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April 21, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

As a part of our series on helping developers turn great games into great businesses, we’ve been talking about the importance of evolving your players into a fan base. This week we’ve invited Daniel Shir to share his advice as the co-founder and CTO of Nextpeer, a platform that has helped over 7,000 game developers with discovery and retention through social features.

According to the recent data shared by Vision Mobile, roughly 50% of mobile developers are below the so called “app poverty line”, which has them making less than $500 a month. The number of apps out there is staggering, and game developers have an even harder time, with around 65% of the one million apps out there being games. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the competitive gaming landscape that’s out there for mobile game developers.

If you’re a game developer then you base your business up on three major pillars - product, monetization and customer acquisition. To sum it all up in a brief sentence you need to make sure that you have a compelling game, a way to monetize it and a way to obtain players to play it. Let’s assume that you have an awesome game idea and that you’ve even thought of ways to monetize it, say with in-app purchases or ads. How would you go about acquiring players for your game early on and making sure that those players attract even more players? One of the best ways of going about that is to build a fan base and a community around your game.

It’s All about the Fans

Companies that do this well hit that sweet spot where the fan base acts as a sort of a perpetual motion machine, driving and pushing the game forward all by itself. We’ve all heard of the Minecraft fan base and how it propelled that game to success. The tipping point came early on for Minecraft, while the game was still in alpha. Devout fans went ahead and talked to anyone they could about how cool this game was. The end result? The game passed 1M purchases only a month into the beta phase with advertising done strictly via word of mouth.

Image by evoo73 flickr.com (under CC BY 2.0 license)

Kotaku names word of mouth as being the most persuasive factor to convince players to check out new games. Also mentioned are so called “Influence Multipliers” which are essentially gamers that are hyper connected to other gamers. According to a Waggener Edstrom Worldwide study, “Influence Multipliers” make up about 20% of the gaming audience. Think of those gamers as a central node in a huge interconnected network of gamers, it is those gamers you want to reach and persuade to become advocates for your game. It is those influencers that should become the base for your game’s community.

Getting the Ball Rolling

At Nextpeer, we’ve taken a look at a lot of successful games and analyzed what makes them tick. Sometimes simply enabling the players to communicate and share content with one another is a sure way to allow advocates to have their voice heard. Pixowl’s game, The Sandbox, does precisely that. The game itself allows the player to play a sort of mini god and create a small mini world. While the game is a lot of fun, the real ingenious propulsion engine for it comes after the player is done playing. The Sandbox enables players to share their mini created worlds and also view worlds created by others. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for advocates, for instance in educating other players and so online tutorials are created on how to create super complex worlds.

A mini world as shared by The Sandbox player Marian205 (rights owned by PIXOWL, used with permission)

Another channel that have risen in popularity lately is fan created content. Companies encourage their fans to create additional content based on the games they love. League of Legends is famous for their fan art competitions where the winners are usually rewarded with in-game items. Players feel important when they’re included in the creation process. It’s not rare to see game companies sharing live discussions with their fans whilst obtaining live feedback from them.

Yet another ingenious tactic employed by Riot Games is to reward players that invite their friends to the game with special in-game rewards and items. Some game items are impossible to come by unless you invite others to play the game. This switch in thinking turns inviting outsiders into the game to something of a badge of honor. We’ve all read about virality and how important it is, yet so many games make the mistake of not giving players a simple way to invite others. Even if an influencer loves your game and wants to share it, no one is going to do that if there’s no simple way to do it.

Communication Is Key

So what’s the best way to kickstarting your fanbase? Well the most important aspect of any fanbase if the player-to-player connection which happens around the game. The key to change a player into a fan is to give the player a way to act as a fan. Multiplayer games have this almost from the get go, since players are connected through the game itself either competitively or cooperatively. If your game is strictly designed for a single player, think about how to connect your players in other ways. If your players create or achieve something, let them share that moment in the game. Is your game a puzzle game that gets gradually harder? Let experienced players create tutorials and share tips with novices. Sometimes even having simple like a forum (with easy access from the game) is a way to get things rolling.

Creating a game all in itself is a challenging task, but building a fan base and reaching out to players makes that even more complicated. It used to be that game design, programming and graphics were all that were required to create a successful game. Nowadays, in order to succeed developers find themselves needing to understand social networking, sharing dynamics, analytics, and community management. This precisely the reason we created Nextpeer, a social service for mobile games, to take care of all those things so that game developers can focus on their game.

For more information about getting started with the Amazon Appstore and Amazon Fire devices, check out the following additional resources:

Also, if you’re in Berlin for the April 2015 International Games Week, let’s connect.

- Paul (Twitter:@PaulCutsinger | Twitch:PaulCutsinger)

 

 

 

April 13, 2015

Judith Hoffmann

  

With more than 10 events in one week, International Games Week Berlin, one of Europe’s biggest game-focused events, connects game business, technology and culture. From April 21 to 26, gaming experts will come together in Berlin, Germany, to discuss key industry trends and topics. As a sponsor of International Games Week Berlin and a premium partner at Quo Vadis, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet the Amazon Appstore team in person.

Register Now For the Amazon Developer Workshop

On Tuesday, April 21, we are hosting a free half-day developer day with Amazon’s technical evangelists Paul Cutsinger and Simon Howard. After an introduction to the Amazon Appstore, Fire TV and Fire Phone and tablets, Paul and Simon will talk to you about

  • Responsive Game Design: Bringing Desktop and Mobile Games to the Living Room
  • What the Top 50 Apps and Games Do with In-App Purchasing That the Rest of Us Don’t
  • How We Made a Game No Fun

Be sure to submit your app or game or test your APK today! Paul and Simon will be on hand during the day and throughout the week to answer your questions and get your apps live and in front of millions of customers! Register on the workshop’s Eventbrite page to secure your place!

