12 October

Fatal Fight: How we've got 5 million organic installs?

Growth HackingProduct ManagementGame design
Fatal Fight Android game

The story of Fatal Fight started in 2015. The time when going global and having 5 million downloads on Google Play Store seemed to be a dream of every game developer.

In this article, I will talk about the way we converted the dream into our actual reality. To make it super understandable, find a guide below where I will cover all the stages of development of Fatal Fight and even more.


Research


The idea of Fatal Fight hasn't just come from nowhere. Before understanding what game to develop, we needed to research what are the current gaps in the mobile games market. And, to come to this point, we took several steps.

First, we analyzed what are the most searchable mobile games in the Google Play Store. It turned out, the top 3 mobile games that users were looking for were the following:

  • Puzzle Games
  • Car Games
  • Fighting Games

Here we narrowed down our research. We were playing most downloaded games from each category to figure out if those games meet users’ needs while trying to answer what kind of challenges they have with those games.

As a result, Puzzle and Car Games had a wide range of mobile games with pretty nice UI/UX design and other characteristics. However, during the testing of the fighting games, the picture was quite different.

We were surprised by the fact that we could not find any proper games with satisfactory features. And I believe, not only we but also the dozens of users who were craving for favorable experience while playing a fighting game.

While asking ourselves the question “Why?” we found out that the main reason was the gameplay. The interaction between users and the games was complex. It was not comfortable to manage punching, kicking, jumping and other possible moves separately or even all at once on a smartphone.

Well, all of these for us was a subtle reference to a glaring fact. Fighting Games was not meeting the needs of existing users in the mobile games market.

Moreover, according to Google Play Store search rankings the keyword “addictive games” was one of the top ones. It showed us that users want something that will excite them to play the game on an everyday basis. This information was an added value to the conclusion that we came up with by that time:
“We need to create an enjoyable fighting game with easy-to-use gameplay that will retain users”

We wanted to come up with the gameplay that would not be complex for users in the first place. Once we give ourselves a question “What if we will duplicate the gameplay of a PC fighting game?”. This question seemed controversial, but it was raised because we explored the “One Finger Death Punch” PC game.

This fighting game had simple gameplay. You could literally manage the game only by clicking to the right and left sides of the mouse. This type of gameplay was an absolute match to what we were envisioning in our mobile fighting game. As a result, we took it as a good case practice and added “Right” and “Left” taps on mobile as an alternative to the same thing on the mouse.

Though we were grateful for the gameplay we could apply for our game, there was nothing else to take as a good case practice from this game. Even the name of the game was screaming “I am the name of the game that no one ever will remember”. We got for ourselves that probably their marketing strategy was not set up.

We created the prototype of the game to be sure that the gameplay we created was actually fit users’ needs. You can see in the picture that I inserted below that graphics were not the main thing we wanted to test there, the main focus of ours was to understand either the interaction between users and the game itself is comfortably managed.

image

Winning the Google Play Store Optimization


Naming is another important point to take into account while developing a mobile game. It needs to be easy to remember and tailored to Play Store Optimization. The reason why we named our game “Fatal Fight” was the popular game “Mortal Kombat”. Yes, the game that won the admiration of billions was an inspiration for us in many ways.

Back then (in 2015 for those, who might have forgotten) there was no mobile version of Mortal Kombat. However, again the keyword “Mortal Kombat” had high rankings in Google Play. This means a lot of people were searching for this game on mobile but could not find it.

The truth is: If SEO (or Play Store Optimization) cannot find the exact keyword it always looks for synonyms.

Based on that, we decided to use synonyms for the words “Mortal” and “Combat” and combine them. And eventually “Fatal Fight” naming was created.

It meant to us that the audience that was looking for Mortal Kombat would find the Fatal Fight in the first pages on Google Play Store. It was a huge thing that we explored. Felt like a big responsibility at some point, we did not want to disappoint the Mortal Combat lovers, but to surprise them with a universal mobile fighting game in all senses.

Another thing that was inspired by Mortal Combat was the graphics. We were encouraged by some heroes such as Lui Kang. Raiden, Kung Lao, etc. in our game as well. It was one of the ways we could meet the expectations of Mortal Kombat lovers who were actively searching for this game online in the mobile version.



Once finished with all that, we had one aim “We want to go global”.

Soft-launch


Before opening up to the whole world, we made a soft-launch. Soft-launch is testing your product in a market that you are not really interested in. The reason is building up a feedback loop where you get the reviews from the users while developing the product according to the users’ needs.

Another thing that needs to be tracked during this period is the following key metrics in the Play Store:

  • LTV — Lifetime Value
  • ARPU — Average Revenue Per User
  • ARPPU — Average Revenue Per Paying User

LTV metrics is the one that evaluates the average revenue that the user brings throughout its lifespan. Returning users to your app (in other words those who do not delete games right after the first try, but in long-term perspective consistently being involved with the game) are in the interests of the Play Store. Active users who constantly use the app bring the revenue due to the advertisement featuring in the apps through AdMob (which is the product of Google too). This is where the increment of ARPU metrics happen. By all means in the same way it also influences the AVPPU metrics. While tracking these metrics, we could evaluate whether we are developing the game in the right direction. The better metrics, the higher probability that your app will appear on the first page of Google Play Store.

