After the trip to GDC Europe and gamescom

Last week the city of Cologne was buzzing because of all game developers and enthusiasts that gathered together for the largest game industry event in Europe – GDC Europe and gamescom.

Earlier this year we ran a contest to win all expenses paid trip to these great events. Today we’re talking to Konrad Karolczyk from T-Bull (the winner of this contest) who recently got back from Germany and, I believe, is still full of excitement:

What trends do you see in terms of most popular genres, biggest publishers, most popular platforms, new publishing opportunities, etc.?

Well, there was a lot of talking about releasing cross-platform games. Trying not to stick to just one of them and use variety of shops to sell your product. Also aspect of analytics in games was highly discussed. How to look on your players, what their actions mean and how to convert that to better experience.

Also, I was surprised how many great games are being made when I went to Indie Developers Area. A lot of people with great attitude, passion and determination to deliver really innovative products. It’s a refreshing experience! Nowadays, there’s a big challenge for game developers. 10 years ago we had a few games released every year to play. Right now hundreds of games are being released every day so everyone is trying to keep up with it. It forces you to write better stories, do better graphics and give the players even better experience.

Who were most excited for you to meet in the GDC or gamescom?

I was really looking forward to meet with guys from Unity. They’re really open to their customers and what is more important – they listen to them. But conversation with everyone was really valuable to me, from sound designers, composers, through programmers, to producers. While everybody is from different part of the world and has different approach to the industry it’s even more interesting to listen to their stories.

Do you think that participation in this kind of events is important for mobile game publishers and what kind of opportunities it could bring?

There is no better place to meet people and share experience. For me, it’s crucial to have opportunity to look on things from different perspective. You can confront your mindset with other people which gives you the most valuable knowledge.

And what would you suggest for those who are going to attend any other similar event? What can they expect from this type of conferences and does it need a special preparation?

Expect being overwhelmed. There is just so many things to see and experience! You really need to have a plan to be able to see as much as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, sometimes they can give much more insight than presentation itself.

Thank you Konrad for sharing your thoughts and insights. It looks like you’ve really had a productive trip!

And I wanted to thank AdDuplex for opportunity to be on GDC Europe and gamescom. It was great experience, a lot of extraordinary people around and a lot of amazing projects. Really got inspired by a lot of stuff. So again, thank you very much!

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #14. Talking to T-Bull

Karol SliwinskiThis time we’re talking to Karol Sliwinski who is the ASO (app store optimization) specialist in T-Bull development studio.

T-Bull originates from Wroclaw, Poland. At this moment it has 30 games on Windows Phone, many of them listed on the first page of Top Free and Best Rated rankings for shooters and racing games. 

T-BullT-Bull also publish to Google Play, iTunes, BlackBerry, Windows Store and Amazon.

Their games recently reached more than 60,000,000 global downloads, with 15,000,000 on Windows Phone alone!

Karol revealed that they are currently preparing for the launch of their biggest and best game yet. Top Speed is centered around the underground world of drag racing competitions. It’ll be available on all platforms around 23rd of July. You can look it up here.

So let’s talk how these guys managed to get their games to the top.

All of your games are divided into few different genres (racing, football, zombie shooters). Are there any particular reasons why you’re creating these type of games?

After some initial experiments with other categories we’ve concluded that we should stick to creating games in genres that we personally love the most. This way our work became as fun as it is possible – and this is the only way to create amazing products. You have to do what you love to achieve results.

I guess Windows Phone wasn’t the platform that T-Bull started with. What were the main reasons you moved to WP? What perspectives do you see here?

Yeah, we started with Google Play and iTunes at first. Both of them proved to be amazing platforms. When we started to use Unity® to create our games we were presented with an opportunity to expand to other stores. Going to Windows Phone was an amazing choice – this store was still a virgin territory, with a lot of potential to grow, and with an extremely willing and receptive audience. We were actually shocked how easy it was to have an app featured and rising in the rankings simply because it presented high quality – even years ago, when we were still developing our marketing strategy.

What’s the biggest struggle while acquiring new users for Windows Phone games?

Our biggest concerns on Windows Phone are actually the basics – creating an awesome app listing with A/B tested graphic assets and CTAs, and involving some serious copywriting to get a nice and smooth description. Most of the time I handle the ASO and I must say that working with Windows Phone was always a pleasure. I’d only like that my tools of choice – namely Sensor Tower and App Annie – started to provide some support for keyword research on Windows Phone.

Most of the time good ASO is all an app on Windows Phone needs to live long and prosper. As I mentioned before this market really loves good games!

And what advantages do you find while creating games for Windows Phone comparing with other platforms?

The biggest advantage of Windows Phone was the low saturation of top-notch products in this market. I believe that good content on this market tends to be actually curated in the rankings.

What strategy did you use to promote your earlier Windows Phone games? And are you going to do something different this time?

Up to this moment ASO was the way to go for us. Though with Top Speed we’re investing money into advertising with AdDuplex – this way we hope to get the adequate publicity for this game. We’ll also use AdDuplex cross-promotion to target all of our ads in the system towards Top Speed. All of this should provide this game with a huge boost in downloads, effectively creating a snowball effect. 

Top SpeedAll your games are free to play. How do you monetize them? Why did you choose this method?

Global trends in app monetization started to shift in 2011. Freemium app revenue started to overgrow traditional premium model. The only problem was that freemium was simply an extension of the old, redundant shareware. Free to play on the other hand gave the player the possibility to play the actual, full product. We just knew that this was the way to offer our players maximum value while still allowing for satisfying revenue.

Getting the player to pay for the first time is certainly a problem – there’s still a lot of people who won’t hand out cash for anything on the mobile. Many still don’t have any credit cards connected to their account. The culture of mobile payments is still in the phase of painful labor – many players are rather skeptical to the idea of abandoning the old ways of premium games. I believe that this will change as people will notice that free-to-play model provides them with an amazing possibility: to actually play good games without paying upfront.