More from Paul, More from Developers, at Quo Vadis

From April 21-23 the Amazon team will at Quo Vadis, in front of the auditorium at the Kino International. Germany’s biggest gaming conference gathered more than 2,500 visitors last year and is sure to be a success in 2015 with their fantastic speaker line-up.

  • Watch Paul Cutsinger’s talk, “How to evolve players into fans”, on April 22 and learn about best practices that make the top mobile games stand out from the crowd.
  • Make sure not to miss the indie developer showcase – find them in the dedicated Amazon developer showcase lounge.
  • Get your game on while you’re in our lounge and experience Fire TV, as well as our other devices.

Can’t make it to Games Week? Check out where the team will be next. More information on our events page.

 

April 10, 2015

Corey Badcock

In 2012, the Application Developers Alliance set out to be a resource and an advocate for developers. Today, they've amassed a global network of more than 50,000 developers and more than 200 companies that care about them. Their mission is to help developers of all kinds, everywhere. That's why they've launched their Global Developer Insights survey.

In partnership with International Data Corporation (IDC), this survey will gather information from developers all over the world. Anybody who develops software (even just some of the time) can participate. With your help, the Application Developers Alliance will build a better understanding of the opportunities and pain points for the developer community. 

With this survey, the Application Developers Alliance want to learn more about the day-to-day responsibilities of developers, how a developer fits within their organization, the tools and services that power their work, and more about what it's like to be a developer. With this information, they'll be able to better inform new companies, technology partners, service providers, and you-the global developer community-about how to improve the app ecosystem. Most importantly, we at the Application Developers Alliance will be better able to serve you!

The results will be compiled into a comprehensive Developer Insights report and distributed to members in May 2015.

 

April 07, 2015

David Isbitski

Amazon is hosting a Developer Day on April 25th at the Cross Campus in Santa Monica, California. Amazon Developer Evangelists will share industry best practices and help mobile developers learn how to grow their app business via the Amazon Appstore. Amazon technology leaders will be on-hand to answer developer questions and lead talks on topics such as building apps and games for Android devices, BlackBerry,  Fire tablets, Fire phone, Amazon Fire TV, and how to build voice controlled experiences for Amazon Echo. Attendees will also learn best practices around how to make fun games and to market your game to influencers and build a fan base.

The format of the workshop will be split between morning lectures and afternoon “App Hours.” The App Hours will allow developers to get 1:1 support to publish and tests their own apps and games to the Amazon Appstore, guidance around building apps and games with Android, Unity and Xamarin, and hands on experience with the Amazon Mobile App SDK, Fire Phone SDK, Fire TV SDK and Amazon Echo SDK code samples. Developers will also be rewarded with Amazon gift cards for successful app submissions to the Amazon Appstore during the App Hours’ time period.

Already have an Android app? Bring your APK for a chance to win cool prizes! Click here to register now!

Agenda

Check-in and Breakfast
9:30am-10:00am

An Overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Mobile Developers
10:00am-10:45am
David Isbitski, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
We will start the day off with an overview of Amazon's current developer ecosystem. Learn how you can take advantage of Amazon’s Mobile Apps SDK, Amazon's Appstore and the new line of consumer Fire devices like Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire tablets, as well as monetization services such as in-app purchasing.

Building Spoken Language Apps and Experiences for Amazon Echo
10:45am-11:45am
David Isbitski, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
Echo is a new device from Amazon designed around your voice. It's always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Tucked under Echo's light ring is an array of seven microphones. When Echo detects the wake word, it lights up and streams audio to the cloud, where it leverages the power of Amazon Web Services to recognize and respond to your request. With the release of the developer SDK you can now build your own apps and experiences for Amazon Echo. This session will cover everything you need to know starting off with how to use the SDK, how to build your first app, and end with the app submission process.

Lunch
11:45am-12:00pm                       

How We Made a Game No Fun
12:00pm-12:45pm
Peter Heinrich, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
There are lots of suggestions about how to make a game fun.  Best practices are everywhere, but you can't just follow them blindly.  To create a fun game, you have to figure out how best practices integrate into your specific game.  Come see what we did wrong, and what we learned along the way.          

How to Evolve Players into Fans
12:45pm-1:30pm
Peter Heinrich, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
We’ve analyzed the top mobile games to see what best practices make them stand out from the crowd. Several trends emerging now will amplify those best practices, and games will have more opportunity than ever to excel. In the future, the top games will have fully realized fan bases that will drive their user acquisition and engagement engines. That fan base will include players but also content creators, advocates and potential new customers — this will open up a wider range of monetization options. Come see how top mobile games drive more engagement and revenue and learn how to you can do this with your own game.      

Break
1:30pm-1:45pm

App Hours
1:45pm-3:45pm
Get 1:1 support to publish and test apps and games to the Amazon Appstore. Learn how to build apps and games with Android, Unity and Xamarin. Get hands on experience with the Amazon Mobile App SDK, Fire Phone SDK, Fire TV SDK and Amazon Echo SDK code samples.

Raffle and Wrap-Up
3:45pm-4pm


Seating is limited so be sure to register for the event to reserve your spot. Hope to see you there!

