Colonize has been out for just under two months now, and I wanted to check in with an update on sales and other data. Overall, the game has performed fine on Android, but it is going to take a bit longer than I originally hoped to collect enough data for our research project. And, I was hoping to have the game out for iOS before Christmas, but after multiple rejections at Apple in November and December, the app is still under review. Hopefully it will be out on iOS by the end of January!
When Colonize came out in November, I attempted to contact more than 50 Android game review sites. I knew that as a game, Colonize was unlikely to be greatly successful: feedback from sympathetic playtesters had indicated that the game was too difficult to engage the average user. But, I thought that the game’s unique features: that it was a somewhat new take on Conway’s Game of Life for mobile devices, and that it was part of an academic research project, might help get the attention of potential reviewers.
In the end, I was happy to get three reviews of Colonize in November, by AppsZoom, Playandroid.com and the G.A.M.E.S. blog. Playandroid.com also put out a news item announcing the release of the game, and published a developer interview, all of which was very helpful in getting the word out about Colonize.
Additionally, I was able to advertise the Google Play version of the game using $50 in credit that AppsZoom provided for creating a developer account, and some credit that I had left over with Google’s Admob from a previous campaign.
With the reviews, banner advertisements, and promotion through social media, Colonize ended up with a few thousand installations through Android as of today. Financially, this has not been enough to consider the game a financial success: I’ve seen revenue of approximately $69.56. This breaks down into $40 through sales at Barnes and Noble, and ad revenue of about $29 through Chartboost and Appbrain. Most of the ad revenue comes from Chartboost, as Appbrain was added only recently, after most of the installs had already occurred in Google Play.
Android Installations (2,498 total)
- Google Play: 555 installations
- Amazon Appstore: 79 installations
- Barnes and Noble: 58 paid installations ($40.02), plus 1,487 free installations during a one week sale (free) in November.
- And, it appears that we have about 319 installations of the free trial version of Colonize on Barnes and Noble by people who have not (yet) upgraded to the full version.
So, as a commercial project, Colonize has not performed very well. But, what about our research project? Unfortunately, the research results do not look great either. Of the 2,500 installations, about 1,500 have resulted in at least one data session logged on our server. And, of the 1,5o0 installations that have provided data, most come from users who tried the game out for a few levels (mostly in the Training mode), but did not go on to complete much of the game. In the Defense levels, which are most important for our research project, less than 100 people have completed multiple Defense levels.
But, the good news is that we have some new installations every day, and I think over a longer time-frame (a matter of months, rather than weeks) we will see enough data to start to answer our research question. And in the meantime, I am thinking about what games to make next. I would like to make a game that is similar to Colonize, but has a more engaging mechanic and experience, so that we can get useful data with fewer installations. But for now, I’m focused on bringing some of my work with navigation (how people find their way through new environments) to mobile devices.
My first attempt, which I’ve called Amnesia Island, allows people to test themselves in three classic rat navigation tasks. The game came out on the Nook in December (just before Christmas) and so far I’ve had over 12,000 installations submit data to my website (of 16,340 installations recorded by Barnes and Noble), and about 1,500 of these installations come from people have played the game far enough to provide me with some useful data. This is much better performance than Colonize, but the main reason the game is doing well on the Nook is that I made it free, and there are still relatively few free games on the Nook (since developers cannot use in-app purchases, or use ads in free games on Barnes and Noble). Eventually, I’d like to use the data collected from Amnesia Island to design an app that allows other researchers to use these same tasks in their own experiments, so this project is focused mostly on developing a set of research tools rather than making research games which are fun.
For our next (fun) game, keep an eye out in the summer/fall of 2013: we’ll hope to have something new ready (or at least in beta) by then!