There are some Windows 8 games of yours. How do you evaluate the difference between WP and W8 platforms?

Desktop Windows is tricky when it comes to getting a reasonable ROI. Although it’s breathtakingly easy to port to when using Unity® and there’s big traffic, people seem to be not so willing to pay for IAPs as on other platforms. I’ve also noticed that ads for Windows apps are quite scarce – fill rates are low and eCPMs are not really satisfying.

I believe that all of this could change with the coming of Windows 10 universal apps – this technology will fill this platform with lots of good content, effectively making it more serious to advertisers.

Do you have any special plans for Windows 10?

We’ll certainly keep publishing our games on Windows 10. Windows has its own quirks but we’ve grown very fond of this platform.

I’ve recently seen estimations that Windows Phone will have as much as 10 percent of the smartphone market share by 2020. (via Bob O’Donnel, Technalysis Research) Let’s keep fingers crossed that this will prove to be true!


Thank you Karol and good luck with your new game. We’re definitely saving the date to try it!

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #13. Getting to the top.


Back in January we’ve celebrated AdDuplex’ 4th Birthday and ran this festive contest where Mini Golf Club was selected as one of the winners.

Mini Golf Club is a physics based mini golf simulator for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. It is also one of the most successful games created by Zoltán Gubics.

Zoltán started developing and publishing games during his studies. And after graduation he became an entrepreneur and founded Obumo Games. In this interview Zoltán shares personal experience and lessons learned while getting his Windows Phone and Windows games to the top.

Could you tell us more about yourself? What is your background? Is app and game development your full time job?

I live in Budapest, Hungary. I studied software engineering at Budapest University of Technology and Economics and graduated two years ago. During my studies, I focused on Microsoft technologies mainly and that’s how I got involved in Windows 8 application development. I’ve been interested in game development since the start of my studies, so I developed my first game for Windows 8 called Offroad Racing. Luckily, Offroad Racing has become very popular in the Windows Store and that was the point when my hobby became my daily job. I’ve been developing games ever since as an independent developer using Unity game engine.

I usually work alone, however I have had some help from a friend at the beginning.

In your opinion what are the reasons that Mini Golf Club is loved by users?

minigolf3I think players love Mini Golf Club because of its casual yet challenging gameplay and wide variety of levels. Most of the levels can be completed in several ways, which makes players think about new solutions. Currently, there are 170+ levels and the collection is growing month by month. They can also create their own levels in the editor and send in their creations by email. The best of player-made levels are added to the collection every month as an update. They get all features for free, because I decided to monetize my game primarily with ads instead of IAPs and it turned out well for me.

Which of your own games do you like the most? Why?

battledroidsPersonally I like Battle Droids the most. The game is a recreation of the popular Bomberman game for Windows and Windows Phone. It’s a player versus player multiplayer game for up to 4 players and it has an action packed gameplay that requires some skills against other player. The multiplayer features are also cross-platform, so player from Windows Phone devices can play against Windows 8 users. It’s my third published game and I haven’t really got much experience back then and the game didn’t get much attention in the stores.

You have published 7 apps already. So you should have noticed what works best while setting up marketing and advertising strategies. Could you share some of your insights?

Sure. I usually set up my advertising campaigns for the launch date. I also use AdDuplex cross-promotion network and house ads in all of my games to boost user acquisition. I have a website and Facebook page which I keep updating at least weekly, so I can utilize my existing fan base at a new release. Blogging and newsletters can also be efficient tools to keeping your existing players engaged. Reaching out to review sites is important too. At a new release I try to focus most of my resources for the first 1-4 weeks and generate as much exposure as possible.

What is the biggest struggle that you find in acquiring new users for Windows Phone and Windows games?

The biggest struggle I found in user acquisition was localization. Publishing your game in English only is not enough anymore. You can reach only 20% or less of the potential users if you ignore other languages. My advice to other developers would be to localize at least your store content and game. Of course the more content you localize the more chance you have to acquire users. This includes your advertising campaigns too. A localized app or game has higher chance of being reviewed by local review sites too.

Can we expect any new apps or games of yours to be released in near future? If yes, are you going to try any new marketing strategies?

Yes, I plan to release at least 2 new games in 2015 which are currently in development. One of them is 2D casual game and the other is a 3D resource management game. I’ll publish more details about the games later, so if you’re interested in stay tuned at Obumo Games Facebook page.

I’m really excited about AdDuplex Interstitial ads and I’ll definitely try it out. Furthermore, Microsoft announced Video ads for Windows 10 last week at BUILD which opens up lots of possibilities for developers.

Thank you Zoltán for sharing your experience. It will be really interesting to hear how did it go with your new games!

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #12. NONOGRAM2 – classic game in Modern UI


As Evgeniy Vodnev, the creator of NONOGRAM2, says this game is another realization of classic game – nonogram, also called griddlers or hanjie. Game was built in accordance with Windows Phone design guidelines and looks rather well.

NONOGRAM2 was announced as one of our 4th Birthday contest winners. And here we are talking with Evgeniy about the ways he uses to acquire users for his first Windows Phone game.

How would you describe NONGRAM2 to someone who is not familiar with it at all?

NONOGRAM2 is the time killer for smart guys – well-known classic game in Modern UI.

I know that NONOGRAM2 is the first game that you’ve developed. How did you decide to make this type of game? There are 300 nonograms. Have you created it all by yourself?

I like this type of games but existing nonograms for Windows Phone have different shortcomings. So I decided to make my own game to be the best one.  

I took all nonograms from old sources. It is a hard task to make resolvable and at the same time interesting nonogram puzzles from scratch.