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

March 31, 2015

Corey Badcock

The Amazon Mobile Ad Network increases monetization opportunities with the addition of the modeless interstitial ad format and the ability to serve ads to users in Japan.

High-Quality Modeless Interstitial Ads Improves User Experience

Amazon modeless interstitial ads are full screen ads. Unlike currently served interstitial ads, which appear during app transitions (in between game levels) and require users to close the ad, modeless interstitial ads appear as app content between content screens to maintain the app’s native experience for the user and do not require users to close the ad. You can customize modeless interstitial ads with content matching frames or transparent backgrounds. The seamless delivery of modeless interstitial ads can increase your user engagement and number of ads served.

Maximize Earning Potential Of Your Apps

You can earn more money from your apps and games now that the Amazon Mobile Ad Network is available to serve ads to your end users in Japan. The Amazon Mobile Ad Network lets you place high-quality display ads in your app, helping you gain access to relevant ads from brand advertisers, including Amazon and its subsidiaries. Monetize across supported countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and now Japan), devices (iOS, Android, and Fire OS tablets and phones), and app stores (Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store, and Google Play). The Amazon Mobile Ad Network gives you the opportunity to earn more and pays you on ad impressions served.

The Amazon Mobile Ad Network Is Trusted By Thousands of Developers

A developer currently using the Amazon Mobile Ad Network shares his experience*:

“The Amazon Mobile Ad Network is by far our best performing ad network, and helped increase our earnings by 40%. With Amazon, we are getting excellent eCPM banners and high quality ads, providing a great experience for our users.

- Pedro Da Ros, Founder & CEO of RottzGames

To Enable Support for Modeless Interstitial Ads and Japan

To take advantage of our expansion to Japan and our new modeless interstitial ad format, integrate the Amazon Mobile Ads API into your mobile app or game. Integrating the Amazon Mobile Ads API is easy:

New to the Amazon Mobile Ads API: Download the Amazon Mobile App SDK and integrate the latest version of the Amazon Mobile Ads API. Refer to the Android and iOS quick start guides for implementation details.

Already using the Amazon Mobile Ads API:

  • Enabling Modeless Interstitial Ads: To enable modeless interstitial ads, recompile with the latest version of the Amazon Mobile Ads API. Modeless interstitial ads require a separate ad call. Refer to the Android and iOS quick start guides for implementation details.
  • Serving Ads to Users in Japan: If your app or game already uses Android v5.1.236 (or later) or iOS v2.0.3 (or later) of the Amazon Mobile Ads API, you are all set for serving ads to users in Japan. If you are currently using an older version of the Amazon Mobile Ads API, simply recompile with the latest version. Ad requests you send will automatically be filled for the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, or Japan as appropriate.

Learn more about the Amazon Mobile Ads API on our Developer Portal here as well as through our blog post on tracking ad events inside your apps.

February 19, 2015

David Isbitski

Amazon will be out at GDC San Francisco next month offering several opportunities to connect directly with you. Starting on Monday, March 2nd from 5:05pm to 5:30pm you can hear @MikeFHines talk about What Makes the Top 50 IAP Games Unique on the Amazon Appstore and lessons you can apply when generating revenue in your own games.

Then on Tuesday, March 3rd from 10am to 5:30pm we will be hosting an Amazon Developer Day covering games for Amazon Fire devices, how to build better cloud gaming experiences, reaching fans with Twitch, and applying in-app monetization best practices based on Amazon's IAP data. Technical evangelists from Amazon Appstore and AWS will be on hand to answer your questions as well as the Games Business Development team to discuss game promotion opportunities. We’ll also have devices for you to explore and test your games on, as well as a chance to win some Amazon Fire devices! Here is what the day’s agenda will look like. Click here to add a session to your GDC Scheduler.


An Overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers
10am-10:45am

David Isbitski, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
Alf Tan, Head of Games Business Development, Amazon
Vlad Suglobov, CEO, G5 Entertainment

We will start the day off with an overview of Amazon's current developer ecosystem.  Learn how you can take advantage of AWS services specifically targeted for Game Developers, Amazon's Appstore and the new line of consumer Fire devices like Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire tablets, as well as monetization services such as in-app purchasing.  Plus, hear how G5 entertainment has had success on the Amazon platform from G5 CEO Vlad Suglobov.          

Top Tips for Porting Unity Games to Fire Devices
10:45am-11:30am

Jesse Freeman, Developer Evangelist, Amazon  
In this talk, we'll cover important tips for porting Unity games over to Fire TV, Fire tablets and Fire phone. Through code examples, we'll demo how to support multiple resolutions for pixel perfect Orthographic and Perspective Cameras, abstracting player input to support keyboard, controller and touch, and optimization tips for C# for the best performance. We'll also show how to deploy to our devices and get your game up and running on Fire OS. You'll walk away knowing what it takes to publish to the Amazon Appstore and help expand your game's user base.

How to Evolve Players into Fans
11:30am-12:00pm

Peter Heinrich, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
We’ve analyzed the top mobile games to see what best practices make them stand out from the crowd. Several trends emerging now will amplify those best practices, and games will have more opportunity than ever to excel. In the future, the top games will have fully realized fan bases that will drive their user acquisition and engagement engines. That fan base will include players but also content creators, advocates and potential new customers —  this will open up a wider range of monetization options.  Come see how top mobile games drive more engagement and revenue and learn how to you can do this with your own game.

Catered Lunch
12:00-12:30pm

Build and Deploy Your Mobile Game with AWS
12:30pm-1:30pm
Dhruv Thukral, Gaming Solutions Architect, Amazon
Tara Walker, Technical Evangelist, Amazon
Developing a successful mobile game today is about more than just the game:  Users expect backend services like user authentication, downloadable content, and social features. Using our AWS Mobile SDK for iOS and Android, it’s easier than ever to build a game with these services.  This session will provide a step-by-step approach to add features to your game such as user identity management, dynamic content updates, cross-platform data sync, and more.  We’ll demonstrate how to use the AWS Mobile SDK to securely interact with services such as Cognito, DynamoDB, S3, and EC2.  Finally, we’ll provide a few common architecture patterns and scalability tips for AWS game backends.

How We Made a Game No Fun
1:30pm-2:15pm

Mike Hines, Developer Evangelist, Amazon
There are lots of suggestions about how to make a game fun.  Best practices are everywhere, but you can't just follow them blindly.  To create a fun game, you have to figure out how best practices integrate into your specific game.  Come see what we did wrong, and what we learned along the way.       

Connecting with Your Customers - Building Successful Mobile Games through the Power of AWS Analytics
2:30pm-3:30pm

Nate Wiger, Principal Gaming Solutions Architect, Amazon
Free to play is now the standard for mobile and social games.  But succeeding in free-to-play is not easy:  You need in-depth data analytics to gain insight into your players so you can monetize your game.  Learn how to leverage new features of AWS services such as Elastic MapReduce, Amazon S3, Kinesis, and Redshift to build an end-to-end analytics pipeline.  Plus, we’ll show you how to easily integrate analytics with other AWS services in your game.

Deploying a Low-Latency Multiplayer Game Globally: Loadout
3:30pm-4:15pm

Nate Wiger, Principal Gaming Solutions Architect, Amazon
This is a deep-dive straight into the guts of running a low-latency multiplayer game, such as a first-person shooter, on a global scale. We dive into architectures that enable you to split apart your back-end APIs from your game servers, and Auto Scale them independently.  See how to run game servers in multiple AWS regions such as China and Frankfurt, and integrate them with your central game stack.  We’ll even demo this in action, using AWS CloudFormation and Chef to deploy Unreal Engine game servers.

How Game Developers Reach New Customers with Twitch
4:15pm-5:15pm
Marcus Graham, Director of Community & Education at Twitch
Ernest Le, Director Publisher & Developer Partnerships at Twitch

Twitch is the largest live video platform and community for gamers with more than 100 million visitors per month. We want to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play.  In this session, learn game developers are creating engaging experiences and reaching new customers via the Twitch platform.

Mobile Ads Team at GDC

The Mobile Ads Team will be at GDC and has created a special offer just for attendees!

While attending GDC anyone who integrates the Amazon Mobile Ads API for the first time into their app or game will receive a $100 Amazon.com Gift Card.* The Amazon Mobile Ads API is easy to integrate and delivers highly-relevant mobile optimized ads from Amazon and brand advertisers ensuring a great experience for users. Members of the Mobile Ads team will also be on hand in booth #2429 to help you throughout the event.

Amazon Fire TV Twitch Broadcast

Then on Wednesday, March 4th we will be broadcasting live from GDC with a couple of special guests from 4pm to 7pm. The event is open to the public from 4pm to 6pm and you do not need to be a GDC pass holder to attend. Simply stop by the AWS Pop-up Loft on Market Street between 4pm to 6pm PST and join us in person for the Twitch stream.


We will be showcasing several new Amazon Fire TV games as well as interviewing the game developers who created them. Not at GDC? No worries, you will be able to watch the stream live on Twitch here from 4pm to 7pm PST.

If you’re a gamedev at GDC this will be a great opportunity for you to speak directly with Amazon Appstore, AWS and Twitch experts all in one place. Hope to see you there!

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

*Visit exhibit #2429 for more details. Send us an email at amazon-mobile-ads@amazon.com with your Amazon Developer Portal registered email ID to qualify. Existing apps already sending ad requests do not qualify. Existing developers who integrate the Amazon Mobile Ads API into another qualified app for the first time are eligible for the offer. One Amazon.com Gift Card per participant while supplies last. Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") may only be redeemed towards the purchase of eligible products on www.amazon.com GCs cannot be reloaded, resold, transferred for value, redeemed for cash or applied to any other account.  Amazon.co.uk is not responsible if a GC is lost, stolen, destroyed or used without permission.  See www.amazon.com/gc-legal for complete terms and conditions. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon may modify or cancel this offer at any time.

 

February 17, 2015

Mike Hines

A post on what to implement from the 10 part-series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we wrapped up our study of what the top 50 apps do with IAP that the rest of us don’t.  Over the last 10 weeks, we delivered a significant amount of data and suggestions, and it can be a bit daunting to figure out where to start. This week we’ll give you some ideas on where to get started by highlighting the top 3 practices that might make the biggest difference in your game.

Know Who Your Best Customers Are

Use your favorite analytics package and learn about how your customers play and buy within your app.  It’s our experience that 80% of an average game’s downloads won’t be active after 7 days, and that 3% of downloads from the Amazon Appstore turn into paying customers. And it’s those customers who stay with you over one week that will drive 74% of your total game revenue. This exclusive group of customers is your loyal following. Treat them like gold!

What now?

