Guest Post: Top 3 benefits of offering mobile payments

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Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog comes from SecureKey’s Executive Vice President of Marketing, Andre Boysen, who is responsible for cultivating new and exciting opportunities in existing markets for the company. 

There’s little denying that smartphones have become a staple in many people’s lives. They offer instant access to restaurant reviews, movie ticket reservations, social media and even, on occasion, calling up friends and family. Mobile phones have also taken the place of certain equipment like alarm clocks, watches and music players. These devices perform numerous tasks and their reach is bound to expand as the technology improves. Soon enough, many people will also be using their smartphones to complete transactions both online and in-person, and businesses should prepare for this change in buying habits. Below are three of the reasons you should consider making this move now, rather than later.  (more…)

Guest Post: How to hire a rock star developer

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is written by Yadid Ramot, the CTO of InvestedIn – a leading technology company that specializes in white-label crowdfunding platforms for reward, donation, pre-sales,  equity crowdfunding and lending applications. The company currently manages an  estimated $32 million in crowdfunding deals and in 2013 received the Los Angeles  Venture Association’s “Best Marketplace Platform for Funding Award”.

A great developer is one of the most elusive yet crucial hires for a successful start-up. Developers are the engineers that transform ideas into functioning products and software. They are analytical problem solvers with acute technical abilities. The competitive nature of Silicon Valley and the startup landscape, coupled with the shortage of professionals with in-depth development knowledge, makes landing a talented recruit whose abilities coincide with your organization’s vision a hot commodity. (more…)

Mobile Evolution: The Importance of Standalone Apps

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Today’s guest post comes to us from Geoff Cook, co-founder and CEO of MeetMe, a leading social network for meeting new people in the US and the public market leader for social discovery (NYSE MKT: MEET). MeetMe is building a portfolio of mobile social apps and recently launched two: Charm and Unsaid. Cook will also be a featured speaker at this year’s Inside Mobile Apps conference, joining a panel on Leveraging App Discovery. 

In the beginning, a developer created a web site, then she created a mobile app based on that web site. Today, she creates a portfolio of mobile apps without regard to the web site. The industry has learned the bigness of the small-screen opportunity and evolved to capture it.

The social app landscape on mobile is marked by single-use-case standalone apps – apps like Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, and Tinder. Indeed, the largest social developers recognize that standalone app innovation must occur alongside improvements to the core product – Facebook with Instagram and Messenger; IAC with Tinder; and Twitter with Vine. (more…)

Guest Post: The secrets to Blood Brothers’ success

Editor’s note: DeNA’s Japanese RPG card battler has been a hit for the mobile-social gaming juggernaut since release. As Inside Mobile Apps previously reported, Blood Brothers’ events feature is wildly successful for the game. In a third guest post from Kevin Oke, lead designer at both Adrian Crook & Associates, a social-mobile game design consultancy, and PlayRank, a second screen startup, he analyzes the successful components of Blood Brothers from an outsider’s perspective. He previously wrote guest posts for Inside Mobile Apps which analyzed Supercell’s Clash of Clans and NimbeBit’s Nimbe Quest.

DeNA Mobage’s Blood Brothers for iOS and Android recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and is continuing to monetize very well, with an ARPU that has grown every month since release. With this milestone in mind, now seems like a good time to take a dive into the game and highlight some of the things this collectible card game (CCG) does well.

Although it’s certainly firmly rooted in the conventions of the CCG genre (“hands-off” battles, card fusion, gacha) Blood Brothers does add its own touches of innovation, as explained below.

Blood Brothers PvP battle surfacingPvP

Blood Brothers excels at player vs. player (PvP) on a number of levels, one being surfacing. Good surfacing ensures that players are not only made aware of key AEM (Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization) features and the benefits they stand to gain by using them, but also pushed towards these behaviors via smart timing and offering incentives. This is generally done through contextual dialog boxes and limited time promotions.

As PvP gameplay is traditionally a strong source of retention and monetization, it’s especially important to do surfacing well. Blood Brothers keeps PvP at the forefront of the player’s mind with random PvP battles while the player is progressing through a level. These random battles are effective in several ways:

  • Surfacing of PvP gameplay to get the player interested in it and strengthen its ability to help monetize and retain players.
  • Increases PvP’s effectiveness as a morale sink (morale being the rechargeable energy resource needed to engage in PvP and raid boss fights).
  • Clear, simple goals and incentives (winning streaks reward the player with items) — these suck the player in, extending sessions and draining the player of their morale as they attempt to extend their win streak to hit the next reward.

Although conceptually not unique to Blood Brothers, the inclusion of “all-out attacks” (more effective than regular attacks but three-times more costly in terms of morale) and high level raid bosses that are susceptible to them further help to keep morale a precious resource and make a micro-transaction refill more tempting.

