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  1. On the 2nd of November 2017 we launched a Kickstarter campaign for our game Nimbatus - The Space Drone Constructor, which aimed to raise $20,000. By the campaign’s end, 3000 backers had supported us with a total of $74,478. All the PR and marketing was handled by our indie developer team of four people with a very low marketing budget. Our team decided to go for a funding goal we were sure we could reach and extend the game’s content through stretch goals. The main goal of the campaign was to raise awareness for the game and raise funds for the alpha version. Part 1 - Before Launch Is what we believed when we launched our first Kickstarter campaign in 2016. For this first campaign, we had built up a very dedicated group of people before the Kickstarter’s launch. Nimbatus also had a bit of a following before the campaign launched: ~ 300 likes on Facebook ~ 1300 followers on Twitter ~ 1000 newsletter subs ~ 3500 followers on Steam However, there had been little interaction between players and us previous to the campaign's launch. This made us unsure whether or not the Nimbatus Kickstarter would reach its funding goal. A few weeks prior to launch, we started to look for potential ways to promote Nimbatus during the Kickstarter. We found our answer in social news sites. Reddit, Imgur and 9gag all proved to be great places to talk about Nimbatus. More about this in Part 3 - During the campaign. As with our previous campaign, the reward structure and trailer were the most time-consuming aspects of the page setup. We realised early that Nimbatus looks A LOT better in motion and therefore decided that we should show all features in action with animated GIFs. Two examples: In order to support the campaigns storytelling, “we built a ship, now we need a crew!”, we named all reward tiers after open positions on the ship. We were especially interested how the “Navigator” tier would do. This $95 tier would give backers free digital copies of ALL games our company EVER creates. We decided against Early Bird and Kickstarter exclusive rewards in order avoid splitting backers into “winners and losers”, based on the great advice from Stonemaier Game’s book A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide (EDS Publications Ltd. (2015). Their insights also convinced us to add a $1 reward tier because it lets people join the update loop to build up trust in our efforts. Many of our $1 backers later increased their pledge to a higher tier. Two of our reward tiers featured games that are similar to Nimbatus. The keys for these games were provided by fellow developers. We think that this is really awesome and it helped the campaign a lot! A huge thanks to Avorion, Reassembly , Airships and Scrap Galaxy <3 Youtubers and streamers are important allies for game developers. They are in direct contact with potential buyers/backers and can significantly increase a campaign’s reach. We made a list of content creators who’d potentially be interested in our game. They were selected mostly by browsing Youtube for “let’s play” videos of games similar to Nimbatus. We sent out a total of 100 emails, each with a personalized intro sentence, no money involved. Additionally, we used Keymailer . Keymailer is a tool to contact Youtubers and streamers. At a cost of $150/month you can filter all available contacts by games they played and genres they enjoy. We personalized the message for each group. Messages automatically include an individual Steam key. With this tool, we contacted over 2000 Youtubers/Streamers who are interested in similar games. How it turned out - About 10 of the 100 Youtubers we contacted manually ended up creating a video/stream during the Kickstarter. Including some big ones with 1 million+ subscribers. - Over 150 videos resulted from the Keymailer outreach. Absolutely worth the investment! Another very helpful tool to find Youtubers/Streamers is Twitter. Before, but also during the campaign we sent out tweets , stating that we are looking for Youtubers/Streamers who want to feature Nimbatus. We also encouraged people to tag potentially interested content creators in the comments. This brought in a lot of interested people and resulted in a couple dozen videos. We also used Twitter to follow up when people where not responding via email, which proved to be very effective. In terms of campaign length we decided to go with a 34 day Kickstarter. The main reason being that we thought it would take quite a while until the word of the campaign spread enough. In retrospective this was ok, but we think 30 days would have been enough too. We were very unsure whether or not to release a demo of Nimbatus. Mainly because we were unsure if the game offered enough to convince players in this early state and we feared that our alpha access tier would potentially lose value because everyone could play already. Thankfully we decided to offer a demo in the end. More on this topic in Part 3 - During the campaign. Since we are based in Switzerland, we were forced to use CHF as our campaign’s currency. And while the currency is automatically re-calculated into $ for American backers, it was displayed in CHF for all other international backers. Even though CHF and $ are almost 1:1 in value, we believed this to be a hurdle. There is no way to tell for us how many backers were scared away because of this in the end. Part 2: Kickstarter Launch We launched our Kickstarter campaign on a Thursday evening (UTC + 1) which is midday in the US. In order to celebrate the launch, we did a short livestream on Facebook. We had previously opened an event page and invited all our Facebook friends to it. Only a few people were watching and we were a bit stressed out. In order to help us spread the word we challenged our supporters with community