Identify the players that:

  • Are still playing your game after 7 days (74% of your revenue)
  • Are still playing your game after 30 days (they will pay 60% more for IAP items)
  • Have made 3 or more purchases (they will generate 64% of your revenue)
  • First day purchasers (37% of all paying players will buy on day 1)

Differentiate the IAP Items You Show Your Best Customers

If you’re showing your best 30 day + customers the same IAP catalog that you showed them on day 1, you’re likely leaving demand unfulfilled, and you’re probably not making the best use of IAP.

When creating new IAP items for your good customers, do NOT just add these items to the same IAP catalog you show your first day users! You want to keep the catalog clear and un-cluttered for beginners, as well as offer the enticement of a catalog that changes for your veteran players.

To fine tune what items work best in each IAP catalog, find an A|B Testing API that you can use to get real-world data on each IAP catalog.

What now?

  • Create a new instance of your IAP dialog box that can you can show to your best customers.
  • In this new IAP catalog, put:
    • More expensive IAP entitlement items (weapons, armor, and other non-consumables)
    • Larger soft-currency or power-up discount packages
    • Unique skins available only to your best customers

Display the Value of Each IAP Item to Your Customer

If your IAP catalog doesn’t have a benefit (like BONUS % in this catalog), you may not be making the reason to buy clear enough for your customers.

If you’re selling a sword instead of coins, the customer will want to know how much more damage it will do, or what villains it will decimate as opposed to those enemies that their current sword won’t scratch. Make the benefit clear, and you’ll make more sales and have happier customers.

What now?

  • Look at your existing IAP items and of each item ask: Why would a player want to buy this?
  • Put the answer in the IAP dialog box (Bonus 50%, 5% more damage, etc)
  • Or put an information button on the item that will show more details

Wrap Up

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and are starting to see improvement in your IAP monetization as a result. For more insights on how to keep users engaged and boost revenue check out our free eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”.

In the mean time, I’d love to be working on the next subject you’d like to learn more about or see data about. Let me know, and ping me on Twitter @MikeFHines.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

February 04, 2015

Mike Hines

The final article in the 10 part-series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we looked at how lowering barriers to new app sessions paves the way for more sessions, and more minutes in the app per day. We also looked at how tuning the difficulty for a game can make a significant impact in user engagement, retention, and IAP conversion.  This week we’ll see how the top 50 see what to change, and how they implement change.

See Inside Your App

To address the right offers and messages to your customers, to know where you may have a retention issue, and to know other key metrics about your app, you need to be able to see inside, and see how your users interact with your app. App analytics packages are services put together by quite a variety of providers, and are  a great way to get started with the basics, as well as progress up through full custom instrumentation. To help scope an analytics implementation project or provider decision, you should start with knowing what you need to know to make smarter decisions. (like how long has this user had the app? How many purchases has this user made? How long did it take this user to complete the last task/level/milestone?) If you’re not going to use a metric to influence your actions, think twice about how much you really need to implement that metric.

Have Lots of Levers

Seeing inside your apps is critical, but it doesn’t do anything. Being able to do something about what you see is how your app starts performing better. In order to optimize your apps, you’ll need to have a lot of levers in you app that you can manipulate to change the behavior of your app (like difficulty).  These levers come in the form of A|B testing.  A|B Testing lets you find out if you should make your game easier or harder, and how much more so to make it to meet your goals. A|B Testing tells you which items are the most popular or profitable for you to offer your day 1, day 7, or day 30 users.  While I’m partial to the Amazon A|B Testing service because of it’s flexibility, ease of implementation, and price, you can get A|B Testing services from several vendors. Remember, the top 50 don’t guess. They know.

Wrap Up

That’s it for the series What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t.  For more insights on how to keep users engaged and boost revenue check out our free eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”.

In the mean time, I’d love to be working on the next subject you’d like to learn more about or see data about. Let me know, and ping me on Twitter @MikeFHines.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

February 03, 2015

Simon Howard

The Amazon Mobile Ads API allows you to monetize apps and games across the Android, Fire OS, and iOS platforms by displaying ads to customers in the US, UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Ads can be banner or interstitial and will advertise products or services coming from Amazon or other well-known brands. You are paid on ad impressions served whilst some other Ad networks only pay on clicks. To get more information on the benefits of using the Amazon Mobile Ad Network, check out the Success Stories.

This blog is about how you get started with using the Amazon Mobile Ads API in your Android Java based app or game that is running on an Android device, Amazon Fire OS tablet or phone device.

How Do I get Access to the APIs?

The Amazon Mobile Ads API is part of a single SDK (the Amazon Mobile App SDK, which you can download here) that also provides access to other Amazon mobile services and APIs such as GameCircle and In-App Purchasing.  The same download also includes the necessary files to use the Amazon Mobile Ads API in apps developed for iOS.

You can use the Android Java version of the Mobile Ads API in projects that have been created in Eclipse or Android Studio. First, download the SDK and extract the zip file to the appropriate location on your development machine. Here’s what the SDK folder looks like on my machine…

Obtain an Application Key

Before you can use the Amazon Mobile Ads API in an app, you should create an Application Key that is unique to the application. This key is used by the Amazon framework to identify your app so it’s essential that you use the correct one so that you will be paid.

To create a new key you need an Amazon Apps & Games Developer Portal account. If you don’t have one, you can create a free account by clicking here. Also note, because you will be receiving income into the account, you will need to add your payment and tax information details to your developer account profile.

You can bypass this step for now if you want to just try out the API using one of the sample apps. Just make sure you create your own key (and account) later.

