The Question: Given a freemium model (ad-supported with in-app-purchase of additional levels/hints)... are chances of overall success better with a single puzzle app with lots (but varied) levels/playing-styles, OR... multiple apps, each app focused on a singular theme/playing-style?

Scenario: Our puzzle engine can support multiple types of puzzles based on the puzzle-piece styles. While the game mechanics are roughly the same, changing the puzzle piece changes the visual aesthetic of the app and gameplay somewhat. The puzzle piece imparts a theme of sorts to the puzzle. Sorry for the lack of further specifics.

I feel that multiple apps will allow us to market the different content more easily. I worry though that spreading the content over say, 4 different apps might limit the playing life of each individual app (the app content is mathematically limited). At which point you hope that cross-promotion will guide your player to the additional app/content.

Are there any precedents here? I've assumed that with the freemium model having more apps in the pipeline is always a good thing. But having your 4 apps on a single player's device sounds challenging.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You can have the same app, marketed 4 ways. Or package the same app differently to change the "default" mode. Or the main app comes with one style, and the other styles are available as DLC. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Jun 3 '13 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thx, @Byte56. I guess when I say marketing I really mean "app store descriptions" :). So I am thinking I can spread the content across a wider market by splitting it up into multiple apps. Different App titles, descriptions, keywords and all that SEO stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Electro-Bunny Jun 3 '13 at 15:06

At the risk of sounding hackneyed, I think you have to ask yourself if your interest is in making money or in making games.

If your primary goal is just to extract as much money from this project as possible and you don't really anticipate going back to the well, then there is a coherent case to be made for going the 'SEO route', splitting the game up into several different titles promoted in different ways to optimize your possible monetization.

On the other hand, if you're legitimately interested in shipping the next game too, and in having a consistent customer base for your titles, then IMHO it behooves you to do what's 'right' for your customer base, and if you see this conceptually as a single game with perhaps several different sub-modes (which it sounds as though you do), then it's very likely your players will see it as a single game too, and if they think you're trying to drain them for their money by splitting it up then they'll be less inclined to check out your next project.

Both approaches are crapshoots; to be blunt, you're going to have to get more than a little lucky to make any money either way, and either approach can potentially give you the 'winning lottery ticket' that makes you the next Gung Ho. But trying to build a community around your games has the potential to give you several draws at the lottery, with building odds each time as the community from one game checks out the next and brings a new group of people with them; it's IMHO the approach more likely to lead to any real success in the long run.

  • \$\begingroup\$ yes the distasteful dilemma between making art and making money :) In my case I do feel there is an aesthetic value to splitting the apps. I would be marketing them as a family of apps, even sharing parts of the name titles. So splitting the apps may not only make SEO sense but there is some design element as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Electro-Bunny Jun 3 '13 at 16:54

I can't give a precise answer, but there are a few balancing considerations to think about:

  • More variety and options within a single app is good. Everyone loves variety, and it might lead to the game being kept installed longer.
  • However, if they game gets too big, taking up too much local storage or increasing load times, it will likely be better to split up the apps. Some mobile games are meant for quick fun when you have just a couple of minutes to spare: prolonged loading times may mean that users just don't get a chance to play.
  • App discoverability / marketing strategy: If you have multiple apps, it is statistically more likely that one of them will get picked up and become popular. However, if you have one bigger/broader app, it is more likely to get featured status and maintain "momentum" (remaining on top downloads for longer periods of time).

Just personal opinion as an end user with no hard data to back it up. I have not developed a mobile game yet, but I have been thinking about this subject a lot.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thx @charlestheoaf. All good considerations. \$\endgroup\$ – Electro-Bunny Jun 3 '13 at 16:51

You could go with the multiple types of puzzle in a single game, if it is going to be the freemium only with a single app you might get the chance to reach to top 100 apps. If you divide it into hundreds they will be less popular but more likely they will be spotted by someone using a random search because of the number.

If you take the game "Pou" it has become popular because it has a wide variety of games inside of one app. Puzzles and other time killers, they haven't split those time killers into ten apps.

I recently downloaded a game called Chicken Revolution from Itunes where you play a chicken warrior or something like that.

The game offered me some kind of in-game reward for downloading some other game from their arsenal. I downloaded it and it has turned out to be a copy of the game I downloaded earlier, the game systems stayed the same only sprites of chickens were replaced by zombies. The zombie revolution~ also had an option for me to earn money from downloading some other game. After that, it turned out that there were over 10 games based on the same game logic, systems with only names and art swapped. I personally dislike such situations, and eventually I haven't paid for the game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good insight, @Mikolaj. So clearly there is precedence either way. I share your dislike of "conning" someone into multiple downloads, much as I similarly dislike plastering ads on top of valuable game screen real estate. Unfortunately, it seems a necessary evil for monetization. \$\endgroup\$ – Electro-Bunny Jun 3 '13 at 15:32

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