Monday, October 3, 2011

Challenges faced by a Paid App Developer

Bugsy has been available on the Android Market for three weeks now.  Its a cheap Paid App at only 99c or 60p in the UK. So far, despite my initial word of mouth marketing, downloads are disappointing. Of course its a brand new app and nobody has heard of it or me yet and I have to keep on spreading the word but so far this hasn't been the barrier. The barrier has been with Google's payment system.

Bugsy is a great app! People who have it love it. Its Simple to play and appeals to everyone, even folks who don't normally play games. I have several friends with Android who played beta versions and gave great positive feedback so you would think that they would be the first to buy the app right? I did too.

Challenge 1 - Promotional Copies
Android market offers no way to offer people a free copy of my paid game.  I would like to give free copies to the folks who helped test it, game ideas and, of course, to reviewers sites as part of my marketing.

I've followed widespread advice to implement Google Market Licensing (LVL). With this is place the The only options you have are to make a "special build" without LVL or ask someone to buy and then refund the credit card.

Special Build without Licensing
I have a few issues Using this approach the recipient would:
  • Install via USB
  • Trust that I've not added anything malicious
  • Repeat for each update
  • Have an version of my app that they could be easily redistribute 

This is far from ideal if I give someone a free version of my game I would like to have them receive updates! Also distributing a version without licensing is fine amongst my friends but sending them on spec to review sites seems a bit risky to me. 

Buy Then Refund
This seemed like the best approach to me however when I tried it I found 2 major flaws
  • Once you refund a user LVL no longer reports them as licensed!
  • Review sites do not seem to entertain this idea at all.

The only option you have for distributing a free version of a paid game that has LVL protection is to make a special build with LVL taken out!  The checkout process really needs to add support for promo codes. The lack of such a basic feature really hurts small developers trying to make their mark.

Challenge 2 - Do you trust Google with your Credit Card?
It turns out that most people I have spoken to do not trust the payment mechanism. Android Users do not want to link their credit cards to their phones. Even when I have offered to refund the card! The main reasons I am hearing are:
  • "My kids play with my phone and I don't want them buying things"
  • "I don't want to 'accidentally'  buy *stuff* when drunk!!! "
  • "If my phone is stolen my credit card might be cleaned out"
  • "Google Checkout is new and I don't trust it yet"

These are valid concerns and they are all things that could be easily addressed but are sadly lacking in the Android Market.This is clearly hurting my sales and is something that Google needs to address.

Challenge 3 - Purchase for Other People
Android Market also has no concept of buying an app for someone else.  A friend wanted to buy the app for their son who has his own android phone. Obviously he didn't want his son to then be able to buy anything he liked from the market!

In order to do this He had to associate his own card with his son's google account, buy and download the app. And then spend a considerable amount of time working out how to remove the card details from the account.  It's great that he took the time to support me but I couldn't expect that from a regular consumer.

Apple users have the iTunes Cards. A prepayment system so which allows the recipient to buy things without needing a credit card. It's perfect for a gifts and buying apps for someone else. Why don't we an  Android Card? Its such an obvious thing to do I'm surprised it hasn't been done already.

Conclusion - Challenge Accepted!
Selling paid games is not easy for a small indie developer. I've followed blogs by other developers who have tested the ad supported model and whilst my downloads are much lower my earnings so far are pretty much the same.  I've got to admit that I didn't think the market checkout process would be such a hindrance but hey, that's part of the learning process! This is blog is all about concept to cash and finding the best way to get my app on to users phones is definitely a challenge I accept!

Bugsy is a simple and addictive game available now on the Android Market!

1 comment:

  1. I have the same issues. I recently published my app (Pocket Transmitter) and I am amazed that these simple marketing ideas are not accommodated by Google.