Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #6. Krashlanding with Jeff Weber

AvatarSmJeff Weber was one of the early adopters of AdDuplex. His great Krashlander game is one of the bigger independent hits on the Windows Phone platform and it was by far the biggest app on AdDuplex at the time. So big that all the other apps combined couldn’t outweigh it. So I owed him impressions for quite some time and he was totally cool about it and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Today I’m talking to Jeff about the success of Krashlander in quite some detail.

Krashlander was probably the first independent mega-hit game on Windows Phone. How important to the game’s success was being early on the platform?

Well first, thanks for categorizing Krashlander as a “mega-hit”. Not sure it’s quite that, but I appreciate the thought.

krahslander1krashlander2

I honestly don’t know how important being early to the platform was. I’m pretty sure it helped, but not sure it was key. I think the two most important things that contributed to the success of Krashlander are the early buzz I got across the Microsoft developer community and the fact that the game was fun and addicting for many people.

I remember when I first saw Brandon Watson’s blog post about how to get a developer phone. I thought about it for a while and somehow came up with the idea of doing a blog post about why I deserved to get one. I wrote the blog post and emailed a link to Brandon. He liked the game idea and the videos I posted and he ended up doing another blog post that included mention of my game and several others. That was really the start of the Krashlander buzz. From there I just kept blogging about the development of the game and had some opportunities to show it off at some of the regional Windows Phone developer events.

The second part of the equation, I think, was that a lot of people enjoyed the game. While developing it, I really didn’t know how it would be received. Krashlander has a very unique, sometimes un-forgiving control mechanic. I was very worried I was going to get hammered in the reviews for that. Luckily most people stuck with it long enough to get hang of the controls. Once you get hang of the controls, it’s a pretty addicting game. I think the reviews prove that point.

Many commercially successful Windows Phone developers are successful in part thanks to the number of apps they have released. You, basically, have one. Was this a conscious decision to concentrate all efforts on one mega-hit rather than trying to capitalize on a number of smaller successes?

My development time for games is pretty limited as I have to work around my full-time job and my family time. I generally get about 1.5 hours a day for game development. (I work 4am to 5:30am pretty much every morning.) After Krashlander was released, I really had to choose between starting another game or supporting Krashlander. It ended up being a pretty easy decision once I realized people seemed to be enjoying game.

I also launched with way fewer levels then I had wanted to. I originally planned on 30 to 40 levels at launch. I ended up with 15, but I did make the launch date which was my goal. By focusing only on Krashlander, I was able to release another 10 levels, fix bugs, and release a free version of the game. I have a very large list of other game ideas that I will tackle someday, but for now I’m not done with Krashlander. I have a lot to do before Krashlander is where I want it to be.

You are very open about your numbers and have listed your downloads and revenue stats in your blog post in May. How have you been doing since then?

I released Krashlander (paid version) around Oct 21st 2010. I released Krashlander Free around Feb 20, 2011. Here are the numbers for both over their lifetime.

  • Krashlander (Paid Version) total revenue Oct 2010 – Sept 2011: $3622.21
  • Krashlander Free (Ad revenue by month Feb 2011 – Oct 2011)
Month Revenue Comments
February $34.28  
March $9143.00 This was a crazy month
April $4079.71  
May $2407.18  
June $921.09 Pub Center made some changes here I think
July $787.08  
August $1178.56  
September $630.95  
October $411.62  
  • Total marketplace/ad revenue for both Krashlander and Krashlander Free – $23,215.68

Krashlander has also been lucky enough to have been part of a couple special promotions. I am not allowed to disclose the amounts earned from those.

  • Krashlander total downloads (Includes both trials and purchases) – 23,500
  • Krashlander Free total downloads – 327,000

Needless to say I’ve been very happy with the money Krashlander has made so far. It’s allowed me to build a proper office in my basement and purchase some new dev tools like Unity3d.

We’ve seen that the free version did much better commercially than the paid one. Has the ratio changed since May? Are you still making a lot more from the free one, than from the paid one?

I’m still making more off the ads, but the numbers are dropping fast especially over the last several weeks.  The Ad Revenue is much too volatile to know whether the downward trend will continue or not. Part of me would love to go back to just having the paid version because I really don’t like mucking up my game with Ads. That’s not going to happen though.
 
