Developer-debrief

Developer Debrief: How Clever Turtle achieved global success with Brick Builder

This week, we sat down with the Michele Matriciani, the developer behind Brick Builder, Coda’s latest hit game. Brick Builder is different from our previous titles because it was built on a Coda concept, and it is the first game to come out of the Coda Partner Program.

What is a Coda Concept?

With a comprehensive view of all hyper-casual games in the market, Coda’s technology automatically tags games. It’s then able to consolidate and analyze all market data to detect signals of demand in the market. We use these signals to make predictions and identify concepts that are likely to achieve a CPI below $0.20.

What is the Coda Partner Program?

The Coda Partner Program offers select studios access to the latest hit game concepts. Coda concepts are made available directly on the Coda platform, so that partner studios can start prototyping right away. Our Games team also provides best practices and feedback to make sure developers test and iterate as quickly as possible.

Michele Matriciani was one of the first members of the program and develops under his studio name: Clever Turtle. Read for more on how Michele was able to publish an iOS game for the first time and make it a chart-topping game in 8 different countries.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you started Clever Turtle?

Clever Turtle is really just me and sometimes my girlfriend who helps me with design, game styles and graphics  I studied computer science about 10 years ago, but game development was always just a hobby. About a year ago, I started becoming especially interested in hyper-casual games. It looked like there was a lot of potential in this market, and so I decided to dedicate more time and get more serious about game development. I moved to part-time with my job and created “Clever Turtle”.

Q: What did your game development process look like when you first started?

Initially, I didn’t really research. I would just start building any idea that came to mind. Now, when I look back at those games, I realize that those game ideas weren’t great.

Q: So, how did you start coming up with game ideas after those early days?

I started spending more time brainstorming and thinking about the game idea, probably about 1-2 weeks. I used YouTube to browse hyper-casual games and watch the gameplay of Top Chart games. I would always follow the Top Charts. I usually tried to replicate some of the ideas that I saw or combine different ideas together to come up with something new. 

Michele was able to optimise Brick Builder into the best version possible through the Coda Partner Program

Q: As one of the early adopters of the program, what made you want to join?

I had worked with other publishers, but I wasn’t able to get a game published.  After joining Coda, I started using the Market Intelligence dashboard, which made it a lot easier to analyze games and see which game mechanics were working well. The Market Intelligence dashboard gave me a clearer way to do my research, analyze the market and come up with better game ideas. The Coda Partner Program gives you an even bigger boost by sharing proven concepts. It gives you a better chance to get good test results on your game because it shares ideas based on current trends. So, I can just go and look at the latest good game concepts that Coda has shared and start from there. 

Q: Can you share the process behind Brick Builder’s launch and how you worked with the Coda team?

I actually had started prototyping for this game a while back, just for a couple of hours, and then decided to ditch it. Then, when I saw a similar concept from the Coda Partner Program, I picked it back up and looked at how I could repurpose it.

I spent 5 days on the first prototype. After it got good test results, I started building the levels and the playable iOS version of the game. During the first month, we did a couple retention and then monetization tests. After each test, the Coda team helped me make improvements. They did a great job with market research to constantly find new ways to improve the game.

We then spent some time on game design, adding a shop with new skins and additional prizes, and optimizing the game. Coda provided new 3-D models and graphics to make the game more engaging. I was in contact with the team every day throughout the process. And, of course still in contact now as we continue to work on Brick Builder. I’d like to thank the team for all of their support. 

Brick Builder's popularity has been credited to the stacking mechanic, running gameplay and bonus levels.

Q: What do you think made Brick Builder so successful?

What made this game a success is for sure the stacking mechanic, which was definitely a strong trend. Also, the running gameplay keeps users engaged.

I think that collecting a lot of bricks combined with the ability to build bridges between platforms brings a feeling of satisfaction. The surprise at the end of the levels and the bonus level also helped make it more appealing.

Q. How many games had you prototyped and tested before launching Brick Builder?

I probably tested more than 15 prototypes in the past year since I started.

Q: How do you prototype?

Once I have my idea, I spend no more than 1 week prototyping the first version of my game. I focus on gameplay and create 1-2 levels. I don’t polish the game. I just make sure I can record a good video to test as fast as possible. 

It’s important to focus on what you learn when you fail because you can always find ways to improve. 

Q: What would you recommend to developers who are just getting started with hyper-casual games?

First, don’t give up. At the beginning, it’s hard because you spend time on your games and think they will be very good. But, you generally end up with bad test results, definitely below your expectations. It’s important to focus on what you learn when you fail because you can always find ways to improve. 

I would also suggest that you don’t immediately start prototyping when you come up with an idea. Spend some time making sure your idea is promising. Think it over and try to justify it first. 

Look at Top Chart games, but don’t copy them. Try to think about concepts that could use similar mechanics or elements from those games. Innovate the concept by bringing something new to those game ideas.

