Indie game developer progress report #7: January 2017 (7th month)

February 11th, 2017

Every month I write a progress report about being an indie game developer. This is the report for January 2017.

Last month I committed myself to coach an internship student for the next 12 weeks. My experience is that these commitments are quite time-consuming for me, but on the other hand they can also be very educative and productive.

The lucky (or poor) guy who is helping me out is Arne C, a last year student in Multimedia Technology. I believe that his contributions will allow me to bring new game features more quickly to market.

I am also moving into a co-working space for the next 12 weeks. It is good to be in an office environment instead of working at my home office. I chose for “Le Phare du Kanaal”, a small and friendly co-working space in the heart of Brussels.

What I did in January

As a result of my commitments, January was a month full of preparations. I want to maximize the performance and results of Arne. Therefore I had to prepare for his start. So, in January I planned ahead most of the projects and tasks for the first month.

Further I ran my monthly App Store Optimization (ASO) experiment. The experiment for January was the same as for December, but this time I ran it on my Sudoku game to confirm my earlier findings. Only by having repeated successes I can gain enough insights on ASO.

ASO experiments

My earlier ASO experiment in December was rather interesting. AppAnnie showed that the game suddenly ranked for new keywords. But the experiment also showed a big difference between Google Play and AppAnnie in terms of the ranking place.

Therefore I decided to do the same experiment again on my Sudoku game, but this time with a couple of changes. For a better understanding of the impact I also looked at the Google Play rankings before the start of the experiment.

This new experiment confirmed my earlier findings. Again I can see an improvement on the same day as the marketplace text was changed. It is incredible how fast these changes can have an influence. In particular, 2 things are eye-catching:

  • The game immediately started ranking for the keyword “sudoku tablet”
  • The keyword “easy sudoku” slowly improved over time

Sudoku Keyword ranking from AppAnnieSudoku Keyword ranking from AppAnnie

But again there are also some ranking differences between Google Play and AppAnnie.

  Keywords and rankings for BE (Belgium)
  sudoku sudoku tablet easy sudoku free sudoku
  Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie Google AppAnnie
05/01 168 192 --- --- 158 175 121 ---
06/01 185 188 --- --- 182 182 146 146
07/01 184 184 --- --- 182 182 146 146
08/01 193 181 --- --- --- --- 141 146
09/01 190 193 --- --- --- --- 165 166
Marketplace text change on 12/01/2017
12/01 193 181 93 94 162 145 168 170
13/01 190 191 96 95 164 160 167 151
14/01 192 192 108 103 141 150 169 173
15/01 182 194 80 142 99 141 152 174
16/01 187 188 109 115 131 135 171 172

The ultimate question is whether my experiment has also translated into more device installs.

The answer is: NO. Although Sudoku started ranking for new keywords, it did not translate to more device installs. January counted for 111 new installs against 151 new installs in December.

This is not really surprising, as nobody will scroll down more than 100 apps before choosing and downloading one.

January KPIs

No surprises on the KPIs. Solitaire has stabilized around 30 active device installs and Sudoku device installs are still in decline.

On the positive side, ratings are improving. This gives me at least hope that the quality of the games has improved.

The KPI numbers for January 2017 are:

  Active Device Installs Ratings Avg Rating D1 Retention D7 Retention D30 Retention
Solitaire (android) 30
Sudoku (android) 4390

Plans for February

I have planned a lot of exciting stuff for February. Both my Sudoku and Solitaire game will get a major update. The most important changes on the roadmap are:

  • An internal rewrite of some parts for both games
  • Portrait mode form Solitaire game
  • New screen flow for both Sudoku and Solitaire
  • Improved rating pop-up for both games
  • Polishing the games (better quality graphics, better animations, …)

A couple of these changes should have a positive influence on my monthly KPIs. The goal is to improve the retention on the games resulting in more active device installs.

I haven’t planned any ASO experiment for February. As January was quite a busy month, I didn’t have time to think about a new experiment. The link building experiment will also be placed on hold, as it is too time consuming.


Building my indie game business is going slow, and I have no hope that this will change soon. However, with the help of Arne I should be able to implement some things that have been on my planning board for too long.

The next 12 weeks will be very busy, but they can have a big impact on the quality of my games.

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