Over the last couple of years since our Amazon Appstore launch, we’ve talked with many unique and inspiring developers. Along the way we’ve learned quite a bit and wanted to pass some of those learnings back to our developer community. So to that end, we are excited to continue our Developer Spotlight series. This series will highlight developers’ experiences building apps, ranging from what inspires them and how they’re delivering innovation to consumers to the results they’re achieving.
For today’s spotlight, we’re excited to chat with one of the co-founders of ZeptoLab, a global gaming company whose game Cut the Rope has been an instant success since its debut in October of 2010. The game remains a top app throughout mobile markets, browsers and desktops, and has been downloaded more than 400 million times to date.
Below is our interview with Zeptolab co-founder and CTO, Efim Voinov.
Why did you start Zeptolab?
Creating games was a hobby for my brother and me since early childhood. We’ve started with the games for ZX Spectrum in the early 90s, switched to PalmOS in the 2000s, and jumped into iOS and Android development since the first days of those platforms. At that time we already had experience in several gaming companies, and thought it was the right time to start something on our own. The new platforms offered exciting opportunities for independent developers, and we believed they shouldn’t be missed.
When did you start Android development for Cut the Rope?
The original version of Cut the Rope was released for iOS only, since there were only two of us developing full-time, and we had to concentrate on a single platform. After the game was out, we started to receive feedback from the players that they would like it on other platforms, and Android was the most requested one. Once the company had grown enough, we started developing it and about eight months after the release of the original we had the Android version. The version for Amazon Appstore was released at the same time, and required very little adaptation.
What changes did you need to build into the game to make it available for the Amazon Appstore?
Since we released Cut the Rope, we’ve created other titles, like Cut the Rope: Time Travel, Cut The Rope: Experiments, and Pudding Monsters. All of our titles are available in the Amazon Appstore. The process of porting the app for Amazon is very easy; we simply swap out billing API’s for the Amazon API for billing, which is something we do for all platforms we sell our app on. In addition, we are using GameCircle to handle leaderboards and achievements for games in the Amazon Appstore, which we have built in.
What’s it like to work with Amazon?
We think the Amazon API’s are very well thought through, the implementation is efficient and it’s easy to find information on how to use them. Having this ease of use is very important to us because we have lots of different versions of the games and really value the quick turnaround time to support games. In cases where we need more information the documentation level for Amazon API’s is very good and compared to others it’s in many cases above the competition. We don’t have to communicate with the Amazon team a lot in terms of understanding how to implement.
We also really appreciate your developer relations team. Having these relationships with the team helps us plan for the future, so we can plan for our business and consider the best way to implement new API’s and improvements into our games. The level of technical features being brought to market is impressive.
What are you looking at doing next with the Amazon Appstore?
In our current titles we are actively using IAP and this is proving to be quite successful for us in the Amazon Appstore. They currently bring us more than 40% of our revenue, and this figure is growing. In general, our cumulative income in the Amazon Appstore is doubling every year, and we are looking forward to increasing this trend in the future. With the latest release of the Mobile Associates API, we are looking at various opportunities to sell physical goods for our games.
Do you have any tips and tricks for developers building mobile games and applications?
One of the things that we learned is that it’s really important to minimize the routine tasks during development, and optimize the process as much as possible. That’s why we have invested quite a lot of time into our own framework, which includes different tools that automate various tasks. For example, we have an animation system, which allows us to automatically export animations created in the Adobe Flash directly to the game.
We also try to keep things as abstract as possible while designing a native OpenGL application for the Android platform. We try not to rely too heavily on a list of pre-defined resolutions, even if the list is extensive, because hardware specs are always changing. Instead, we try to invent a system for adopting current graphics to any imaginary screen proportion and only switch version for graphic assets depending on a real resolution. The one constant that does not change is the size of a user’s finger. We try to estimate an optimal physical size for a gesture and calculate using real measures like dpi and screen size in inches on every device.
Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.
Occasionally, we'll have a developer ask if the financial benefit of participating in the FAD program is worth it. Will it help them ultimately grow their app revenue?
Below is a guest post by Tasharen Entertainment, a small independent developer in Toronto that created Starlink – a strategy game – available in the Amazon Appstore, Google Play and the Apple App Store. They recently issued a blog post highlighting their success with the Free App of the Day program and we thought we’d share it with you. It’s always compelling to see a developer try something new, measure the actual results across several app stores and find out their test was successful. The article was originally posted on Tasharen’s blog post here.