We launched the game in Azerbaijan where we aimed to get as much feedback as possible. This was the way we wanted to fix all the bugs that they could face and be better prepared for the market that we consider as a target one. As a result, we fixed all major bugs in the app and got a 4.8 mark in the Play Store.

The soft-launch stage could finish there, but no, it did not. We entered another alternative market — Russia. The different cultures, possible different habits of the users, and other factors made us understand that we need to try soft-launch in a new country. Another reason behind this was the scale. In Russia in 2015, the number of smartphone users was around 51.3 million people. We considered this market as a good platform where we could test our app.

In a few weeks, after launching the game in the new market, we started to receive negative reviews while losing the traffic. All of them was regarding one thing:

Most of the Russian users did not have a Facebook account where they needed to invite their friends or were not willing to pay $1 (one of these was required to proceed to pass to the next stage once they reached the 10th stage).

It made us understand that we need to come up with something universal in this stage of the game. We replaced Facebook invitations to «gain 30 starts during the first 10 stages and be able to pass to the next stages once reached the 10th one” kind of solution.

As a result of all these procedures with soft-launching, we got pretty high metrics in the Play Store that impacted our Play Store Optimization. We appeared on the first page of the Play Store.

Google Play Store is giving you a rate based on the countries that you already launched the app before. If you soft-launched the mobile app in specific markets first and got good marks from the users it equals the fact that when you will launch the game for the global market it will already have high Google Play Store rates. That was something that was supporting our vision.

Wise Choice of Operating System


You might notice that so far in the article I was mentioning everything about Android and its Play Store. And that was not an accident.

Usually, developers first launch mobile apps on IOS OS. The argument behind it is that the majority of people are IOS users or the purchasing power of this particular segment is higher rather than the one that Android users have. We questioned this understanding because for us it seemed like a myth.

We compared the metrics Average Revenue Per Paying User and Average Revenue Per User. For both operating systems it was the same amount. In our case, the weight of Fatal Fight was heavy and would only work on flagship smartphones that anyways cost a lot.

Besides that, we had several other reasons why we consciously choose Android over IOS:

Market Share. Sensor Tower reports that the Google Play Store pulled in approximately 75.7 billion first-time apps installed worldwide in 2018. Comparatively, the App Store only drove 29.6 billion.

Fast process. The updates on Android are being approved faster than on IOS. When giving our first build to IOS it took the game 3 months to be added to the App Store.

The difference in algorithms. Google Play Store is more generous with organic traffic. If you have built a great app, it will reward you with organic traffic. However, in IOS this picture differs. You need to buy traffic for money. For a long time, making apps popular through incentivized traffic was the leading strategy for Apple App Store. It involves some negatives including low lifetime value for the users. When users are incentivized by a reward, they are more likely to install your app without actually wanting it. This often makes it easier for them to uninstall your app after a few days. We wanted users to authentically choose us. Users who choose to involve themselves with the app due to personal interest — was the priority both for our team and apparently for Android. This is why we love Google Play Store over Apple App Store.

Going Global


When we finally published Fatal Fight on IOS, Apple featured us in the “Top new games'' category. It was not just a matter of luck. The game was developed using the Unity 3d engine, so we were using the same code for both platforms. The secret was the whole journey that this product passed with Android. The huge number of available devices in Android OS allowed us to face a variety of bugs and as a result, we have launched a polished product in the App Store.

Famous British blogger Deji also featured the game in his “Paintball Challenge” video on YouTube. Right after that, we were on top rankings in the USA and UK.

Now when we were in both stores and going global consequently our aim was to be the most agile with the feedbacks that we were receiving to keep the high ratings in both Google Play and App Store. We were pretty successful in the beginning. However, there were some bugs we could not fix.

Once we started to receive a series of feedbacks. All of them had the same issue “I cannot hear the music and the sounds” — users were reporting. Samsung smartphones were the devices from where the reports were coming. We had several Samsung devices in the house. There were no issues with the sound in these devices. Then we noticed another pattern. All the feedback was coming from one model of Samsung — Galaxy Tab 2. It turned out, specifically this type of device was not producing the sound. We bought a Galaxy Tab 2 and reproduced the bug and as a result, we fixed it and released the update.

Time passed, and we faced the major crush that came with the new update we released. All the users of Fatal Fight lost their game progress. Does not matter the number of stages the user might pass, it all crashed down.

Imagine losing the progress of a game where you spent your time, energy, and also money on digital goods. In other words, millions of users had to give up on the mobile game that already became a part of their lifestyle.

After 3 years in the market, we sold “Fatal Fight” to ITech Media Solutions in Estonia. Later they entered the Chinese market and released it on taptap.com which was one of the biggest Android mobile apps markets in the country. Fatal Fight became the number 1 most downloaded app on taptap.com.

This long journey with Fatal Fight made me face the major issues when it seemed that all the risks were minimized. While reflecting, I figured out that if there could be any platform where all the types of devices would be available for testing, any game would succeed.
The realization was a turning point for me and an inspiration for my next startup.
I have built Buglance to help other developers to release better mobile apps. It includes a network of 50k testers worldwide representing 10k+ unique devices. Here you are free to choose the type of device, country, demographics to test your app to make sure it works best for your audience. In other words, we built a product that could save Fatal Fight.
Tags:product developmentproduct designgrowth hackingtesting mobile appandroid marketapple store
Hubs: Growth Hacking Product Management Game design
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