We’ll leave you with Michele’s recommendations. As you can see from Michele’s experience, the key is to keep prototyping and testing. Coda Concepts are proven to have a better chance at success, and we are starting to see increasing performance with each new game that our partners submit.

So, if you’d like to make your process more efficient and receive hit game ideas every week, check out the Coda Partner Program.

tweak or try again

Knowing when it’s time to move on from your game

In mobile game development, it’s crucial for game developers to act quickly. Particularly in hyper-casual, you need to be quick to ideate, quick to develop and quick to test. Otherwise you run the risk of spending time on an idea that’s not marketable or having your idea published by a competitor.

For many game developers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of investing time into an unmarketable concept. Coda data reveals that only around 3% of prototypes pass the first initial market test. This is not only indicative of the amount of competition but also may suggest that you are gratuitously investing time in fixing a game when it may be time to move on.  

In this article, we’ll explore what successful hyper-casual game developers have in common, how long they spend prototyping, how many different game ideas they go through for each game they publish, and the key metrics they take into account. 

Acting quick will increase your chance for success

Estimated to generate up to $2.5 billion of revenue annually, hyper-casual is a notoriously lucrative genre of mobile gaming.  However, it requires developers to be incredibly fast to keep up with demand in the market and the competition. As a rule of thumb, the faster you are to test your game idea, the better chance you have at publishing. 

Why is testing your game idea early on so important?

Publishing is all about developing a game that will draw users, and in turn, generate revenue. And, the most effective way to figure out whether your game idea is marketable is to directly test it in the market. The first test is not about the quality or the intricacies of your game; it’s about gauging interest and understanding whether it has the potential to become profitable. Your goal here is to create a very basic gameplay video to make sure you are not wasting time on an unpromising idea.

On average, seasoned developers spend no more than 5 days on their first gameplay video. For larger studios, this may be even quicker in 2-3 days. 

We offer a free, self-serve testing tool in order to make it as easy as possible for developers to test new game ideas and keep testing iterations of their games. 

An aspect to consider that many developers overlook is that hyper-casual game concepts are not marketable forever. There are multiple factors at play here, including trending game mechanics, popular cultural themes, and saturation in the market.  The most popular game concept can become yesterday's news in as little as three to four weeks. So, even if your first marketability test performs really well, you still need to be quick to build and launch. 

When is it time to move on to a new concept?

When deciding whether to improve upon a game or move on to a new concept, your initial test results are your best reference point. There are various benchmarks that publishers look at when determining the potential success of a game 

IPM or Installs per Mille can be an immediate giveaway for whether or not continue working on a game. Coda’s Chief Gaming Officer, Cemal Gunusen, provided more insight, explaining that “if an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.”

If an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.

Your CPI is another key performance indicator that can tell you whether or not you should invest more time in a game. Your CPI is largely determined by how desirable your game looks from a single gameplay video. On average, game developers should not spend more than 5 days on a gameplay video, with a timeframe of 2-3 days being ideal. If your CPI is close to the publishing benchmark, we recommend trying another iteration of your gameplay video, perhaps in different colourways or themes, to see if you can lower it further. If it is very high above the publishing benchmark, then we recommend moving onto another concept. 

These metrics act to gauge the overall marketability of your game, and should be used as cues as to whether or not to invest more time in a concept. By missing this small window of opportunity to either iterate or move on at the start of the prototyping stage, you not only lose time and resources but you drastically reduce your chances of publishing since competition is so high.

What to do if it’s time to move on

We’ve discussed ways that testing early can help avoid wasting time on an “unmarketable” game idea. However, more often than not (97% of the time), your test results will direct you to move on to a new concept.  In this case, there’s no secret. Your task is to prototype and test again, as quickly as possible. 

Successful developers will create and test around 10-15 games for every one game that they get published. 

While our key piece of advice to developers is to stay focused and not get discouraged, we are working to reduce this ratio through technology and tools that optimize the ideation and testing stage of game development. 

With a comprehensive view of market data, Coda’s AI-powered technology is able to detect signals of demand in the market and make predictions on hit game ideas. We share the latest marketable game concepts with Coda Partners every week in order to boost their chances of publishing. See how you can start receiving access to these concepts.

Last but not least,  there may be ways to  ‘recycle’ or repurpose your game into a trending concept that has greater marketability. If the core of your game is a popular game mechanic, you can look to change the theme or game design so that it resonates more with current trends. Take a look at our HyperCompact Games guide for more detail on these types of hybrid concepts.