Check out the Samples First

Before you start including the Amazon Mobile Ads API in your project, I recommend that you first build and play with the three samples that come with the SDK. You can find these samples in the /Android/Ads/Samples folder and they are as follows:

SimpleAdSample

Displays a banner ad and is a good introduction to the APIs

FloatingAdSample

Builds upon SimpleAdSample

InterstitialAdSample

Displays a full-screen interstitial ad

Building the Samples in Eclipse

To build the samples in Eclipse is pretty straightforward. Once you have imported the projects, you just need to add the mobile ads JAR file library to your project and ensure that the library file is included in the build process.  There are some good instructions in this Quick Start Guide about how to do this but do note that you need to check the JAR library file in the “Order and Export tab” so that it is included in the build. The screenshot below shows how to do this:

This step is quite easy to miss and unfortunately, if you don’t complete the step, the project will still build successfully but you will get runtime errors saying that methods in the API cannot be found!

Building the Samples in Android Studio

The Mobile Ads API samples were created using Eclipse but you can also use the samples in Android Studio very easily. As this is currently not described in the Quick Start Guide I’ve written some instructions below on how to do this…

  1. Run Android Studio and from the Quick Start pane select “Import Non-Android Studio project”. An import wizard begins
  2. Locate the Eclipse project folder for the desired sample and click “OK”

  1. In the “Import Project from ADT” dialog, first choose a destination directory for the Android Studio version of the project and click “Next”

  1. Various import options will appear in the same dialog – just click “Finish” to start the import

  1. Once the import has completed, the project will open in Android Studio
  2. To add the Amazon Mobile Ads API library file to the project, first create a folder called “libs” under the “app” folder in your project. Use OSX Finder or Windows Explorer (as applicable) to do this
  3. Next, find the file “amazon-ads-x.y.z.jar” which located in the “/ads/lib” folder within the Amazon SDK folder and copy it to your new “/app/libs” folder
  4. In Android studio, refresh the project view so that the libs folder appears

  1. Right click the .jar so that you see the context menu as shown below. Select “Add as library”

  1.  Click “OK” in the “Create Library” dialog that appears

  1. At this stage the library will have been added and you should see the following newly added lines in the build.gradle file under your ‘app’ folder:

dependencies {

    compile files('libs/amazon-ads-x.y.z.jar')

}

Where: x, y and z will be substituted with the actual version numbers

Running the Samples

Once you have added the library file to a sample project, you should be able to build the code and try it out on a device. In the SimpleAdSample project, for example, you should see something similar to this when it runs:

Including the APIs into Your Own Code

Using the Amazon Mobile Ads APIs in your own code is relatively straightforward and this Quick Start Guide goes through the steps that you need to follow. There are, however, a few things that are worth delving into a little deeper which I discuss below.

Additional Permissions

To use the APIs, you need to add a least one permission to the project’s manifest file. You have to add the permission android.permission.INTERNET as this enables the app to communicate with the ad server. Additionally, it is advisable to add the other permissions suggested in the Quick Start Guide as doing so will give the ad framework a better chance of delivering ads that are more relevant to the user - see also section “Loading the ad” below.

Loading the Ad

There are two main ways in which you can request an ad. The simplest way is just to call the version of the Ad object’s loadAd() method that takes no parameters. However, the problem with this approach is that you will get ads delivered to your app that might not be applicable to your user’s geographical location. A better approach is to use a different version of the same API that takes some parameters…

 final AdTargetingOptions adOptions = new AdTargetingOptions();       

 adOptions.enableGeoLocation(true);

 this.adView.loadAd(adOptions);

In the snippet above, the code uses the Mobile Ads API to send the position of the device to the Amazon Mobile Ad Network so that potentially more targeted ads are delivered to the host app. Note that the user may still choose to disable this feature by disabling location awareness on a system level in the device settings.

Debugging

During development, it’s a good idea to enable logging and testing using the associated methods in the AdRegistration class. Doing so will for example make it easier for you to track the messages sent to the ad framework in the logcat window. Just make sure to disable logging and testing before launching your app to production.

Handling Ad Events

Once an Ad object has been created, it’s possible to hook into events that are generated by the API. This is done via a special listener class from the Mobile Ads API called DefaultAdListener. When you do this, you can trap several events related to an ad and these result in calls to methods that you override. For example, the onAdFailedToLoad() method is called when the ad has failed to load and in that scenario you could determine the possible cause of the failure and if applicable choose to fill the advert using an alternative ad network.

See this article about event tracking and error handling for more details.

Conclusion

The Amazon Mobile Ads API provides you with additional ways in which you can monetize your mobile apps and games via ads relating to products or services that come from Amazon or other well-known brands. Integrating the API into your Android Java app or game is quick and easy. Once you have integrated the API, you are paid for ads on impressions rather than on clicks.

Here are some more links to useful articles on using the Amazon Mobile Ads API in your Android Java based app:

In upcoming blogs, I will discuss how you can use the Amazon Mobile Ad API in games or apps running on iOS and those that have been developed using popular frameworks such as Unity and Marmalade.

Simon Howard (@SimonH109)

 

January 27, 2015

Mike Hines

Article 9 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we saw how making it easier to buy resulted in a lot more sales; a conclusion that is not rocket science, but can be challenging to implement correctly. This week, we’ll take a look at some strategies that the top 50 have used to increase the number of minutes users spend in each session, and increase the number of sessions the users have per day.