Lastly, compared to the confusing and convoluted user experience (UX) that precludes getting into a PvP match in Rage of Bahamut, there is little such friction in Blood Brothers. Opponent selection filtering options are eliminated in favor of pre-determined choices, and it’s immediately clear to the player what’s at stake with rewards, and how their deck stacks up against their potential opponents. (more…)

Guest Post: How startup app developers can thrive amid competition from big enterprise

Ilya Gelfenbeyn headshotEditor’s note: Ilya Gelfenbeyn is the co-founder and CEO of Speaktoit, which develops talking virtual assistants for Android, iOS and other platforms.

As mobile apps have grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry, large corporations have adopted an increasingly hefty presence within that industry. This fact may worry some independent developers and startups, especially those that find themselves in direct competition with much bigger, better-capitalized, better-established enterprises.

But startup developers shouldn’t necessarily fear competition from their bigger brethren. Being small comes with its own set of advantages, and the presence of big enterprise in a space can often be a help, rather than a hindrance. Here’s some advice for small developers on how to hang with the big boys.

1. Embrace being small. Who says bigger is always better? Large, well-capitalized companies may have more resources, staff members and time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come up with a better app.

  • Take advantage of the lower bar to entry. And thanks to the relatively low bar to entry for creating a mobile app, which tend to be much less sophisticated and much more easily brought to market than, say, computer software, the field is wide open for small startups or single developers. In 2009, Ethan Nicholas developed the game iShoot in his spare time, and the app eventually rocketed to the No. 1 spot on the Apple App Store. Try telling Nichollas (and plenty more examples like him) that a bunch of staffers at a large gaming company could have done better.
  • Take risks. If you’re just starting out as an indie developer, you don’t have shareholders to please, payroll obligations to meet, or a brand to uphold. You may have bills to pay or a family to support, but hopefully you’ll be in a position to experiment. This puts you at an advantage to many corporations, who are often too concerned with making a safe play than to seize the next big opportunity.
  • Leverage your flexibility. Bureaucracy can stifle innovation, and it can also make it tougher for companies to respond to the market. At a large corporation, a new idea might have to go through several layers of approval before developers are even allowed to start working on it. In the time it takes them to get off the ground, you may be able to pre-empt them with a similar offering.
  • Develop partnerships. It tends to take much longer for large companies to agree on partnership terms with other players, whereas you can start working right away with partners who can help advance your progress. Being an indie app developer means that you are a part of a very large community of highly motivated, talented people. Rely on them! (more…)

Guest Post: It’s a mobile first world, here’s what developers need to do to win

Salesforce logoEditor’s note: Today’s guest post comes Quinton Wall, director of platform technical evangelism at Salesforce.

Despite all of the hype around mobile computing, I think too many are underestimating the impact of mobile. That’s right: underestimating the mobile transformation underway. Maybe not in the near term, but definitely over the long run. Think about it. For the first time, high school graduates won’t recall the feeling of working without a fully-powered, always-connected computing device in their pocket. That’s a powerful demographic tailwind behind the sails of mobile, and a big reason why, according to IDC, by 2015, at 1.3 billion people, 37.2 percent of the entire global workforce will be mobile.

How do software companies and independent software developers capitalize on this? It’s certainly on the top of mind of the developers we speak with. In a recent discussion with Athani Krishna, co-founder and vice president of product strategy at field service automation software provider ServiceMax Inc. expressed his excitement around mobile, and the opportunity it presents. Krishna made it clear that success here has little to do with the precise phone or tablet form-factor they’re using. No, what is more important is the context of what the user wants to achieve and where they’re trying to complete that task. It’s about all of the other dimensions mobile computing brings between the app and the user such as their location, connectivity quality, and others in the work or social network that may be nearby. “The idea of mobile first design is something that’s a big force for us, and we’re engineering that into all of our applications,” Krishna said.

Successful software companies must be able to design to mobile and they need to be able to do so swiftly. Here are the handful of must-have capabilities we believe developers need to succeed today: (more…)

Guest Post: What Facebook’s acquisition of Parse means to mobile developers

Ty Amell headshotEditor’s note: On April 25, Facebook announced an agreement to acquire Parse, a cloud-based platform providing tools for mobile app developers. The mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) company could be used by Facebook to make it easy for mobile developers to integrate its SDK and use Facebook login, Open Graph and other components of its platform. And with the recently completed acquisition of advertising platform Atlas, we speculated last week that Parse and Atlas could be made — or some parts of it — free to most advertisers and developers to bring them deeper into Facebook’s ecosystem, ultimately driving ad revenue. Ty Amell, founder and CEO at StackMob, a cloud-based mobile application development platform, explains why Facebook has a big problem on its hands, regarding the steep cost of its platform for developers that’s causing them to leave the platform for mobile. In an effort to stop the exodus, Amell elaborates why Facebook agreed to acquire Parse.

