Hipster Zombies data analysis.

I hope you like numbers, cause this article will be chock full with the beasts. Not only that, there will also be graphs! I’ll be looking at the performance of Hipster Zombies over the entire lifetime. That includes, among other things, downloads and revenue for iOS, Android, Ouya and Samsung Apps.

Hipster Zombies: Numbers & Graphs

Hipster Zombies: Numbers & Graphs

Let’s start from the beginning:

Soft Launch

We decided to try our hand at one of these fancy soft launches. To that end we silently released Hipster Zombies on Google Play. The game went live on the 10th of March in Austria (as a test for Germany) and Canada (as a Test for the US). It was on for five days before we launched for real.

Here’s a look at the downloads during that time:

hz_softlaunch

As you can see there was only a single download during that time. From an Austrian account no less. To be honest, we expected a bit more downloads and attention, simply from being new in the store listing, yet that did not happen.

  • Learning 1: A silent launch without marketing is not a launch at all.

Instead of some downloads, we got something else though:

Android Piracy

Even before we released Hipster Zombies on the 15th we already had pirated APKs flying around. Obviously that was from that one Austrian, who grabbed the soft launch copy, presumably just to crack and distribute it. So pirated before release? Achievement unlocked, I guess. So we were off to a good start but how did things develop from there?

hz_android-piracy

This is a graph of all downloads on Android seperated by marketplace. The blue set are all downloads that went through the Google Play Store, the red are all those that did not have a marketplace set. From what we can see they represent the pirated copies.

Oddly enough there’s one huge spike from the 30th to the 31st of May. We have no idea where it came from but that was about 2500 downloads in a single day. We also had pretty good growth with the pirated version, probably because we were in some nice, exposed spots on the apk piracy websites.

Regardless, what you can see it that piracy makes up about 50% of our total Android downloads. Looks scary but we don’t really feel like we’ve lost much revenue there, especially since we’re a free-to-play title. If Hipster Zombies was an upfront payment app we’d probably feel different.

  • Learning 2: Don’t underestimate the speed of pirates. They could be a great multiplier to get the word out.

But where did all these pirates come from?

hz_android-piracy_source

As you can see most of them come from China. We’re assuming that part of that is because the Google Play Store is not available in China and there is simply no other way to get Hipster Zombies ;)

Total Downloads

So on to more positive things. How did we actually do in terms of legal downloads? The following graph gives an overview over the total lifetime downloads of Hipster Zombies so far. As you can see we released Android first, then iOS, OUYA and finally on Samsung Apps.

hz_downloads

The graph does not represent uninstalls but you can clearly see the launch effects. It’s a bit difficult to read from this graph but the iOS launch effect seems to be a bit more pronounced but not to hold on as long. What is evident though is that Android makes up the majority of our total user. Here’s a closer look:

hz_downloads-byappstore

  • Learning 3: There’s lots and lots of Android users.

So we had downloads, but how did people like the game?

Mobile Reviews

One of the good things on mobile platforms is the ease with which users can review and give feedback. Granted, there’s often lots of frustrating feedback but it’s nice to get a feeling for how well your game is received.

hz_review-average

So looking at the average review for the Google Play Store we end up at around 4.5 stars after a total of 160 reviews. That’s pretty satisfying to us. The 5.0 rating on iOS should be more satisfying but considering that it comes from only 5 reviews, that’s by far not representational.

  • Learning 4: The Google Play users like Hipster Zombies.

Speaking of the amount of reviews given, here’s a look at the number of reviews given per week.

hz_review-frequency

As you can see on iOS and Google Play, there’s an initial spike from friends and family. Where iOS stops completely, Google Play keeps the reviews coming consistently. Why? Well one reason is that we put in a review prompt on Android sometime in mid July. But that can’t be all of it because you can notice a clearly higher frequence of reviews before that time. Our assumption is that this is because it’s easier to write a review on the Play Store than it is in the App Store App.

And if you’re wondering why we did not put in a Review Prompt on iOS: Initially we didn’t have the plugin and when we did, we just forgot about it.

