Indie game developer progress report #6: December 2016 (6th month)

January 7th, 2017

Half a year ago I picked up my indie game development adventure after a break of nearly 2 years. Let’s have a look back at what I have achieved in this time.

Without any doubt I could have made a big progress if this would be a full-time job for me. But my game development activities are at this moment a side project, which means that there were often other priorities to tackle.

Nonetheless, I believe that I have made some important decisions in this last half year. While the results I hoped for have not yet been achieved, I believe that these decisions are small steps towards my goals: building a small profitable game studio for myself to live from.

Breaking up with the past

Most of the decisions I have made in the last half year were a necessary break-up with the past. I changed the focus and direction of my work from Windows Phone to android, from community and social media marketing to ASO, from releasing more games to releasing better quality games, …

It were a lot of changes in a short time, but I had stand still for too long and the market has changed since the release of my last game Circuits.

ASO experiments

Last month I started an App Store Optimization (ASO) experiment on the android version my solitaire game. I experimented optimizing the keywords in a try to better rank on the Google Play store. According to AppAnnie, the results are astonishing: before the experiment my solitaire game didn’t rank for any of the keywords. But the day after my marketplace text change it popped up in the rankings.

Solitaire Keyword ranking from AppAnnieSolitaire Keyword ranking from AppAnnie

However, I can see some big differences when I compare the actual search ranking when doing a manual search with the rankings reported by AppAnnie.

  Keywords and rankings for BE (Belgium)
  standard solitaire patiencespel solitaire vegas vegas solitaire
  Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie
28/12 170 66 64 66 70 77 86 116
29/12 176 72 --- 79 75 96 96 127
30/12 182 74 74 66 72 93 96 113
31/12 182 74 71 69 73 80 94 126
01/01 182 77 74 --- 76 95 93 128

December KPIs

The December KPI numbers do not show any surprises. There is still a decline in sudoku app installs but this is due to the advertisement campaigns in the past.

I am also fairly happy that the solitaire app install are in line with last month and that the number of active device installs is growing. It shows that the game is appreciated by a large percent of the people who have downloaded it.

The KPI numbers for December 2016 are:

  Active Device Installs Ratings Avg Rating D1 Retention D7 Retention D30 Retention
Solitaire (android) 31
Sudoku (android) 4746

What I did in December

December was the month in which I finished some unfinished business. Kind of a spring-clean in December :-). It must allow me in the future to spend more of my free time on developing new game featured.

Furthermore I have spent quite some time on ASO of my solitaire game. It is still a learning process, but the first experiments already gave me some insights.

Plans for January

I agreed on coaching an internship student in February and March. Hence, most of my time this month will be allocated to the preparation of the work for him: roadmap planning, user story writing, setting up all the accounts, …

On top of this I will continue my ASO experiments. I will try the same experiment as I did for solitaire on my sudoku game. However, I intend to better capture the keywords ranking before the start of the experiment.

As a second experiment I will try to do some external link building for my solitaire game. This will be very time consuming, but it should give me a better picture of the possibilities.

Good ASO is a combination of various things. I will need to run multiple experiments in order to get good insights.


It looks like I am still on the right track. I cannot say whether I will ever succeed in building a profitable game studio. But certainly I gain lots of additional insights in mobile app distribution and marketing.

The real impact will only be visible in a couple of months. Until then it is a matter of understanding the analytics in the best possible way.

Unfortunately, it is hard to see any patterns with low download numbers. But I do not wish to pollute the numbers by any ad campaigns. However, together with a good portion of gut feeling and common sense I hope to be able to make my decisions.

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