You’ve participated in the famous MS Advertising experiment where you ran MS and AdMob ads in parallel and got much better results with pubCenter. How did this “deal” come about? Have you tried similar experiments with other networks?

The Microsoft Pub Center guys contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in doing the AdMob vs. Pub Center experiment. Sounded interesting to me and I’d been curious about AdMob anyway so I agreed to do it.

Since the experiment ended, I’ve not tried any other ad services other than Pub Center and AdDuplex. It would be interesting to do another comparison with AdMob now, though, as the Pub Center eCPMs have REALLY tanked as of the last month or so. I think it’d be a much closer race now.

From what I’ve seen on Twitter you are now working on porting Krashlander to other platforms. Is this correct? Is this a technological interest or do you think the grass is greener on the other side? 😉

Yes, about 2 months ago I decided to begin porting Krashlander to the iOS platform. It’s actually more a re-write of the game than a strict port.

This was a tough decision to say the least. As mentioned earlier, I don’t really get a lot of time for game development so deciding to learn a whole new platform and new set of tools was not easy. I thought long and hard before I made this decision. Here is a bullet list of just some of the things that went through my head while making my decision.

  • I REALLY, REALLY wanted to develop a game using Unity (http://unity3d.com/). Unity is on fire right now in the game dev community. It has an awesome editor, it’s easy to use, and it supports multiple platforms. Learning Unity seemed like it’d be a blast and a good investment of my time.
  • The Windows Phone doesn’t currently support Unity, but I am hopeful it will at some point in the future. I really think this might happen in the Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 time frame, but that is purely a guess.
  • XNA is great technology, but it seems to be languishing a bit and it seems to have an uncertain future. XNA also isn’t cross platform out of the box. For these reasons, I did not want to invest too much time in learning it. (I did actually start down that path. I had a nice little framework started.)
  • Krashlander did very well on Windows Phone and based on reviews and emails, people really seemed to enjoy it. If people liked the game on Windows Phone, maybe they will like it on the iPhone and iPad. And, as you know, the iOS market is HUGE!
  • It’s still early days for Windows Phone. Taking some time away to try things on a different platform doesn’t seem too big a risk. If the Windows Phone decides to take off (and I think it will), I can always jump back on-board. I just hope that by then Unity will be supported and I won’t have to choose between the two platforms.
  • Microsoft still favors XBL games in their market place over indie games. To do another paid version of Krashlander, which I’d prefer, would mean never getting higher in the marketplace than a bunch of XBL games that get special marketing from Microsoft. There is always the option of trying to become an XBL game on the phone, but I’ve decided that doesn’t really appeal to me. (Even though I’m sure the money would be great.)

I’m sure there are other things that I’ve forgotten, but the list above bounced around in my head for a few weeks until one day I just decided it was time to make a decision. I chose to give Unity and iOS a try… for now.

You have a name in the Windows Phone community and your next project would easily attract attention from the community and specialized media. On iPhone/Android [I assume] no one knows you. And Windows Phone community is relatively small to be able to spread the word about Krashlander to users of other phones. Do you have a plan on how you are going to promote the game to the new audience?

Yeah I think you are right, not too many people in the iOS community know who I am or have ever heard of Krashlander. When it comes to marketing, I never really have a solid plan. I usually just shoot from the hip and try different things as they pop into my head.

Once I get a bit further along with the Unity/iOS version of Krashlander I’ll begin talking about it and giving early looks. I will definitely leverage the success of Krashlander on the Windows Phone as I promote Krashlander for iOS.

While many iOS consumers may not know much about Windows Phone, I think a lot of the blogs and influencers are aware of it. Being able to point at Krashlander’s success on Windows Phone should lend some credibility to the iOS version.

I also plan to spend the time/money to create a nice Krashlander trailer. (Something I did not do for the Windows Phone version.)  I think the game has a “coolness” factor that will come across nice in a well-designed trailer.

You were one of the first developers to use AdDuplex and definitely the biggest one at the time. I want to thank you for that and wish you good luck with your current and future projects. Thank you!

Thanks Alan and thanks for AdDuplex. I do not track my stats with enough detail to know how much AdDuplex has contributed to the success of Krashlander but I have no doubt it gave it a big push.  I recommend it to anyone interested in giving their app/game a little extra juice!

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