The Facebook acquisition is just the latest move of large public companies taking long hard looks at the MBaaS and API industries. Salesforce recently launched their mobile services platform, Microsoft is in preview with mobile services on Azure and Intel recently bought Mashery for $180 million. Not to mention Layer 7 being acquired by CA Technologies.

With Facebook’s most recent acquisition, does this mean Facebook is moving into the MBaaS space? The short answer: not necessarily. Facebook has a big problem — many of the game publishers that made money for Facebook are starting to leave the platform. While Apple can still get away with charging a 30 percent commission to app developers, Facebook is having a hard time justifying those types of commissions. Apple’s App Store is on rocket ship growth trajectory while Facebook’s platform growth may have plateaued. Without that growth, publishers are having a hard time justifying the steep cost of Facebook’s platform. Public companies like Zynga are having a hard time reaching earnings projections as more and more users move away from Facebook in preference of mobile. (more…)

Guest Post: Analyzing the stickiness in Nimble Quest

Editor’s note: Arcade action game Nimble Quest is the latest offering from Tiny Towers and Pocket Planes developer NimbleBit. Kevin Oke, Lead Designer at both Adrian Crook & Associates, a social-mobile game design consultancy, and PlayRank, a second screen startup, analyzes the stickiness in Nimble Quest. He previously wrote a guest post for Inside Mobile Apps that analyzed engagement in Supercell’s Clash of Clans.

nimblebit-logoNimbleBit, creators of Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, released their latest title the aptly named Nimble Quest at the end of March. While it’s a fun game, I’ve found four key issues described below that I believe limit its stickiness and in turn, its ability to monetize.

According to AppData, after a strong start peaking at No. 6 on the top free iPhone apps chart for the games genre, it has slid to No. 217 as of this writing. Its rank on the top grossing iPhone apps chart for the games genre is at No. 190. These positions may be at least partially attributable to the issues I found.

The Compulsion Loop

This is the biggest barrier for Nimble Quest to overcome. The nature of its compulsion loop makes for a very grind heavy experience that hinders its stickiness.Nimble Quest compulsion loop

It’s a rule of thumb in game design that the shorter the loop, the more addictive the experience. By analyzing the loop (diagram above), one can see that unless the player is willing to spend hard currency, they have to restart from the beginning every time. The variable session length nature of the game means that as the player and their friends improve, it takes more and more time for them to challenge their ever-increasing high scores.

Essentially Nimble Quest is banking on players getting invested enough in leaderboard competition to start paying once the grind becomes too much to bear. This is a risky hook to rely on here, as it’s one that is much better suited to games with more of a sense of permanence and ownership, like city builders and strategy games such as Kingdoms of Camelot by Kabam. The reason being that without such permanence, it’s much easier for the player to decide to quit when the grinding gets tiresome.

As in any freemium game leveraging the player’s time for money, if the player tires of the grind too quickly and churns out, they can’t be monetized. However Nimble Quest is especially at risk here because of their compulsion loop. Fixed session lengths with level progression and difficulty determined by a party XP level would have provided more stickiness. (more…)

Guest Post: Apple enforces its new app promotion restrictions, removes AppGratis from the App Store

App Gratis removed from Apple App StoreEditor’s Note: Earlier this week, Apple booted out app discovery service AppGratis, which promotes paid apps by offering one for free everyday, from the Apple App Store for violating clause 2.25 of Apple’s App Review Guidelines, which states that “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.” The app also violated clause 5.6, which states that “Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.” VentureBeat reported that Apple reached out to AppGratis last Friday, informing the company that it was welcome to change its app and resubmit it. AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat said in a company blog post that there were no discussions between Apple and AppGratis in advance of the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered corporation removing the app. Dawlat (who also explained the full story of how AppGratis got pulled) said he did eventually speak with an Apple employee over the phone and does want to speak further with Apple.

With all that said, in today’s guest post from Noya Polliack, marketing director at Side-Kick Games, a developer of family and mid-core games, says that despite discoverability being a huge issue for app developers in the crowded mobile app market, AppGratis is the latest example of Apple being keen on clamping down on any apps that violate its policies.

Six months after adding clause 2.25 to Apple’s App Review Guidelines, AppGratis finds itself outside of the best store in town – Apple’s App Store.

AppGratis is the second app banned from the App Store due to the new guidelines which restrict apps from providing pure app promotion services. These Apps usually function as app recommendation services and/or alert users when discounts are available. Among this type of apps are FreeAppADay, Appoday, Daily App Dream, Appsfire and more. Earlier in December, the popular AppShopper app was removed from the Apple App Store.