Starlink has recently participated in the Free App of the Day promotion on the Amazon App Store. Before joining the promotion I did my research, and saw that there was some controversy about it, but I went for it anyway. Two weeks later, I am happy to share the results.
With Starlink being a rather obscure strategy game released with zero marketing a few months ago, its player base has been expectedly small: of the 2500 players before the promotion, around 80% were pirates who got it for free. Number of daily players was around 100 — which was actually a fairly high percentage, all things considered. The sales died down quickly after the release. I think the “best” day earned around $65 in sales, but the average daily income since release has been around $10 — a rather sad amount. Nonetheless, factoring the fact that Starlink is a first game I’ve released on the mobile platforms, and that an average first-time release is only expected to earn around $500 during its lifetime, Starlink’s ~$1400 lifetime income was actually already ahead of the curve.
Enter the Amazon’s Free App of the Day promotion. The process was started by Amazon themselves who got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested — I said of course. After some emails back and forth, the date was assigned: July 19th — a Friday. Perfect for a game!
On that day, over 102,000 players have downloaded the game. North American rating of the game averaged at 3.5/5, with the majority being along the lines of “I don’t get it”, complaining about the sparse tutorial and the game being too difficult even on the beginner difficulty. Curiously enough, Japanese players rated the game 4.5/5.0 (over 7500 downloads). Apparently Japanese players had an easier time understanding an English-language game than native English speakers!
After the promotion I wanted to wait two weeks to see the effect the promotion would have on the sales of the game on all of the platforms it was available on. Now, keep in mind. I myself did nothing. I didn’t say the app would be promoted, didn’t release any news about it, no new videos, nothing! I wanted to see the raw effect the promotion would have. Some of you may go “wtf” at this, but keep in mind — Starlink for me is, and always has been — an experiment. My goal has never been to make it the next Angry Birds, but to experiment with the different platforms, methods of monetization, cross-promotion, etc.
So here is the raw effect of the promotion. Before the 19th, the statistics looked like this:
Two weeks later, the statistics seem a lot healthier:
Total estimated income for the 2 week period immediately following the promotion: $1,385, or almost the same amount of money they game has earned in the 3 months leading up to the promotion.
So the obvious question is — from my point of view, was the promotion worth it?
And the answer is a resounding “Yes“! And if you are an indie dev who’s considering participating in the Amazon’s Free App of the Day, here’s a small suggestion for you: don’t concern yourself with the players who will obtain your game for free. Instead, think of all the players that will follow and will buy your game based on the attention it will receive and the word-of-mouth talk that will follow.
Or in other words, think of it as free marketing done right.
If you have an interesting story or experience to share with other developers through a guest post on our blog, email us at mobile-app-marketing(at)amazon.com for consideration.
Continuing our series of success stories from developers around the world, we go to France, where developers are witnessing strong positive results less than a year after the launch of the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Program in August 2012.
Ubisoft’s PC and console titles have been available on Amazon for a long time, helping to build a great partnership between both companies over the years. As Ubisoft strengthened its mobile offering, it was a natural progression for their Android games to be made available on Amazon and to Kindle Fire users. Dominique Tardieu, Sales and Marketing Director at Ubisoft Mobile, explains: “Amazon and Kindle Fire tablets hold a significant potential for our mobile games as they become more and more widespread. Also, Amazon has developed a meaningful ecosystem for Kindle Fire games via Amazon GameCircle. This gives us the possibility to leverage the social aspects of our games, through Player vs Player functionality and leaderboards, for instance.”
Since September 2012, Ubisoft has successfully launched a variety of best-selling games on Amazon, including Rayman Jungle Run, Prince of Persia, and (more recently) Nutty Fluffies. An important element of these games’ success so far has been Amazon personalization and recommendations. Tardieu says, “The experience they bring in terms of customer relationship management and knowledge of the industry has made it possible for us to ensure a successful launch for all our titles. Amazon clearly benefits from the know-how acquired over the years working on Ubisoft’s console and PC games and has learned how to harness it to successfully promote the right content to the right consumers.”
