TechRepublic: Since Luckiest Wheel was your first Android project, how long did it take you after banging out those first couple lines to have a finished product you could submit to Google Play?
Marzoa: It took me about a month to code and release the first version. It was a "learn-by-doing" process. As expected, I committed several mistakes due [to] my lack of Android experience, but I rolled with the punches. In the past three months I have published more than 50 new releases of the game, some correcting bugs but most of those updates were adding new features.
TechRepublic: Not too long ago Luckiest Wheel rose to the number two spot on Amazon's most popular app list, sandwiched right between two big budget titles. How did you learn your game had topped the charts and what went through your head?
Marzoa: It was a true surprise for me. I was checking my AdMob account and I noticed a significant boost in revenue. At first I could not explain it. Installs on Google Play had not grown enough to explain that difference. Honestly it took me a while before I thought of checking the Amazon Appstore. When I did, I discovered Luckiest Wheel went from about 500 daily installs to more than 18,000 in a single week.
I was really impressed and excited. To be candid I didn't have a lot of confidence in the Amazon Appstore mainly because at that time most of my app downloads were in Spain, and then Amazon's Appstore was only available to US users (since then Amazon has expanded the availability of its app store). So it was a big surprise and a good lesson, and now I treat my Amazon developer account with the same interest that I do my Google Play account.
TechRepublic: Many aspiring developers struggle to get their apps noticed in the market. Can you share some of the techniques you've used?
Marzoa: Initially I invested about $100 on AdMob advertising after publishing Luckiest Wheel on Google Play, before publishing on Amazon Appstore. Today I realize that such a small advertising budget is not effective, and I think it had no real effect.
What I found really useful was to add social sharing of high scores on the game. By the middle of July I was really concerned about how things were going, because daily installs had fallen from more than 4,000 to 2,000. As soon as I added social sharing of high scores, the trend was inverted. In four days daily installs were boosted to more than 3,700, and by the end of July I was close to 5,000 daily installs.
Perhaps the most important thing for getting noticed is that you write an app people like! I found the best install boosters are satisfied users that share your application link among their friends and relatives. Also it's important [to] listen [to] your critics. Critical reviews are a good source of ideas to improve your game and attract more users. That does not mean that you should do what every single user says on a review, but rather consider them as a whole. Most of the new features added to Luckiest Wheel were a result of user feedback.
I greatly appreciate Francisco taking time out to share his tale with TechRepublic readers. If you are not familiar with Luckiest Wheel, I encourage you to take a look at it, as well as his second title (and my personal favorite), Rainword.
I'll close this post with another quote from Francisco (who couldn't be happier about being an indie Android developer!):
"Luck is an important part of any great success, and this is not an exception. But it is pretty clear that if you do not buy a lottery ticket, you will never win the big prize. Fortunately Android development does not require investing a lot of money to get started. So if you love coding as I do, in the worst of outcomes you will have a good time writing your app."
William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intelligence Corps. Throughout his career William has published numerous technical articles, as well as the occasional short story.