Best App Ever Nominations

Every year the folks at 148Apps hold the Best App Ever Awards, in which users can nominate what they think are the best apps in different categories. If you enjoyed playing Tiny Stack or you feel it is deserving, please consider voting it in one or more of the following categories! :)

If you wish to vote, just click these buttons then "Nominate" (No registration is required)

Nominate Tiny Stack for Best Puzzle Game
Nominate Tiny Stack for Most Addictive Game


Tiny Stack sales data exposed!

As promised, today I'm here to talk about the sales data of Tiny Stack. If you are a developer I hope this post will help you as much as reading about other indie developer's sales has helped me!

Almost one month has passed since Tiny Stack's launch and I've tried different marketing techniques to promote my game during this period. I will talk about what actually worked and what failed miserably.

So, let's jump to the sales data:
First Month Sales

Tiny Stack has sold a total 62 copies so far and if we consider its free downloads and the lite version, the game has been played by over one thousand people worldwide.

Sales started with an initial launch spike (A), with 21 people downloading the game thanks to the launch buzz on social networks. After losing exposure on the "New releases" list, sales had quickly dropped to 2-3 units a day. Then we see a spike in (B), which i believe was generated by reviewers tweeting about the game on Twitter.

The next Spike is (C), when the game was covered on iPhone Italia, an italian tech blog. Actually, this is the only one who wrote about Tiny Stack out of the over 80 review sites I've contacted with promo codes!

Then I wanted to try a strategy which is well-known on the App Store: Free for a day. Halloween seemed like the perfect day to try this strategy out! You can see the results in (D) with obviosly 0 paid sales. I thought this strategy would have helped the game to get a larger user base and some extra publicity, but I was partially wrong.
The game did receive over 200 downloads that day, but as you can see it also didn't help sales at all! I think that the only case in which this marketing strategy is effective is when you are promoting something else inside your app (E.g. a game sequel) or when your app is IAP heavy. Mine was neither of those so it was pretty pointless in my case. Fortunately, though, I didn't get any bad review in the process.

Finally, in (E) a lite version of the game was released resulting in a new spike. Unlike the Free-for-a-day strategy, the lite version had an impact on sales so it is definitely helpful. The lite version has been downloaded almost one thousand times and roughly 1 person out of 100 decided to purchase the full version. In-App analitycs shows that an high number of players (20 out of 100) press the "full version" button to see what it is about. :)

That's all for now!

Tiny stack has grossed around 40$ so far, but fortunately the costs for the development were as low as 200$, so it is not a big loss right now and I think the game may eventually breakeven in the feature :)

The costs were so low because I took care of graphics, programming and game design completely alone, using open source tools and frameworks (Yes, it was a lot of work but it was fun!). I spent around 160$ on sounds/music and the rest on advertising. 

While these numbers are far from stellar, I think they are pretty decent for a first project. But, more importantly, knowing that my game is being played by thousands of players around the world is an enough reason for me to stay motivated and keep doing what I love: Making games!


The Tough Life of an Indie iOS Developer

Hi everyone!

A little more of one week has passed since the launch of Tiny Stack, and a lot of things have happened since then. I've also learned a lot of lessons during the process, and I'm here to share them!

Lesson no. 1: Have realistic expectations
Fortunately I had realistic expectations since I started working on my project, but this is a mistake many newbie developers do: Fooled by past success stories they think they can become instant millionares building a quality app/game for the app store. Sure, you have to build a quality app if you want to become successful but there's a 99% chance your app won't sell as you thought it would! A survey states more than half of applications submitted earn less than 500$ through their lifetime.

Lesson no. 2: Make as many apps as you can!
This is very important and technically none in the app store become successful by just building one game. If you search for the most popular iOS games you will see they weren't their developers first application! Even Rovio has failed different times before the success of Angry Birds.

Lesson no. 3: Getting noticed is hard
The biggest challenge in the AppStore is not building an app, but getting that app noticed! Especially if your'e working as indie or alone. Your game will appear in the new released lists and maybe attract the attention of a dozen of people. The day after your app will be already buried in the list by the amazing amount of new apps being submitted.

