Haakon Langaas Lageng is the co-founder of Monkeybin, and co-creator of MindFeud, our recent App of the Week winner. A fun social word game, MindFeud recently snagged the #1 spot in the Spanish and Brazilian App Stores and is gaining thousands of new users each day!
Monkeybin was started in Oslo, Norway, in 2010 after Kim Ruben Vatnehagen and I met while working as independent contractors on a big software project. We formed the company with the objective of developing and publishing games for mobile devices and consoles. At first we decided to continue doing sporadic contractor work to make ends meet, but we spent as much time as we could learning what the mobile games world looked like and how it behaved.
Our strategy was to release a couple of mediocre games, while laying plans for a bigger game. We hired a contractor at this time, to help us out with programming our games, while we also focused on our full time projects. We now have seven full time employees/owners of Monkeybin, covering server programming, games programming, design, writing, marketing, accounting and more.
We decided to bide our time a little to see what kind of games became popular AND (importantly) which triggered our nerdy brains. After we saw the success of games like Scrabble, Draw Something, Words with Friends, Rumble and WordFeud, the idea for MindFeud started to crystalize.
We concluded that this was the perfect kind of app for us to make; a game with a super heavy, critical and advanced backend, that would entice millions of requests per day. We thought an engaging and fun board game with a viral/social element would succeed.
MindFeud took a huge amount of time and resources to develop – around 4,000 hours so far on versions 1 and 2; so much so, that we’ve outgrown three database servers!
The biggest challenge is getting the game out there to be seen, to stand out among all the other apps and games, and to find ways to make money from the game.
The social mechanisms of one player challenging friends helped tremendously. We saw great numbers from day one – far higher than what we’ve experienced with previous games.
We also spent lots on marketing compared to other indie developers and that’s when we really started to gain some momentum. Specifically we used radio promos, loads of reviews, social networking, SMS campaigns, free upgrade campaigns and so on.
We’ve had four companies working on our marketing, but we highly recommend AppVersal, who are doing an amazing job with MindFeud and have helped us a lot with improving all aspects of the promotional material.
Well, we’ve found that ads make no significant money, but they are so annoying that players choose to upgrade their freemium version to PREMIUM!
That removes the ads and allows the user to play unlimited games against the built-in MindFeud bot, ADAMA.
Those two incentives alone convert around 15% of the players. We’re adding more PREMIUM content in the next version, and expect the conversion rate to rise.
• Start small to gain knowledge.
• Team up with one or more developers with the same dream and make a plan for the “killer game.”
• Save up money for marketing. Without a good product and good marketing, you’re lost in today’s App Store.
• Work out how you can incentivise users to upgrade from Freemium to Premium, so that you can monetize the game.
MindFeud is allowing us to make a full-time living now. We’re releasing version 2 in a few days time, which is a complete rewrite of the game and the back-end. It’s going to be so, so great! Over the summer, we plan to release a new social board game based on the same platform we’ve created for MindFeud.
-Haakon Langaas Lageng, Monkeybin