Ubisoft is a leading producer, publisher, and distributor of interactive entertainment products worldwide and has grown considerably through a strong and diversified line-up of products and partnerships. Ubisoft has offices in 26 countries and operates in more than 55 countries around the globe. It is committed to delivering high-quality, cutting-edge video game titles to consumers. For the 2011-12 fiscal year, Ubisoft generated sales exceeding €1 billion. To learn more, please visit: www.ubisoftgroup.com
The UK Amazon Mobile App Distribution Program team was delighted to host its first developer meet-up for London’s thriving tech community with the outstanding team at The Skills Matter Exchange in Clerkenwell. Developers and publishers P2 Games, Deluxe Media Europe, Miniclip, and Future Games of London provided insight into the strategies that have made them successful. They shared a lot of fantastic tips on how to design, build, and distribute apps and games in the UK (and the nearly 200 other countries we support worldwide).
Peter Sleeman, Director of P2 Games, was first to break cover in what was to become an insightful and energetic Q&A session. For Peter, creating great digital content is the first key to success.
“At P2 Games, we hold the license for Peppa the Pig, but even if you don’t hold the license for a popular character, content is king. Build a great app or game with great content and customers will discover it.”
So once you have a great app, what next? You might get 5-star reviews and your Twitter feed might be blowing up with the buzz, but developers don’t work pro bono, right? Well, Henry Bennett from Deluxe Media Europe, makers of seminal British TV show apps Catch Phrase and Bullseye, has good news.
“Amazon is a key distribution platform for our apps. The platform offers our apps high visibility in terms of promotional space along with very good monetization. Amazon has now become our second most profitable distribution platform.”
Quick to second this was Saad Choudri of Miniclip fame, creators of Extreme Skating HD, Fragger, and iStunt. He said:
“Amazon has been a strong partner for Miniclip. The revenue return we have seen through Amazon means that it is important for developers to consider Amazon in their launch strategy.”
Future Games of London, makers of the successful Hungry Shark series, were represented by Ian Harper. Ian discussed what’s required technically to generate revenue, highlighting the Amazon platform because it monetizes well and is easy to develop for. Besides supporting standard Android apps, it also provides a suite of developer tools.
“Amazon offers excellent developer tools, robust APIs, and strong monetization”.
Once the formalities had concluded, we ensured everyone had some food and a refreshing beverage. Ninety minutes of frenzied networking ensued, with the good and the bad, the wise and the young furiously chomping down on some excellent pizza, swigging beer, and trying to find a spare hand to pass a business card whenever possible. This was briefly interrupted for the moment that everyone had been waiting for… drum roll… and the winner is… “Would Tom Mleko of Dataspin.io like to make his way to the stage? You are the lucky winner of a Kindle Fire HD 8.9”.
We’ll be doing plenty more of these events and look forward to seeing you there soon!
Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.
One of Amazon’s unique features is the paid app for free each day for consumers, Free App of the Day, making it easy to discover new apps and games. For developers, this presents an opportunity to grow your audience quickly and have your app featured prominently on Amazon.com, the Amazon Apps mobile app for Android, and on Kindle Fire tablets. Many developers have had success by featuring their apps as part of this promotion. One recent success story is EnsenaSoft, a developer based in Mexico that creates casual games like Fantastic 4 in a Row HD and Mahjong Deluxe HD.
In late 2011, Amazon reached out to EnsenaSoft to see if it would be interested in participating in Free App of the Day. “We were very excited to get this kind of exposure from within Amazon, and best of all, it was free,” said Samuel DanHartog, Chief Creative Officer at EnsenaSoft. On January 1, 2012, Amazon featured EnsenaSoft’s app, Mahjong Deluxe HD, as Free App of the Day. “This helped us increase sales on our app not only on the day of Free App of the Day, but also afterward,” said Samuel. “Mahjong Deluxe HD also moved into a much better position in the rankings, which it has maintained to this day, over a year later.”
In fact, EnsenaSoft was so pleased with the results of featuring Mahjong Deluxe HD as Free App of the Day, it also wanted to have another one of its games featured. Even with cross-promotion within its apps, Barnyard Mahjong HD had been struggling. After Barnyard Mahjong HD was featured as the Free App of the Day, the free version and the paid version both have had three times as many daily sales compared to sales prior to the featuring as Free App of the Day.
“Thanks to the Free App of the Day promotion, and the high quality store that Amazon offers, our app downloads (both free and paid) are higher on Amazon than any other Android store,” said Samuel. ”The retention rate of users on Kindle Fire is higher than other platforms. On our free apps, that means more ad impressions, as well as more opportunities for cross-promoting our games.”
In fact, Samuel tells us that the success EnsenaSoft has had from featuring its apps in Amazon’s Free App of the Day program outweighs the success it had from spending actual money on marketing campaigns. “None of these events have brought us near the quantity or quality of users that Amazon brings,” said Samuel. “Free App of the Day has helped us grow in popularity on Amazon, but also has contributed to growth on other app stores as well.”
