Every time we launch an app onto the Apple App Store we learn something new. During the launch of Zombie Balt – our simple endless runner for iPhone – we stumbled upon some rewarding insights. These learnings might also benefit other developers out there, so we thought we’d share them.

Key Findings

  • 35K+ downloads in 11 days
  • Over 1200 fans on Facebook
  • An average user acquisition cost of $0.20
  • Top 50 Arcade/Action game in multiple territories
  • Top 25 Game in Italy (Top 10 Arcade game)

What’s Zombie Balt?

Good question. For our first game we decided to jump on the increasingly popular horror genre. This means we created a simple game full of gruesome and exploding zombies. One of the zombies might even be slightly familiar. (But not familiar enough to infringe any copyright.)

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PS – The name Zombie Balt derives from Canabalt, the game that inspired the modern day endless runner. If you want to see how Zombie Balt works, feel free to download and play, it’s a free title.

Tasty Teaser

Before launch, we garnished some positive comments from the Touch Arcade forum, a very popular mobile gaming forum. This was largely due to our stunning game trailer, which was more than enough to get zombie gamers frothing. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch all 28 beautiful seconds of it here:

Blast Off

We clicked the launch button for Zombie Balt on Friday 19th July, fired out a press release using PRMac and began running some Facebook advertising. So the fun begins. Stats charts from Facebook, Appfigures and Flurry are now permanent tabs in our browser.

During Zombie Balt development we were realistic with our expectations. Because of budget constraints (after all we are a start up) we couldn’t build the best ZB game in V.1, so we adopted the lean start up policy and built our minimal viable product (MVP). With this in mind, our strategy for V1.0 was to acquire as many users as possible and to engage them enough to help us build Zombie Balt II. We asked our players for ideas and have been informing them of our progress to hopefully maintain their interest in ZB the brand and not just the game itself.

Getting Users

Because the App Store is slightly competitive (understatement of the year?), the cost of user acquisition is very high. The industry average for the iOS platform as of January 2013 was $0.92 (USD) per user. In previous experience with our other apps (Food Friendzie and Talking Bear Hugs) we dabbled in Facebook advertising and found it to be one of the most cost effective user acquisition channels.

With Talking Bear Hugs a user acquired through Facebook cost us $0.60. The great news is that – in the majority of territories – Zombie Balt users currently cost us around $0.28 per install. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that with Zombie Balt we’re getting twice as much bang for our buck!

We think this reduced rate is attributed to two things. One, the demand on Facebook for a zombie game is bigger than the demand for a talking bear app. Two, the game is more accessible thanks to the highly engaging artwork. Interestingly enough, the most expensive territory was Australia, costing a whopping $0.60 per user. I’m sure there’s a witty remark to make about this, feel free to add one in the comments below.

Fan Friendly

Because we knew Zombie Balt wasn’t going to be the next perturbed poultry (Angry Birds), it was important for us to capture the users we engaged for future versions and games we develop. We did this in two ways.

1) Facebook Capture – We gave our users 150 coins in the game for liking our Facebook Page.

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In the first 10 days of launch we’ve recieved over 1,200 likes on our Facebook page.

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We probably have more now, see it here: https://www.facebook.com/Zombiebalt. Now we just need to keep them engaged and proactive with Zombie Balt, until we release version two

2) Feedback Form – We put a big button on the Main Menu screen of Zombie Balt saying – ‘Help Make Zombie Balt 2!’

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This leads to a small feedback form within the app which asks for users to suggest improvements we can make to the game or which new features they would like to see in the next version. We’re currently receiving 10+ emails everyday from our users with some great suggestions. We respond to these users with thanks and prompt them to give us an App Store review or join our Facebook Page.

Launch Summary

So what were the results?

So far our best chart positions have been reaching no 8 in Italy for action games and the top 25 for the games category as well as the Top 50 Action/Arcade game within a multitude of countries including India, Vietnam, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

Here’s our top-level learnings:

  • The Facebook ad with the highest engagement was of Max, the premium hero in the game. This has prompted us to consider updating the app icon with Max and test its impact.
  • Engaging the players beyond the app may result in them becoming loyal ZB fans.
  • Brand and visuals are critical to gaining initial interest but game or brand engagement is needed to keep them as loyal fans.
  • Capturing Facebook users with virtual currency is successful in this genre – we currently have a 9% conversion rate from our download total.

We believe the great visuals combined with a popular genre have secured us some healthy downloads, however, to storm the charts we need to develop a game with more depth to the gameplay. Our next step is to continue to evolve the game to hopefully keep a ZB lovers interested and to use the app as a crowd funding tool to help create Zombie Balt 2. ZB2 will be a superior title full of exciting gameplay features that increases retention, IAP conversion and word-of-mouth marketing.

Watch this space.