goals. We promised that if all these goals were reached, each backer above $14 would receive an extra copy of Nimbatus. With most of the goals reached after the first week, we realized that we should have made the challenge a bit harder. The first few days went better than expected. We announced the Kickstarter on Imgur, Reddit, 9gag, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, in some forums, via our Newsletter and on our Steam page. If you plan to release your game on Steam later on, we’d highly recommend that you set up your Steam page before the Kickstarter launches. Some people might not be interested in backing the game but will go ahead and wishlist it instead. Part 3: During The Campaign We tried to keep the campaign’s momentum going. This worked our mostly thanks to the demo we had released. In order to download the Nimbatus demo, people needed to head over to our website and enter their email address. Within a few minutes, they received an automated email, including a download link for the demo. We used Mailchimp for this process. We also added a big pop up in the demo to inform players about the Kickstarter. At first we were a bit reluctant to use this approach, it felt a bit sneaky. But after adding a line informing players they would be added to the newsletter and adding a huge unsubscribe button in the demo download mail, we felt that we could still sleep at night. For our previous campaign we had also released a demo. But the approach was significantly different. For the Nimbatus Kickstarter, we used the demo as a marketing tool to inform people about the campaign. Our previous Kickstarters’ demo was mainly an asset you could download if you were already checking out the campaign’s page and wanted to try the game before backing. We continued to frequently post on Imgur, Twitter, 9Gag and Facebook. Simultaneously, people streamed Nimbatus on Twitch and released videos on Youtube. This lead to a lot of demo downloads and therefore growth of our newsletter. A few hundred subs came in every day. Only about 10% of the people unsubscribed from the newsletter after downloading the demo. Whenever we updated the demo or reached significant milestones in the campaign, such as being halfway to our goal, we sent out a newsletter. We also opened a Discord channel, which turned out a be a great way to stay in touch with our players. We were quite surprised to see a decent opening and link click rate. Especially if you compare this to our “normal” newsletter, which includes mostly people we personally met at events. Our normal newsletter took over two years to build up and includes about 4000 subs. With the Nimbatus demo, we gathered 50’000 subs within just 4 weeks and without travelling to any conferences. (please note that around 2500 people subscribed to the normal newsletter during the Kickstarter) On the 7th day of the campaign we asked a friend if she would give us a shoutout on Reddit. She agreed and posted it in r/gaming. We will never forget what happened next. The post absolutely took off! In less than an hour, the post had reached the frontpage and continued to climb fast. It soon reached the top spot of all things on Reddit. Our team danced around in the office. Lots of people backed, a total of over $5000 came in from this post and we reached our funding goal 30 minutes after hitting the front page. We couldn’t believe our luck. Then, people started to accuse us of using bots to upvote the post. Our post was reported multiple times until the moderators took the post down. We were shocked and contacted them. They explained that they would need to investigate the post for bot abuse. A few hours later, they put the post back up and stated to have found nothing wrong with it and apologized for the inconvenience. Since the post had not received any upvotes in the past hours while it was taken down it very quickly dropped off the front page and the money flow stopped. While this is a misunderstanding we can understand and accept, people’s reactions hit us pretty hard. After the post was back up, many people on Reddit continued to accuse us and our friend. In the following days, our friend was constantly harassed when she posted on Reddit. Some people jumped over to our companies Twitter and Imgur account and kept on blaming us, asking if we were buying upvotes there too. It’s really not cool to falsely accuse people. Almost two weeks later we decided to start posting in smaller subreddits again. This proved to be no problem. But when we dared to do another post in r/gaming later, people immediately reacted very aggressive. We took the new post down and decided to stop posting in r/gaming (at least during the Kickstarter). After upgrading the demo with a new feature to easily export GIFs, we started to run competitions on Twitter. The coolest drones that were shared with #NimbatusGame would receive a free Alpha key for the game. Lots of players participated and helped to increase Nimbatus’ reach by doing so. We also gave keys to our most dedicated Youtubers/streamers who then came up with all kinds of interesting challenges for their viewers. All these activities came together in a nice loop: People downloaded the Nimbatus demo they heard about on social media/social news sites or from Youtubers/Streamers. By receiving newsletters and playing the demo they learned about the Kickstarter. Many of them backed and participated in community goals/competitions which brought in more new people. Not much happened in terms of press. RockPaperShotgun and PCGamer wrote articles, both resulting in about $500, which was nice. A handful of small sites picked up the news too. We sent out a press release when Nimbatus reached its funding goal, both to manually picked editors of bigger sites and via gamespress.com. Part 4: Last Days Every person that