429 Growth Tips & Insights For Game Developers, All In One Place


This is a mega meta post like none other we’ve seen anywhere else in gaming.

It took quite a while to put together, make no mistake. You know how every time you need a quick insight from that blog post you read a few months back, but you can’t find the link? That awesome growth hack idea you wanted to use but now have to go google weird word combinations hoping to find the link?

Yeah, that.

This post is about that.

It took us a few weeks to go back through more than a year of posts, articles, and content to dig up the stuff that’s useful to those of you building new games right now, in today’s market.

We even looked at the previous efforts to pull together stuff like this and followed all of their links to see that it was still current.

Who’s watching the watchers, right? We are. Now let’s get started, shall we?

  1. Because you’re not an elephant, bookmark this page immediately (Mac: Command-D, PC: Cntrl-D)
  2. Pick the most interesting article down there and read it today; you’ll walk away with at least one actionable insight.
  3. Read a post every day from this list. Just one. You’ll retain more that way.
  4. Show us a little love by sharing this post with friends and colleagues, using those buttons up top. Do it now, as you may forget once you dive in. Thanks!
  5. In fact, easier: click here to tweet this.

Huge props to Lauren Rosenberg for her significant contribution to this post. 

Freemium & Free-To-Play Development

3 Steps from Paid to Freemium

Considering a shift from Paid to Free in the app stores? This is a straightforward breakdown on things to consider, and how to project the impact it might have on overall revenue.

It’s all about understanding the difference between paid and freemium business models and analysing the potential of your paid game succeeding as a freemium version.

5 Things Non-Game Developers Should Learn From Gaming’s Free-To-Play Model

Zoya Street shares insights from the free-to-play gaming world that any app developer can leverage to make a free model successful.

While a non-game app may not have levels in it, there’s still a primary user experience that needs to retain users and keep them coming back.

5 Retail Principles for Free-to-Play Games

Free-to-play success involves many tried and true principles from traditional retail sales. Here are five indispensible tips based on what retail has known for decades.

The human psyche is pretty easy to, lets say, guide into making decisions based on their perceived value.  I had a quick look around at some of the leading F2P games (in terms of games that are deemed to apply the model very successfully) and it surprised me to see how little this principle was being applied.

5 Ways to Fail Freemium

Ben Sipe breaks down five ways you’ll screw up your freemium game, with tips on how to avoid them.

Stop using intrusive advertising solutions or being lazy with your implementation! I’m looking at you… banner ads.

10 Rules of Free-to-Play Mobile Games [infographic]

Print this and put it up on your wall.

Offer ways to monetize early. Over 40% of In-App-Purchases occur within the first hour of gameplay.

10 triple-A mistakes and how free-to-play developers can avoid them

Nicholas Lovell’s talk on how free-to-play and AAA game development are different, as told by Develop Online.

Rather than focusing on impressive art that makes the game look better than rivals, free-to-play developers should instead focus the graphical sheen and polish on making the player feel good when rewarded.

The 3 Corners of Free-To-Play’s Triangle

A thoughtful post from Tadhg Kelly outlining subtle design choices which can keep your game from becoming “pay to win”.

Good free-to-play design can be described as “pay-to-exploit”, whereas bad free-to-play design could be called “pay-to-cheat” or “pay-to-win”.

12 Steps to Pitching Your Project To Publishers

Sometimes you’ll end up working with a publisher from the outset, and working that system to get support for a project can be tough. Here are some insights into getting the pitch right.

I’ve seen so many pitches where they spend time extolling the virtues of a revolutionary AI pathing system, or a new whiz-bang environmental destruction simulation model, despite the fact that those features have almost nothing to do with the core gameplay mechanics.

The Pyramid & Funnel of Free-to-Play Game Design: 3 Stages & 3 Design Elements

A helpful breakdown of  free-to-play design mechanics and the stages a user goes through from acquisition to monetization. Infographic included!

The objective of the Retention Game is to give players good reasons to want to keep playing for days, weeks or months.

Monetization & Virtual Currency

Top 5 tips for making money from free-to-play games

Will Luton shares five ways to increase your ability to earn revenue from a free game.