Encourage More Sessions

Updating game content frequently keeps users engaged and coming back to see what’s new. While we didn’t see a demonstrable trend differentiating the top 50 from everyone else with regards to content updates, the developers we’ve interviewed are all fairly unanimous in this regard. Stale content kills long-term retention. And if you’re going to update your content, that might be a good time for a sale on IAP items.

Have a Sale

If you can, time your sales and content releases together. Playtika plans IAP sales when aggregate hard currency balances are low. Playtika also plans new content releases to go live during sales to give the purchased hard currency somewhere to go.. If customers don’t have a place to use their newly acquired IAP items, customers will just keep them in inventory, and you will see a resulting post-sale slump in purchases.

Reduce Barriers to frequent use

The first thing to do is reduce barriers to entry of additional sessions. Flappy Birds is a great example of how easy it is to get started.  You simply tap on start and start flying the bird.  And when you crash, you tap start once more and you start flying again. Compare that to apps where we’ve got to go to a splash screen, welcome menu, and options screen before we can even start playing.  That’s a lot of work, particularly if you’re standing in line at the grocery store.

Another barrier to entry is not starting where you left off. If you’ve gotten to level 14 of a game on your tablet at home, and then pull out your phone when you get to the grocery store, will you really be willing to start all over again at level 1? Or will you  close the app and play a different game? That developer has just lost a re-entrant customer.  They just lost a potential re-order. What you want to do is use one of the game engines that will synchronize your progress across devices. I’ve got a screen shot of Amazon GameCircle here which has an active sync API that synchronizes the customer’s progress so that when a customer gets to level 14 on their tablet, they pick up right on level 14 on their phone; no barrier to entry.

Encourage Longer Sessions

One way to increase session time is to tune game difficulty. Imagine if you’re the small guy here. You’re going to do this once, and you’re to give up. That would get un-fun really quickly. But it’s not fun if you’re the big guy either.  After crushing the little guy a few times it just gets boring.  The top 50 do A|B testing religiously to tune the difficulty and find the sweet spot that keeps users in the game and increases IAP purchases. So absolutely do A|B Testing on the difficulty assumptions or other assumptions you make in your app. It’s free, and it’s surprisingly easy.

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at what you can do to see what’s going on with your customers inside your app, and how the top 50 use that data. For more insights on how to keep users engaged and boost revenue check out our free eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

January 21, 2015

Mike Hines

Article 8 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we saw how differentiating offers to users based on their time in game works well for the top 50. We also saw that doing your best to eliminate confusion is not only a good customer service tenet, but a profitable one as well. This week, we’ll look at other ways the top 50 make it easier to buy.

Keep it Simple

Above is an example of a good IAP purchase screen. Not too many items crowd the page, no items are off the screen (customers just don’t scroll to get to those…), there are a reasonable number of price points, but it’s a bit unclear what the value is.

Take a look at this IAP dialog:

I really like two things about this screen. One is that it doesn’t mix different kinds of things on the same page. The page has one thing; soft currency purchases. If I want to buy a different kind of thing, I can use a different tab/page. The second thing I like is that the value is clearly identified by the BONUS labels. The value is clear. I don’t have to do any math in my head to see why I’d want to buy $9.99 instead of $4.99.

Make It Easy to Buy

Making ‘Easy to Buy’ part of the design requirements is very important. Adding IAP functionality after you have designed your game is a mistake. Take a look at this example of the Ninja Kiwi game Bloons Tower Defense 5, a game in which adorable monkeys toss darts at balloons trying to escape the maze. The game is challenging but not impossible, yet occasionally, as the balloons approach the exit, and you are at a loss to stop them, you can’t buy anything to help you! You can’t purchase anything that will pop all the balloons on the field or make one of your dart throwers a turbo-manic dart thrower for a few seconds. The fact that I can’t buy anything when I need it makes it really hard to give Kiwi Ninja my money. 

Well they figured that out, and in their next tower defense game, SAS Zombie Assault TD, they got it right (below).

In this game, I can build towers with my soft currency using the menu items on the left. But if a horde of flesh-eating zombies is rushing towards the exit, I’ve got hard currency items on the right, so I can spend $0.99 to get 3 Nuclear Hand Grenades and vaporize that mass of zombies.  Soft currency on the left,  hard currency on the right, no confusion. Hard currency items are obvious and available for purchase when my need is greatest. Perfect. When the apps in our study made it easy to shop, ARPPU increased by 75%.

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at what the top 50 do to increase the time their customers spend in the app and how they maximize repeat sessions. For more insights on how to keep users engaged and boost revenue check out our free eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

January 14, 2015

Mike Hines

Article 7 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we saw how teaching customers about your IAP items and how showing them how to use those items makes a big difference for the top 50. In this article, we’ll look at how the top 50 arrange their IAP offers to maximize customer satisfaction and revenue.

Offer Variety

You need to give customers something to order. Certainly you need to give customers items that are appealing to them, but what we found was that as you add more items your catalog, you start making more money. For example, if you have 12 items in your catalog, chances are you’ll make about 45% more money than you would if you only had 6 to 10 items in your catalog. But it’s easy to get the wrong take-away from this data. I don’t want you to think “Holy cow, if I just put 10 more items in a catalog I’ll be in the top 50!” It doesn’t work like that. It’s true that the top 50 have larger catalogs, but they don’t show the entire catalog to the users all at once. They show the right offers to the right people at the right time. They show different items to people on day one than they show to people on day seven or day 30, and they are using their larger catalog to get that breath of offers. Again we see the top 50 differentiating offers to different groups of users. 

Now while variety in terms of offers is great, variety in terms of price points is not so great.