What is the key point that helps NONOGRAM2 to stand out against other similar games?

This game was built in accordance with Modern UI design guidelines. It has lightweight and simple interface at the same time adapted for large puzzles. NONOGRAM2 contains large amount of puzzles, maybe the largest among other nonograms for Windows Phone. All this can give user many hours of playing.

This game is supported only on Windows Phone. Do you plan to move it to other platforms? Why?

On my full-time job I am Windows developer, so I used my familiar tools and known technologies. I live inside Windows ecosystem for years, it is my contribution in its development. If users will like my app I will think about moving it to other platforms.

Don’t you think that it is hard to create a really successful game working just several hours per week?

Game development is just hobby for me but, as I said earlier, I am professional Windows developer. From my experience I do think that really great products can be made only by teams working 24/7 on the project.

NONOGRAM2 just recently joined AdDuplex cross-promotion network. What other marketing methods did you use before to acquire all users?

AdDuplex is the first and today the only one method I use to promote my application. It gives very interesting experience and useful statistics and, of course, attracts new users.

What’s the most difficult part for you about making Windows Phone game?

As for me as a developer, promotion is the hardest part. You already have a product and … oops… nobody downloads it. It is frustrating and you don’t know how to change the situation.

Are there any other games on the way? If yes, do you plan to change your marketing strategy and how?

Yes, there is one more game in the development process. The difference is that now I work not alone but with my colleagues. I think we will try to use the power of social networks to increase the popularity and downloads of future product. And, no doubt, we will integrate AdDuplex into it.

Thank you Evgeniy for sharing your experience. Looking forward for your new game!


And we encourage everyone to download this game and try to solve at least some of these 300 nonograms!

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #11. Majid Khosravi about Fruit Bump. What, Why and How?


“Since the launch of Fruit Bump, we were thrilled with the positive feedback it received. With such a strong reception, we are putting in more effort in further development of our main project, and what we hope will become a series of future casual puzzle hits. Twimler is growing daily, and there’s plenty in store for our fans and new players alike.” – sais Majid Khosravi, the Managing Director at Twimler and creator of Fruit Bump. In this interview Majid will share his experience of what it takes to create a captivating match 3 puzzle game and where to pay more attention while building mobile games in general.

Fruit Bump now has over 600 levels of match 3 fun and more than 2 million downloads on three leading platforms: iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Currently there are about 300,000 daily players from which half have completed at least 100 levels. This is an exceptional retention rate for a new pick-up-and-go game!

1. What is your background? What did you do before mobile games?

I was always fascinated with computers and the creative possibilities available in programming. I found ways to teach myself the core fundamentals behind computers and pursued a relevant degree in the field. Delving into many areas of computer science and finally focusing on software development. I started working thirteen years ago as a software developer, and more recently, I decided to start my own software development company which has evolved into Twimler. 

2. How did you decide to make match 3 puzzle game in such a competitive genre? Where do you get your inspiration and knowledge on how to acquire more users?


I was always a big fan of mobile games, especially puzzle games. The idea started to take shape around early 2013, when we decided to design our first game. Every member of the team pitched in with original ideas in a number genres and styles; however, after thorough discussion, we felt a match 3 title was perfectly suited for smaller mobile screens, was easy to get into and had almost infinite variations which we could experiment with. Initially, the focus was to build a game that we enjoy playing ourselves, although we have implemented feedback mechanism and in-game statistics tracking from day one to let our customers know how they felt about the experience they were getting. From then on, client feedback shaped our design, and we like to think it turned out rather well! 

Fruit-bumpWe were aware that this was a competitive market but did not let that stop us from building our game. Our team did not follow the herd, putting in and experimenting with original game rules that were not at all common in similar puzzlers, although we kept the basic framework of match 3 very familiar and easy to play. It was a risky approach, but creative and original content is the only sure way of grabbing a significant user base from giants like King and Gameloft.

Originally, we faced many challenges and lots of questions were raised as we were new to the market. We had to try most of the platforms, popular and obscure ones, to find out which ones worked best for us in both monetization and user acquisition. So yes, our inspiration comes directly from our customers and plenty of statistics. Facebook integration from the very early versions of Fruit Bump was also a huge long term boon for us. 

3. We must say that Fruit Bump is on the TOP list in AdDuplex Direct catalog. How do you feel about it from your side? What other ways do you use to monetize this game?

I am pleased to see Fruit Bump is up there and doing well! It was a pleasure to work on, and everyone at Twimler rooting for its success. User feedback was higher than our expectations and we are delighted to see the results. Moreover, AdDuplex Direct platform takes away all of the hassle of building a mediation tool for us to fill up our inventory. And AdDuplex SDK is very easy to use, its stable and doesn’t compromise the game play at all.

For monetization we use a combination of both: ads and in-app purchases. We also experimented with retail priced releases of the game and chapter based pricing, yet skill focused free-to-play model with optional add-ons seems to resonate exceptionally well in the current market, attracting players from all social and age demographics.

4. Do you dedicate specific time on Fruit Bump marketing? If yes: What marketing strategies have you tried on different platforms to promote Fruit Bump?

fruit bump

Yes, the main challenge after releasing the game was marketing it, and we had to try a number of approaches. Everyone chipped in with ideas in this area of production. We also had a dedicated member of staff responsible for generating marketing materials and getting in touch with distributors, publishers and media.  

Using social platforms such as Facebook was the first approach. With Facebook SDK we made it possible for our players to connect and share their scores with their friends. Currently we have around 45,000 fans on Facebook and bountiful number of likes.

We have also tried several advertising platforms to get new players with CPC, CPI and CPM campaigns at regular interval, normally coinciding with major updates to the game. Furthermore both paid and exchange traffic models played a part.

