#IndieDevInsights: Why Undercoders Turns to Memes for Hit Mobile Games
August 28, 2015
This is the first story in a series profiling indie mobile game developers around the world who've turned their passion for mobile games into a profession.[caption id="attachment_9894" align="alignright" width="243"]
David Jaumandreu[/caption]During his last year of college in 2005, David Jaumandreu and two of his classmates decided to forgo the job search and start their own venture: a mobile game studio. The trio had already successfully developed demos together, and there were few mobile gaming companies in Barcelona at the time. Their only question: ?Why not?"While Spain's mobile game market has since grown?mobile games are expected to generate $240 million in revenue this year?the Undercoders team has remained small and nimble. Jaumandreu is the only remaining co-founder of the now four-person team, and his founding motivations for starting his own studio have stayed consistent: "We always had the philosophy that we wanted to work for ourselves ? and we were passionate about games," Jaumandreu says.[caption id="attachment_9892" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Image via Undercoders.com[/caption]While the majority of indies?like Jaumandreu?are in it because they love it (not because they want to make megabucks), understanding the business of mobile gaming is still crucial to keep a small studio thriving. ?If I worked in a huge company, I would probably just be focused on the design part," Jaumandreu says. ?But in a small studio, cash is king. You have to take it into account even if it's not your strength."Over the past 10 years, Jaumandreau's learned valuable lessons that other indie developers, eager to turn their love for games into a viable career, should consider. Here's a deeper look at what he's learned along the way:The Games: While the Undercoders team works on long-term projects, like the puzzle game Battle of the Elements, they've also developed a habit of capitalizing on pop culture events and Internet trends. In fact, some of their greatest hits have moved from concept to launch in less than two weeks. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, for example, the team created Vuvuzela vs. Zombies, a survival game inspired by two trending topics at the time. The game led to their first listing on Apple's Top Charts and hundreds of thousands of downloads. They've also created games inspired by YouTube videos and internet memes.[caption id="attachment_9890" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Image via Youtube[/caption]Jaumandreu says the hot-topic games can get noticed much more easily than serious games, thanks to the viral nature of the game content. So, indie devs: Keep an eye on internet sensations?you may find inspiration for your next project.Marketing Tactics: When the Undercoders team launches a more serious game, Jaumandreau relies on a little ingenuity and a lot of networking to get noticed. He starts with the local press and slowly spreads through his loose connections?contacting editors, fellow Spanish indie developers and YouTubers to get the word out about the game. He also reaches out directly to his network of indie developers for any cross-promotion opportunities."We try to spread through people who have some contact with Undercoders and know what we do," he says. For new indie developers, making these initial connections at conferences and meetups is crucial to growing your future network of support.[caption id="attachment_9893" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Image via niveloculto.com[/caption]Monetization Strategy: Undercoders uses two main monetization strategies?in-app purchases and ads. While Jaumandreu says their overall revenues are evenly distributed between the IAPs and ads, they vary their approach for each game according to their analytics. For example, they know people who play their general quiz games will watch multiple ads, yet rarely purchase anything. But that's not true for all quiz games?for niche topics, like quizzes on Nintendo?they've found that players are "core-gamers" who would much rather pay for a clue than watch a random ad.No data is indefinitely true, however. "We make a lot of changes about where and when to put ads or IAPs," says Jaumandreu. As he notes, regularly updating the game itself is critical?but the monetization strategy should also stay fresh. Players' fickle expectations can change quickly, so pay attention to the numbers.Best Advice: In the end, Jaumandreu's biggest secret to success for aspiring indie developers comes down to simply loving what you do."Everyone who works here would probably have a much better salary and working conditions in a big company, but it's so gratifying to see your idea, your work, your game published and played," he says. "You just have to really be passionate about games."