Questions from the Mailbag Pt. 1

Every once in a while we get people writing to us for tips on how to get started in the industry (Clarissa Goh wrote an excellent piece on this here) or how to make games.

This week I’m going to tackle some of the questions we’ve been asked over the past few weeks and share the answers with everyone.

Questions from the mailbag

“I’m 14 years-old and working on my first mobile game. Do you think I should make a free app and make money via ads or do you think I should make a game that costs like $0.99 dollars?”

If it’s your first game then I wouldn’t worry too much about monetisation. Chances are that your first project will not be your best work, my advice would be to treat it as a learning experience and a way of raising your profile.

The best way to achieve both of these (learning and profile) is to have the largest possible number of players checking your game out. Therefore, it follows that charging doesn’t make sense. People avoid paying for things where possible and it’s very difficult to convince people to pay for a game they know nothing about from an unknown developer.

Release the game for free. If you want to include ads then it’s up to you. One thing to bear in mind is that the game design should account for the fact that you plan to have ads from the outset, otherwise the ads could have a negative impact on the player experience. It’s also worth pointing out that the amount of money generated per ad view is very, very low (it varies depending which country the person viewing the ad is in, and in many countries it’s less than $0.01). You will likely need at least 10,000s of daily views before you can think of having a meaningful income.

Treat your first game as a risk free-learning experience, if you make money then great for you. If you don’t, then it’ll still look great on your portfolio when you apply for jobs in the future.

“Without prior experience what do you look for in a games design or community intern?”

We look for a number of things. Firstly, we’re a pretty tight team and communication is the #1 thing we look for in all applicants. Even the most junior team member needs to be able to write and articulate their thoughts and feedback clearly. A clearly written 1-page CV and a thoughtful cover letter will go a long way to securing the interview, most internship candidates don’t manage this.

During the interview we will look for people who are passionate gamers (you’d be amazed how many people who don’t play games apply for a games jobs), have done their homework on Mighty Bear before the interview, and play mobile games.

Beyond that, each of the two roles (design or community intern) will have their own set of requirements specific to them.

Generalist vs specialist?”

Generalist every time. When I use the word “generalist” I’m referring to someone who might be strong in one or two areas and have a good understanding of lots of different things. The games industry is unpredictable and changes fast. Since 2004 I’ve seen a number of major shifts in the industry (the rise of online gaming, free-to-play, social gaming, the shift to mobile) and the effects they have on people. If you’re unlucky enough to be very specialised in an area that’s no longer relevant from one year to the next (such as the sudden death of Facebook gaming and the shift to mobile in the early 2010s) then you’re toast. Generalists adapt, thrive and are usually the first to conquer the new opportunities.

“What is your best advice on how to market a mobile app for iPhone and iPad? Should I pay other people to market it or what is the best way to market a mobile game for as cheap as possible? How do I make it to the top list on the App Store?”

This is a really hard question to answer succinctly. Without a six figure marketing budget (and even this is considered small), you can’t run meaningful User Acquisition campaigns to compete with other titles.

With zero budget you have to think a bit differently. Having a game other people (not you, but your audience) love is the cheapest and best form of marketing. If people love the game then they will tell other people about it. If people can share it or play with their friends that’s even better. There’s been a trend recently for games which allow multiplayer with two people on the same device, and these are doing really well. Another thing that could work in your favour is including functionality in the game which allows people to share scores and crazy moments to social media to help discoverability. High score sharing is what made Flappy Bird such a huge hit a few years back.

One of the things we talk about when coming up with game ideas is “will it look good on YouTube”? Having a game which is highly watchable/shareable is a big plus. It may even get you some interest from influencers which is a big help.

Finally, I’d think about doing your research on journalists or influencers who play games like yours, or are in your local area. It never hurts to drop people a message and let them know what you’re up to, they may like it and share it with their followers.

If there’s something you’d like to ask which we haven’t covered here, then please ask us on Twitter or Instagram and we’ll try and include it in the next roundup!

Questions from the Mailbag Pt. 1 was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.