Apps and games that are successful rarely get there by accident: developers carefully design and implement a monetization strategy and incorporate that strategy into every aspect of the app’s design.
There are three essential ways to monetize an app: paid, in-app purchase, and advertising (AiA or ‘ads in apps’). I have covered in-app purchase in my earlier posts – here, here, and here and have described best practices for ads-in-apps here and here.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Jarkko Paalanen, Director of Business Development at Fingersoft, to learn more about how this top developer has implemented its monetization and go to market strategy for the popular game: Hill Climb Racing. In this blog post I’ll highlight some of the key insights that Jarkko agreed to share, to help improve all our apps.
This game has become one of the most downloaded and highest earning games in both Windows and Windows Phone Stores within the first month of its launch, and today generates higher in-app revenue per download on Windows as compared to the Google Play version of their game.
About Fingersoft and Hill Climb Racing
The story of Fingersoft illustrates how a single developer can create one of the most popular games across all the mobile phone stores.
It all started with Toni Fingerroos, who created several camera apps for Android, which were downloaded millions of times. Each app was then used to promote the other apps in the portfolio.
Toni decided to expand to games, and in 2012 started creating Hill Climb Racing, a game that anyone could play, with a realistic physics engine, fun vehicles and different stages. He launched the game with one vehicle and 4 stages, and promoted it in their social media and inside all their existing camera apps. The game was an instant hit, and rapidly became one of the top games. With that, the company started growing and expanded the game to add more vehicles and more stages. Today the game has more than 15 vehicles and many different environments (countryside, desert, arctic, moon, etc.).
Hill Climb Racing game play and technology
In the game, the player advances the vehicle with simple controls for the gas and brake. As the player advances, they earn coins and can run out of gas or reach a point where the vehicle cannot progress. To advance further, improve the vehicle, unlock new vehicles and unlock new stages, the player uses the coins they have earned.
Some of the key monetization strategies that have made Hill Climb Racing successful include:
Easy game play, anyone can play it and don’t need to spend time learning the game
Rock solid, no crashes, excellent user reviews
Realistic and fluid physics engine
Constant advancement through the use of coins, and clear goals on ‘what do I buy next’?
The game uses Cocos2dx, and was ported from other platforms to Windows and Windows Phone, reusing most of the game code. The Fingersoft team spent time adjusting and optimizing the game for Windows and Windows Phone, for example adjusting Ad Controls, tailoring the Network APIs, modifying in-app purchase, adding Live Tiles and enabling Fast App resume.
Fingersoft focuses its marketing efforts in three areas:
Using all their existing apps to promote their other apps
Maintain an active and growing social presence, for example with more than 1 million likes on Facebook, which they use to inform users of new versions and new features
Try to attain a very high review score, more than 4.5, which enables them to be among the best rated apps, which drives additional downloads.
Monetization Strategy – In-app purchase and Ads-in-apps
Hill Climb Racing uses both in-app purchase and ads-in-apps to generate revenue.
In App Purchase
The game has been seamlessly designed to integrate with in-app purchase, so users can play the game without requiring any purchase, but can enjoy it more (or unlock more features sooner) if they spend money.
The game strategy is similar to other games that use in-game currency: earn coins during gameplay, or accelerate the player progress through purchasing coins.
The in-app purchase success in this game is driven largely by their execution: show the in-app purchase at the right moment in the game, make it easy to purchase new coins, offer multiple purchase options to cater to all types of users, and the benefits are clearly visible at all times in the game (car enhancements, new cars, new stages). Price discounts and promotions can be used to drive additional purchases.
Jarkko shared with us that average in-app purchase revenue per download on their version for Windows was higher than the equivalent revenue on their Google Play version. This recognition has contributed to their decision to continue to invest further in bringing more games to Windows Phone.
Hill Climb Racing store, coins and purchase experience
Hill Climb Racing also generates revenue from Ads-in-apps (AiA), or ads shown inside the app.
Fingersoft tries to protect and improve the user experience, so they are careful to ensure that ads do not interfere with gameplay. Just as they have in other platforms, Fingersoft uses a daisy chain waterfall strategy to move between ad controls to maximize fill rate, similar to what I have discussed in a previous blog post. For the Windows Phone game, they use the Microsoft Windows Phone Ad SDK and Inneractive, and for Windows, they use the Microsoft Windows 8 Ad SDK and testing LeadBolt.
I want to thank Jarkko for sharing these insights with us, and looking forward to future apps by Fingersoft.
For more ideas on how to improve you monetization strategy, how to implement ads or in-app purchase, please read my previous posts: Adding In-App Purchase, Adding In-App Purchase Part II, Testing Ads and In-App Purchase, Adding Ads to your app, Creating an Ad Rotator. I look forward to answering your questions about monetization.
And, I wanted to share my Hill Climb Racing high score: 11,365m, Level 46, using the Truck in the Beach stage. What is your highest score?