You need goals for your players, along with ways of setting them and rewards once the goals met.

4 Ways To Maximize In-App Purchase Revenue In Games

A brief synopsis of thought from Emily Greer at Kongregate’s Casual Connect presentation on maximizing your earnings.

$0.99 in-app purchases don’t entice more people to purchase, and simply drags down the average purchase price and ARPU.

3 Ways to Prevent “Pay to Win” and Balance Your In-Game Economy 

Straightforward tips to balance your in-game economy while avoiding the much-feared “pay to win” scenario.

Games with a luck component engage users longer compared to games with determined result. Any team sports would have been boring as hell if the superior team always won. Why bother showing up?

4 No Brainer Optimizations For Your In-App Store

Our breakdown of four things you can do to make sure your store is effective.

The most common mistake we see app and game designers making when designing in-app economies is to hide their store.

5 Reasons The Fourth Dimension earned $13,945 in the first three months without being featured by Apple

This is a juicy and detailed expose on the success one developer had with his non-game iOS app, from development decisions all the way through the first few months of revenue.

I put the app in the Education category and priced it at $2.99. Friends told me that I should make the app free, or charge $0.99, but I spent so much time working on it and quibbling over subtle details that I felt that I deserved more for my effort.

5 Tips for Boosting Virtual Economies

Astute tips on how to get the most out of your virtual economy, including helpful examples from popular games.

If you’ve been to Disneyland have you ever noticed how after riding a major attraction you somehow end up in their gift shop? This didn’t happen by accident.

3 Virtual Currency Design Mistakes That Could Be Costing You Revenue

There’s actually way more than 3 tips in this post about avoiding simple design mistakes in your virtual economy.

Mid-price points are increasingly doing well with spenders, between $10 and $50. Above $50 you may see buyer’s remorse. Below $10 users can perceive too little value to be bothered.

Game Design Insights

Mid-Core Success Part 1: 3 Tips On Core Loops

The first in series of posts on success mid-core free-to-play design, focused on constructing your core loops well.

Having a core loop consisting of two loops enables players to either stop their session after the first loop or continue playing through both of the loops and thus extend and deepen their session.

Mid-Core Success Part 2: 5 Retention Tips

A deep dive into how retention works in mid-core free-to-play.

There’s no better way to retain players than to have them set up goals for themselves.

Mid-Core Success Part 3: 3 Tips On Social

Instead of focusing on the old version of “social”, like k-factors and invite sharing, Michail Katkoff suggests designing truly rewarding social elements based on collaboration and competition.

Collaboration should benefit both of the players and occur in a game area where players can show off. Once players are collaborating you can start adding competitive element.

5 Points for Killer First Time Flow

The first experience a user has is the most important one. These tips help you craft a killer intro flow.

The most common mistake is to over teach. You know, when you’re bombarded with popups, spotlights and texts right from the start.

10 tutorial tips from Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan

More incredibly useful insights into designing a strong intro and “teaching” experience for all your players, including the ones who may intuitively understand game mechanics already.

We need to give players the chance to feel smart if they’re already doing the right thing… By using adaptive messaging, we can make sure people like my mom are covered, while also covering [the most hardcore players].

Resistance is futile: 5 reasons your games need to run in the cloud

A strong case for putting as much of your game mechanics in the cloud so as to support iteration, cost control, and long-term “game as a service” innovation.

Running a game requires flexibility so that things can be changed dynamically. For example, being able to change the prices of virtual goods on the fly, offering discounts for loyalty and running promotions. Its an impossible task to get all of this right up front which is why your game needs to be dynamic and cloud-based.

7 Ways to Extend Game Content (While Making Your Game Feel More Alive)

Are you working with limited resources? These are good suggestions for enhancing user experience with basic design decisions which please users and in most cases ensure the user that you’re bringing more value in the future.

By showing players the entrances to forbidden cities, quarantined settlements, ancient ruins, shipwrecks, and the like, developers can create mystique while fueling speculation about the inaccessible areas.