Clarity About Value is Critical

Take a look at the data and you’ll find that the more price points you have the lower your revenue is going to be.  This doesn’t happen because they aren’t good prices, this because they’re confusing. It is really hard to communicate the value difference of items between $.99 $1.99, $2.99 and $3.99. A confused customer doesn’t go out and buy the most expensive item. A confused customer doesn’t go out and buy the cheapest item. A confused customer doesn’t buy anything.  If you have too many price points competing for a customer’s attention it can be hard to determine the value difference between the price points.  

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at how the top 50 make it easy for customers to buy what they want. For more insights on how to keep users engaged and boost revenue check out our free eBook, “In-App Purchasing Lessons from the Top 50 Game Developers”.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

January 07, 2015

Mike Hines

Article 6 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we saw some stats that help drive smart app design, including the importance of securing day 1 customer orders. This week we’ll look at some of the smart things the top 50 do to increase their order and reorder conversion rates.

IAP Tutorials

One way the top 50 make buying on day one (or any day, for that matter) is through tutorials. The top 50 apps introduce hard and soft currency in their tutorials, and show customers how to make in-app purchases.  Across the board, we found that apps that described in-app purchasing in their tutorials have about 2 1/2 times greater conversion rate than apps that don’t. And what do you do after someone buys something? Teach them how to use it!

Get More Repeat Orders

Apps that have instructions on how to use an item that was just purchased have 65% more repeat orders than apps that don’t.  We know that if a customer don’t know that an IAP item exists, they can’t decide to buy it. It makes sense that if a customer doesn’t know how to use what they just bought, why would they ever want to buy more? The top 50 are remarkably consistent in their inclusion of IAP in tutorials. Think about whether you want to do that in your app too.

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at how the top 50 make sure they have the right things to sell to the right people.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

December 31, 2014

Mike Hines

Article 5 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we saw how important the 20% of customers who stick with us past 7 days can be. To maximize that number of users, and to make sure they are having good experiences, the top 50 app developers design their app experiences and marketing plans around some crucial stats.

Know the Numbers

We found the top 50 know the numbers. They have internalized the data on this graphic. They know that 64% of the revenues they get come from customers third or later order, and they market and target specials accordingly. They know they need to give the users a reason to keep coming back into the game, because they know that almost ¾ of their revenue will come from users after they have been in the app for 7 days, and just over half of their revenue will come from users in the app for 30 days and longer.

They also know that 40% of their repeat orders are going happen within one hour of a previous purchase. (Okay, I’ll bet that some of you remember the graphs showing you that the average session length was a little over seven minutes. It’s fair that you should ask how this data fits into that data.)  They key take-away from this data point is that the repeat order comes from a completely different session! That’s why the top 50 make it a very low-friction experience to enter their game and start playing right away. How easy it is to start engaging in your app will make a big difference in whether or not you capture that repeat order.  The top 50 also get that 37% of the customers who will every buy anything will spend money on day one. And to that end, the top 50 make buying on day one really easy. See how they do this in the next article!

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at some of the smart things that the top 50 do to increase their orders and repeat orders.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

December 24, 2014

Mike Hines

Article 4 of 10 in the series: What the Top 50 Games do with In App Purchasing that the Rest of Us Don’t

By Mike Hines (@MikeFHines)

In the previous article in this series, we finished looking at what being in the top 50 looks like from a raw data point of view. In this article, we start to look at how the top 50 got these results, beginning with why the top 50 care so much about the small number of users still with a game after 7 days.

IAP Purchasing by Hour

If you were under the impression that day 7 was a big cutoff for customers and apps, you are partially correct. After 7 days, about 80% of the customers who installed your app will not launch it again. But the 20% of customers that remain can mean a great deal to you.  The graph above is how purchases break down by hour.

The first day of sales is a pretty big spike! Obviously the first day is really important to you; you’ll get about 18% of your revenue from that first day. But what I want you to take away from this graph is the 82% of the revenue that’s left.  This graph has a long tail, and while it doesn’t go out for 30 days, the pattern continues even well beyond 30 days.  So let’s go ahead and take a look at seven days. Seven days is 168 hours, and it’s true that by seven days you may have lost about 80% of all of your active users.  Buy you should know that after seven days, you still have 74% of your potential revenue on the table.  After 30 days, there is still 54% of your potential revenue left on the table.  That’s what a long tail means, so please a lot to pay attention to the users to stay with you after seven days, and stay with you after 30 days.

Price Increases Over Time

One of the reasons that taking care of the long tail is such a big deal is because the average price a customer is willing to pay for an in-app item goes up significantly over time. If you were wondering how the top 50 were able to increase the prices paid for their IAP items?  They are offering a different array of items with more expensive selection to users who’ve been there longer.  Once an average customer has been using an app for 30 days, they will typically purchase items that are 60% more expensive than they did when a day one customer.  The top 50 app developers get this, and you would do well to take a closer look at this as well.  If your apps are offering the same in app purchase items to your customers at day 30 that you did at day zero, you may be leaving some money on the table and leaving your best customers unsatisfied by not filling needs they have in your app. 

Next Up

In the next article in the series, we’ll look at some of the stats that the top 50 app developers know that help them make smart decisions when building and promoting their app and in-app purchase items.

Ready to Submit Your App or Game?

  • To learn more about the Amazon Appstore, click here
  • Click here to register for free as an Amazon Developer. 
  • Click here to download the Amazon Mobile SDK. 
  • Click here to submit your app

 

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