5. Can you identify what works better on Windows Phone?

On Windows Phone, the main challenge was filling up the inventory. We were looking for a platform that was stable, doesn’t compromise user experience and enables us to monetize and promote the game at the same time. AdDuplex, after a number of trials, happened to be the best choice for our needs!

6. Fruit Bump is quite popular on Android and iOS too. How do those platforms compare for you to Windows Phone in terms of user acquisition and monetization?

On Android and iOS, the competition is higher, so it is more difficult to keep up and stand out. Big companies are bidding higher each day on their campaigns and outbidding smaller companies. Since Windows Phone marketplace was itself a new thing, it was much easier to take the fight to the big boys and compete on equal footing. Of course, we had to make sure that we have built a good game which captures the attention of our audience. Without solid content, success won’t come easily regardless of what marketplace is chosen. 

Monetization, on the other hand, has its own challenges for iOS and Android. There are lots of advertising players in the market. Choosing the right one for the game might be frustrating and will take a lot of time and trials. You just cannot take some of their marketing figures at face value. A dozen or so look great on paper but rarely deliver close to their stated metrics. This is why Twimler relied on in-house statistics and monitoring to weed out poor performers. 

7. What was/is the biggest struggle in acquiring new users for Windows Phone games? What Windows Phone game developers should pay more attention to?

In my opinion, the biggest struggle now is to get targeted users on Windows Phone. It is important that you know your audience very well, and ensure your game description, screenshots and advertising materials reflect the game correctly. You only have a few moments to capture someone’s attention, and if you miss the mark by cutting back on quality content, you will suffer from bad reviews and poor retention rates. For a casual game to succeed its appeal must be broad, but it would be foolhardy and risky to release a jack-of-all-trades click trap, and we certainly do not recommend this approach. Find your audience, listen to their feedback and craft experiences deserving of their time — Twimler lives by these principles, and we must say they have not failed us yet.

8. How would you launch your first game if you were starting today?

I would probably launch it across all major platforms at once — a synchronized launch, and give it a higher advertising campaign budget to create the right buzz early on. I believe the first weeks after releasing the game are very important and developers should try their best to get as many of the target audience flocking to their games. Moreover, since Twimler has grown and has a lively community of active users, I believe it would now be much easier to get relevant media outlets and distribution portals interested in working in partnership with us; resulting in a much wider exposure than a start-up can muster.

As it was mentioned before, Fruit Bump is a member of AdDuplex Direct program. For those who are not aware: AdDuplex Direct is a platform for app and game developers and advertisers which enables you to do your advertising directly without having to worry about the technical side of the deal. Are you there yet?

So you can advertise your app or game directly through Fruit Bump right now. And of course take a challenge to complete all 600+ levels! Follow Fruit Bump on Twitter, Facebook and for the latest updates.

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #10. When Robotics and Windows Phone Get Together.

robert-oschlerRobert Oschler, artificial intelligence and smartphone developer, is currently working on a project called Nanabot, that is a robotics app for Windows Phone owners. Indiegogo campaign will end up on 30th June and the fundraiser is looking for the contributions to enable Windows Phone developers to easily build fun and exciting apps for the RoboMe robot. Robert says, that many of you could reveal the possibilities of robotics apps by combining the toolkit with the amazing set of sensors a Lumia phone has, like the Compass, or NFC tags (proximity sensors), the Gyroscope, Accelerometer and Inclinator, and of course the Camera and Microphone! Combined with the incredible Cortana APIs for speech recognition and text to speech, and it truly is a case where the only limit to your fun, and perhaps a lucrative financial success, is your imagination.
So today we are talking about the marketing strategies that Robert uses and why he is so in love with Windows Phone development.