Lesson no. 4: Getting your game reviewed is hard
I've learned review sites usually review only the popular game of the moment and the games they see in the top charts, which seems reasonable since those are the apps users are most interested in.
I spent a whole day contacting review sites and all I got were a lot of robot replies, a few human replies and no review yet. I still think contacting review sites is a must for a new indie developer, but unfortunately chances they will review your game are very tiny. If you want to get reviewed easily you have to be in the top charts, which brings to the question: How do you get there?
Another lesson: Send promo codes! Some people think sending unsollicited promo codes is a bad idea and a big waste. Absolutely not! By sending promo codes you've made extremely convenient for them to give your game a quick try. So my 2 cents are: Send promo codes unless the site explicitly states they do no want one.

Lesson no. 5: You have to give something for free!
It should be obvious that marketing a free app is much easier than marketing a paid one. People love free things!
iOS apps are ridiculously cheap nowadays, yet that small price is a big barrier between you and your customers. That sounds quite crazy, but people won't spend a buck they spent for a coffee, for an iOS app which lasts a lot longer and is generally more useful. Angry birds became truly successful only after a lite version was released. Other successful games like Doodle Jump and Cut the rope provide a free version. Tiny Tower and Pocket Frogs use the freemium model which has proven to be successful too, because it's based on something (more or less) free.

That's all for now! I may share the sales data of Tiny Stack in the next few months if they are interesting enough, so stay tuned! :)

Also if you have any tidbit to share, please post a comment below!


Available now on the AppStore!

Tiny Stack is now available on the App Store, and it costs less than a cup of coffee!
If you own an iPhone/iPad/iPod and bought my game I'd love to hear comments from you!
Follows the iTunes link.

Enjoy ;)



Tiny Stack out Tuesday 16th!

Okay, the wait is almost over! Tiny Stack comes out to the AppStore October the 16th!

Check out the game trailer above! ;)


"Tiny Stack" will be released soon!

My first iOS game has finally an official name: Tiny Stack!
And it's going to be released very soon (I still don't know the exact date, but I believe it will available in the Apple's App Store in the first half of October 2012). 

The game will be priced at 0.99$ and supports iPhone 3GS or later, iPod touch 3rd gen or later and all iPads. Full support for the new iPhone 5 is included as well!

For the latest screenshots and news you can visit my website here: http://www.penguinbit.com and my twitter account: http//www.twitter.com/penguibit.

Stay tuned! :)


Rendering ghosts with Depth Buffer magic

Here's a bit more technical post! Recently while working on my iPhone game, specifically on the last world which if you'll play the game you'll discover being an haunted house, I had to find a solution to draw ghosts on the screen!

Well, it's easy, just let the rendering engine draw them as you normally would, one might think. Unfortunately, it's not so obvious! At least if you want to make the ghost transparent and not opaque.

The reason behind this is because if you render the ghost body as transparent, you end up seeing not only what's behind the ghost but also what's INSIDE the ghost himself, like his mouth, teeth, etc, something you probably don't want to see.

Here's an example from a game I loved playing, Luigi's Mansion:


If this scary ghost turns its back to you, the head will remain transparent but you can't see his pacifier nor his eyes. The trick resides in the Depth Buffer which is basically a two dimensional array of floating point numbers which stores the per-pixel distance of one given object to the camera. If the object you draw next is behind the one you just drawn it is said that it will fail the depth-test, hence it will not be visible. (For a longer explaination you can read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-buffering)

The trick to render this ghost correctly is to draw the body first as transparent while still writing in the depth buffer (something which is normally disabled for transparent objects) and only after draw all the rest. If the pacifier is behind the body it will fail the depth-test and not be drawn at all, even if the body is transparent.

Pretty cool, isn't it? :)


iOS Game?

Yep! That's right, that's the reason why I didn't update this blog lately. I've been busy building a brand new iOS game! ;)

Great! But wait, what about bombs & penguins? Well, in short words I had to drop it.
After a while I realized it could be no more than a simple demo as its game concept wasn't much extensible. It was an hard choice to do, but it did give me an important lesson. Game development is a very long iterative process and sometimes you end up with something which isn't fun as you thought it was, and you can either pull it off or start over again. I took the second route.

But not all the time was wasted! I re-used some of the assets and artwork (and code as well) for my next game.

Since I recently owned myself a Mac I decided it would be cool if I developed my next game on it for the iPhone. And since I started its development several months ago I'm in a pretty advanced stage now :)

This time the game will definitely see the light of day and it's going to happen pretty soon, so stay turned!

Here's some first look: