Danish startup games studio ALL CAPS games released its latest game, Block Amok, on Google Play last week. Now, a week in to the release, we talked with co-founder Christian Hansen about publishers and monetization strategies.
ALL CAPS games was founded in March 2013 by a group of four Danish university students who had all worked together on a school project about how to increase difficulty in games correctly. The exact same project that would later turn into Block Amok.
“After we finished university the game was in a fairly polished state and our demo version was what landed us an investment deal, and spurred the birth of ALL CAPS in March 2013.”, Christian Hansen says.
Actually designing, coding, and all in all just building the game was only step one, however. The real challenge for ALL CAPS games, as for most other new studio, was figuring out the best way to acquire users and monetize them correctly.
Taking the right decisions about user acquisition and monetization requires data, and Block Amok has therefore gone through three stages of soft-launch before finally launching internationally last week, Hansen explains.
“We had a total of 3 soft-launches each focusing on their own aspect of the game. The first soft-launch was directed towards having more than a handful of people in the game to test the capabilities of our systems with a high load. The second soft-launch was directed towards interstitials, where we created 3 versions of the game with different ad placement and frequency of the ads. The third was focused on in-app purchases and trying two sets of pricing values.”
With a lot of data at hand, ALL CAPS games started optimizing the gameplay, but the UI and other areas within the game also made great use of the data to polish every single aspect as much as possible before launch.
“During all the soft-launches we acquired a tremendous amounts of data about all aspects of the game, which enabled us to optimize, not only the gameplay, but also the UI, social tools and other parts of the game.”, Hansen says.
Block Amok is monetized through incentivized video ads, interstitials and in-app purchases. All of them mechanics that can prove useful at generating vast amounts of revenue – but only if implemented properly. And for ALL CAPS games, finding the balance between monetizing the users and ensuring a fun gameplay experience was indeed a struggle, Hansen points out.
“We did not want to include any limiting mechanics and as such, we don’t have neither time nor energy gates implemented in the game. Our interstitials are a great compliment to the in-app purchases in the game and the incentivised videos provide a great boost, with little to no negative impact on user retention.”
The many decisions in regards to user acquisition and monetization was also part of the reason why ALL CAPS games chose not to publish the game on their own. Instead, the studio chose PlayScape as their publisher, and thus tapped into the knowledge that PlayScape has gained over the past several years on Google Play.
“Our main reason for choosing to partner up with a publisher is also the most obvious one: user acquisition. We knew that we could create a great game, but acquiring a substantial amount of users was something which we were fairly uncertain about.”, Hansen points out.
Besides user acquisition, however, ALL CAPS games also hoped that PlayScape would be able to help in launching the game successfully without any major mistakes and setting up the ad campaigns properly. Because after all, there has got to be some advantages of working with a publisher, since they do not come for free.
“A disadvantage to having a publisher is the reduced profit, as a publisher takes their share of the revenue, but we anticipated that a split revenue with a larger amount of users, would be better for us than full profit from drastically fewer users.”, Hansen says.
In working with publishers, ALL CAPS games made sure to talk with not only a few, but several different publishers, always making sure to carefully read through their contracts, before choosing the publisher they believed could bring most to the table.
“Negotiation the contract with the publisher wasn’t easy, but for us it was important that everything in the contract was thoroughly scrutinized, balanced and worded in a way it could not possibly be mistaken.”
In the end, what’s most important is to have enough information available to carefully consider the different options. There are more than enough publishers, and Hansen’s advice for other game developers who consider reaching out to a publisher, is to simply talk with as many of them as possible, as they all focus on different aspects and have different strengths and weaknesses.
“Finding the right publisher can be a fairly difficult and time consuming task. They all have different stats, methods and areas of expertise. Attending conferences is a good way of meeting a lot of publishers, that’s at least how we found ours.”.
For the foreseeable future, ALL CAPS games will work on improving the Block Amok gameplay experience, carefully balancing user experience with monetization strategy. And while Hansen didn’t want to get too specific about the revenue just yet, he did indicate that the downloads have been great so far, ranking in 50,000 – 100,000 downloads and 3k player ratings according to Google Play.