Amateur Android Game Development Tips

I’ve been meaning to write a summary about the feedback I got to my post about being an amateur Android game developer. It was mostly collected from reddit comments, hacker news comments, and comments on the blog post.

If anyone was wondering if the post had any effect on downloads the answer is yes. It was the only marketing which clearly affected the download stats. However, as with traffic to the blog post, the effect was temporary. I guess if you manage to write interesting content regularly you could ride that wave better than I did.

So here are some points collected from the feedback, and some of my own subjective opinions reiterated from the last post now condensed in this handy list.

Have an appropriate amount of polish.

Great game concepts can be ruined by crappy presentation or bad user experience. If you don’t have artistic talent consider getting a guy to do the graphics for you. Ditto for musical talent.

You can really immerse yourself and feel the seriousness of those orders when they're given by Mr. Potato head.


Don’t do ad-based marketing.

Your game probably only costs a buck or so, so you’ll probably end up paying $10 to make a $1 in sales. It’s ok to do do cross-marketing however, e.g. between your games, which doesn’t cost you a dime.

On the 8th of October I paid 5.29e for 23 clicks. You're going to need some crazy conversion rate and a product which costs more than $1 if you're going to make that marketing money back


In-game ads make for a poor income unless you have hundreds of thousands of players

You want to risk annoying your players for a few measly cents? You can annoy them when you can afford loosing some of your player base.

That's a YEAR'S WORTH OF AD REVENUE from Theseus. It's all gonna go to finance my extravagant lifestyle. I'm practically rolling in moolah.


A proven concept on platform X doesn’t mean it’s going to be a hit on platform Y

Sometimes it’s just how the stars are aligned. Sometimes your version just sucks.

You may have the first pacman on some device, it still might not make a difference.


Updating each week will boost your downloads temporarily

I have simply not found any other easy marketing technique to be as effective.

Visitors to Theseus. Each one of those peaks coincide with an update to the game.


Do it for fun

Chances are it will never make any substantial sales, so treat it as a hobby. Those cinderella stories about devs striking it rich are just that – cinderella stories.

Just me and my computer on a Saturday night hacking away. Fun.


Don’t re-invent the wheel, or the game engine.

Check out AndEngine for instance. You’ll save a bunch of time.

Thanks Clippy!


Pimp out your game whenever you can

It’s not going to make much of a difference but people who don’t know about your game can’t buy your game. Btw. download Theseus and the Minotaur.

Poor applications working for their pimpin' developers.


Use in-game analytics

You’ll want statistics about your game usage.

That's a black box. That's how much insight you'll have about your game usage without in-game analytics.


Retention matters

Old players of your game are your best source for word-of-mouth marketing. You can achieve better retention by for example adding new levels regularly. In free versions if you don’t want to add more levels you could for example switch which levels are available for free to re-activate old potential customers.

Word of mouth marketing in action. The tobacco industry has great retention among its consumers.


It doesn’t hurt to have lovable characters

If your game doesn’t have characters consider adding some and make sure they have some personality and are memorable.

The marketing-droids at Nintendo knew what they were doing when they unleashed this yellow cretin upon the world


Cram out several games

Your first game is probably gonna be a dud. If your game doesn’t seem to be picking up and developing it is become a chore, then just cut your losses and move on to the next project. The more games you make the better, faster, leaner and meaner you will get.

It's the episode of Lucy when she was working in the android app factory.

Prefer game concepts which have a fast development time

A role playing game is going to need a lot of story and a lot of graphics, and a lot of your time. A game in which the player tries to beat his own high score won’t be infinitely time consuming and might still be a bigger hit.

Developer, choose your fate!


Thoughts? Go ahead and comment.

Categories: android

Book Review: The Clean Coder » « My Year as an Amateur Android Game Developer


  1. Actually having games in the marketplace, what type of analytics would you recommend that you start collecting for the greatest level of value?

  2. admin

    June 17, 2011 — 06:43

    Google Analytics or Flurry are the most popular analytics engines you can integrate into your app. They will probably automatically collect data about the used device, but for app specific things you have to tell it what to measure. The kind of stuff you want is button clicks, which levels they most often play, where they most often get stuck, where they quit the game most often, etc.

    Another important point is to see what how the measures change whenever you update the game. If you expect a part of the game to become easier after an update the analytics should reflect it.

  3. Rajeev Tanwar

    June 28, 2011 — 01:26

    Very helpful. Thank you for your time and thoughts.

  4. Great post. What do you see as the top reason(s) for negative feedback for apps? Do you think fragmentation is a big source? Look forward to your response.

  5. admin

    August 27, 2011 — 13:38

    I imagine fragmentation is a source, but I don’t know how big it is. An indie dev doesn’t have the resources to test on hundreds of different handsets; but certainly you can reduce the risks greatly by doing at least some testing with different emulator settings and friends’ phones. I haven’t had any notable problems with fragmentation, and I suspect the problem has been blown out of proportion by ppl who’d like to see the platform fail. The Android sdk let’s you deal with any resolution and capability differences; and those things are not an after thought. The tools given to you for dealing with different versions and capabilities are pretty very well thought out in my opinion.
    I don’t know if there are rogue chinese handset makers which make devices that don’t pass Google’s Android test suite, but then I would understand it.

    Anywho, besides your program not working as intended, steep learning curves and poor tutorials might cause a great/useful app negative feedback.
    Sometimes your program is just not that good. That’s why you ask for feedback.

  6. OK, you convinced me, I’m dropping the ads… AdMob screwed up my layout (consumed too much screen space) and I found myself rearranging the layout for days to have it fit properly for different screen sizes. Oh, screw it. $9 a year doesn’t worth my time. Ads are out.
    Once my game hits the 100,000 downloads, I’ll reconsider ads…

  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences on thsi topic.
    A good read.

    Good luck too.


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