Windows Phone outperforms iPhone for Indie Game Developer

In-app purchase can help grow your Windows Phone app revenue, when designed with the right business model and implemented with an effective user interface. In previous blog posts, I’ve shared ideas on how to increase revenue through in-app purchase, listed tips from the most successful apps using in-app purchase, and showed how to test in-app purchase for common coding problems.

Today I want to share details of the success of one indie game developer, QONQR (pronounced conquer), that bases their revenue model on in-app purchase. The CEO of QONQR, Scott Davis, tells us that they have experienced up to 10x the weekly downloads and 2x the revenue on Windows Phone compared to their iOS version of the game, which was released in the same month in 2012.

Davis attributes QONQR’s profitability to Windows Phone, where they have acquired more than a hundred thousand users, all of whom can purchase items inside the game once they start playing.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Davis again, and discuss in depth with him QONQR’s strategy, success factors, key issues, and the steps they are taking to innovate and grow. Scott and his team of seven are fully dedicated to supporting and expanding QONQR, with the goal of making it the leading cross-platform, location-based RTSMMO. Special thanks to Scott for sharing his insights with the Windows Phone community.

QONQR: A MMOG for mobile OSs

clip_image002The QONQR game goal is to attack and invade adjacent cities, while defending your own city. You play against players from around the world, and take pride in defending your city. Battles in the game help control areas of the map, and for example 98% of all towns and cities in the USA have been captured.

The game uses maps to indicate the location of the different elements of the game, and help plan your strategy. As you play, you earn credits, which you use to upgrade your capabilities, for example, your weapons.

The game is powered by 4 virtual servers running on Windows Azure and which handle all the game logic and battle analytics.

Scott mentioned that one of the key advantages of developing for Windows Phone has been the simplicity of supporting all the different phone models. In iPhone his team has had challenges ensuring full backward compatibility with previous versions of iOS, and in their efforts of porting to Android they have faced significant hurdles managing device fragmentation (different UI layout, international phones with different capabilities, different approaches to GPS depending on the device and OS version).

App visibility: the key to 10x more downloads on Windows Phone compared to iOS

clip_image004

The QONQR game was launched in March 2012 for both Windows Phone and iOS. The Windows Phone version consistently has more daily downloads than the iOS version, some weeks even reaching more than 10x the number of downloads of the iOS version.

The QONQR team attributes the Windows Phone download lift to these key areas:

  • The New & Rising list that showcases the best rated apps from recent weeks
  • Apps being promoted inside the Windows Phone Store, and
  • The Windows Phone Web Store.

QONQR also has a companion app for Windows 8, a ‘Command Center’ that lets players manage their QONQR world and watch any battle or area of the map. Having a Windows 8 version in the marketplace also helps improve overall exposure for the game.

In addition to the Windows Phone Store marketing , QONQR makes effective use of social components in the game: they offer game credits for inviting new users, and they follow several of the practices we’ve shared with you before, like promoting interaction through a game forum, Twitter and Facebook, as well as reaching out to the top bloggers and digital magazines, and keeping in regular contact with the QONQR users.

In-app purchase secrets

clip_image006During gameplay users earn credits, which are key to advancing in the game. The game also offers “cubes” for purchase; these cubes can be converted to credits or can be used to acquire a few in-game items only available with cubes.

The QONQR team identified three types of digital items that could potentially be purchased:

1. Persistent: new capabilities that are permanent

2. Refreshes: consumable items that grant temporary capabilities (faster gameplay, instant battles)

3. Cosmetic items: new colors or badges

Currently QONQR supports the first and second type of item, but does not offer any ‘cosmetic’ digital items (yet). Most of the revenue comes from ‘refreshes’ or consumables that are frequently used by players during hard battles, to help fend off an attack, or to deliver a massive strike against an enemy city. Persistent upgrades have been the key driver for QONQR’s in-app purchase revenue, as they engage the player with better capabilities, and then enables them to acquire lower cost ‘refreshes’ only when needed.

As the game is based on in-app purchase, it uses the native In-App Purchase API for Windows Phone 8 and also supports PayPal for the Windows Phone 7 version of the app. The game accesses the IAP API through reflection to maintain a single code base.

Thanks to an effective use of in-app purchase, the social aspects of the app, an average rating of 4+stars rating, and engaging gameplay, QONQR ranks among the apps with the highest in-app revenue in the Windows Phone Store today.

The game continues to evolve. Davis tells us that he has plans to optimize the app for some of the most important Windows Phone markets, like China, and also in the future improve the social interaction with players.

QONQR implemented many of the in-app purchase best practices: effective balance of paid currency versus free game currency, clear purchase user interface, multiple strategies to increase the number of users, frequent use of social media to engage users and invite new users, and periodic updates and improvements.

As you design new apps or update your existing apps to add in-app purchase, learn all you can from successful apps, including QONQR and other examples I’ve shared in previous blog posts.

Keep your questions coming, I want to help you get your in-app purchase up and running.