Our story of getting featured on Google Play

Hey everyone. I haven’t been writing in a long time since I’ve been super-focused on getting our mobile CCG Permia Duels out in the market.

Since I now have a moment to gather myself after unusually long stint of business development, marketing and the daily crunch of a small game company, I thought that I could share our experiences on getting featured by Google on Early Access section and what it means to us.

So grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the story. This is going to be a little lengthier post than normally.

WHO THE HELL ARE WE ANYWAYS?

Before I get into the telling the details of our road to Early Access wit Permia Duels, let me briefly tell about me, us and our game.

So I work as a CMO in a Finnish mobile game development company called Seepia Games. I have been in the industry for over five years. I’ve done programming, producing and been responsible of all the game productions in another mobile game studio in our region in Finland.

Seepia Games, the company which I’m helping now, was founded in 2012. Since the inception we have developed and published four games; Tetrablok (2012, on Habbo Hotel), Permia – Duels (2013, on Windows Phone), Pet Shows (2014, on on Windows Phone), Permia – Duels (2015, on Kongregate) and at last Pet Petters (2017, on Google Play and on App Store).

In addition to these released games, we have new version of Permia Duels release as Open Beta on Google Play.

The new version of Duels has been in the development for over a year now. The search for the optimal visual style for the game has been a long endeavor which we started in last year.

Below you can see how the battle scene of the game has evolved through the years

 

Duels old Duels oldish Duels newish

Duels current

 

 

In August last year, we found a very good candidate for a visual style of the game. After the visual style was found and elaborated on we quickly continued the development of the game.

In December last year we decided to release the game in closed beta so that we could get first feedback from real players of the game. We released the game in January this year on Google Play Early Access.

CHANGING CHALLENGES

Due to a couple of unfortunate decisions by our financing providers, we quickly found out in beginning of January that we didn’t have resources to self-publish the game by ourselves (as we would have liked to). To be more straight-forward, we even didn’t have money to develop the game to a global launch condition.

We needed to raise money by finding a publisher who could help us with the marketing of the game and who would be willing to go forward with a minimum guarantee deal.

Fast forward to April 2017; after many many meetings with publishers around the world and after even more follow-up emails and Skype calls we find ourselves in a situation that we have too innovative product on our hands. And we have dugged up all possible publishing partners who we know have published succesful games with similar target audience as Permia Duels.

Some publishers say that because there are no clear market leaders or examples for this kind of games, they have hard time convincing their decision-makers go forward with the game. Other publishers say that the product is still in too early phase so that they would be willing to go forward. We interpret this feedback so that there is still too much risk involved in the product. So we need to minimize the risk by showing publisher good KPIs of the game.

So we came back to challenge nr. 1) lack of marketing resources. To back up the connotation; below are results from our test marketing campaign for Duels via Facebook Mobile App Ads. Average CPI of 9,41€ in Sweden!!

[SCREENSHOT OF FB CAMPAIGN RESULTS HERE]

So we already understood that there was no way that we have enough money to buy enough users to validate even the D1 retention.

So we thought that the only possible thing which we can do at that point was to get Google feature us in the Early Access section.

THE ROAD TO EARLY ACCESS FEATURING

At that point in early April, I have tried many times to arrange a meeting with a key Google Play contact person for Nordic countries. I have been unsuccesful to get the guy’s attention.

I also knew at that point that there is a special interest form in the web that developers can fill and submit if they are interested in getting their app / game featured on Early Access section by Google. We heard it from a specially knowledgeable investor back in January when we were attending PGC London (Cheers [NAME!!]) and already found out the location of that form in the web.

Given the history of working with Google contacts, I had no expectations that we would get featured in the Early Access section. But I was willing to try my best.

I explained briefly our history and argumented FROM GOOGLE’S POINT OF VIEW (=from end user’s point of view) why our game would be a good candidate to be featured. To be more specific I explained that because our game is quite innovative, it would be a good fit because most propably the users scrolling the Early Access are looking for something new.

Another reason which I argumented was the high quality nature of the game. Since all the founders at Seepia have a background in software development and quality assurance, it’s in our nature that we release only as bug-free games to market as possible. From Google’s standpoint this is a good thing since it re-assures the notion of Google Play as a premium source of high-quality mobile games.

So I filled the form on 4th April, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Two weeks later, I got email from Google Play team that notified us about the promotion on Google Play Early Access collection. Yehaa! Mission accomplished!

WE GOT FEATURED, SO WHAT?

After getting the feature placement, the next challenge for us was how do we maximize the opportunity of the featuring given the funding goal of our company?

We decided to focus on in three following parameters:
1. Store Conversion which answers to question; To what extent people viewing our product page find it so appealing that they are willing to test out the game?
2. D1 retention; how engaging and fun is the game on the first two days?

Of course both these metrics apply only in the context of Early Access collection and within people who end up scrolling through Early Access list.

Because our mission is still far from over, I don’t want to write more about what we have done or what we haven’t done. What I will do is show how featuring affected our visibility.

Below you can see a number of impressions we got on our product page on Google Play on week 14 vs. week 16. A whopping 6 500% increase of weekly impressions!

[DUELS IMPRESSIONS IMAGE TO HERE]

While the impressions are nice, they don’t help us at all if we cannot validate the core KPIs of the product.

And in order to validate any of the KPIs, we need to be able to segment the data based on demographic information of users. Otherwise, we would just get general metrics of all the people who happen to play our game. And that is not helpful at all because we don’t know what kinds of people are playing the game. And if we don’t know what kinds of people play the game and which cohorts performs the best, we cannot be sure what the target audience is. And if we don’t know our target audience, we cannot market the game effectively.

Here are our tools of the trade for segmenting the data:
1. Google Analytics with Demographics and Interest Reports on.
2. Facebook Analytics

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