Your company is called Android Technologies Inc. How come you are developing applications for Windows Phones? Don’t you find it quite ironic? 🙂
It’s certainly a strange twist of fate, but it’s a robotics twist to be sure. It’s Android as in androids, humanoid robots with complex intelligence and not Android phones. I am developing for Windows Phones because the tools Microsoft provides and the people that support the ecosystem behind it are amazing.
Getting media attention is quite a big achievement. Could you share your secret how you managed to get published in New York Times?
It was a combination of several years of persistence and the strength of the personal robotics market at the time, especially for entertainment robots between the years of 2005 to 2010. I aggressively pursued all the consumer robotics manufacturers for advanced looks at their newest products. The instant I got a new robot to look at I quickly wrote up a review and in many cases, simultaneously published a video review to YouTube. As soon as I published I tipped all the major gadget web sites about my reviews, sites like Gizmodo, Engadget, Wired, Crave, etc. This established me as an authority for the latest news on personal robotics, leading to my robotics web sites and ending up at the top of the search results for the major search engines. That raised the visibility of my efforts to the point that a reporter from The New York times looking for experts on robots for home security, contacted me and decided to write me up. Note, your readers can use a service like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get interviewed on various subjects and potentially get written up and linked to from various publications.
Windows Phone developers should consider becoming an authority on the category of apps their apps fit into. Help the major web sites out like Windows Phone Central, etc. by providing them with a steady stream of valuable application tips or reviews, but make sure they are unbiased and useful tips or reviews, not just spam tips to your own apps. Then when you do have a tip about your own apps, they will be much more receptive to taking a look at it and publishing it. Another way to get downloads for your app is to offer to write a “guest article” for a Windows Phone related web site. Most sites usually allow you to include a link in your bio with the article but again, the article must be genuinely useful and not promotional or it will be rejected.
What other marketing strategies do you use to promote your applications? Which ones are most effective?
Publishing instructional videos to YouTube can be a big help, but remember to promote them to popular user groups and the digital press outlets. Create a video that shows just how useful your app is but remember that It really helps to add a few funny bits to the video.
Even if you have a serious app you can add humor to it. Show people going about their lives without your app and over-dramatize just how awful things are for them. Be creative. For example, here you can watch the video that shows an early demonstration of an app I created that used Skype to control a robot remotely and has nearly a million views on YouTube. There’s a couple of silly parts just to keep the video from being too dry.
You should always create at least a micro-site for your best Windows Phone apps with photos, articles, and videos on it to drive traffic to your app. Make sure you track that web traffic with a decent Web Analytics package.  Analyze that traffic for geographic and keyword (search phrase) information and adjust your efforts to your findings.
Finally, never forget the value of the occasional press release. Learn how to write one and when you release a new app, publish a press release on it. If you can afford one of the press release distribution services, use them.
Few more days to go for your open source robotics project Nanabot on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The market of robotics is not that empty. What is your key vehicle to get on top of it?
As far as an affordable consumer robot that does more than the usual “bag of tricks” like guard a room, explore a room making canned simple responses, etc., the market is completely empty. A consumer robot that is mass produced like RoboMe, (the robot Nanabot runs on), and that does all the things Nanabot does simply does not exist. Next year there is Pepper from Sony & Aldebaran, but that’s not until the second quarter of 2015 and that’s a $2000 USD robot. You can buy a RoboMe on Amazon for under $100 USD. Then all you need is a Windows Phone and if you don’t have one, you can get a Lumia 520 off-contract for $69. There’s the amazing Nao robot from Aldebaran, but Nao is about $6900 USD and you have to program it yourself. Nanabot will track faces, play games, chat with you, etc. right “out of the box” when its finished after the fundraiser. Therefore my unique selling position is a truly affordable consumer robot paired with an amazing Windows Phone that gives people a robot that’s a lot more fun and advanced than the current crop of home robots. Remember, none of those other robots support Windows Phone or Windows Store app like Nanabot will if funded.
You introduce Nanabot as a game playing, face tracking personal robot. In 2013 the world was crazy about the Oscar winner movie “Her” about operating system that is designed to be as a friend or companion in your everyday activities. Do you see Nanabot’s or Cortana’s future in a similar perspective?
Yes I do but some perspective is needed. Nanabot is not a full fledged artificial intelligence personality. That’s still off in the future, but not as far off as some people might think. Microsoft has the resources and talent to be the first to make that happen with Cortana, just like they were the first company to make personal computers a global reality. Perhaps there’s a version of Cortana hidden in a secret lab in Redmond that is that advanced. But if that’s true, they are not letting me talk to her. Nanabot uses the Cortana APIs, a powerful open source chat-bot engine called ChatScript, and quite a few clever tricks to create a virtual personality that’s funny and conversational, but in a limited way and nowhere near the capabilities of “Her” or “Hal (2001)”, or the android in “A.I.”.
Note: Developers can learn more about ChatScript here.
As you mentioned you want to create something that iOS or Android users can’t get. How come you chose to build it only for Windows Phone users? Are you affiliated with Microsoft in any way? Or are there any other reasons?
It’s not that I chose to build it only for Windows Phone users.  It’s my sincerest desire that Nanabot is compelling enough that iOS and Android users will become Windows Phone users to get it. A Lumia 520 off-contract is about $69 USD and that’s a low enough price for someone to get it as a second phone. It will most likely become their “first phone” because it’s such a great smart phone. I chose Windows Phone because the fantastic people at DVLUP showed me just how extraordinary a platform it is for developing complex, powerful apps that users love. That, combined with the rich and capable tools Microsoft provides to developers to make Windows Phone apps, and I fell in love with the Windows Phone development platform. My only affiliation with Microsoft is as an avid fan and user of their development tools and devices.
We wish Robert all the best with Nanabot and all other projects he is / will be working on. And as we mentioned before the fundraiser closes on June 30th. So we encourage you to go to Indiegogo’s page and contribute now “to help Microsoft to avoid being late to the personal robotics market”.

AppBizDev Interview with Elbert Perez


The last episode of AppBizDev podcast was recorded live at the BUILD conference in Redmond. It features a fresh interview with Elbert Perez. I’ve interviewed Elbert on this blog almost a year ago. A lot has changed in Windows Phone app business in general and in Elbert’s life in particular. Check it out to find out what’s new for yourself.

And don’t forget to subscribe! AppBizDev podcast is available in Zune/Xbox music store and on iTunes.

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #9. Help Daniel Rubino Help You

daniel_rubinoToday I’m interviewing Daniel Rubino – editor-in-chief of Windows Phone Central ( & Podcast co- host. I seriously doubt it’s possible, but in case you’ve never heard about it, in their own words “WPCentral is the largest dedicated site to the Windows Phone OS with news, reviews, podcasts and forums.”

My focus for this interview is on trying to find what tech bloggers expect from developers trying to get exposure for their apps, what works and what annoys the hell out of journalists. It’s very hard for a developer or a publisher to really know what’s going on on the other side of the news machine, and I thought there’s just no better way to find out than just ask the man in charge.

So let’s dig in.

Can you give us a ballpark number of the tips WPCentral gets from developers each day? Do most of them come via contact form on the site or direct emails to editors?

Great question! We probably get about 10-12 requests a day from developers with that number slowly increasing over time. George Ponder, our reviews editor, generally responds to them and we plan the review out. We of course don’t review every app that we are asked as (1) that would not be feasible (2) we do exercise editorial control over the selection of apps, that is we only pick apps that we feel are worth highlighting or well done for the platform.

We generally don’t do a review to just say negative things; instead we’ll talk to the developer about ways to improve the app before considering a review. There’s no value in slamming someone’s work publicly as ultimately we are dealing with humans who have feelings on the other end. We would rather work with them privately on ways to improve that app and be productive—in that regard, soliciting for advice on how to make your app better certainly doesn’t hurt.  Even with Xbox LIVE games, our Paul Acevedo works with developers on bugs and game improvements (see ‘Chickens Can’t Fly’).