It can be hard to let go of a game concept, particularly if it’s a concept you love and have spent countless hours creating. However, if you’re looking to publish hyper-casual games successfully, it’s imperative that you are fast in your development and only invest time in concepts that have a good chance of being published. At Coda we’ve designed our platform and tools to help streamline this process, so that you can test and iterate quickly, while working confidently on games that are more likely to be successful. Learn more about our capabilities and our platform by signing up for free.

sdk-article-feature copy

How SDKs streamline your game development process

Whether it’s a menu screen, in-game currency, or the integration of attribution platforms or ad networks - there are numerous processes that are constantly repeated with the creation of every new mobile game game. Seasoned game developers will be all too familiar with the tedious process of manually integrating these, which is why they turn to SDKs.

SDKs are small yet powerful packages of code that allow developers to shave precious hours off their total production time of a game. We asked our expert Games team at Coda to help define the pros of integrating publisher SDKs and the industry SDKs that developers should have integrated in their games.

SDKs are integral to creating a beautiful & functional mobile game

SDK stands for ‘Software Development Kit’ and is essentially a collection of software tools compacted into one easy installable package of coding. The core tools that developers need can be broken down into four categories: Game engine, development aid, advertisement and mobile analytics. 

These building blocks help mobile developers create a beautiful game and ensure that it is functioning properly. However, when it comes to preparing your game for publishing, the integration of individual SDKs can become considerably time consuming. 

For example, before a game is launched by a publisher, developers will need to integrate a long list of different third party platforms relating to the monetization, user acquisition and attribution of their game. If you were to integrate these manually, you’d be expecting to spend at least a day or so for monetisation and another day for attribution alone. Not to mention at least a week to set up all the different remote configs for different ad networks. 

This is when publishers will aim to save both your time (and theirs) by creating their own SDK to package the core platforms into a more lightweight and compact package. 

Publisher SDKs save you time

We all know that if you want to be successful in publishing hyper-casual games, you have to be quick to create, prototype and launch. Therefore, SDKs become even more important to help speed up this overall process.

Certain SDKs, particularly publisher SDKs, aim to include all of the core module integrations in a lightweight package, saving you days of work without increasing the overall size of your game. For example, Coda’s SDK eliminates at least 1-2 days of constant work by providing a number of platforms and ad integrations in a few lines of code (28 lines to be exact!). 

SDKs are not only a great way to help build and monetize your game, but also to collect important information about in-game data and events. Again in the case of the Coda SDK, we run machine learning models on the device in order to understand players and their gameplay behavior. We are able to better personalise the overall game experience for that user without collecting personal data. This is just one example of how publishers can help developers save time by integrating data tools & industry SDKs together into a single SDK.

The most popular Industry SDKs worth including in your game

As mentioned previously, there are typically four main categories of SDKs that appear in mobile games. SDKs can include functions across a number of areas, including:

  • Testing: A/B Testing, Tracking, Remote optimisation, 
  • Client-side and remote notifications, 
  • Store and in-game economies
  • Attribution, monetisation, cross-promotion
  • In-game data management
  • Navigation
  • Inter-service connections

These functions are crucial as they not only help you to create a beautifully designed game, but also a game that is functional with sticky mechanics. So what are the top industry SDKs that are being used? Based on a survey by Mobile Action, the following SDKs were considered the most popular for each category:

While these SDKs are the most popular amongst the four categories to be integrated, when publishing your game it will really depend on the SDKs, ad networks and attribution that your publisher will require you to install. When working with a publisher, ask them if they have their own SDK or if you will have to account for manually integrating each SDK individually. 

Whether you’re creating your first mobile game or you’re a seasoned developer, it’s important to identify the roadmap of your game, it’s capabilities and where SDKs may help you to streamline your processes and save you time overall. More importantly, do your research when choosing to launch with a publisher and understand if they have an existing SDK that will also benefit the overall functionality and performance of your game in the long run. To learn more about publishing with Coda and our SDK capabilities, reach out to us or check out our changelog for the latest up-to-date information..

5-top-questions-v2

Five Questions Developers Always Ask Coda

If you have landed on this page, you are probably a mobile games developer with big ambitions. You ultimately want to have a hit game that will reward you both creatively and financially.

Well, that’s why we created Coda. We aim to help smaller studios and individual game developers create games that will prove popular and lucrative.

In some ways, the odds are stacked against you. The bigger studios not only have significant amounts of money to spend on perfecting games, they also have the financial muscle to market them effectively.

If you are an indie game developer, you need to be super savvy to compete. That’s where we come in. We can help you to find the right game to create, perfect that game, and ultimately monetise it. We passionately believe in indie developers, and we know that our technology will give them a chance to compete with the big boys.

When indie game developers talk to us, they invariably ask very similar questions. Here are five we get asked all the time.

1. What kind of help can you give me?

From our experience in the hyper-casual industry, the first stage of development is actually the most critical but it also tends to be the biggest barrier. Unless you are strategic at the ideation stage, you are blindly betting. No matter the quality of the game you build, your efforts are largely futile. At the end of the day, you need to build a game that attracts users. 

  • Finding a game idea based on market data
    Our Market Intelligence tool offers a comprehensive, informed view of all of the games that are in the app stores, including trends and top charts. Developers can use the dashboard to easily pinpoint and zero in on games and mechanics that are doing well. 

 

 

We take this one step further with our Coda Partner Program. We’ve built the technology to more systematically identify game ideas that have the greatest potential to become a hit game. Each week, we share the latest hit game ideas with our partner studios and developers. This makes it possible for them to direct their efforts on games that increase their chances of publishing. Our goal with the program is to enable talented developers to focus on what they do best -- creating great gameplay. 

  • Testing your game idea for free
    Because hyper-casual is fast and constantly evolving, developers must be quick to prototype and test. In order to make testing more readily available, we have self-serve testing on the platform. Coda’s self-serve testing lets developers directly upload their gameplay video and run their own marketability test. We cover the testing costs and share the results once the test is completed.

2. How do you help produce my game?

Once you have your game idea, we can work with you to ensure that the game you produce is as sticky as possible. Launching a successful mobile game requires multiple integrations, adaptors, and gaming modules. We have developed the Coda SDK, a Unity plugin that handles everything from Attribution and Analytics to Monetization, all in one go. You don’t need to have in-depth knowledge of all the different SDKs. The Coda SDK also delivers a better experience for players by reducing bugs and increasing the quality of your game. Again, we want to take care of as much of the games production process as possible, leaving you to focus on the creative component of the game.

3. Can you help me fund my game?

This isn’t something we do, but we can certainly help. We can introduce you to companies like Fast Forward Games. This is an initiative that aims to bring gaming CEOs, angel investors and VCs together to jump start investment opportunities for developers and studios. They offer their time, expertise, network and experience to help accelerate the funding process for gaming start-ups.

There are other ways of securing funding. Some countries, especially post Covid19, have business development funds which you can use to invest in your games. There are also the crowdfunding options with sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter. If your game has potential, but needs financial backing, we can point you in the right direction.

4. How do you monetise my game?

Many times, we see game developers focused more on their game construction and not on the way they might make money out of it. Securing contracts with lots of ad networks can be time consuming. Coda rationalises this process. We have a simple plug and play monetisation solution which has MoPub as the mediation layer and provides access to 15 ad networks, including AdMob, Ironsource, Facebook Audience Network, Vungle and Unity. We also work with the companies to incorporate all types of in-game advertising, from standard display ads to more integrated deliveries. 

The Coda SDK uses machine learning to ensure that your game is as successful and profitable as possible. By tapping into player activity in real-time, we can determine the best time to serve an ad for each player.  We also advise on which types of ads are the most relevant for your game. Is it just interstitials, or can you insert rewarded ads and how can they help your game become more sticky? We can predict player response and plan to deliver ads when they are most likely to click on them and most likely to continue playing your game. Read more about the technology behind how we optimize and monetize your game in our machine learning Masterclass series. 

5. Can you tell my game is going to be successful?

In short, yes. We will have a very good idea about whether or not your game is going to be a success or not within hours of it hitting the app store, thanks to our advanced machine learning technology. We have developed a Lifetime Value (LTV) model, which enables us to calculate how much a game is likely to make. 

As soon as the game is published on the app store, we closely monitor its performance and quickly gauge its potential.

The prediction is made by a machine learning algorithm called a ‘Random Forest’. It calculates average user playtime and how many ads they will see in that time.  It can then come up with a figure for how much the game will make.

If we see that the potential LTV is going to be high, then it makes sense to use our marketing resources to push players towards that game. We want the machine learning algorithm to suggest that a game will make more than we spend on it. When that is true, we can push that game forward much faster and acquire users more aggressively. You can read more about how the technology works in our Masterclass series. 

Regardless of the size of your studio or skillset, Coda is determined to help you optimise and improve your game development processes. Our tools are designed to help empower developers to give you access to market intelligence and features that would normally only be reserved for larger players in the industry.

So if you have been developing a game, or would like to develop one, and need a partner to take care of the tasks that you are less experienced at, like monetisation and marketing, sign up to the Coda Platform and come and talk to us.

Sign up to the Coda Platform

ios 14-feature-image

What iOS 14 will mean for Hyper-casual Gaming

Last week, Apple announced the release of iOS 14, their latest software update that will be made available to the 1.5 billion iOS devices, coming this September. While the user interface will receive a facelift along with audio and app optimisations, perhaps the most notable change was the announcement of new data protection features for users.

In a bid to protect the privacy of personal user data and provide further transparency into how user data is being collected and used, Apple announced updates to user-tracking permission, location services and recording features. In particular, Limited Ad Tracking or LAT will become more accessible with users to receive automatic permission requests, likely causing opt-out rates for IDFAs (Identifier for Advertisers) to soar. This will undoubtedly have a huge impact upon the ad tech industry and the way in which advertisers can deliver user-targeted ads. 

