I spoke with indie mobile developer Derrick of Sibling Rivalry Games who discusses the evolving struggle of marketing and recognition for mobile games on the app stores. He also provides some great advice for people considering releasing their own mobile game!
Who Are You?
My name is Derrick Heemskerk, I run a small indie game development company Sibling Rivalry Games in Courtice Ontario. We are currently focused on casual mobile games but we’re starting to transition to larger console/Steam based games.
What’s your Game?
Our latest game is The Great Zoo Escape 2 for iOS and Android. It is a short escape style game where you have to collect items, solve puzzle and uncover clues to help all the animals escape from the zoo.
How did you come up with the idea/concept for this game?
I came up with the idea for this game while playing escape games with my 8 year old daughter. She’d often ask me for help when she was stuck, but I often struggled to help her because the clues were vague and the gameplay was illogical. I thought to myself, I can make a better game than this… so I did!
How long did it take to build? What was that process like?
It took about 4 months to build and it was slightly more difficult than I expected to get my app into the App store. But overall it went pretty close to plan.
Have you released a game previously? If so, how did it go?
I released The Great Zoo escape 4 years ago for iOS and Android as a more or a test idea to see if I could actually make and release a game. Once I saw that it was moderately successful with virtually no advertising I decided to make the transition from my full time job as a Financial Advisor at a local bank to Full time game developer.
Is this your full time job?
Yes, this is now my full time job. Initially I tried hiring some freelance workers but they were not able to deliver what they promised when they promised it. So now I have hired a full time programmer and full time artist and animator.
Have you used an external publisher before?
Did you have a marketing budget? If so, what was worth it? What was a waste?
We do not have a marketing budget for The Great Zoo Escape 2. I have been using social media and looking for game review websites to help get our game out there.
Do you rely solely on game purchases for profit?
We rely solely on ad revenue and in-app purchases.
What was/is your marketing plan/strategy?
Similar to our first game launch, use social media and try to get our game reviewed as many times as possible.
What advice did you take 5 years ago? Is it still true today?
I have found the competition has increased in the mobile marketplace. It seems significantly harder to get downloads and to find people interested in reviewing casual mobile games.
What advice would you pass on to developers who are looking to launch their game?
Keep your momentum going, we had a four year break between game launches and by the time we had finally got around to our second game the marketplace had changed. Try to build off or what you’ve learned and make as many connections as possible to help you along the way.
What’s your favourite element of the game that everyone should know about?
We’ve added a scavenger hunt to the escape game genre. I feel that it adds an element of nostalgia for the older crowd and excitement for the kids. Nearly everyone has done some kind of scavenger hunt throughout their lives.
Why should I play it?
It’s fun, got great artwork and animation, doesn’t take too long to play, makes you use your brain and it follows a logical course. As well, we added a scavenger hunt and a mini-game that uses your device’s gyroscope.
Where do you get inspiration to build games or come up with an idea?
I get inspiration for games from the games I play and from the games I play with my kids. I love trying to improve things or mixing seemingly unrelated ideas together.
For aspiring gamers reading this who want to work in the games industry/make games, what advice can you give them?
Start by learning the basics, the internet provides so many ways to learn about coding or video game art. Try some of the coding for beginners apps like Scratch or Hopscotch and see if coding is something you’re interested in. From there you can download Unity for free and start doing youtube tutorials to make actual games. For artists you can download GIMP and Blender for free and start learning 2D and 3D art and animation by following youtube instructional videos. The opportunities to learn game development have never been better or more affordable.
What marketing information did you wish you knew before launching your game?
I wish I knew how difficult it was to get a game noticed on iOS and Android. It has really become a elite club where only the games with the top marketing budgets getting any attention.
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