Ask the Developer: Fluffy Fairy Games on the importance of community
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, best practices, and expert insights.
For this installment of Ask the Developer, we talked to Nate Barker, Director of Business Development at Fluffy Fairy Games, about the importance of creating and listening to a community. Fluffy Fairy Games is a relatively new mobile game studio that was founded in February 2016 and is responsible for the hit game, Idle Miner Tycoon (Android | iOS), a game where you manage resources to expand your mining empire.
Could you give us some background on how Fluffy Fairy Games and Idle Miner Tycoon came to be?
Fluffy Fairy Games actually started as an app development studio for an app called Uber Achiever, which was supposed to be a motivational app. It eventually failed because we couldn’t acquire enough users and it didn’t monetize very well. So the team decided to switch to games because, at the very least, it would be fun.
The team toyed with a few game concepts before eventually settling on an “idle clicker” game, the advantages being that the predecessor games in the genre could serve as role models, provide a devoted fan base, easy prototyping, and ample room to experiment with new themes and features. We thought “What is the best game we can deliver to players in a timely fashion?”
One of the things that stuck out about Idle Miner Tycoon was just how big of a Facebook community you guys have. How did you build such a big, engaged community?
We actually built the community after Idle Miner Tycoon launched. It was during the development of the game that we were getting a lot of feedback from players. We spent a lot of time thinking about our players and how to make them happy. We essentially just built what they asked for. In fact, we didn’t have any IAPs in the game until the community started asking for it, which is pretty unusual. People began asking how they could support us, so we created in-game boosts and items for them to buy. Overtime, IAPs became 40% of our revenue.
We spend a ton of time being proactive with our community, rather than reactive. We devote the lion’s share of our time to getting messaging to our users rather than just cleaning up support tickets. We’re pretty transparent with our users about what’s going on, like if we’re adding or removing ads. We’ll share some upcoming stuff to let players see where we’re headed. It’s actually made it easier for us in the long run. We try to be super, super transparent.
I think what worked for us was being constantly on Facebook. Users really feel like the game is theirs and that we’re building it for them.
What’s been the biggest challenge for Fluffy Fairy Games?
It took a while for us to grow. Our initial installs were probably around 1000 per day with decent retention considering the relative simplicity of the game. With just little tweaking, we were able to achieve 70% day-one retention. However, I would credit our success to catching the eyes of reviewers in the app stores, which gave us a huge initial bump. Many Android users stuck around, but less so on iOS. This was before we had any cash to start user acquisition.
We were able to find a lot of users organically on Android, but the problem was that they didn’t monetize well. Then we integrated AppLovin and we saw great performance. iOS users were already naturally pretty lucrative, but the downside was that we didn’t have any iOS users. Using AppLovin, we were driving traffic to iOS but also make up some of that revenue with serving ads.
What is one thing you thought you knew about app development that you were completely wrong about?
In the beginning, we thought it would be easier to outsource things like art, but it didn’t work because we were working at such a rapid one-week schedule. It made it really hard to keep up with our schedule. We learned to keep everything in house in terms of production of the game.
Any last bit of advice for new mobile developers?
Mobile game devs just starting should focus on building a great MVP (minimum viable product). Eric Ries outlines this principle in “The Lean Startup,” but the basic gist is to build the absolute minimum for a fun game, stripped of things like monetization/liveops/ extra features, etc. and see if the game is fun. Iterate until you make it fun. Set measurable goals like D1 retention so that you know the game is fun. Do this until the game is great or until you start a new game.