5 things I’ve learned about the mobile gaming industry since starting Dragon Army

by Jeff Hilimire on April 23, 2014

Now that we have our first game launched, Robots Love Ice Cream, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned since starting Dragon Army last September. I’ve often said that true startups are like jumping out of an airplane and figuring out how to build your parachute on the way down. This has certainly been very much like that and while I’ve learned A TON so far and have much more to learn, here are the five things that came to mind:

1. Game development is vastly different than typical software development. There is true “heart” in building games. Art. Passion. The anticipation that a kid might play your game and feel the way you felt when you played Mario Brothers the first time. That passion affects everything and it makes building games a pure joy while also being a test case for scope creep. Either way, its incredibly fun to be making games.

2. People loving a game does not necessarily translate to success. The launch of Robots Love Ice Cream has been really exciting, mainly because it has been an instant crowd-favorite. The ratings have been insane – 126 of 149 being five star – but that hasn’t translated into massive downloads…yet. But that’s ok because we’re working hard on things like our Arby’s initiative to make sure enough people have exposure to the game. But the lesson: great games still need marketing efforts to push them over the edge. Which is why we’re doing fun stuff like this:


3. People hating a game can actually translate to success. See: Flappy Birds. Ugh.

4. Games people pay for make far less money than games that are free. Of the top 25 grossing games in the Apple App Store, 24 are free. The 23rd is paid. I know, right? All the money is made from in-app purchases – essentially people paying for upgrades, boosts, level progression, etc. It’s fascinating.

5. It’s all about the App Store(s). That’s the marketplace when you’re talking about mobile games. You need some Apple love or Google love if you want to get any kind of featuring in the stores. Fortunately, Apple gave Robots Love Ice Cream some significant love right out of the gates and we were featured prominently, but we don’t expect that to happen with every game.

  • Jason Acosta

    “Games people pay for make far less money than games that are free.”

    This is a different statement than “most of the top 25 grossing games on Apple’s app store are F2P” which is perhaps what you meant to say. Or does Minecraft make far less money than whichever F2P game was released today?

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    If you look at the App Store, Minecraft at $6.99 is the 24th top grossing game. Every single game ahead of it is a F2P game. So I think both statements are still true.

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