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.

Hipster Zombies postmortem.

We started Hipster Zombies in Late August 2012. We had plans for a bigger game but decided to start with something small first. We hoped that the funny idea of hipster zombies would provide some viral fuel for the game. We also wanted to have one complete, simple game first. That way we could get acquainted with the technology and get into the flow of things. We set ourselves the goal to be ready by Christmas. That didn’t really happen.

Here’s why.

What Went Wrong

1. Going new ways… into dead ends

Sometimes trying to do something different is a bad idea. For some reason we wanted to make a game without touchscreen buttons.

Hipster Zombies touchscreen buttons

Hipster Zombies touchscreen buttons

We spent a lot of time experimenting with various control schemes, yet nothing seemed to work. We took way too long on this. And that even though the game still had other, much more important flaws at that time. Eventually we just gave in and implemented on-screen buttons. And that just worked. Obviously. I guess sometime it’s just better to go with tried and true instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

2. Leaving Pre-Production too early

Since we wanted this to be a quick project and we already spent a lot of time without any progress we were in a rush to make progress. We left pre-production before we were truly set on that game itself. Everyone tells you it’s a bad idea, and we knew it ourselves, but with our noses to the grindstone we just didn’t see it.

We should have spent more time iterating over the core gameplay. We should have only proceeded into production once we had a core that was truly fun. We didn’t and so we had to change a lot of things in the middle of production. We still made a fun game but we were just too far along to fix some of the flaws. So instead we did our best to smooth them over.

Hipster Zombies Damage Feedback

Hipster Zombies Damage Feedback

One example flaw is the indirect damage system. The player takes damage when zombies leave the screen on the left hand side. The issue is that the causality between the zombie leaving and the player taking damage is not at all intuitive. We tried a lot of other options but in the end we stuck with the simple system and just improved the feedback as much as we could.

3. Badly designed Menu

We had a bunch of issues with our menu. We really like the look and style but the structure wasn’t optimal. Even though we did a complete redesign in the middle of the project we still had some shortcomings. Primarily that the menu is not intuitive and not easily extensible.

The fact that we had players complete the game without ever switching weapons was a pretty damning verdict. The weapon selection in particular is another one of these „let’s do it differently“ thoughts. It’s not clear that the player has to scroll and how. We should have definitely gone with something much more traditional.

The other issue, extensibility comes because we had the interface in place even though the game wasn’t done. We had to change a bunch of things around, add new options and the screen just got more and more crowded. Add to this platform changes for OUYA and it just get’s chaotic. The next time I’m doing a UI design I’ll make sure it’s a lot more flexible, even if it ends up being generic.

4. Too few tests and testers

And our last mistake was that we tested too little. We tested way too little. We were busy with the many different issues of the game and we were in a rush. We just didn’t take the time to play regularly or to let other people test.

Especially the latter is so invaluable. Getting someone who never played your game to try it is really essential. We got a lot of good and helpful feedback that way. Unfortunately it came at a point when we were unable to change things so deeply. We’ve vowed to never do this again. And to help us I’ve made a little poster that’s now gracing our office walls.

Play Early, Play Often - available in print

Play Early, Play Often – available as poster

So in spite of all these mistakes we still managed to release a fun game. Hipster Zombies hit the App stores on the 15th of March. Instead of the planned three months it took us a full six. That doesn’t speak to our ability to plan. Still we had a good time making the game and we’re happy with the results.

But not all was bad. Here’s a few things that went well during the production:

What Went Well

1. Fitting Art Style

The only artist we have is me, and I’m only alright. So to go into production we needed to find an art style that I could reliably produce at a consistent and satisfying quality. To that end I spent a good chunk of time researching and experimenting, and the time was certainly worth it. Admittedly the production of all the artwork took longer than expected but we’re quite happy with the quality.

Various Hipster Zombie scribbles

Various Hipster Zombie scribbles

2. Time-saving Unity Plugins

Since we’re a small team, working on everything part-time we need to save as much time as we can. To that end we did some research and found a lot of useful Unity Plugins that took some of the weight of Jos shoulders.

