How my first game made $28,623

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October 16, 2012 at 12:00AM

Editor's Note: this article originally appeared on Trey Smith - The Blog and then on AppStori's blog

Next month will be the two-year mark of creating my first game, or at least starting to create it.  Not only was it my first game, it was also when I met my lead programmer, Nik.  Nik is from the Ukraine and has worked on about 10 games with me since and he’s actually coming to visit next month for the first time.
 
I decided to find out how much the first source code has made and was shocked to see we just crossed the $28,000 mark and it’s still cruising along to the tune of $1,345.82 the last 30 days.  I created this first game because I am a geek, not because I thought it would turn into a real business with employees and now over 6,000,000 downloads.  This was all just a hobby originally, but looking back each one of these little games I created is a Digital Investment.  A small asset that keeps returning money, month after month.
 
This blog post is going to take a look back at my first digital asset, an unlikely investment named…
 
Kolo’s Journey (AKA Music)
This first game I created was called Kolo’s Journey:
 
 
I say “was” because if you search for Kolo’s Journey in the app store now, you won’t find it.  See, after a while Kolo’s Journey quit getting many downloads which is pretty typical.  Usually your game will get a lot of downloads, then slowly trail off until it plateaus with a few coming in each day.  This is when it’s time to SHAKE things up and bring life to this dying app.  Now I have a few different tricks I do to bring life back to these apps that I’ll go over in another blog post, but back when Kolo dipped hard, I didn’t know much, so I tried something kinda crazy.
 
I noticed a few people using a little app store trick.  They were naming an app one single keyword and it would start ranking super high for that keyword, so I decided to give it a whirl. I changed the name of Kolo’s Journey to…
 
 
Yup, I literally remamed it “Music.” (with a period at the end because “Music” was already taken).
 
Low and behold it worked:
 
 
 Now, unfortunately this trick doesn’t work after the “Chomp” changes and even though it dropped my revenue I think it’s a GOOD thing.  The fact I could rank #1 for the search term “music” by naming my app “music.” is quite a large and ridiculous loophole :).  But Music/Kolo’s Journey is STILL plugging along.  In the last 30 days it’s made $677.67.
 
Here’s the breakdown:
 
Music. – Last 30 Days Income
In App Purchases:
$57.04
 
Nag Screens:
$473.66 Revmob
$24.69 Chartboost
 
Banners:
$84.80 iAds
$28.40 AdMob
$9.08 MoPub
 
Total: $677.67
 
Currently Revmob is the biggest money maker for Music and the revenue is not too bad, but it gets even better.  After seeing that Music was a success, I figured what the heck… I’ll make a clone of this and call it something else that people search for.
 
I sat back for a few minutes and thought, “What would be the most searched phrase in the app store?”
 
Here’s what I ended up with…
 
 
I figured if people searched for Music, then more searched for Games, and they most definitely did.
 
I was ranked #1 for Music but #4 for Games.  This meant the traffic was only slightly better in Games.  Of course now this trick doesn’t work and both apps do about 400-500 downloads per day each (instead of 1500 per day) but still bring in a good amount of income.  eCPM’s were not as high when the trick was working at its fullest potential, so revenue back then was only slightly higher than it is now.
 
Now I’m ranked around #25 when searching music and nothing for games, but people keep finding them both somehow!
 
Games is pretty much the same game but with different music and a couple small new features, like an unadvertised sequel.  What is really strange is how CLOSE the financial data is on Games and Music.  Maybe it’s because the icon, gameplay and description are all similar.
 
Here’s how much it’s made in the past 30 days:
 
Games. – Last 30 Days Income
In App Purchases:
$10.23 – IAP
 
Nag Screens:
$476.98 Revmob
$0 Chartboost
 
Banners:
$119.71 iAds
$37.71 Admob
$23.52 MoPub
 
Total: $671.15
 
(Again RevMob is the main bread winner here.  I use Chartboost successfully in other apps, but in this one I have it turned off as it doesn’t convert as well)
 
The Hard Cost
My first digital investment (Kolo’s Journey) turned into two games (Music. and Games.).  In a second I will breakdown all the details and show you how much revenue both games made and what was most profitable, but before we do that let’s check out the hard cost and see what I spent to have these made.
 
Kolo’s Journey was my first game and I spent $1710 to have all graphics and programming completed:
 
 
That’s actually a direct screenshot from Nik’s old odesk account as he was helping me figure out the dates and amounts from all of this stuff.
 
This was before Nik worked for me full time, so I asked him how much to create a clone of this game which ended up being Games.  There are two different accounts of this; he says it was around $150 and I think it was around $300-$500.  I know it didn’t take him long so we’ll go with $350.
 
That puts us at a TOTAL cost of $2060.  It’s also good to note I never spent any money promoting these games.  I’ve never used TapJoy, bought installs from Chartboost, etc.
 
Now let’s dive in and check out the numbers.
 
Full Revenue Breakdown
Below I’ve compiled all data on the two games.  Amazingly they’ve come EXTREMELY close to each other in total revenue.  It’s very odd because Games was launched 30 days later than Music.  Also, Music was a paid app for a while (when it was Kolo’s Journey), therefore it has much more in app purchase revenue.  I thought it was pretty cool I happened to do this research post right when they were so close in revenue.
 
Here’s the full data:
 
 
The games have been live for about 22 months and made a total of $28,623.86 with no signs of slowing down.  Not bad for a $2200 investment… actually looking at it from an ROI perspective, that is pretty amazing.  That’s a 1289.5% ROI:
 
 
Over 1.8 years that is a 733% Annual ROI… Not bad considering the current CD rate is 1.1% at the time of this writing 
 
Thanks for checking this out.  I really enjoyed breaking this all down as I wasn’t sure of the revenue on these.  It’s been a blast.
 
Thanks for reading and talk soon,
 
Trey
 
P.S. – Ok, going back to play Dishonored now… this game is so good!