with using the excellent PR service of PrMac. But even high download numbers don’t guarantee a financial success!
With these ca. 100.000 dls we made a whooping $162 in total. In other words form 100.000 people playing or at least downloading the game 127 in App Purchases were tracked by Apple, which means that 0.13% of our user base as paid something inside the App. Don’t get us wrong: We are thankful for those purchases and we hope that you enjoy our game, but to build a sustainable business this won’t get us very far as an indie studio.
Our idea was to give away the first 24 Levels for free and having the option to buy additional content (a single temple with 24 levels for $0.99 or all temples + the updates for $2.99) with iAp. But with us beeing too nice almost no one feels the urge to buy additional content. Additionally the game gets very hard after level 17 and people seem to drop out at this point very quickly. Balancing is an additional issue why people never feel the need to buy more content. Also we obviously didn’t do a good job on promoting the content of the later levels. Every temple has it’s own unique mechanics and is different form the one before, but we never showcase that in any way. Without being aggressive enough on selling the game at almost every moment you play the free version, it will get very difficult to get any purchases at all. It seems that our free with paid content model simply failed and is not a valuable way of selling a puzzle game with finite content.
So what should we do now?
We have two options: 1. keeping the App free adding more monetization mechanics such as timers, ads and more aggressive advertising of later content, 2. converting the App from free to paid and making later content easier to access so that users don’t get frustrated by the steep difficulty curve.
After some thinking about the two options we decided on the second one. Pushing more “classical” f2p mechanics in a game that has no f2p game design or gameplay core is simply not worth it and would take a lot of time and analysis to make it right and even then theres no guarantee that people will buy the game. Additionally with f2p you need a huge user base which is almost only achievable with a big marketing budget that we don’t have.
Our next updated is already through the review and is waiting for us to hit the button. So what will happen to all our existing users who have a) not bought the app or b) have bought something. Well those who haven’t bought the app will get the full app for free now. The ones who have bought something will not recognize that something has change. We know that there is a possibility that we will spoil our users that have paid, but luckily 0.13% is a “collateral damage” that is manageable. We see those 100.000 free users who can now play our full App as marketing and maybe they will tell their friends about it and we can get a sale from them. With Christmas around the corner the chances for some paid downloads aren’t too bad and there will be an option for a quick sale event too.
Zuki’s Quest will cost $1.99 from now on!
And one last thing: We are about to release Zuki’s Quest for Android! So finally the ones of you who haven’t had the pleasure to play our game on iOS will have the chance very sooooooooon!
Hopefully this post will give you some ideas on how hard it can be. You have to have a great game design and wonderful art, but also a viably business strategy, to get at least 1 or 2 people to pay for your game.