  • Learning 5: The review prompt has an effect. Just add it. Especially on iOS

Halloween Update

As we mentioned before, we’ve tried our hand at a little Halloween update earlier this year. Here’s how that panned out in a graph of the daily downloads by platform:

hz_halloween

It’s a bit difficult to read with all the noise but you can see that both Google Play and the iOS App Store didn’t really move the needle much. In fact you can even see the steady decline in Google Play downloads. However the OUYA saw a spike in downloads. We’re assuming that happened because we were featured in a few of the official Halloween communications from the OUYA team.

  • Learning 6: Seasonal updates are another chance to get featured, nothing more, nothing less.

Revenue by App Store

So after all these users, how did we actually do on the money side of things?

hz_revenue-byappstore

Considering the OUYA only makes up 5% of our users but 44.5% of our revenue, that’s a pretty good cut. If you’re wondering where Samsung is in that graph: the Samsung Apps version is not monetized, it is simply released without in-app purchases because we did not really have time to deal with their store system yet.

Revenue per Download by Product

If we look at that revenue a bit different you can see which product on which plattform brough in the most money per download. And you can also see the total money per download.

hz_revenue-byproduct

The OUYA clearly wins here, with a revenue/download just shy of 0.08€. About 5.5x the revenue/download on iOS or over 15x the revenue/download on Google Play. That was quite surprising for us but might point towards the more hardcore console and pc audiences being more willing to spend money on their entertainment.

Two additional notes though: Firstly the monetization model is also different on OUYA: Instead of selling items to accelerate the gameplay experience, we only give out the first 2 levels for free. Further levels need to be unlocked in game. Secondly the OUYA team gave out some free store credit to all backers, which happened around the time of our release. We believe that this made some people more willing to spend, among other things, on Hipster Zombies.

  • Learning 7: iOS users spend more than Android users, and OUYA users spend more than both.

Time spent

So after all these words and numbers on the performance of Hipster Zombies, how did we actually get there? Luckily we decided early on that we wanted to track our time spent. Among the two of us Hipster Zombies took about 980 man-hours (or about 120 man-days or 6 man-months).

hz_timespent

As you can see the primary part of that was code work. The art aspect was also significant, followed by design. As mentioned during the Hipster Zombies postmortem, we believe that this is actually too little time spent designing and we could have improved the game if we had kept a better balance.

  • Learning 8: Art creation takes longer than you think.

The Bottom Line

So after all these numbers? How did we actually do? To be honest? Not that well…

After substracting everything we only made about 315€ (about $425) in revenue with Hipster Zombies. Counting all the way up from March up until now, about 9 months later. That’s not a lot, and it’s even less if you consider how much development cost us:

hz_financialsuccess

Putting in an average flat fee per day for our hours spent and adding our expenses for office, audio, plugins etc. we came up with a total project cost of about 50.000€. And that puts us pretty far away from break even.

  • Learning 9: Even a small game project is really expensive.

Final Words

Welp, we didn’t get rich on Hipster Zombies. We didn’t expect to but the financial success (or rather lack thereof) is beyond what we had hoped for. However we’re still proud of the product. We think it’s a fun little game. And so far we managed to reach over 30.000 people with a consistently high app review score. That’s a pretty nice success in our book.

However if we ask ourselves if we would do it again, we probably wouldn’t. Not that we regret the time spent but we started Hipster Zombies as a small, fun project. A pragmatic test run for us to get used to the tech and the market. While it fulfilled these goals it also ended up too big, costing too much time, energy and money. Instead the next time we’ll be focusing on a project that’s truly dear to our hearts.

  • Learning 10: Spend your time on something truly awesome.

And that’s it. Any questions? Any comments? Feel free to let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.

