Lockwood Publishing was founded in 2009 and is an online publishing studio specialising in social games, virtual worlds and desirable virtual items. In this interview, Joel Kemp, owner of Lockwood Publishing, explains how he and his team made a successful pivot from building console games for Playstation Home, to achieving mobile success with their game “Avakin Life”, a fashion-led social experience with over 22 million downloads with the help of Amazon Appstore.
Question: “Could you introduce us to Lockwood Publishing and Avakin Life?”
Joel Kemp: “Lockwood Publishing is a mobile games developer and we’ve created a game-as-a-service through the sale virtual goods in our 3D virtual world, Avakin Life. Which is the only game we develop and publish. The game enables its users to live out online lives through their avatar, purchasing items, apartments and clothing like they would in the real world. The game is U.S. market focused with a female dominated audience: 65%, female; 35%, male. We release virtual goods twice a week and the app updates once a month for new features.”
Q: “Why a shift in strategy from console to mobile?”
JK: “We started out in 2009, and we used to be the leading developer on PlayStation Home. When PlayStation Home closed, Lockwood Publishing had to pivot from console to mobile in a very short space of time. But we found it was a better fit for our game anyway. Mobile is a billion device [sic] potential. It’s also a very social device and we wanted to make use of that, especially as our audience is very female and we’ve found female audiences are more social. This has helped create more organic downloads to help scale the product through word of mouth. “
Q: “So, what is your mobile and social strategy?”
JK: “We have paid user acquisition which uses normal social channels, Facebook and Twitter, plus Google Ad words. Most of our traffic is organic because our product is so social, especially on mobile, so word of mouth is important. We also understand that we operate in an under-served part of the market: this demographic doesn’t have many games directed at them so lifetime value against user acquisition cost is tracking well. The game makes use of seasonal trends, promotional material and real world events, like films, and they’re all tied into the game.
Q: “Why did you choose Amazon Appstore to promote Avakin Life?”
JK: “Being on the Amazon Appstore is incredibly important for us. We have more chance of people playing on the game from a multi-device point of view, using friend’s networks to connect and encourage others to play. As a developer that runs on organic growth, it’s imperative to our strategy. It’s also very easy to get on the Amazon Appstore so it became a no-brainer.”
Q: “What Amazon services do you use and what has the experience been like?”
JK: “EC2 hosts the game, is reliable and instantly scalable to counter spikes in traffics. Load balancers and device farms for QA has helped technical parts of Avakin Life which has been very helpful getting to market as quickly as possible - with no scalability issues. Porting on the Amazon network is straightforward and as Amazon have been proactive partners, it’s been empowering when dealing with an app store as opposed to publishing on consoles.”
Q: “Can you tell us about the learning curve of developing for a different audience demographic?”
JK: “Our Amazon audience are female, with an age range between 18 and 40 years old; our biggest buyers, however, are between 35 and 40 years old. Android users are younger with a lower spending power but they still add value, of course. To cater for this audience, we’re worked with Amazon to merchandise our offering and we’re worked hard to make the game look fantastic on the new Kindle.”
Q: “Do you have any monetisation tips or learnings for Amazon Appstore?”
JK: “In terms of monetisation, there is a split between 60% is in-app purchases, 40% ad revenue. It’s important to get an ad network when first starting as most new users won’t be willing to pay in-app but would be willing to sit through ads – they have the time but not the money. We’re looking at using Amazon subscription service so VIP users get content early and get premium content.”
Q: “What would you say have been the key success factors for Lockwood Publishing?”
JK: “There are several reasons. We’re bootstrapped so we can make all of our own decisions. And our user base is very social which has been a growth an enabler without having a super high acquisition budget. We also have 3 million monthly active users and the feedback to see what works and doesn’t is instant which customers love.”
Q: “What advice would you give to developers to get the attention of partners like Amazon?”
JK: “My advice to developers trying to get attention of partners like Amazon is to align your strategic goals with theirs, so when they’re bringing put new products or features, if it runs in line with your strategic goals, support them. Amazon is very easy to get to know and foster a positive relationship with, and as a result, we work closely together to promote each other’s new features.”
Watch the video below.
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