Since in-game advertising makes up a majority of revenues and targeted ads are a valuable UA strategy, we’ve all started thinking about how this will affect the hyper-casual gaming industry. What can we expect to happen in the months ahead and more importantly, what can mobile game developers do to prepare?

iOS 14 will impact both sides of mobile gaming

Apple’s iOS 14 privacy update has essentially made IDFA irrelevant as advertisers will no longer be able to use them as shortcuts to finding and targeting users with personalised ads. While the ability to hide IDFAs has been available for some time through the LAT in iOS 13, the opt-out option will soon be glaringly obvious as it prompts users with the opening of every new app. As a result, opt-out rates are anticipated to be significantly higher and will undoubtedly have an impact on monetization and user acquisition for mobile gaming.

iOS 14 will make the choice to opt-out of IDFAs glaringly obvious

When it comes to monetization, the new iOS 14 privacy changes could see the Ad Network environment changing drastically. As it stands, several networks such as Facebook deny any request if an IDFA is not attached to it. This means that many networks, larger players such as Facebook and Google included, will have no choice but to adapt to the new changes imposed by Apple. 

As a Monetization expert at Coda, Ozan Daldal predicts changes from both sides: “By not using an established identifier such as an IDFA, brand marketing may slow down significantly. On the other hand, performance marketing should be able to increase its volume as the inventory of the publisher is expected to grow continuously. If this new setup manages to establish itself, lower eCPMs are to be expected.”

“If this new setup manages to establish itself, lower eCPMs are to be expected."

On the other hand, it is very unlikely that the bigger players are going to vanish. Facebook and Google act as dominant channels for user acquisition and currently sit on large piles of purchaser data. That said, it looks like User Acquisition will be impacted negatively with this loss of personal data. Matching users with app events will become a real challenge. And just as non-gaming advertisers will struggle to target users through games, it will also become more difficult for publishers to target users directly to install new games.

As tracking and measuring becomes increasingly complex, we will be looking to MMPs and ad networks, in particular, to introduce new privacy-safe solutions that leverage aggregated data. At Coda, our data science team works on an array of R&D projects to optimize and improve live ops and feed their learnings to our SDK team. We see an opportunity to segment users without tapping into PII but still delivering a more personalized gameplay experience.

Where to from here?

Since iOS 14 is yet to be released, it’s difficult to say with certainty what we can expect to happen in the market and what solutions key players will create. However, there are some things developers can do now before the release of iOS 14 to prepare themselves. 

As a developer, for starters, it’s important that your game is compliant with the latest measures before Apple’s new update kicks in. If your app or integrated SDK isn’t compliant, then you could face challenges in getting your game approved and subsequent delays to launching your game. For example, many developers will need to ensure that they use App Tracking Transparency to request permission to track the user and access the device’s advertising identifier. It’s therefore imperative to check your current game roadmap and plan accordingly. 

Another factor to consider is that Android is yet to follow suit with the same privacy updates as Apple. Google’s Android currently offers similar LAT features to users, but their opt-out rates are relatively lower at 2-3% in comparison to Apple’s 20-30%. As a result, less restrictive data rules could see the value of Android users increasing. This could potentially incentivize publishers to start encouraging both OS versions of a game in order to launch. So, now could be the time for developers to brush up on their Android skills.

As for our CEO, Sekip Gokalp, he anticipates a change in the overall ad environment that will require publishers to step up for developers during this time. “It’s to be expected that there may be a period of uncertainty as the unit economics of hyper-casual games changes, but now is a good time for developers to prepare their games for the iOS updates and challenge their publishing partners to see how they will react to the new rollout. As for Coda, we’ll be in touch with our partners and working with our engineering team and expertise to navigate these new changes in the industry.”

machine-learning-master-class-03

Masterclass Part 3: The AI In The Game

At Coda we strive to provide simple yet powerful tools to our game developers. The Coda SDK is a prime example. It includes all you need to bring your game to market including measurement and attribution tools, monetisation solutions and a game analytics platform to name a few.

We are excited to now be able to launch one new capability of our SDK: machine learning. In the third of our series on this field of AI we look at the role it will play directly within our games.

As ever Coda’s machine learning expert Muhammed Miah is on hand to explain the technical side of the process.

Personalisation

Machine learning will largely be used within the SDK to personalise the gaming experience for each player. As you will discover it enables us to work out which gamers are likely to play regularly, and provides insight into their gaming habits. We can determine when they will next play the game as well as what their response is likely to be towards advertising. The data the algorithm accrues can even highlight the gamers that are likely to make in-app purchases.

“For me, the key role of machine learning in the SDK is to deliver the best experience possible to each of our gamers,” explains Muhammed. “This starts with understanding more about them, predicting their preferences, and easing any possible pain points. We currently aim to optimise the gaming experience in two primary ways. Firstly, we keep people playing the game for as long as possible, and secondly, we monetise them in the best and most effective way possible.”