Are you interested in having your apps featured in Free App of the Day? If so, let us know here. We review every app and game submitted, and if your app is chosen, we’ll be in touch with you to discuss next steps and ensure you’re on board.
Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.
SpinFall is a small indie mobile game development company based in San Antonio, Texas. The husband and wife team of Franklin and Stephanie Lyons have been developing mobile games as a hobby for the past three years, and have recently decided to dedicate all of their time to creating fun, family-friendly games. Their latest game is Frog on Ice,where you use tapping motions to propel Plop (a frog) across an icy terrain,while defeating bad guys and collecting treasures.
When the Free App of the Day team reached out to SpinFall to see if they were interested in participating, they were excited to hear more about the opportunity, knowing that it would give them an opportunity to expand their customer base. “For indie developers like us, this kind of exposure is priceless,” said Stephanie. The Free App of the Day team worked closely with SpinFall,providing tips and assistance leading up to their scheduled day.
“Watching our download number skyrocket all day was really exciting,” said Stephanie. “What we obtained that day was more important than cash. We acquired a solid customer base and received a ton of customer feedback.” Frog on Ice received more downloads on that day than it has previously in all markets combined. Plus, the app had more than 100 new reviews.“The reviews have enabled us to improve our game based on what people really want,” said Stephanie. “Plus, our revenue went up on other app stores that day too.”
“Our profits on Amazon are still at least double than what they were prior to Free App of the Day,” said Stephanie. “Since then, we’re earning more on Amazon daily than on iTunes or Google Play.” Plus, the added awareness caught the attention of the San Antonio Express News, who has recently written about their company and games. “Anywhere else, marketing efforts of this caliber would have easily cost thousands of dollars to implement,” said Stephanie. “But with Amazon’s Free App of the Day program, we didn’t have to spend a dime.”
SpinFall’s advice for future Free App of the Day participants:
SpinFall was very pleased with the results of Frog on Ice in Free App of the Day. They gained added visibility, a new customer base,access to analytics they’ve never had before, customer feedback, and even a bitof local fame. If you’re interested in participating in the Free App of the Day program, you can submit your app for consideration here.
Zillow is a home and real estate marketplace dedicated to helping homeowners, home buyers, sellers, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, landlords, and property managers find and share vital information about homes, real estate and mortgages. We recently had a chance to speak with Steve Perrin, Mobile Development Manager at Zillow, and Leo Liang, Sr. Software Development Engineer at Zillow, to get their feedback on working with Amazon to power their marketplace via Amazon Web Services and to distribute their apps via Kindle Fire tablets and the Amazon Apps mobile client.
With Amazon Web Services, Zillow uses a combination of SQS (SimpleQueue Service) for processing, S3 for storage, Elasticache for scalability, and ELB for server load balancing. In addition, they use EC2 as an on-demand service whenever they update their Zestimate algorithm. “We love the simple API and comprehensive set of solutions in the cloud stack that AWS provides,helping us get things done quickly at every product stage,” Leo said.
When it came time for Zillow to choose between service providers, they chose AWS for their reliability, flexibility and support. Leo noted that “in addition to not being limited to any particular development platform, AWS provides EC2 instances on-demand, and a comprehensive cloud stack that helps get things done quickly and with high quality, while keeping future scalability in mind.”
When Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, the Zillow team was quick to optimize their Android app with the new tablet. “It was important to Zillow that our apps worked well on the Kindle Fire since it was a competitive addition to the tablet landscape.” Mobile devices make up 40% of Zillow’s traffic, which grows to more than 50% on weekends. The team followed up by working closely with Amazon in preparation for the launch of the new Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD this fall. Steve was able to implement the new AmazonMaps API quickly, thanks to a compatible API that fully met their needs.
Optimizing an Android application for a tablet is more than just stretching the UI, and Zillow has defined a layout that works well on the Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9” device. As well as Maps, their app leverages Location Services and has enhanced performance for the PowerVR GPU. Says Steve, “The best thing about working with Amazon’s Mobile App Distribution Program is the great support that we receive from Amazon’s team. They’ve been extremely helpful in getting our apps optimized for the Kindle Fire HD. In addition, their new Maps API was easy to integrate, and made it easy for us to give our users a great map experience on Kindle Fire HD.”
Zillow Real Estate is available on Kindle Fire tablets and the Amazon Apps mobile client.