Between George Ponder and myself, we have nearly 10 years experience on just writing on this platform (including Windows Mobile), double that as personal users.  We have a good idea at this point what people want in an app or game, so just ask.

How important do you think it is for a developer/publisher to have a personal relationship with someone writing for a site like WPCentral? How higher are the chances of a news item to be published if it comes from someone you know?

It’s very important. We do rely on our readers and developers to tip us on apps as we can’t possibly discover everything that is out there. Since our readers tend to be platform enthusiasts, they actually tend to have a good eye for interesting apps.

The chances of your app getting more attention if you know us are slightly higher. Just like the real world, relationships matter. Of course if the app is just not good, we still won’t run it, even as a favor to them—we have integrity to maintain and our reader trust is important. But it certainly helps for developers to reach out and try to engage us. Of course that will get harder and harder as the site and platform grow but you can start to learn whom the power-developers are who really have talent versus the fly-by-night hobbyist.

On a personal note, it does aggravate me when certain app developers don’t reach out to us. If we gave your app high praise before, don’t ignore us when you have a major update coming down the road. Instead email us with any early details (changlogs, screenshots, even the XAP) and you’re more likely to get promo coverage.  Don’t make our site react to your app, instead help us to help you. Sending us the XAP file of your app before the app is released definitely gets our attention.

A popular tip for new entrepreneurs is to identify junior journalists/bloggers at popular blogs and address them rather than going to editor-in-chief or a superstar blogger. The idea is that a junior journalist has way less inbound traffic and is eager to get some scoop no matter how small it is in the eyes of high profile bloggers. Do you think it’s valid for specialized tech blogs too? How much freedom do junior/new members of WPCentral editorial team have?

That’s a very good point as my time is preferably spent on planning, site organization, analysis pieces and editorials. Having said that our junior writers still need to go through the chain-of-command to get approval to write on something. That may sound more dramatic than it is but we tend to work together as a group to plan out things. Our writer’s though were hired because I trust their judgment or I know they have a good eye for the platform, so if they say, “hey, we should look at this app” they’re more than likely to get approval.
Having said that, developers are more than free to try and contact me. Just because I may not personally respond or cover your app right away doesn’t mean I’m ignoring you—there’s a good chance that I read your email/tweet, etc. and you’re on my backburner. To put it another way, you won’t hurt your chances by reaching out to any of us—just don’t pester too much.

If someone is tipping you on a new app (major update, etc.), do you prefer for the tip to include detailed information that you can basically post almost as is or a short tip that you can evaluate fast and then dig or ask for extra information if it sounds interesting?

The more information, the merrier. If you send us screenshots, the region-free Marketplace link, changlog, future plans and even the XAP file, you’re chances of getting coverage go up.

Ultimately, we run every app we discuss on our site. We don’t just simply post app-announcements as we feel it’s our job to act as curators of the Marketplace, to help our readers navigate to find the best apps and games out there. So expect your app to get a mini-review at they very least.

But if you’re going to make me email and work the info out of you, then it becomes more of a hassle. We will still do it of course if the app is really intriguing but try to sell me why this app is unique. If you have a major update coming, send us the XAP file and let us play with it—you’re more likely to get the more coveted video-coverage, as we’ll have time to plan it out.

How important is having a demo video for an app? Would you go watch the video first if it’s available?

It’s about 50/50. I’d rather have the XAP file than a video and we rarely post the emulator-videos from devs as they’re quite droll.  It doesn’t hurt to send us the video and sure, I’ll tap the play button and quickly buzz through it. Some devs though do have great video-editing skills and if they make a well-done “preview” we may toss that in as an extra. Ultimately though we prefer to make our own videos.

Do you think having a web site for the app makes you look more serious in the eyes of a tech blogger? Do you ever look at the site or is a Marketplace listing enough?

Oh certainly it helps. I think it’s great when devs have a mini-site with an app description, changlog area (that is up to date), contact info, etc. It won’t matter if we cover the app as ultimately that depends on if the app is good or not, but if you give us the site, we’re more than likely to give our readers the link too. That can only help the developer.

Consumers really value if a developer is accessible, especially when the pop in on comments on our site when we’re discussing their app. Being responsive to your customer should be your #1 priority—never ignore them or take them for granted. If you have bad news, just be honest with them and tell them. Respond to every email with detail, listen to what they have to say, be honest.

Any other advice on what to include or not include in a tip?

There’s really nothing you shouldn’t include. Like I mentioned earlier, the more info you send, the better. Host your XAP on your SkyDrive if that’s easier than emailing it and be assured, we’ll never share the XAP with anyone.  And if I took the time to email you, please take the time to respond back.

As someone whose inbox is constantly flooded, I know it can be difficult but ultimately you’re trying to sell me on covering your app and devoting precious front-page resources. If you don’t respond to a request or you take your time, it will have an impact on our coverage. That’s only because for every app we do cover, there are 9 others that we aren’t.

Finally, don’t expect us to copy-paste whatever you write and no, we never accept sponsored posts or paid-app reviews, so don’t ask about that.

Do you monitor any other sites or services to source the app news or do they all come via active tips from developers? Do you follow tips in the comments or forums at WPCentral?

Since we’re the largest Windows Phone site we have access to some of the best audience out there. In that sense, we really don’t rely on other sites for app news or info. Sometimes our readers will notice something and give us a tip that way, but more often than not, we received the heads up first.

Regarding our forums, it’s a great place for developers to interact with our readers (and in comments too), so yes we do often look at the forums for new apps and tips, though once again, it helps if people email us that too as we can’t be everywhere all the time.