hit the “Remind me” button on a Kickstarter page receives an email 48 hours before a campaign ends. This helpful reminder caused a flood of new pledges. We reached our last stretch goal a few hours before our campaign ended. Since we had already communicated this goal as the final one we withheld announcing any further stretch goals. We decided to do a Thunderclap 24 hours before the campaign ends. Even after having done quite a few Thunderclaps, we are still unsure how big of an impact they have. A few minutes before the Kickstarter campaign was over we cleaned up our campaign page and added links to our Steam page and website. Note that Kickstarter pages cannot be edited after the campaign ends! The campaign ended on a Tuesday evening (UTC + 1) and raised a total of $75’000, which is 369% of the original funding goal. After finishing up our “Thank you” image and sending it to our backers it was time to rest. Part 5: Conclusion We are very happy with the campaign’s results. It was unexpected to highly surpass our funding goal, even though we didn’t have an engaged community when the campaign started. Thanks to the demo we were able to develop a community for Nimbatus on the go. The demo also allowed us to be less “promoty” when posting on social news sites. This way, interested people could get the demo and discover the Kickstarter from there instead of us having to ask for support directly when posting. This, combined with the ever growing newsletter, turned into a great campaign dynamic. We plan to use this approach again for future campaigns. Growth 300 ------------------> 430 Facebook likes 1300 -----------------> 2120 Twitter followers 1000 -----------------> 50’000 Newsletter signups 3500 -----------------> 10’000 Followers on Steam 0 ---------------------> 320 Readers of subreddit 0 ---------------------> 468 People on Discord 0 ---------------------> 300 Members in our forum More data 23% of our backers came directly from Kickstarter. 76% of our backers came from external sites. For our previous campaign it was 36/64. The average pledge amount of our backers was $26. 94 backers decided to choose the Navigator reward, which gives them access to all games our studio will create in the future. It makes us very happy to see that this kind of reward, which is basically an investment in us as a game company, was popular among backers. Main sources of backers Link inside demo / Newsletter 22’000 Kickstarter 17’000 Youtube 15’000 Google 3000 Reddit 2500 Twitter 2000 Facebook 2000 TLDR: Keymailer is awesome, but also contact big Youtubers/streamers via email. Most money for the Kickstarter came in through the demo. Social news sites (Imgur, 9Gag, Reddit, …) can generate a lot of attention for a game. It’s much easier to offer a demo on social news sites than to ask for Kickstarter support. Collecting newsletter subs from demo downloads is very effective. It’s possible to run a successful Kickstarter without having a big community beforehand. We hope this insight helps you plan your future Kickstarter campaign. We believe you can do it and we wish you all the best. About the author: Philomena Schwab is a game designer from Zurich, Switzerland. She co-founded Stray Fawn Studio together with Micha Stettler. The indie game studio recently released its first game, Niche - a genetics survival game and is now developing its second game Nimbatus - The Space Drone Constructor. Philomena wrote her master thesis about community building for indie game developers and founded the nature gamedev collective Playful Oasis. As a chair member of the Swiss Game Developers association she helps her local game industry grow. https://www.nimbatus.ch/ https://strayfawnstudio.com/ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/strayfawnstudio/nimbatus-the-space-drone-constructor Related Reading: Algo-Bot: Lessons Learned from our Kickstarter failure.
  2. Many developers count breaking even as a success, but without enough income to continue development that success may not be sustainable. Daniel Cook discusses sustainable long term development, and the strategies Spry Fox employ to ensure they can continue making games.
  3. I got into a conversation awhile ago with some fellow game artists and the prospect of signing bonuses got brought up. Out of the group, I was the only one who had negotiated any sort of sign on bonus or payment above and beyond base compensation. My goal with this article and possibly others is to inform and motivate other artists to work on this aspect of their “portfolio” and start treating their career as a business. What is a Sign-On Bonus? Quite simply, a sign-on bonus is a sum of money offered to a prospective candidate in order to get them to join. It is quite common in other industries but rarely seen in the games unless it is at the executive level. Unfortunately, conversations centered around artist employment usually stops at base compensation, quite literally leaving money on the table. Why Ask for a Sign-On Bonus? There are many reasons to ask for a sign-on bonus. In my experience, it has been to compensate for some delta between how much I need vs. how much the company is offering. For example, a company has offered a candidate a position paying $50k/year. However, research indicates that the candidate requires $60k/year in order to keep in line with their personal financial requirements and long-term goals. Instead of turning down the offer wholesale, they may ask for a $10k sign on bonus with actionable terms to partially bridge the gap. Whatever the reason may be, the ask needs to be reasonable. Would you like a $100k sign-on bonus? Of course! Should you ask for it? Probably not. A sign-on bonus is a tool to reduce risk, not a tool to help you buy a shiny new sports car. Aspects to Consider Before one goes and asks for a huge