10 Principles of Good Level Design (Part 1)(Part 2)

Inspired by Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design which outlines design principles for product design, Dan Talor offers up ten principles for stellar game level design. He includes astute examples from popular games who’ve done level design well.

Whilst basic progress through the level should be effortless, navigational gameplay can also be used to create fun.  It is entirely appropriate to hide areas from the player, to add depth and replayability through exploration.

Mobile Game and App Development

57 Terms You Need To Understand If You Make Games, All In One Place

Call us biased, but our collection of must-know gaming terms and metrics is a great resource to have bookmarked for quick reference.

LTV (Life Time Value): The average amount of money spent by each player, including paying and nonpaying; calculation is ARPU x average number of months a user remains active=LTV.

6 Things you must check off before launching a free app

A screen-by-screen walkthrough of the design choices to make on a paid game’s free version in order to convert the most users.

One way is to give one or two episodes and lock the following episodes. By clicking on the locked episode player will be taken directly to the AppStore to make the full version purchase.

DeNA’s 3 tips for mobile game success

DeNA’s Clive Downie shares three higher level tips for smaller developers entering the mobile market.

If you focus on monetization as your first focal point, you will maybe score some early wins, but in the long term you’ll lose. You have to focus on engagement.

Growth & User Acquisition

The 10 Commandments of Mobile User Acquisition

Eric Seufert offers up ten guidelines for mobile user acquisition campaigns and how developers should expect them to succeed.

One of the most fundamental and existential mistakes a small company can make in building a business plan around its app is to assume it will receive platform featuring upon launch.

The 10 Commandments of Mobile App Analytics

Seufert also shares ten commandments for mobile analytics, highlight its crucial role in driving ongoing development decisions.

Top-line metrics aren’t useful for product iterations, especially in freemium apps where the vast majority of users can never be expected to pay. In order to optimize the experience for the users with the greatest propensity to enjoy the product, those users must first be identified.

5 characteristics of a viral product 

A breakdown of what viral actually means, the role churn plays in a product’s success, and how to optimize for virality.

A user must recognize that a product becomes more valuable through interaction with other people.

Marketing & PR

34 Tips For A Killer Indie Marketing Plan

A old favorite and pseudo-blueprint for shaping a bootstrapped marketing plan. Getting a bit dated these days, but nevertheless full of juicy ideas.

Start collecting the email-addresses of as many websites and magazines that write about games as you can.

4 Practices to Avoid When Market Your Indie Game

Simple mistakes to avoid when gearing up your marketing efforts.

If the editor of a particular publication doesn’t enjoy fantasy RPGs but a staff writer has a history of covering these types of games, pitch your game to that individual instead of going straight to the editor.

5 PR Tips Indies Really Need

Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra shares straightforward advice on reaching out to journalists, assuming you aren’t a huge publisher.

We’re often kept at arm’s length or worse from developers in the traditional system, rarely exposed to the fascinating trials and revelations that come with creating a game.

Deconstructing PR’s 7 Stages, From A Former VentureBeat Writer

Focused on “startups”, but this post from former VentureBeat writer Conrad Egusa is a must-read on the basic of great PR (hint: it’s not that hard).

The media is not as confusing as many presume. At its core, publications and journalists look to write about meaningful new announcements.

10 Quick-and-Dirty Indie Game Marketing Tips, Part 1Part II

A superb collection of simple insights about marketing your game as an indie.

Finally – in all that you do – MEASURE, TRACK, and KEEP RECORDS. How will you know whether an advertising campaign is working or not if you aren’t tracking daily sales, website hits, and downloads.

10 Ways to market your game XBLIG style – Part 1, Part 2

A great set of insights into thinking about marketing your game. It’s aimed at the Xbox marketplace, but it’s applicable advice for any market.

At the beginning of your development process, after you have your design docs in order (you do use design docs, don’t you?) and a  working demo, you should start to promote your title.

3 Marketing Success Tips For Indie Games

An oldie but goodie which outlines three tactics for getting attention to your game without breaking the bank.

You’ve already gathered together a list of contact addresses of journalists. The first thing you need to do to successfully market your indie game is to write out a press release and mail it to every single one of them.