“For example, say the machine learning model thinks that a person is finding the game too easy. It can then adjust the difficulty of the game itself, making it more difficult and engaging for the player. This also naturally results in that player becoming more sticky.”

Was this level too easy for this player?

“One other type of user that we try to predict early on are what we term ‘hardcore users’. This group of people enjoy our games the most and we want to know who they are as early as possible. You can imagine that some of them will wish to thank the developers and opt for the ad-free version of the game, and so we may try to promote that appropriately to them.”

Machine learning can also analyse data to tell us more about a person’s gaming habits. For example, how often a person plays a game and what time they enjoy playing. This is very useful data as it enables Coda to optimise our communication with the gamer.

“If a person, for example, only plays a game at night, it’s better to not send them a notification reminding them to play in the morning. So with data that we have collated we can communicate with them in the way that is most relevant to them,” suggests Muhammed.

“I find it exciting that we are able to utilise this very powerful realm of AI, right from within the client’s device itself”, he mentions. “Our algorithms are even able to run offline, without an internet connection, meaning that communication with our backend servers is not necessary at all. These algorithms first observe the player’s behaviour and the details of how they interact with the game. They then surface key pieces of information, what we call features, to be used. Finally, at the appropriate time, the machine learning model is run with these features to produce the desired prediction. In short, the SDK collects data and computes features before running the machine learning model.”

Data to help monetisation

“We also use machine learning to gauge a gamer’s response to ads,” adds Muhammed.

“From the data we get we understand how each individual user feels about ads. Do they prefer to receive rewards for watching one? Do they tend to click-through on them? Or is the next ad likely to make them quit the game altogether? Using this data we tweak the game to ensure that they keep playing while seeing the number of ads that they are happy with.”

“One of the most powerful signals that we have is if a person stops playing. In relation to ads, we aim to show them in a sustainable way that both keeps each user playing while allowing our developers to continue making more games.”

Machine learning helps us show ads in a sustainable way

Talk of monetisation is incomplete without mentioning in-app purchases. Here machine learning will help Coda pinpoint the best possible moment to promote IAPs and which gamers are most likely to respond to them.

“We're getting significant amounts from in-app purchases,” adds Muhammed. “We aim to use machine learning to discover whether a gamer is the type of person who wants to make an in-app purchase and if they are we want to reduce friction to make it easy for them to do so.”

“In the future we will be even more effective at optimising our games,” says Muhammed. “The more games we publish the more data we have and that means the more themes and trends that the machine learning algorithm will be able to spot. Eventually much of what we do will be automated by machine learning.”

hyper-casual-user-goldmine

Why Hyper-casual Gaming is a User Goldmine

Over the past three years, we’ve seen the hyper-casual genre of mobile gaming explode on the scene. Often defined as both a gaming genre and a business model, it’s a lucrative area of mobile gaming that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

In the peak of 2019, between 5-10 hyper-casual games sat comfortably in the Top 10 US Game charts for at least 15 days, translating to immense revenues for both publishers and developers alike. These revenues are a result of ad revenue generated from the vast number of daily active users - users that vary greatly from your stereotypical gaming demographic.

Hyper-casual gaming is for everyone

The greatest appeal of hyper-casual gaming is that it’s a genre for all ages. The genre consists of simple game mechanics that are easily understood by any user regardless of gaming skill. 

According to InMobi, a look at user analytics on some popular hyper-casual games saw a fair split between gender, with ages of players ranging broadly, 18 - 65+, and all with varying incomes and interests. This wide range of demographics is one example of how diverse the hyper-casual gamer is, making it a lucrative platform for advertisers.

It’s important to act quick on trends

Hyper-casual gaming is not only a genre but a business model for many publishers where speed is of the utmost importance. The ability to create a game concept, test, iterate and launch a game in the space of a few weeks is imperative to stay competitive within the industry. This often calls for efficient development processes and the ability to spot trending mechanics and themes.

Some of the more recent top-charting hyper-casual games have followed themes that may seem a bit bizarre: recharging phones, ASMR, home repairs and beauty salons were just some of the diverse themes appearing in the top charts over the last few weeks. While they may seem unusual, they combine trending game mechanics with popular themes that resonate with a variety of audience (we talk more about the emerging genre of Hypercompact games in a previous article). 

As a result there are now many platforms and tools that offer a host of market data and insights for developers.  Most developers are familiar with App Annie, which provides a wealth of market data for mobile apps and Game Analytics,, which offers extensive analytics tools specifically for gaming.  

At Coda, in our efforts to empower game developers of all sizes, we saw an opportunity to translate current market data into actionable and meaningful insights. Our Market Intelligence Dashboard tackles the initial challenge of finding good (ie. high potential) game ideas on the regular. It is designed to jumpstart and accelerate the ideation stage of the game development process, so that developers can create and test more quickly and efficiently.  