sum of money, there are some aspects of sign-on bonus negotiations the candidate needs to keep in mind. - The more experience you have, the more leverage you have to negotiate - You must have confidence in your role as an employee. - You must have done your research. This includes knowing your personal financial goals and how the prospective offer changes, influences or diminishes those goals. To the first point, the more experience one has, the better. If the candidate is a junior employee (roughly defined as less than 3 years of industry experience) or looking for their first job in the industry, it is highly unlikely that a company will entertain a conversation about sign-on bonuses. Getting into the industry is highly competitive and there is likely very little motivation for a company to pay a sign-on bonus for one candidate when there a dozens (or hundreds in some cases) of other candidates that will jump at the first offer. Additionally, the candidate must have confidence in succeeding at the desired role in the company. They have to know that they can handle the day to day responsibilities as well as any extra demands that may come up during production. The company needs to be convinced of their ability to be a team player and, as a result, is willing to put a little extra money down to hire them. In other words, the candidate needs to reduce the company’s risk in hiring them enough that an extra payment or two is negligible. And finally, they must know where they sit financially and where they want to be in the short-, mid-, and long-term. Having this information at hand is essential to the negotiation process. The Role Risk Plays in Employment The interviewing process is a tricky one for all parties involved and it revolves around the idea of risk. Is this candidate low-risk or high-risk? The risk level depends on a number of factors: portfolio quality, experience, soft skills, etc. Were you late for the interview? Your risk to the company just went up. Did you bring additional portfolio materials that were not online? Your risk just went down and you became more hireable. If a candidate has an offer in hand, then the company sees enough potential to get a return on their investment with as little risk as possible. At this point, the company is confident in their ability as an employee (ie. low risk) and they are willing to give them money in return for that ability. Asking for the Sign-On Bonus So what now? The candidate has gone through the interview process, the company has offered them a position and base compensation. Unfortunately, the offer falls below expectations. Here is where the knowledge and research of the position and personal financial goals comes in. The candidate has to know what their thresholds and limits are. If they ask for $60k/year and the company is offering $50k, how do you ask for the bonus? Once again, it comes down to risk. Here is the point to remember: risk is not one-sided. The candidate takes on risk by changing companies as well. The candidate has to leverage the sign-on bonus as a way to reduce risk for both parties. Here is the important part: A sign-on bonus reduces the company’s risk because they are not commiting to an increased salary and bonus payouts can be staggered and have terms attached to them. The sign-on bonus reduces the candidate’s risk because it bridges the gap between the offered compensation and their personal financial requirements. If the sign-on bonus is reasonable and the company has the finances (explained further down below), it is a win-win for both parties and hopefully the beginning a profitable business relationship. A Bit about Finances First off, I am not a business accountant nor have I managed finances for a business. I am sure that it is much more complicated than my example below and there are a lot of considerations to take into account. In my experience, however, I do know that base compensation (ie. salary) will generally fall into a different line item category on the financial books than a bonus payout. When companies determine how many open spots they have, it is usually done by department with inter-departmental salary caps. For a simplified example, an environment department’s total salary cap is $500k/year. They have 9 artists being paid $50k/year, leaving $50k/year remaining for the 10th member of the team. Remember the example I gave earlier asking for $60k/year? The company cannot offer that salary because it breaks the departmental cap. However, since bonuses typically do not affect departmental caps, the company can pull from a different pool of money without increasing their risk by committing to a higher salary. Sweetening the Deal Coming right out of the gate and asking for an upfront payment might be too aggressive of a play (ie. high risk for the company). One way around this is to attach terms to the bonus. What does this mean? Take the situation above. A candidate has an offer for $50k/year but would like a bit more. If through the course of discussing compensation they get the sense that $10k is too high, they can offer to break up the payments based on terms. For example, a counterpoint to the initial base compensation offer could look like this: $50k/year salary $5k bonus payout #1 after 30 days of successful employment $5k bonus payout #2 after 365 days (or any length of time) of successful employment In this example, the candidate is guaranteed $55k/year salary for 2 years. If they factor in a standard 3% cost of living raise, the first 3 years of employment looks like this: Year 0-1 = $55,000 ($50,000 + $5,000 payout #1) Year 1-2 = $56,500 (($50,000 x 1.03%) + $5,000 payout #2) Year 2-3 = $53,045 ($51,500 x 1.03%) Now it might not be the $60k/year they had in mind but it is a great compromise to keep both parties comfortable. If the Company Says