How to Define Success for a Mobile Game

This week on the Podcast

This week’s agenda came from podcast listener Volkens Daman, and is a really interesting subject, so firstly thank you Volkens for sending that through. 

Volkens asks “How do you define success for a mobile game?”

How to define success for a mobile game can come in different forms and kinda personal too. You may be just starting out in the mobile game business, and, by the very fact that you have built a game and released it on the App Store, can be in of itself defined as a great success.

It’s a huge step and certainly an awesome goal and achievement to have got that far.

The first thing to ask here is your “why?”
Why am I making a game = What is my desired outcome?

The Hobbyist

Maybe making games is a hobby, so for you the success could be the completion of one of your projects and a sense of personal accomplishment. So in this instance your ‘why’ could be finishing your game, and your goal, could be simply seeing it appear in the App Store.

This is a Business

On the other hand, you may see building games as a future career or even starting your own Indie Game Studio, a business. Your ‘why’ is that you want to make money and generate sufficient revenue from your games, and your goal is to sustain your business with recurring income from your released titles. A very different proposition from the hobbyist game developer.

Here you need to think a lot more about how you’re going to monetise your games.

What type of game you’re going to make?
Which ad networks to put in your project?
Are you on the hunt for a possible publishing deal?

Most importantly however, is how are you going to generate attention and thus drive traffic and ultimately downloads?

All of these questions need to be answered. In short, your game needs to be good, better than good, and if you’re just starting out it may well take you several attempts, a lot of honing of your skills and plenty of practice to reach this kind of production level.

Downloads & Money

Are you going to Define Success for a Mobile Game by downloads or by revenue?


The more downloads your game receives obviously reflects on the market popularity and success of your game in the App Store charts. That said, downloads are somewhat of a vanity metric for free to play mobile games. It’s much more about your average revenue per daily active user ( ARPDAU ) and retention rates than download numbers alone.

IAP ( In App Purchases ) or Ads = Money

In app purchases are a tough cookie if you’re making casual or hyper casual games, players who like this type of genre are typically looking for that ‘quick fix’ and generally don’t spend money on a ton of in app purchases.

It’s certainly worth putting in a remove ads IAP, to give players the option of opting out of being shown ads. Apple will certainly favour an IAP of some description and is something that we always include in our projects.

By all means explore all the options here, but for these types of games, we recommend focusing on other aspects of the game for a better use of time.

Market Reactions

This will be the players reviews and reactions to your game and can be two fold.

If you’re using ads to monetise your game you will always get those players who may leave a bad review for the adverts. This is normal so you’ll need a have a thick skin right away and ignore these.

“Love this game” will obviously give you an immense boost as a developer and you will be overcome with the urge to just go make another game ASAP. This could define success for a mobile game right there.

These are the comments we’re all eager to see, but sadly, all too often, in amongst the good, will be the single bad egg of “this game is utter rubbish”. This will be the only one you’re ever likely to remember reading, a real day spoiler.

You can’t, and won’t, ever be able to please everyone, but just be sure to make a conscious effort to sift out any bad reviews and take on board the positive reactions. Disregard the trolls who are simply out to be negative, feel sorry for them instead.

Set Realistic Expectations for your First Game

Without crushing any dreams, and seriously, we like nothing better than when we see Academy members win through, just be conscious that this is your first game, there’s a lot of process to get through in launching your game to the App Store.

We recommend you enjoy immersing yourself in building and finishing your project.

This is the fun part where you get to show all your creative skills. Take yourself through the process of getting your game onto the market. Rinse and repeat!

So defining success for your mobile games can mean different things to different people. Knowing your “Why” will empower you to think about what is important to you.

So How to Define Success for a Mobile Game?

1. Figure out where you are and what the goal of the project is.

2. Is this just a Hobby or is this your new Business?

2. Will it be downloads or money that is most important? ( sounds like a business )

3. Do you just want people to love what you’ve built? ( sounds like a hobby )

4. What is your skill and experience level?

5. Set realistic expectations – Your first game will usually tank as you learn the ropes.

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