Finally, I’d just like to say to developers, help us help you. If you have a complaint on the platform, are having issues with Microsoft or you’re having issues with your app—email us, tell us, give us details.
Good examples of this are if an app relies on a service (e.g. SkyDrive, Twitter, etc.) and the API is temporarily broke causing your app to misbehave. Just email us, let us know and we can help mitigate any negative feedback from consumers before it becomes a problem. Get ahead of the problem; don’t make us react to it because the latter will reflect badly on you.

Likewise, if you’re doing a temporary sale (either discounted price, or marked down for free), please email us with the specifics. If you’re expecting us to “discover” every app-sale, you’re going to be disappointed and you’ll get a much better reaction to your app if you contact us with the material.

It honestly blows my mind when a developer doesn’t let us know they made their app free for a week or they are having issues.  We’re here to act as a liaison between you and your customers, if you ignore us you’re not taking advantage of your largest Windows Phone resource and that is just bad business.

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #8. Four Brothers with Taptitude

In the last marketing and monetization interview I’ve interviewed Elbert Perez who has been very successful on Windows Phone with 15 great games. This time I’m talking to guys from 4Bros Studio who managed to become comparably successful with only one game. The game is called Taptitude and it gets a new mini-game on a weekly basis.

Your company is called 4Bros Studio. Are you literally 4 brothers?

Yes we’re real brothers. We each have full time jobs as software developers and make games in our spare time. We started working together a few years ago on our first project which was an XBLIG game called “Zoomaroom“. We had a ton of fun making this game, and ended up creating the foundation for our game engine (ZoomEngine) that we currently use to make Taptitude games.

Taptitude is the top rated app on Windows Phone. Is this the case worldwide or only in some markets?


I believe we’re #1 world wide. There isn’t a good ‘official’ site that shows the top rated apps, so depending on where you go you get different results. In the US we’re the top rated game, but it looks like we’ve fallen to #2 top rated app based on some sites. A great site for ratings is, although at this time it looks like they only use US ratings.

For a more detailed look at game ratings, this is a fantastic site zTop (Ed.: I’ve interviewed Alexey Strakh and Alex Sorokoletov, creators of zTop in these series last October). They show ratings across all markets…here are our numbers at the time of me writing this:

Taptitude – All markets

  • Rating Count: 15722
  • Average Rating: 9.45

Tapitude – en-us

  • Rating Count: 10027
  • Average Rating: 9.43

As you can see, US ratings account for about 2/3 of our total ratings. Compared to Flixster in all markets, we have about 1,600 more ratings than them but our average is 0.04 less (10 star scale).

Flixster – All markets

  • Rating Count: 14175
  • Average Rating: 9.49

Do you do anything special to encourage users to rate the app?

Yes. We have a ‘Please Rate’ button on our main menu and we prompt the user to rate after they play a few times. This is something that most apps should do because getting reviews is a valuable feedback mechanism which can be used to drive changes in future updates. We read all the reviews and try to address concerns, and on several occasions we’ve added new features based on requests from the reviews.

Unfortunately, being highly rated doesn’t usually translate into being highly downloaded. We originally thought the Windows Phone Marketplace had a category for Top Rated apps, but it appears it don’t currently have one. “Top” on the marketplace refers to top downloaded apps.

Was it the plan from the start to do one game with lots of mini-games? Why not create 60 small apps instead?

Taptitude is ever-evolving, so I’d be lying if I said we had solid plans from the start. The initial idea was to create a few simple games with leaderboards that people can compete on. We committed ourselves to releasing a new game every week because it would keep us focused on making the games fun and scoped to something that works well on the mobile platform. All too often I see games being released that can’t be played in a 5 minute break while waiting for the bus, or between meetings or whatever. With Taptitude you can get in, feed your fish, craft some upgrades, and get a new high score in Ultra Tapper all before your waiter takes your order. We believe this bite-sized approach to mobile gaming is how people actually use their phones. Most AAA games with tons of polish look nice, but people don’t play them for very long before getting bored.

Early on we would release the new games in both standalone form and as an update to the ‘Unlimited’ version. Over time it became obvious that the thing people liked best was the sheer quantity and variety of the Unlimited version, so we stopped with the individual releases. Now that we have features like coins, upgrades, stats, crafting, etc. The meta-game aspects are what seem most compelling. Having lots of mini-games allows us to take familiar concepts and add an interesting cross-game twist. For example, you might craft a recipe in Craftitude while you’re earning coins in Coin Miner, then use the resulting upgrades in Bally Bounce to get a new high score. That type of experience isn’t possible if we did a bunch of small apps.

Your game uses lots of techniques often referred as “gamification” (even though it doesn’t sound right to me when talking about a game 😉 to engage players and make them return. Can you recommend any books, blogs and/or articles on gamification that helped you, or was it all based on improvisation?

We mostly just wing it. I hadn’t heard of the term “gamification” until recently, so I won’t pretend like we have some secret sauce. Our goal is to make Taptitude fun and addicting, and our approach is to add a lot of carrots for our users to strive for. We have online leaderboards so you can compete in each game, stars that you can earn to unlock new games, coins that you can earn for playing well, over 400 upgrades that you can buy/craft, and hundreds of stats that track everything from total taps to the number of swishes in Hyper Hoops. We reward you along the way for making progress so there are a number of ways to earn a sense of accomplishment. I guess some people think “gamification” is a bad thing, but we see it as something really positive. It’s what makes Taptitude addicting, and it adds lasting value to the game.

Taptitude had more than 150,000 downloads so far and you’ve mentioned in comments on my earlier post that you get $0.47 lifetime value from one user. That translates into more than $70,000 revenue from the game. Is this correct?

Yes, we’ve made a little more than that, but it’s in the right ball park. We’re planning to do a write up on our blog with lots of details for others to learn from, but haven’t had time just yet. I like the trend others in the community have started by openly sharing this type of data.