Yes Great news! The company said yes! What now? Personally, I always request at least a full 24 hours to crunch the final numbers. In the past, I’ve requested up to a week for full consideration. Even if you know you will say yes, doing due diligence with your finances one last time is always a good practice. Plug the numbers into a spreadsheet, look at your bills and expenses again, and review the whole offer (base compensation, bonus, time off/sick leave, medical/dental/vision, etc.). Discuss the offer with your significant other as well. You will see the offer in a different light when you wake up, so make sure you are not rushing into a situation you will regret. If the Company Say No If the company says no, then you have a difficult decision to make. Request time to review the offer and crunch the numbers. If it is a lateral move (same position, different company) then you have to ask if the switch is worth it. Only due diligence will offer that insight and you have to give yourself enough time to let those insights arrive. You might find yourself accepting the new position due to other non-financial reasons (which could be a whole separate article!). Conclusion/Final Thoughts When it comes to negotiating during the interview process, it is very easy to take what you can get and run. You might fear that in asking for more, you will be disqualifying yourself from the position. Keep in mind that the offer has already been extended to you and a company will not rescind their offer simply because you came back with a counterpoint. Negotiations are expected at this stage and by putting forth a creative compromise, your first impression is that of someone who conducts themselves in a professional manner. Also keep in mind that negotiations do not always go well. There are countless factors that influence whether or not someone gets a sign-on bonus. Sometimes it all comes down to being there at the right time at the right place. Just make sure you do your due diligence and be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Hope this helps!
  4. Japheth Dillman, co-founder and CEO of YetiZen, discusses funding for indie startups. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/japhethdillman
  5. Welcome to the fourth entry to Indie Marketing For N00bs. This week, we’re going to talk about some things that most developers fail to really follow through on: Marketing Plans. These are both fundamental additions to any successful game on the market. We’re going to take the time here to really explain the importance of these tools, what they’re used for, and how to create them yourself. PLAN? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ PLAN! You’ve designed a game. Go you. What is the first thing most developers do before they make the game, though? They create a game design document, which entails the plan for what’s going into the game, how it’ll be implemented, and something that can be followed through or be utilized by a publisher that wants to take your game under their wing. In theory, you already know how to do exactly this, so why aren’t you designating time to do the same thing for other aspects of the process? A marketing plan is your personal guideline to what needs to be done early on, as well as in post-development when it comes to marketing, public relations, social media, and community management. It’s big, generally. But, it helps developers know when they need to make a post or a blog, or when they need to make an announcement due to hitting a target. This includes when you should do “Dev Diaries” or how often you should tweet. Make a plan and stick to it. I Love It When A Marketing Plan Comes Together! Everyone has a different method for their own versions of a marketing plan. Some people do a simple outline with key points and some people go above and beyond for a true precision strike outward (For instance: My plans tend to be between 9 and 11 pages, including a title page). I mentioned earlier that the plan can be for a publisher. If you ever plan to get picked up by a publisher (even the indie publishers), they want you to be as impactful as you can be autonomously. It’s less work and hassle for them if you come equipped with your own knowledge and tactics. But, maybe I don’t want a publisher. Why do I need a plan? Making a plan for yourself keeps you on a strict regimen to get your game out there. Will it ensure a 100% success story? Of course not. But, it will ensure that you are following my rule from previous entries to this series: “Every eye possible”. Know Your Audience And They Will Know You A plan should include two major sections, split into explanations for each one: Information and Marketing Tools. In the Information section, include a quick description of your game, maybe one or two paragraphs. This is to guide anyone other than yourself that may read this document. If you have any current statistics or analytics about your game or company, include a section for them. Set your goal here, as well. Make an attainable goal based on similar games on market. Knowing what you’re up against and adjusting your expectations to adhere to logic is a perfect way to set yourself up for a win. Additionally, do some research and figure out your demographic. Come up with a range of people that you believe your game is targeting. Include: Age range Is your game more mature themed? Would it appeal more to a nostalgic retro audience? Is it cartoony and kid-friendly? These aspects matter. Gender(s) With women taking to the industry in recent years, more women are likely to play your game. Take this into account here. Languages For instance, if you game is only in English and you have no plans to localize the game to Chinese, China might not be your demographic. Systems Is your game only on PC? Probably shouldn’t focus on console