Zoltán Gubics is a hugely successful mobile game developer; his role-playing game, Medieval Apocalypse, has accrued 1.1 million downloads on the Windows platform. Gubics graduated just last year from Budapest University of Technology and Economics. During his course work, he developed the popular Off Road Racing game and later he established an independent game development studio based in Budapest, Hungary. He leverages the Unity platform to build games, which he has ported to Windows 8.1. Gubics is excited about the global exposure his games have received and his recent nomination into the ID@Xbox program, which will help him scale new heights. I talked with Gubics recently about his strategies and expansion plans.
What excites you about Unity and Windows 8.1?
I really like that Unity supports Universal Apps for Windows 8.1. I can develop and maintain a single code base—including app logic and even some parts of the user interface—and then publish on multiple platforms. Users can play my games on many form factors for Windows 8.1 or Android, and being able to publish to the whole Windows ecosystem at once means it’s easy for me to expand my market reach. As an independent developer, this is so important.
Maintaining a single project means it’s easier to create apps that are high quality and keep them there, and it’s easier to customize and personalize apps and games for each device. One of my favorite features is the ability to overlay XAML UI on DirectX content.
Recently, Microsoft and Unity sponsored a contest, and just for competing, I received a test device and promotional and marketing resources. My game was among the Top 20 in the contest, so I won a free Unity Pro license. And I was selected to participate in the ID@Xbox program, too.
Unity and Windows 8.1 together have really set us up to succeed. Medieval Apocalypse is the top 7th role-play game in the U.S. Windows Store and top 20th in the U.S. Windows Phone Store. In less than a year, the game has been downloaded 1.1 million times. This is a huge accomplishment for anyone, and especially for a new, independent developer like myself; we’re thankful that Unity’s extensibility to the Windows platform has enabled us to do this. Unity and Microsoft are committed to our success, and now, they are including Xbox One access as well.
You’re so new to this. What makes your games so successful?
Developing mobile games for Windows 8.1 has set us up for success; the OS provides all the modern features that help an app stand out: a sandboxed app model, push notifications, background tasks, and cross-app sharing. I especially like Live Tiles, because they help users discover new apps; by combining Live Tiles with push notifications, you can significantly increase user engagement.
I monetize my games through in-app purchases and advertising because most users won’t even consider downloading an app if it’s not free; the improved Microsoft Advertisement SDK helps to create a compelling ad experience. I cross-promote my games using systems like AdDuplex and AdDeals combined with in-house banners. There are even more in-app monetization options available in Windows 8.1, like consumable in-app products.
The initial weeks post launch are critical; I advertise the game heavily. I also provide engaging screenshots, promotional images, and a catchy description for use in the app store. These things help get the attention of users and even Store staff—the Windows and Windows Phone Stores have featured my games several times. And now, the stores have improved app discoverability, and they’re promoting apps through Store Collections.
But mainly, I’m successful because I’m a gamer myself, and I build games that I would find entertaining. I think that’s the key to building a successful game, and I think that’s why people like my games so much.
You were recently nominated into the ID@Xbox program through the Unity offer. What are your plans with Xbox One?
First of all, I’m honored. As an independent game developer, being able to develop for Xbox is a huge opportunity, and I’m going to try to provide great value and quality games for the players.
My immediate goal is to port Medieval Apocalypse to Xbox One and to learn more about the platform. In the future, I plan to release my new games for Xbox too. Xbox One is a huge market, and it’s the ultimate gaming platform, so it plays a key part in my long-term goal of establishing a solid fan base across all Microsoft gaming platforms.
What is your advice to developers?
Microsoft is committed to developers, which is clear from moves like giving us access to Xbox without additional investment. So take advantage of those opportunities, and leverage unique Windows 8.1 features like Live Tiles to improve user engagement.
Most important, though, is to build a quality app or game. It’s much easier to promote a good app or game that provides the users real value or entertainment.