One thing your readers might find interesting is that you can be successful on Windows Phone without being a smash hit out of the gate. Taptitude has been out for just over a year but in the first 4 months we only made $500.  At the time we were pretty happy with that, but in reality it wasn’t even enough to cover a much needed server upgrade. Our great user community ended up donating the required funds for the upgrade.

Despite being a slow start, we’re now pulling in 10-15k per month in ad revenue, and yet we’ve never been very highly downloaded (ranked 150th ATM). The lesson here is to never give up, just make the game you want to play and you’ll be rewarded one way or another. If nothing else, you’ll learn something that can be applied to your next project.

Do I understand correctly that you guys are Microsoft employees?

Yes, 3 of the 4 bros work at Microsoft. It’s a great place to work for a developer, and we’re fortunate that their moonlighting policy allows us to make Windows Phone games in our spare time.

We see quite a lot of top Windows Phone apps made by Microsoft employees: Wordament, 4th & Mayor, rowi, Taptitude to name a few. Do you think this is just a testament to the quality of developers working for Microsoft or do you have some slight unfair advantage over the rest of us?

I think it’s a combination of things, but having an unfair advantage isn’t one of them. In fact, in some ways we’re at a slight disadvantage compared to other developers because we’re not allowed to participate in certain promotions and contests that would provide visibility to our game.

The type of person that works at Microsoft is often someone who likes to code for fun. I think that’s a big part of it. Also, if you look at the technology stack, Windows Phone is the obvious choice for Microsoft developers who are already familiar with XNA/Silverlight. Non ‘softies may be quicker to write off Windows Phone due to its current market share but I think this is a mistake. It’s like the stock market, you want to get in when the price is low and ride it to the top. On some platforms a game like Taptitude wouldn’t make a dent, but on Windows Phone we have the potential to do great things.

Thank you!

Thank you as well! We’re big fans of AdDuplex, and hope you keep up the good work.  If you want to find out more about Taptitude, please visit our website or the user created wiki page that’s maintained by some of our biggest fans

Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #7. Elbert Perez Hides Nothing

elbertElbert Perez is one of the most productive and most open Windows Phone developers there is. He blogs openly about his experience developing Windows Phone games as his main occupation and Elbert is not hiding anything. You can find all the download, financial and other details in his blog posts.

It seems that there’s not much left to ask, but I’ll try…

Congratulations on your first million downloads. I’m pretty sure the second million won’t take another year. With so many apps and users do you see any trend in the rate at which Windows Phone user base is growing? Have we started accelerating after Mango/2nd generation of phones came to market?

Thanks Alan, hopefully 2 million will hit by the middle of the year 🙂 Currently I am seeing my user install base gradually increase in volume without me releasing a new game or doing any aggressive marketing over the past month.This could mean two things, firstly, my games are being discovered more and secondly the volume of users is increasing. I am betting more on the second part especially with the new second gen phones out. User growth from the data I have seen is accelerating, by how much I do not know because the data set is still small. But 2012 is definitely going to be the breakout year for Windows Phone.

You have many games in the marketplace. Does it become easier to promote every new game?

With cross promotion and a broader reach of my games each game has been easier to promote. Although having it easier to promote does not mean it will be a success. That largely depends on how good your game
is to begin with. Marketing and Developing come hand in hand with success in the marketplace.

Was having many apps in the Marketplace (as opposed to 1 megahit) in your initial business plan or was it a shift in strategy based on results you’ve seen?

DSC_0006I really love making games and as a result I ended up with 14 games on the marketplace, with the 15th one coming out soon. Passions aside, it made perfect sense to go with a portfolio approach to reach out to
more users. It would not make business sense to me to just make 14 shooters, so I diversified the types of games I make to spread out risk. Plus I would grow bored working on just 1 game for half a year.

When one decides to pursue a strategy with many games, it seems that you have to concentrate on promoting your personal (or company) brand rather than specific games. Do you agree? What did you do to achieve this?

I totally agree with this. First of all you need to have games that are fun and properly developed. Doing half-baked games or simple clones will not get you any fans. Secondly, you really have to be active with engaging your players. Players love that they can talk directly to the person making the game, especially since they know their suggestions can be heard. They don’t expect you to do all their suggestions, but just the act of listening you would have earned the respect of that player.

You are releasing games under your own name. Was it a conscious decision or you just couldn’t come up with a cool moniker/company name at the time of registration?

I didn’t know where developing for Windows Phone would take :p Also at the time I did not want to be bothered by all the red tape I had to go through to make a company, I just wanted to make games!

Do you allocate any specific time and/or budget to marketing of each game? How do you decide if this particular title is a success or failure and when it’s time to move on to the next project or keep pushing?

Of course! Marketing is the other half of the equation of making a successful game. I start marketing my games early during the development phase by releasing gameplay videos. This achieves two things for me, first it gets the word out that I am working on something new and that they should start thinking about it. Secondly, I usually get a good indication if people will like the game or not based on comments from the videos. Success of the game for me is the average daily sessions each game gets, because ultimately I make money from people playing my game.

Any tips for developers starting out on the Windows Phone platform and looking to go the same route you went? How would you launch your first game, if you were starting today?

Learn the platform really well. Do your research on what types of games work well on Windows Phone and what control schemes work. Nothing makes the customer more angry than less than intuitive controls. If you really want to succeed you need to make lots of noise early in your development time. You need to engage the Windows Phone specific sites, twitter, blog about it, facebook, etc … Equally as important is the need to have a game that is fun and sticky.

I thank Elbert for taking a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. Hopefully it didn’t affect release date of his next game 😉

Check out Elbert’s games in the Marketplace, his blog at and follow him on twitter @mechaghost