- Martin

tl;dr

You’re busy? Here’s all our learnings condensed:

  • Learning 1: A silent launch without marketing is not a launch at all.
  • Learning 2: Don’t underestimate the speed of pirates. They could be a great multiplier to get the word out.
  • Learning 3: There’s lots and lots of Android users.
  • Learning 4: The Google Play users like Hipster Zombies.
  • Learning 5: The review prompt has an effect. Just add it. Especially on iOS
  • Learning 6: Seasonal updates are another chance to get featured, nothing more, nothing less.
  • Learning 7: iOS users spend more than Android users, and OUYA users spend more than both.
  • Learning 8: Art creation takes longer than you think.
  • Learning 9: Even a small game project is really expensive.
  • Learning 10: Spend your time on something awesome.

  • tinytouchtales

    Thanks! Sharing is caring!

  • Omid Ahourai

    Awesome! Thanks a bunch for this article! and definitely agree with Learning #10

    • Martin Nerurkar

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it informative. Maybe you want to take the time to check out the Hipster Zombies Postmortem while you’re here :)

  • Michel Wacker

    So sad to hear it didn’t work out as hoped, but at least you gained a lot of experience on the way. It’s very helpful and interesting to see those numbers. Especially that even a rather small game like yours let’s you end up with around 1000h of work quite quickly. Also very interesting to learn about how much is actually pirated out there. Those are huge (and quite scary) numbers. Thanks for sharing!

    • Martin Nerurkar

      We weren’t really scared of the piracy numbers. It’s about what we expected after reading the other articles out there. Especially since we were a free-to-play game, there was no loss of initial sale. I’m very wary how this will affect Touch of Death though. Currently there is not really a lot of piracy but then again the game is tablet only.

      With the next update we’ll release the game for phones, which massively increases the potential audience. But since it’s up front it will also mean that pirated copies more directly cut into our revenue.

      • Michel Wacker

        That’s what I mean: They’re scary if you think about doing a premium title. I’m not a fan of this F2P approach with selling items that will “accelerate” your game play. Most times it just end’s up breaking it ;) Have you thought about taking a Freemium approach as in Shareware/Retail where the app would be free, but after the first X Levels or Games you’d have to unlock the rest with a purchase? I still like to believe that this is a fair approach that will spread your app (cause it’s free), avoid piracy (cause you charge via inApp) and keeps you away from the dark side (no game play manipulating IAPs). No idea if players see it likewise, though.

        I don’t know if it suits your game, but one of the best approaches I’ve seen is the one in triple town, where you essentially buy unlimited turns. Turns slowly recharge up to a max of 150 but it takes approximately 1 minute or 30 secs for a turn to recharge so you can essentially play 150 turns ever 2h or so and then have to wait for it to recharge OR you spend your $3 and never have to wait again to make another move.

        Either way excited to see how things will work out for touch of death. Keeping fingers crossed!

        • Martin Nerurkar

          Well on OUYA that’s the model we have for Hipster Zombies: Free with a hard end. You can continue playing but you cannot progress. You can unlock the full game then.

          I do believe that something like that might be a better option too. We’ll see what the next project brings.

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  • liteking

    Thanks for sharing.
    However I think the all the numbers are quite low to draw conclusions from

    • Martin Nerurkar

      Hey liteking. Hope you liked the article. I’d disagree though. They might not be hugely statistically relevant but they are still significant enough to draw conclusions from. Not as a general rule of thumb for all apps in the app store (not that big-number projects represent that either ^^) but it might be an example story for project similar in scope.

      • liteking

        I’ve tried your game after reading this article. I find the in-game shop has not many items to buy/upgrade. And your IAP pricing could have been improved. Maybe that’s what make your revenue so low?

        • Martin Nerurkar

          Agreed. The game is not heavily monetized. That’s certainly part of the reason for the low sales…

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  • Jan van der Crabben

    Great article. Thanks for sharing this.

  • freeiam

    Learning 11: Do not develop mobile software! Net $500 Cost $3200!!!
    (Cost +$25 Google Play +$99 iOS +$1000 PC +$1500 Mac +$500? Software etc.)

    • Martin Nerurkar

      Well, it’s not that simple, but yeah – Hipster Zombies is yet another game that proves that the mobile market is overcrowded.

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