The Unity Asset Store

The Unity Asset Store

We were especially happy with the Prime31 suite of plugins, which are well worth their money. They have specialized in providing unity plugins for mobile apps. They provide relatively quick access to things like in-app-purchases, game center and many other platform specific features.

3. Audio Outsourcing

Neither of us is an audio whiz. And neither of us had time to spare to become one. So we looked to outside for some help in the audio department.

Lawrence and Sebastian, the Hipster Zombies Audio Team

Lawrence and Sebastian, the Hipster Zombies Audio Team

Luckily a good friend of ours, Sebastian, was happy to help us with the music. You might remember him as the monk in the Touch of Death trailer. Even though he was only composing in his spare time the tracks were great and frequently mentioned in positive reviews. Yet we still needed someone for the sound effects. So I spent many hours searching for and getting in touch with audio artists. This took a lot longer than expected. Especially writing the audio brief was a solid load of work.

In the end we went with Lawrence from Satsuma Audio. We found him via Gamedev.net. His sample audio was convincing because it had both breadth and fidelity. And not only that, he also seemed excited by the project.

Collaborating with Lawrence was a joy. He was able to deliver everything on time, even though we got in touch with him way too late. Thanks to his skill and the detailed briefing there were only very few revisions to make on the sounds, and those were quickly resolved. All in all we’d absolutely recommend him.

Also as a little bonus, Lawrence made the audio source files he used for the Hipster Zombies SFX freely available as a FreeSound Pack. Check them out.

4. OUYA Release

We both backed the OUYA Kickstarter back in the day so when we got our hardware we had to try and port Hipster Zombies to the console. Just for the fun of it.

Hipster Zombies in the Ouya Store

Hipster Zombies in the Ouya Store

We spent about two weeks on this. In the process we decided to simplify monetization. On iOS and Android the game features in-app-purchases. On OUYA instead the game is a simple full-game unlock. On the 2nd August 2013 we published the game to the OUYA store.

And the reception was far beyond what we expected. After having only very limited success on iOS and Android we’d set our hopes pretty low for an OUYA release. However we were positively surprised by the gamers’ reception. Looking at all our platforms up to date we probably made most of our money on OUYA. And that considering we released on OUYA about 5 months after the smartphone release.

Granted even with the OUYA sales we’re still pretty deep in the red with Hipster Zombies, but that’s a story for another time.

tl;dr – Our Takeaways

So to condense this postmortem down into a few handy lessons:

  1. Don’t start production unless you’re damn sure where you’re heading.
  2. Don’t rush your project just because you want to be finished.
  3. Look up more often. Time spent on prep & research is always well worth it.

Granted none of these are terribly new or groundbreaking but it’s good to be reminded of them. So we hope you learned a bit from our mistakes and successes. We certainly did.

– Martin


Halloween hipsters.

With Halloween just around the corner we decided we’d try our hand at a little seasonal update. And what better thing to do than to dress up our scary Hipster Zombies in equally scary pumpkin heads. So starting today and continuing for the next few weeks, you can try your hand at squishing some pretentious squash.

Hipster Zombies Halloween Edition

Hipster Zombies Halloween Edition

We built the update mainly because we’re curious. It’s a sort of experiment for us.

The number of Hipster Zombies installs has been slowly shrinking for a while now. People are obviously losing interest in the game. We think it’s because there haven’t been any large updates lately. It’s not that we don’t have ideas for those, it’s just that we don’t really have the time: First we were busy building Touch of Death and now we’re already in the early stages of our next project.

Google Play installs, last 3 months

Hipster Zombies, Google Play installs, last 3 months

What we managed to do though was this Halloween update. Mostly because it is purely cosmetic and that was comparatively little work. Maybe the new graphics bring some old players back. Or maybe the Halloween spirit brings in some new interest players. We know from personal experience that seasonal updates can really energize a player base. They work well for online games that keep players engaged over a long time. There the novelty combined with time-limited gameplay elements creates engaging events.

Now the question is: Is our audience interested in this kind of update, even if it’s only cosmetic? The big guys are certainly doing it so it seems worth a shot…

Tiny Tower and Angry Birds XMAS Editions

Tiny Tower and Angry Birds Christmas editions

We’ll let you know how this turns out.

– Martin