CategoryMoney & Income

How to earn $1,000 a month from an Android app

1000_dollar_note

For quite some time I have played with the thought to finally update my app AL Voice Recorder again.

The app has not been updated with new features for almost four years and is generating close to zero income at the moment. Out of 4.8k ratings, it received a mediocre 3.6 stars.

That’s why, instead of publishing another update, I decided to completely rewrite the app and publish it under a new name. I will try to penetrate the competitive niche of voice recorders on Android and create an app that will generate a steady income of $1,000 or more every month. And I want to do it in a way that you can reproduce it.

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The Tumble Panda report

 

promoAfter I finished the last big customer project of my company, I spent a big part of my time on the development of Tumble Panda. It has now been nine months since the game was released to Google Play. Time for a recap.

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Tumble Panda’s (non-intrusive) monetization strategy

Recently, we launched the beta test of Tumble Panda. While this test is still ongoing, some of you may have already tried the game. All the others are still invited to join. Today I want to talk about the thoughts we had when building Tumble Panda’s monetization strategy.

Free to play & pay to win

If you have played games like Candy Crush Saga, you have probably experienced something like this: You are beginning to enjoy playing a game, but then, all the sudden it tells you that you have No more lives and need to wait until you will get new ones. However, lucky you, there is a simple way to fulfill your desire to continue that darn level you had almost beaten: For the small amount of only $0.99, you will be granted another full set of sweet lives.

Candy Crush Saga's pay n' play strategy

Candy Crush Saga’s pay n’ play strategy (picture by business.financialpost.com)

Now this strategy surely is clever and the psychology that is at work in Candy Crash Saga can be the topic of at least one PhD thesis. Also, this way of monetizing would be very applicable for Tumble Panda: We could make the user wait after every 10th time he fails to complete a level.

We could. However, we have a very clear idea how our games should be made: They should be free to play. And by that, we mean that it should be possible to always play the game and that it should be possible to win the game without having to pay for it. We do use in app purchases in our store, but it is never mandatory to use them. Also, we don’t like to use multiple currencies (such as gold and diamonds) when it is not necessary. That’s why we only use one currency in Tumble Panda, which the Panda’s most favorite: Bamboo.

 Monetizing by helping the user

The user is our focus in Tumble Panda. We do never force them to buy anything or wait until they can play the next time or have them pay for an artificially shortaged currency. However, there are spots in our game where we think the user could want to make a purchase or get free bamboo by using Tapjoy.

Prompt to the bamboo store

The first of this spots is when the user wants to purchase an item without having the needed amount of bamboo on their account. In this case we prompt the them to the bamboo-purchase part of the store. Here they have the possibility to purchase bamboo via in app purchases and get free bamboo by using an offerwall or by following us on social media.

Tumble Panda's store

823 Bamboo is good but not enough for another upgrade of Ki-Training…

Tumble Panda's Bamboo Store

…that’s why you will be prompted to the bamboo store, in which more delicious bamboo can be obtained. The “Not enough Bamboo”-text you are seeing is a standard Android Toast using a custom TextView. Also, when making an in app purchase in Tumble Panda, we are giving a part of that to reforestation projects – more on that soon.

Skipping a level

When a user repeatedly fails to finish a level, we ask them if they want to skip it. This comes to the price of 15 times the amount of bamboo that can be collected in the level. For example, in level 40 there are 60 bamboo to collect, which means skipping the level would cost 900 bamboo.

Tumble Panda's skip level dialog

In Level 40, the cost of skipping the level is 900 bamboo

Of course, when trying to skip a level without having a suitable amount of bamboo in one’s account, we will again prompt the bamboo store.

Free bamboo after a canceled purchase

This one is my personal favorite.

Users will cancel purchases. May it be because they don’t remember their password to Google Play, an error occurred or they changed their mind. That’s why we are showing a dialog asking them whether they want free bamboo, once a purchase was canceled. Accepting this offer leads to Tapjoy’s offerwall, where they can receive tons of tasty bamboo.

Tumble Panda's free bamboo dialog

When an in app purchase has been canceled, we are asking the user if they would prefer to receive free bamboo instead

Ads – the backup solution

Since we built a very non-aggressive strategy on monetizing via in app purchases and offer walls, we are using ads to further support us. When first designing Tumble Panda, we thought about displaying banner ads inside of the game, in a similar way Angry Birds used to.

Angry birds ads
Angry birds used to show banner ads during gameplay (picture by http://www.businessinsider.com.au/)

However, the times changed and full screen interstitial ads gained more and more acceptance while banner ads lost theirs. That’s why we also adjusted our strategy and are now exclusively relying on interstitial ads in Tumble Panda. We are trying to show a banner every 5th time a level is loaded and on average every 3rd time a user is accessing the main menu when coming from the game. In this way, we are providing a solution that is giving the user a less intrusive ad experience while still providing us with some earnings.

For those of you that are interested in numbers, in the statistically not significant beta phase, this ad-backup-solution so far provided us with an ARPU (average revenue per user) of about $0.12 so far.

Conclusion

Tumble Panda uses a monetization strategy that is much less intrusive than it could be because our main focus is a good user experience. We sincerely hope this will not harm the overall financial success of the game, but future will show. I will keep you updated!

We released ‘Flying Knight’

Well, we did see it coming and indeed it happened:

After the release of ‘Flappy Knight’, we were warned by some friends that Google was unpublishing games that try to live of Flappy Bird’s success. After about one week in the store, just as downloads started to increase a bit,  we received a “7-Day Notification of Google Play Developer Term Violation”, stating that our “title and/or description attempts to impersonate or leverage another popular app without permission” and that we had to “remove all such references.”.

So far so good. Our description, which contained statements like
“- As addictive as the now unpublished ‘Flappy Bird’
– Flap your way through endless lines of walls”,
definitely violated parts of the Play Store’s spam provisions, and since Google Play is not a democracy, we had to do as we were told.

We changed the name of our game to, removed everything that could be connected to Flappy Bird and republished an update that also contained some bug fixes. After an immensely long update time of more than 72 hours, it was done.

So hereby, I proudly announce the release of:

logo

You can get it now on Google Play.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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