#IndieDevInsights: Why This Developer Spent Four Years Getting One Game Right
November 10, 2015
This story is part of a new series profiling indie mobile game developers around the world who've turned their passion for mobile games into a profession.At the start of 2011, Roberto Alcantara decided to leave the AAA industry. After seven years of working on projects at United Front Games and Rockstar Games with teams of 50 to 200 people, Alcantara was ready for a solo mission: his own mobile gaming company.[caption id="attachment_11981" align="alignright" width="227"]
Roberto Alcantara[/caption]"It?s a very hard thing to do," says Alcantara. "I miss having a full team. I think that's taught me that the most important thing to do is find good people to work with and make connections."He opened his studio, Collective Entertainment (CE), in September 2011 and launched his first game about six months later ? word puzzler Word Ways. But the Word Ways game you'll find today in the Google Play store bears little resemblance to the game Alcantara started on nearly four years ago. Alcantara estimates he updated the game more than four times in the first few months, and then continued changing UX and monetization tactics for years until he recently landed on a winning equation for the title.We caught up with Alcantara to chat about his work on Word Ways and asked him what indie devs can learn from his four-year solo mission:On finding community: When he founded CE, Alcantara was wearing every hat ? design, development, UX, marketing, monetization, you name it. He tried working with a few freelance artists, but it was difficult to find someone who was available or willing to put his project first (especially for little or no pay).Being a one-man team didn't stop him from making other connections, though. A year after starting CE, he joined a local tech incubator in Vancouver called Launch Academy. While the incubator was not solely focused on mobile games, Alcantara learned valuable new skills from his peers and met investors who showed interest in his game.
On game development: The first release of Word Ways was a simple version with a couple of modes ? it received more than 5,000 downloads, which was enough to convince Alcantara to expand the game?s features. He built an entire back-end with social connectivity, a marketplace with in-game currency, multiplayer mode and user matchmaking. "I was showing it to investors and there were opportunities to distribute the game to millions of users," says Alcantara. "But I couldn't prove metrics ? the game was too complicated and it didn't have a big enough community."On getting back to basics: After taking a year off from Word Ways to work full-time (and replenish his bank account), Alcantara decided to return to the simpler tactics of his first iteration. Last February, he scrapped the back-end and re-launched Word Ways as a single-player game. He has received more than 500,000 impressions since launch, and has shifted his development strategy as a result. While he focused on building the technology before, he now wants focus on iteration and user acquisition. "You need to figure out your product before you try to go big," he says in response to his years-long process.On monetization: Alcantara's monetization strategy has followed the game?s return to simplicity. The multiplayer version of Word Ways used a complicated IAP model with an in-game currency and marketplace, but the current version relies on rewarded video ads. With a singular focus, he's now able to experiment with different video ads and rewards in order to optimize his monetization strategy.On his best advice for indies: It's no understatement to call Alcantara's work on Word Ways a journey. Through every update and iteration, he has remained steadfast in his goal to create a quality game that users love. The most important lesson he's learned along the way? You can be a one-man team, but don't lose perspective. Step away from what you are doing to find partners and listen to your players, says Alcantara: "It's important not to build in a vacuum."