What can we expect in 2020?

Last year 1 in 5 games in the top charts were hyper-casual, and it’s expected that 2020 will not be much different. While hyper-casual games are expected to continue to dominate top free-to-play charts, recent data from Game Analytics suggests that the amount of new release titles reaching top charts has peaked. While in mid 2019 nearly 80 New Release games featured in the Top 100, this number is in decline. Fewer new releases reaching top charts potentially indicates that games need more testing and iterations before scaling, requiring further time investment from publishers and presenting more risk for publishers moving forward. 

That said, we expect to see more niche games as well as a broader set of mechanics being used in hyper-casual games. And finally, there will be a focus on more effective native ads. 

For the time being - even with unprecedented global events in the midst - the hyper-casual genre is showing no signs of slowing down. Adjust reported a staggering 75% increase in global downloads for Q1 2020, providing new audiences for developers to capture with entertaining games. We look forward to watching this space and seeing what exciting new concepts will be released over the next half of the year!

facebook-gaming-cover

Facebook Gaming: what’s in it for mobile game developers?

Last month Facebook announced the release of its new gaming platform, Facebook Gaming, a free mobile app designed to compete with Youtube and Twitch streaming services. Hoping to secure a large piece of the already $159 billion dollar global gaming industry, the platform aims to gain a deeper level of engagement from its gaming users by allowing them to watch their favourite streamers or live stream themselves with a few simple taps. 

Alongside the streaming feature, the platform also allows users to play their favourite Facebook games such as Words with Friends and the once ubiquitous Farmville. So how exactly will Facebook’s platform translate into new opportunities for mobile developers to grow their games? We explore the ins and outs of the platform to understand where casual games will fit and whether it’s worth pursuing.

Facebook’s new app a social streaming hybrid

At first thought, a new gaming platform from Facebook sounds as though it might follow in the footsteps of Apple’s Arcade or Google’s Stradia. One sweep through the app will show that the platform is far from subscription modelled platforms currently on the market. 

Facebook’s new app was created with streaming at the forefront of its design. The free app starts by asking you to select your favourite games, before suggesting some streamers to follow. It features a new feed tab similar to Facebook, showing posts, videos and news from gaming groups, a tab for playing Facebook games, a tab for live streaming and another for messages. 

Perhaps the most competitive feature it offers is the ability to live stream games in a few quick taps. It’s an attractive feature in comparison to competitor giant’s such as Twitch and Youtube, which often require third party programs to facilitate streaming from console to mobile devices. 

Where does the value lie for developers

While the goal of Facebook’s gaming platform is clear, it’s uncertain as to where casual mobile gaming will fit into the new platform, if at all. 

As of December 2019 YouTube accounted for 28 percent of the streaming hours watched while Twitch dominated with approximately 61 percent of the market. A majority of the streaming however is of PC or console based games, which makes Facebook’s core feature of live streaming of mobile games an interesting move given the seemingly small demand for it.

In terms of games within the app, users can only play Facebook Instant games and not casual games directly from an app store. While the app’s evolution is still in its early stages, it’s an immediate loss for developers who were hoping to have their games played directly by the app’s users (without the need for download).

With that being said, there is still the opportunity for developers to capitalise on a new platform to add to their marketing channels. Users are able to live stream their gameplay from any mobile game and upload it to their personal channels, presenting opportunities for influencer collaborations and organic growth for studios and developers. While it may not bring mass users that paid acquisition brings, it could be an interesting avenue for indie developers to explore. 

Where does the value lie for developers

While Facebook Gaming has seen some success in its opening weeks thanks to endorsements from prominent gaming personalities and its existing streaming user base,  it’s unclear as to whether or not the platform will be of value to developers and studios long- term. For casual mobile game developers, it would require a large shift in demand for streamed mobile gameplay for it to be valuable in user acquisition. As it stands, mobile game streaming simply isn’t as popular as console or PC games, with audiences likely preferring more complex gameplay over more straightforward, though it should be added, equally addictive  mobile games.

With that being said, the current quarantine measures implemented as a result of COVID-19 have produced a new way of life for many that could create a demand for new streaming content. It’s a waiting game to see how the app’s popularity will increase in the coming months and how it will grow once available to iOS users (said to be coming soon!).

how-corona-virus-has-impacted

How COVID-19 has changed mobile gaming

COVID-19 has had a huge global impact in a relatively short time. In a few months the novel virus has disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life. For some people going to work, seeing friends and travelling are now off-limits as home lockdowns become the new normal.

At the height of the pandemic, we explored how COVID-19 may impact the mobile gaming industry in the foreseeable future. Two months on and with many countries now starting to take tentative steps away from lockdowns, we revisit this topic and see how our gaming habits have evolved and more importantly, how developers can adapt their practices during this uncertain period.