gamers too much then and vice versa. Is your game mobile? Why are you contacting people that only play PC games? Know your audience and it’ll help with future endeavors and needs. List Out All The Tools You’ll Use Marketing Tools should include Social Media, Video platforms, Game’s Website, Community Presence, Press, Paid Advertisements, and Software and Services you plan to use. This section is a lot bigger than the other, but it’s where the majority of the plan is laid out. What social media are you going to use? List them out here. We’ve discussed social media in a prior lesson, so add in any that are going to be linked to this game, no matter how small. Think of this as your reminder to post on Google+ or Instagram. How often will you be posting to each platform? Do you plan to tweet daily? Are you hitting other platforms often? Make sure to include even game developer specific platforms here as well. Any presence needs to be noted and should have a guide for how you handle each one. Do you plan to make videos for your game? Have you made a trailer? Will you be streaming the game during development or post-development for people to see progress or features? Make sure to include if you’re using YouTube, Twitch, or any other video platforms. How will you post these videos and how often? Will you be live for most of it on Twitch and then upload it to YouTube after? What’s the plan? Most indie developers don’t utilize their own website for promotion, but it’s a powerful tool to have a simple domain to send potential eyes to. This looks great on business cards, promotional materials, or any shout outs you make need. Some people even go a step further and implement a dev blog into their site. This can tie to the videos, as well, showing off aspects of the game that may not have been apparent. Dev Diaries, which can be shown on your site, are one of the easiest ways to keep community involvement during the creation of your game. Utilization of the forum structure is always a good way to keep community involvement, in both the traditional sense and the more modern takes. Reddit is ridiculously popular to show off progress and several sub-Reddits (specific sections dedicated to particular topics) are designed specifically for indie developers. Additionally, the use of Discord could be considered a “modern take” to the forum structure. Taking on an old-school IRC style mixed with vocal capabilities like Teamspeak or Ventrillo, Discord is designed for gamers and widely utilized as a community tool for the game industry. Media Shower: Wishing Among The Stars As we’ve discussed in an earlier lesson, the press and media are your friends. List out your plan to contact them and how you plan to keep them notified in your plan. This includes a guideline of when you plan to write press releases to get out to the media and press sites. Figure out what kinds of streamers and “Let’s Players” you want to try to contact and set a target. Include a full plan for a customized “press kit” in your marketing plan. I’m going to be setting “press kits” aside as its own lesson at a later date, but expect a much more substantial detailing of what should be in a standard press kit. Software, Services, and Ads As with any other game-related step out there, tools can and should be used when marketing. This can be a number of things, from minor social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, all the way to full analytics reporting programs like Google analytics. A popular free tool to use is Google Alerts, which can set keywords and have Google email you when something comes up in the search engine. If you intend to have people play the game in Let’s Plays, websites like Gamesight can be very helpful in tracking your game. After the game has been published, it’s important to try to get your game on such aggregates as Metacritic, not for any other reason than Twitch and other websites pull from that site for their content. This section should also include any paid advertising you, your publisher (if applicable), or third party will intend to use. Be concise. Since this uses real money, you can utilize the demographics designed in the first section of the marketing plan to focus the impressions and clicks. Ads can be Google, Facebook, Twitter, or a number of other platforms. Understand the difference between sponsored advertisements and "like" purchasing, though. It's the difference between having real eyes see your product and having some company in a click farm boost your numbers in a fake way. Fake followers and "bots"can completely mess up any intended reporting and realistic charts. You'll never know if you're actually doing good. Don’t forget to think out of the box, though. Marketing is only limited to your own mind. Be creative and sometimes it will pay off. Some people get a proper Wikipedia article put up for their game. If you intend to make a commercial, YouTube and Twitter can be tapped for a video-based ad. Heading to small events in your area can help get more eyes. Just make sure you have it all in your Plan.