6 Out-Of-The-Box Marketing Tactics For Indie Developers

We dug up some of the most interesting indie marketing stunts we’re seeing these days, leveraging cutting edge social networks like Vine and other quirky ideas.

We’ve been seeing more Vine videos from game developers find their way into #screenshotsaturday feeds, and they certainly stand out.

Marketing 101: Understanding the 5 basics of marketing your game

An indie developer outlines the core basics behind marketing for those of you who don’t consider it a core competency.

Let’s think from a simple economic standpoint: If you are putting 800 hours of labor and investing $2000 in the tools to make a game, you’ll want to spend at least 800 hours of labor and $2000 on marketing.

Marketing 101: 7 Ways Connecting with customers might be more important than your game

This is a collection of insights into how indies can stay focused and leverage their unique position to reach the right audience.

First you need your “elevator pitch.” I’m sure you’ve already heard this term but, in a world of 140-character tweets, we are forced to cram more value into less space.

32 Simple Ways To Rise Above The Sea Of Boring Development Blogs

Bite-sized bits of advice for anyone who’s using a development blog to chronicle their process and experiences while building a game or app.

Set draft deadlines two days before you plan to publish. Review the post 24 hours before publishing it. Letting a post marinate for a day let’s the good stuff sneak in.

9 Tips for Marketing Your Game

This guide focuses on success within the Xbox market, but applies pretty handily to any type of indie game.

GamesPress.com is a site that many game sites use to gather information. Make sure to send all of your press releases and media kits to them – with just a single email, you’re likely to be covered by several small sites and maybe a couple bigger sites as well.

8 Game Marketing Tips from Reddit

Pulled from a Reddit comment a few years back, this helpful post is full of juicy tips about getting your mobile game noticed.

Forum posts work AWESOME. If you can invade a variety of forums, go with the conversation, post relevant replies, and always have a link to your stuff (say in tag line), people will find your stuff.

6 Stages to Building Buzz for Indie Games

A breakdown of the stages indie games go through as they approach releases, and tips about setting yourself up for success as each stage progresses. A bit dated but still full of useful bits.

You need to know how, why, when, and where people are coming from to see your content, as well as what they do with it when they arrive.

How To Use And Abuse The Gaming Press And How The Gaming Press Wants To Use and Abuse You, 7 Particular Insights

Veteran games journalist Kieron Gillen wrote this widely popular must-read on how you manage your relationship with the press. A must read which uses an indie’s impressive success with journos to demonstrate how to do it well.

If you’ve met a writer who is immediately clear isn’t a complete idiot, remember them. If you haven’t danced with the press yet, this relies on raising your awareness when just reading it.

Zero Budget Indie Marketing Guide – 4 Steps

Another widely quoted piece on getting your marketing right without spending money. These are the insights you can implement before you even consider putting resources to work in marketing your game.

Presentation is an important part of your promotion. This isn’t just about the look and feel of your game: the media that you release and the way that you present yourself to potential reporters and communities is of great importance.

How NOT To Market Your Indie Game, 34 Ways

A reminder that we all make simple mistakes, over and over again. And that hearing from unsuccessful marketers is as useful as hearing from successful ones.

Look at your game! And I mean: look at it like you’re looking at other games. Make your friends look at it. Make strangers look at it. Don’t say anything more than what you have on your website/in your posts. Accept their feedback with gratitude.  Change the way you’re presenting your game when you still have time for that.

The Idiot’s Guide to Marketing Your Indie Game In 4 Steps

A quick guide to getting attention from journalists, written by a game journalist.

Don’t just resend the original email again, though. Rewrite it ever so slightly, change the subject line, then power it back out there. Maybe, just maybe, this time someone will be feeling good about life and give you a look-in.

What should we add to the list?

We’re always looking to improve and keep these types of posts updated for the people who bookmark them, so if you think there’s a must-read article or post full of insights for developers, marketers, and teams looking to grow their games, let us know in the comments!



This entry was posted in All, Developer Industry and tagged , , , , : , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.