Both AppGratis and AppShopper offered developers burst campaigns — massive traffic in a short period of time. The result of these campaigns is usually high ranking in the Apple App Store for a few days. This method of app promotion is used by many developers in order to overcome the number one problem in the crowded app market today — discoverability.

At the moment there are still plenty of other discovery apps, which offer third-party promotions. While Apple’s next move is unknown, it’s definitely an issue that app developers should address.

Is Apple acting in the users’ best interest?

One of the reasons the new clause was added is that by attracting millions of users, third-party aggregators like AppGratis allow a way for developers to spend their way to the top 25, violating the Apple App Store’s purity. However, big game development studios that can afford to create a marketing buzz before they launch their app can be accused of doing just the same. While these well known studios get the media’s attention and use their apps portfolio to cross promote their new app, indie developers with a low marketing budget and a single app stay behind. Sadly, the outcome is that many new great apps are not visible to iOS users.

It’s also important to remember that burst campaigns can be executed using different user acquisition tactics such as web-based affiliate networks, ad networks and user acquisition networks. Since all of these sources use in-app ads to promote other apps, we can expect to see the mobile ads market growing faster than expected.

As Apple’s ranking algorithm remains a mystery, it’s known that the number of downloads plays a key factor in Apple’s app store ranking. Since app installs can be acquired one way or another, it only seems fair that users’ experience and rating will have a much stronger influence on apps’ ranking.

Looking at Apple’s latest moves — adding clause 2.25, clamping down on incentivized apps downloads, changing the Apple App Store’s look and the unknown magic formula of how to get featured — it’s clear that Apple is keen to stay “hands on” picking the “right” apps for its users.

Guest Post: Learning from the past: Patterns in the recent history of game platforms part 2

Jan Beckers headshotEditor’s note: Today’s guest post comes to us from Jan Beckers, co-founder and CEO of HitFox, an incubator focused on investing in and acquiring game distribution and user acquisition startups. This article is the second in a five-part series of articles analyzing game platforms and the patterns that historically repeat itself.

Part 2: From marketing to product focus

In the first party of this article series, we discovered how gaming platforms are very similar to countries in many ways. Both types of entities have specific rules and regulations, growth and decline cycles, competition and taxes. We saw that just like countries and societies, game platforms show patterns in the development of these features. We then took a closer look at the first of these crucial patterns, the acceleration of platform cycles.

A question that is equally elemental as it is crucial, regardless of platform is: “How do I distribute my budgets?” This question is dynamic as the crucial success factors change with the platform cycle. And there is one pattern here in that stands out strong.

Pattern 2: Marketing wins on early platforms, product wins on mature platforms

In the early days of a platform, specific knowledge was rare.  Consumers and users are largely uninformed and don’t truly understand or relate to the platform. With a new technology entering the market there is an instantaneous shortage of information. The customer has to get used to a platform. At the beginning there won’t be many media resources. Word of mouth recommendations by friends also need time to build up. In consequence, discovery mechanisms and filtering functions are weak at the outset of a platform.

The shortage of information extends to the products offered for a platform and in our context the games. A user that wanted to pick a game on Facebook in the early days of the social network was like a tourist that just arrived in a new country, trying to decide on which restaurant to pick — without a travel guide.

The potential customer has to rely on marketing in order to make his decisions. Zynga was masterful in using this situation for their advantage. The company successfully focused on marketing with numerous “Ville” titles, which are only marginally different. Their early emphasis on marketing helped to establish them as a crucial player in the social games market.

Marketing wins on a new platform. It’s a land grab.

This foundation for decision making changes significantly over time though. With the development of a new ecosystem, the number of available information sources increases. And over time, the consumers have repeated interactions with businesses. Not only can the customer access information at his or her will, accumulated lessons and experiences are now part of the decision making process.

Mature platforms have educated users.

Mature platforms have experienced users that have played many games. They know the owners reputation and they can more easily differentiate between good and bad games. Brands and franchises become more important. Even if the user lacks experience, the media, e.g. game magazines, websites, blogs and forums deliver plenty of information, providing tools for both filtering and discovery. And friends discuss the games on Facebook or over drinks at the bar. The user can now make educated decisions based on product quality. The first consequences can be seen in the mobile market now with players like Supercell and King.com. Both are hugely successful with a focus on top-quality. “Now it’s a lot more about the product quality and the product itself,” as Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen stated in a recent interview.

The best product wins on mature platforms.Jan Beckers Inside Mobile Apps guest post 2 graph

To sum up: In order to be as successful as possible, developers and publishers have to go with the natural platform flow. They need to concentrate on marketing when a platform is young and then use the early success and the user base to build the best product over time.

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