Mobile game downloads and user session times are up

Perhaps unsurprising to many, compulsory lockdowns across the globe have meant that people have had a lot more downtime at home. While many have opted to pass the time creating TikToks, a huge amount of the population have chosen to play mobile games. 

As a result of COVID-19, Adjust reported a whopping 75% increase in mobile game downloads globally in Q1 2020. The report also identified a 47% increase in user session times with casual games in particular experiencing an increase in between the hours of 12pm and 4pm.

For publishers and developers this is great news, as the potential audience sizes has increased significantly in nearly every region globally. Both parties can expect to see increased downloads and revenues, however the increased traffic and user base has also seen a subsequent increase in hackers. Developers should be mindful during this time when developing and ensure the necessary security features are put in place. 

Disruptions to projects and funding

While mobile downloads and activity has increased, many studios and developers have felt the negative effects from the physical restrictions of COVID-19. 

As we touched on in a previous article, the physical restrictions of lockdowns have meant that many studios and developers have been unable to connect with investors to pitch their games and receive funding quickly in this uncertain time. Bans to international travel and large crowd gatherings have also seen numerous conferences cancelled globally, potentially impacting scheduled publicity events, game launches and other scheduled meet-ups. 

Luckily there are other ways that developers and studios can look to receive a quick injection of capital to ensure their game development and launches continue as planned. Crowdfunding, government grants & funds, Angel investors and organisations focusing specifically on aiding developers during COVID-19 (such as Fast Forward Games) are great options for individual developers and growing studios. We cover these options in more detail in our article here.

Easing of Restrictions

So what exactly can we expect to see in the mobile gaming industry in the months to come? While the global infection rate of COVID-19 is yet to slow down, many countries are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions in a bid to restart their stalled economies. Countries including the UK, Australia and the United States have begun to establish phases in which the public will see the reopening of non-essential businesses, schools and resumed domestic travel.

For developers and publishers, this could effectively result in a decrease in the overall downloads and user session times for our games as people return to normal work hours and socialising with friends. On the other hand, high unemployment rates and redundancies could mean that this decrease is marginal depending on the time it takes for the job market to recover. 

We can only watch and wait..

Fast Forward Games-cover

Fast track your funding with Fast Forward Games

For mobile game developers funding is the extra leg up that can kickstart a new studio or developer’s career and can be used for a number of areas, from development, to labour, marketing costs and more.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 however has brought fundraising amongst investors and developers to an almost standstill. As a result, many upcoming developers and studios have been unable to launch their games and are missing out on potential revenue.

However there are now organisations emerging to meet the dire need from developers to connect with VCs and investors alike. 

Opening doors to fast investments

In these trying times, key industry players such as investors and CEOs are banding together to help open doors for investment opportunities. One company hoping to achieve this is Fast Forward Games, an initiative aiming to bring gaming CEOs, angel investors and VCs together to help jumpstart investment opportunities for developers and studios. 

The organisation was founded by leading angel investors and experienced executives in gaming, such as: Chris Lee, Ben Holmes, Akin Babayigit, Akira Ushioda, Matteo Vallone, Lior Shiff, Sekip Gokalp, Alvaro Alvarez del Rio among others. Their main goal is to offer their time, expertise, network and experience to help “accelerate the funding process for gaming start-ups.”

The organisation aims to offer their services in three key areas aimed at helping to better facilitate the investment process during the pandemic. The first service is where they provide feedback on a pitch, offer advice on how to present your funding proposition and their input on the best people in the business to speak with. Their second service is fast-track, where they help speed up the process for developers by introducing them to major VCs collaborating with them on this initiative. Finally, concepts can be approved with lightning-fast decisions. Investments are provided through the group and are made quickly and remotely (often within 48 hours of Zoom meeting), so that studios can secure a quick decision and injection of capital.

There’s more than one way to fund your game

Alongside Fast Forward Games, there are other options available for developers looking to secure funding for their next gaming project. Government organisation, grants, crowdfunding as well as angel investors are popular options for studios starting out.

In certain countries, government funds or grants have been established to fund upcoming gaming studios in their latest projects. The UK Games Fund is one example of a government funded group aimed at boosting the UK’s gaming ecosystem by investing in start-up and established studios alike. 

Developers and studios can also look to receive funding from the public directly through crowdfunding pages, such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter. Alternatively, sites such as Angel.co give developers and studios the chance to connect with Angel investors to pitch directly. 

In a time when nothing seems certain, it’s comforting to know that your gaming pipeline won’t be halted by lack of investment opportunities. Fast Forward Games and other similar organisations are working to help speed up the process of investments and open doors for developers who may not have the connections or resources to launch their game during this unpredictable time. To learn more about Fast Forward Games’ initiative or to launch your next game, contact them at hello@ffwd.games.