  6. As the old saying goes, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that we're already half way through summer. The bad news is that the revenue of a mobile application, game or any other product often drops during the hot months, which has a perfectly reasonable explanation. In this article, we'll talk about such a phenomenon as seasonality in the values of key project indicators, discuss how to find it and use it for your own good. WHAT IS SEASONALITY? Any recurrent fluctuation of the time series is usually called seasonality. Supposedly, you have data on product sales for each day for three years. Our experience in application analytics shows that seasonality is likely to exist in your time series, i.e. you may note some cyclicity in the behavior of the indicators. Most often, seasonality is the most pronounced by the days of the week and by the months. Let's take a look at each of them separately. Weekly seasonality consists of growths or falls that correspond to different days of the week. It can be explained quite logically: there are weekdays, and there are weekends. From weekdays, it is possible to allocate Monday (usually with a minus sign) - a day of calmness after a noisy weekend, and Friday (usually with a plus sign) - a day when you can afford a little bit more than usual. On the weekend, unlike weekdays, the online graph behaves differently (because you can play from the very morning instead of going to school or work), as well as the other metrics (for example, ARPDAU - the average revenue per daily active user). Here are some examples: in many games, the audience on weekends is more active than on weekdays; on the other hand, the revenue indicators are averagely higher on weekdays with a peak on Friday (which is why Friday is an excellent day for promotional campaigns); especially interesting is the fact that the retention of users registered on Friday is slightly higher on average than that of users registered on other days. Probably, this can be explained purely psychologically: by installing application on Friday, you increase your chance to open it the next day as it's a day off. By the way, the last example shows an important thought. Seasonality applies not only to quantitative product metrics (audience or gross), but also to qualitative indicators (retention, ARPU). That is, users even behave differently on different days. Monthly seasonality. If you aggregate the indicators by month (from DAU to MAU, and from ARPDAU to ARPU), you may also notice some seasonal changes: as we said above, in many products hot months are on the contrary the "coldest" in terms of the number of the audience, its interest, and revenue from it; but cold months, on the contrary, attract more users (when it's cold outside, you may spend time at home playing games); especially seasonality is expressed in December - this is usually a month of general upswing: both in terms of the audience and the money received from it. However, seasonality is not limited to weekly or monthly. A little later we will talk about how to find the optimal cycle duration, and for now - a few non-trivial examples: in one of the games we saw that the optimal cycle duration in ARPDAU performance is not 7 days, but 14; we explained this by the fact that people receive the payroll once a fortnight; in some products, by the way, peaks are especially noticeable on those dates of the month, which could be divided by five (and these are the payroll days also); we also found products in which the optimal cycles were 3, 9, 11 days - and in all cases, this was related to the internal events in the product (e.g. tournaments). There is one more way to classify seasonality. It might be additive (when seasonal coefficients are constant in time) and multiplicative (when seasonal fluctuations grow or fall with time). In this article, we reviewed the additive seasonality, as it's more common basing on devtodev's experience with multiple projects. HOW TO FIND SEASONALITY? Below you can find a detailed description of the algorithm for calculating seasonality (by the example of finding seasonality by the days of the week). To make it easier for you to understand the process of calculating seasonality, we have prepared a file, in which all the following actions have already been performed. However, if you use this file to substitute your data into it, calculate seasonality and make forecasts, we also won't mind. CLEARING DATA FROM OUTLIERS Preliminary the source data must be cleared from outliers - atypically high or low values of the indicator that are outside the expected range. Often on the graph, such data looks like significant peaks or, conversely, drops almost to zero, which exceed the usual values by several times. The cause for such outliers might be peak sales on a holiday, the failure in the tracking system, or any of the other one-time factors that somehow influenced the metric. Why do we need to clear data from these outliers? Such values distort the results of calculations and can lead to errors in the forecast. Some statistical indicators, such as standard deviation and arithmetic mean, are dependent on the outliers and, by including them into the calculation, you may draw the incorrect conclusions. So, to clean up the data, there are a number of approaches that allow you to assess which suspiciously high or low value can be considered an outlier, and which cannot. We will not go into more detail on clearing data from outliers, because our main task now is to calculate the seasonality, but nevertheless, we must always remember it when analyzing the data. CALCULATION OF AUTOCORRELATION So, the second stage of calculations, which is applied to the already cleared data, is the calculation of the autocorrelation lag. Autocorrelation is a relationship between the values of a time series taken with a shift. It is used to identify trends and cyclical fluctuations of data in a time series. For its calculation, Excel uses a standard function CORREL, which calculates the coefficient of autocorrelation between two ranges of data. These ranges are arguments of the function and are shifted relative to each other: if we are looking for the first-order autocorrelation coefficient, the first range includes the time series values from the first to the last but one, the second range contains all values starting with the second one. We get two ranges offset from each other for one day. To search for the coefficient of the second order, the ranges should be shifted by 2 days - the first does not include the last two values of the time