In this exciting DevDialouge, we talk to the developers behind the extremely popular Banana Kong game. The App has been downloaded thousands of times and the ratings on the App Store clearly reflect its level of success. Every App’s success story and formula is different, so via this interview, we take a behind the scenes look at how the developer managed to take the App from zero to so many downloads in a day
1. How did you conceive the idea for the App?
This is something that differs from game to game. For Banana Kong, Thomas someday had the idea at home and told us about it the next day at work. We then all started thinking about it, about features, about what the game could be like, etc… The first ideas went in a different direction than what the game is like now. It was still an endless game, but not the same way it is now. It’s always fascinating how a game changes from the first idea until the moment it’s released.
2. Do you think Apple’s offerings for developers for developing Apps is good? Are there any changes required?
The App Store is definitely the best ecosystem out there and the revenues generated there are speaking for themselves.
I often hear people complaining about Apple’s (or Google Play as well as many others) 30% cut, but that’s something I can’t agree with them. There’s a lot of infrastructure behind such a store. From hosting the apps to taking care of the billing and managing the content, there are so many things Apple is getting done for developers. So there’s nothing to complain about.
For instance, by 2008, before there was the App Store, we’ve been paid out between 1€ and 2€ per download (or even less) for our Java games. Unlike nowadays, the games were priced at 4€ to 5€ and much less downloads were made. Our share of the retail price was somewhere around 20% for most of our distribution channels. Sadly enough, it was common practice that developers and publishers received less than 50% of the retail price. A big thanks to Apple that this has changed!
As the apps and gaming industries are very fast paced, store operators will always need to adapt to changes. And they’re always improving their stores.
3. What is your marketing strategy? What marketing techniques do you use to promote your App in this heavily competitive application space?
That totally depends on the game. I can’t reveal any details or strategies, but it all starts with the game itself. You need to make sure that the game is polished as much as possible, that it makes really fun and that it’s nothing that has already been there a million times before. There’s really no point in making an Angry Birds clone today and thinking you can ride Rovio’s wave of success. You will just upset many people. So, be creative! That’s the most important advise. It applies to your product, as well as to the marketing part.
This is also one of the reasons other developers want to work together with us. We help them polish their game, give them valuable feedback, fresh ideas or even turn the game into something completely different. After the release we do our best to drive as much attention towards the game as possible and to improve the game with updates.
4. Can you describe your “Eureka” moment while developing the App?
There’s probably more than one “Eureka” moment in every project. The first one is definitely the moment the idea comes into your mind. Having a great idea can be a feeling that’s just as amazing as a bungie jump. At some point in development you also run into dead ends or situations where you notice that the game is not making as much fun as you think it could be. You then start trying and thinking, until suddenly there’s this little tweak that makes the game totaly cool and addicting, better than ever before.
5. How did you come to decide the price that you would be charging users to purchase your App?
We have a pretty straight forward pricing policy. iPhone games and most universal apps are 0.99$, iPad versions are 1.99$/2.99$. Higher price points are an exception that are only for bigger games, such as Across Age.
We also have free to play games in our portfolio, such as Slide Circus on iOS or Blosics HD on Android. So, again, this depends on the game and the strategy behind the monetization.
When I look at our releases this year, it’s a mix of all the mentioned. We will be releasing a couple of free to play games, premium games and 0.99$ games
6. What gave you the kick to convert your idea into reality? What kept you awake all night long?
A bit after Thomas had the idea for Banana Kong, Gamaga contacted us and pitched us a game. They’re very skilled, the game was well done and we liked the art style a lot. But we had our doubts if the gameplay could be brought to touchscreens in an enjoyable way (they showed us a beta version in flash). We then started thinking about putting the idea of Banana Kong into reality with the guys from Gamaga. We told them, they were excited about it and we soon started working together on the project.
7. Your thoughts on paid marketing? Paid ads, reviews, sponsorship and more. What made your App’s marketing plan successful?
First of all, we don’t pay for reviews. We don’t do it on the App Store and we don’t do it in the press. We see more and more sites asking for money to do a game review or to speed up the review process “post it within 7 working days”. This is no serious press. I strongly encourage every fellow developer and publisher NOT to pay for press reviews.
Ads, banners and sponsorships on websites aren’t really about driving the sales of an app, it’s more about creating awareness for a game. You can’t translate an ad on a certain page into download numbers. But the more often people see your IP, the more likely it is they’ll eventualy download it when they browse the stores.
Ads in games are a good way to push your download numbers, but it’s not as easy as it sounds and it doesn’t work well with every game.