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Ask the Developer: Indie game developer SQ Inc on their secrets for monetization and user acquisition

by Tatsuo Sakamoto on Dec 7, 2017

AppLovin is a global brand and platform, which means we have the opportunity to work with developers from different markets all around the world. In our Ask the Developer series, we speak with developers to learn their strategies and best practices and share expert insights.

Today, we’ll be speaking with Tsunehiko Matsumoto, CEO of SQ Inc, to talk about their game Yowasete Kyabajo 3 (Note: the game is in Japanese. iOS/Android). For the unfamiliar, Yowasete Kyabajo is a simulation and adventure game, similar to games like Pixelberry’s Choices and High School Story. The game has amassed over 600,000 app downloads as of September 2017.

AppLovin and SQ Inc CEO

SQ Inc is based out of Tottori Prefecture and primarily produces casual games. Every aspect of the game except for the scenarios are produced in-house. Matsumoto previously worked in the field of web design and didn’t have a gaming background, but he started developing smartphone games after making a game called Nin Tsuku! for a mobile game contest held by gumi Inc. (Support for Nin Tsuku! ended in 2015.)

Can you tell us about the Yowasete Kyabajo series of games you’ve developed?

For our first game in the series, we thought about the need for a catchy theme and how to create a casual game in a short period of time. We were able to increase revenue thanks to the popularity of the first title and through incentivized installs. However, when the second title was released, we learned that we couldn’t use the same tactics. For the third game in the Yowasete series, we decided to start from scratch. In Yowasete Kyabajo 3, we consciously increased the revenue per download. The reason for this was because we decided not to implement any incentivized installs and it was necessary to acquire users with a higher CPI than before.

Can you tell us in detail how you increased revenue per download with Yowasete Kyabajo 3?

We changed our app monetization ratio to about 60% in-app purchases and 40% ads. We also saw fairly good figures for ARPPU. We used different ad formats like banners, rewarded video, and interstitial video.

Rewarded video in Yowasete

Examples of implemented video reward ads in Yowasete Kyabajo 3.

Did you have any concerns when introducing ads?

Our game contains both ads and in-app purchases, so naturally, paying money makes it easier to advance through the game scenarios. However, we also know that there are users that will never pay any money so we designed the game to make it easier to advance through the game by viewing ads.

We have also made sure to include ads that aren’t only initiated by the user, such as with skippable video and still interstitial ads, which don’t appear until they progress through a certain point in the game as to not interrupt gameplay.

Do you have any advice for other indie developers looking to do user acquisition?

SQ Inc CEO Tsunehiko MatsumotoWith iOS 11, it has been increasingly difficult to appear on the top store rankings. To combat this, we’re utilizing the strategy of developing a game series, and we are constantly conscious of App Store Optimization (ASO). We concentrated on  increasing revenue per download and acquiring new users using CPI advertising. By introducing in-game elements like events and rankings, we’re continuing to devise new ideas to increase user retention. We also avoid making dramatic changes to the game cycle unless absolutely necessary to cut down on the resources and time needed. For example, we are currently producing a version of Yowasete Kyabajo for women, which won’t require UI changes.

Is there anything else you want to say to fans? What’s in the future for Yowasete Kyabajo?

As for new projects, we have released a separate story of the Yowasete Kyabajo 3 title as a chatbot game on LINE. I believe that this is the first case of an adventure game where the user can select from a series of scenarios being developed for LINE. The folks at LINE also mentioned to us that this was probably the first game of its kind on their platform. LINE itself does not feature a monetization system so this game is merely for promotional purposes, but I think that users will find this game very enjoyable so it will be good for our brand.

Mr. Matsumoto, thank you for sharing your insights with us. We look forward to seeing what you build next!

For more developer insights, be sure to read the rest of our Ask the Developer series.

Tatsuo Sakamoto is AppLovin’s director of sales in Japan.

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