series, the second does not include the first two. This way, we calculate the autocorrelation coefficients for 7 orders and find the maximum among them. It will be an indicator of the day with the highest autocorrelation. If the maximum coefficient is obtained for autocorrelation of the first order, then this series does not contain any trends and dependencies. And if this coefficient is maximal for the 7th order, it means that series contains cyclic fluctuations with a periodicity of 7 days. CALCULATION OF LINEAR TREND COEFFICIENTS Next, we will build a trend for our series to subsequently make a forecast on it and determine how the chosen indicator will behave further. There are several types of trends, which can describe the metric (linear, exponential, logarithmic, polynomial, etc.). We will use a linear method as it's most simple to build and perceive, and at the same time it shows well the dynamics of the metric. The linear trend is built from an equation of the form y = ax + b, where a and b are coefficients, and x is the ordinal of the day (column D in the given example). So to calculate the equation, we need to calculate two coefficients. This can also be done with the standard Excel function LINEST, the arguments of which are two data sets - the metric that's being examined and the ordinal numbers of the days. Using this formula as an array function (Ctrl + Shift + Enter), we get two coefficients, which we then substitute into the equation. BUILDING A TREND LINE To build a trend line, use the previously calculated coefficients - a and b. The only variable parameter of the equation is x - the ordinal number of the day. Due to this, the trend line can be extended for several days ahead, in our example it's 7 days (column I). Thus, we obtain a further dynamics of the change in the metric. CALCULATION OF SEASONALITY COEFFICIENTS The next step for building a linear trend forecast is to calculate the seasonality coefficients. To do this, determine the deviation of the metric values from the trend line (column K), and then find the average value of these deviations, depending on the day of the cycle. These average values are the desired coefficients. IMPOSITION OF SEASONALITY ON THE TREND LINE AND BUILDING A FORECAST To complete the forecast, you need to "overlap" the trend with the seasonality. To do this, multiply each value of the trend line by the coefficient of seasonality of the corresponding day (column L). This will lead the trend line chart to the familiar form - with regular fluctuations depending on the day of the week. And since before we extended the trend for 7 days beyond the available data, the seasonality will spread to the forecasted part of the trend line, thus providing a forecast for the metric for the next 7 days. WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW THE SEASONALITY First of all, to predict your revenue more accurately and to make correct decisions based on these forecasts. For instance, do not plan a massive traffic purchase in August, but wait till September to do it. The question of revenue planning in general is very important, and every company is probably working on it. Seasonality is one of the ways to make your forecasts much more accurate. Secondly, seasonality can be used for your own benefit. If you know that in December you will have many users and the average revenue per user will be high, then it's worth to increase it even more by offering these "hot" users of the cold month more favorable discounts. There is an interesting question: is it possible to fight seasonality? Let's say you know that in July ARPDAU will be the lowest for you in a year. Should you try to increase it and bomb users with tempting July discounts? Our experience tells us that it's useless to fight seasonality: if your users left for a summer vacation, then they would remain on their vacation, no matter what you do. It is better to focus on multiplying seasonality of the high months and increasing your revenue even more, rather than trying to resurrect the revenue of the low months. A FEW IMPORTANT THESES And again, let’s mention outliers. Before calculating seasonality, make sure that your data is cleaned from them. Any leap in the source data (and leaps are often caused by a simple technical error) can significantly distort your data. Let's say that on one of the days in July the revenue was a hundred times better than the usual average. If you do not clear the series from outliers, then you can get that July is the most profitable month, and incorrectly plan a general discount based on this data. And only later you may find out that the table probably lost the bit capacity on that day, and in fact the number is quite average. By the way, in our file, outliers purification, of course, is envisaged. Seasonality depends on many factors: application genre (imagine how surprised the representatives of tourist services would be when reading about the summer revenue decrease); country, language, religion (for example, in Iceland almost everyone goes on vacation in summer, and it's even almost impossible to schedule a doctor's appointment); weather (the hot May might be better than the cold June); any other factors. That is why the conclusions mentioned by us (about the good Friday, or unsuccessful summer) cannot be applied to all the products at once - this is only our experience that's based on the games' analysis. It is better to calculate the seasonality of your project by yourself and draw conclusions based only on your calculations. So download the file, calculate seasonality and make more effective decisions! This article was first published on devtodev's Education Center: SEASONALITY OF THE PROJECT: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF SUMMER RECESSION
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