Looking Back – My Recent Nine Months as an Indie Developer

This post was originally posted on eiswuxe.de on the 10th January of 2012


Some of you might remember how I started my indie-career earlier this year.

With the new year ahead I guess its time for a little retrospect / post mortem / whatever. At the end of this post I will inform you about the money I made so far. I will try to do this on a monthly schedule, pretty much like KreCi does on his website.

But first I’ll have to go into greater detail and tell you a bit about how I planned and funded this whole “operation”. The planning part is rather short. I was fed up with working in the video-games industry without being able to carry out my own ideas. My latest try, a browser-games company that I founded together with some former colleagues, went out of business as our financial backer lost confidence in our ideas and skills. I started working for another company but soon realized that I wanted to try it all on my own. So I:

  • quit my day job (which was one of the best jobs I ever had until then)
  • started coding
I then managed to get a grant for a business start-up which consisted of the unemployment pay I would receive plus some bucks for health-insurance and stuff. It would last for 9 months (from mid may 2011 to mid february 2012). After that time I had to earn enough money to keep going. Shortly after, my wife and I got the news that we’ll be having a baby in december. Even though that was the best news I ever heared, I had to consider if it is possible to get my business up and running until the end of the year and make enough money for my little family. I still decided to give it a go. I knew I could switch back to a paid job if I wanted to. So I grabbed the Corona SDK which I already evaluated some weeks before and started coding. I only owned a Samsung Galaxy S and no Apple-Hardware at all, that is why all of my early releases were available for Android first.

 I released Old Fart as my first product. It was available for Android in an ad-supported, free version and a paid version. The paid version had about 40 downloads after two months. Nothing to get excited. The game was later then rejected by apple due to its theme. As you might know, they don’t accept any more fart apps. First I wanted to argue that it was a real “game” and not just a “press this button to fart” app, but one thing why I started my own business was because I did not want to mess around arguing. I wanted to code.
Considering this the typical initial difficulties, I started working on my second game Bloo Kid.

Bloo Kid

Being a retro-style-games lover myself, I thought there are enough people out there who would appreciate an 8-bit style, chiptune-fueled platformer. I read a lot about making money with apps and decided to make Bloo Kid available for free from the beginning on and place ads in the game, since I did not have a mac yet and could build for Android only. I first chose AdMob since it was the one that most people talked about. One of the main reasons why this did NOT work out very well was the placing of the ads. The game had quite a lot of downloads (currently 46k total, 13k active installs). But since you get paid for ads being clicked, you need to display the ads long enough for people to be able to click them. I however placed the ads only in the start menu (and level selection) as you can see below, so that nobody gets bothered by ads during the game. But starting the game and getting to really play a level takes players only some seconds. Not even enough to properly load an ad, let alone click on one.

The Bloo Kid title-screen displaying an ad for … Bloo Kid 🙂
Placing the ads only in the startmenu gave me really low fillrates and click-through-rates

Another downside was that for some reason Bloo Kid never really managed to get the CPC I saw other developers had. I switched from AdMob to InMobi as soon as Corona supported inmobi ads. It turned out to be a good decision since in relation I got a lot more money from the ad impressions I created. (infos on my monthly income can be seen below.)

I bought my mac mini from an online store that, as I later found out, sent the hardware from Thailand. It had something to do with duty-fees. The mac was a bit cheaper than the one I could buy directly from Apple, but it took aaaages until I got it. At some point I thought I got cheated, since I had to do a money transfer to a thai bank account. I even could not do it online but had to go to my bank and fill out a form. The lady at the counter must have thought I bought a woman in Thailand or something like that. On the left you can see the transfer protocol from FedEx that shows the odyssee my mac had to go through until I held it in my hands. It went from Cologne to Paris and back to Cologne for no comprehensible reason.

I then created an iOS version of Bloo Kid and started making some noise. But even though the game got featured on some websites and was even reviewed in magazines, downloads were not close to what I hoped (and needed to pick up steam). The game sold 50-60 units a day for about one week after the release but then dropped to 10 sales a day. Priced at $0.99 you can imagine that I was not satisfied at all. One good thing is that the downloads are STILL 10 a day even though I did not do any marketing at all for the last months.
Being a bit frustrated I started coding several prototypes, some of which can be viewed on my YouTube channel. But I considered none of them to have the potential to turn the tables for me.

Now starts the good part where you all should listen up…

It was a mere coincidene that I created a kids application on the weekend. I already knew there are tons of apps available where you have some pictures of animals that make a sound when you tap them. My niece and nephew (3 and 5) were always thrilled by those apps. But somehow it needed yet another impulse for me to do something similar. A friend of mine saw his little daughter (one year old) with one of those mentioned apps and the joy it gave her just to hear those animals, and he said: Why not give it a try and create something like this? So I gave it a try and created something like this 🙂

Farm For Toddlers

I decided to make it a bit more fancy, since I considered pictures with animals on it too sleazy. So I came up with a farm that has certain animals on it. Tapping an amimal would make it wiggle its head and make a noise. I also added some funny stuff like a moveable barn door, a hidden frog, a pond with a fish and a chimney that could spit smoke if you touched it.
I released that app for free on iOS and got 20k downloads on a single weekend. All I did was release the app and use the IDRTG to spread the word.

I immediately enhanced the app to feature two more locations that could be unlocked via in-app purchase for $0.99 and released an update. Sales on this app were like Bloo Kid in its first week, except the fact that they STAYED at 50-60 a day and did not drop after a week. Given the fact that it took me about 1,5 weeks to create the app with all its three locations, this was a blast.

Animal Puzzle For Toddlers

animal puzzleI then started making another kids app, Animal Puzzle For Toddlers. It features some basic puzzles with increasing difficulty sporting cute animals and rising balloons that you can pop with your finger once you completed a puzzle. That app has some crazy 80 – 120 sales every day since its release, priced at Tier 2 which is $1.99 for the user and a whopping $1.40 for me.


Dino World

Needless to say I created ANOTHER app in the vain of the other two, this time featuring dinosaur puzzles and some very basic trivia about prehistoric animals: Dino World was born. It is not yet as succesfull as the Animal Puzzle, but also has some 30 – 50 in-app purchases a day.

The Android Market

All my apps are available for free on the android market featuring ads. The market is now changing so that you can also earn some money with paid apps, but for now the “free and ad-supported” strategy seems better for my apps. I might change this as soon as Corona supports in-app billing for Android apps.

Since I got some nice download-numbers by now, the ad income from InMobi every month is not bad at all. You can see this below, too.

I recently came up with an idea that sky-rocketed the ratings for my android apps. Where you have to pay on the iDevices to unlock all the content, you are asked to rate the game instead on android. It simply opens the market page and unlocks the game in the background. Most people really rate the game, and many of them even write a small review, mostly positive.

Current Income

As I promised I will tell you about my current income or rather the one for december. I will keep you updated how my income evolves in the coming months.

Ads income December 2011

iOS: $72.46

Android: $601.5

Appstore Sales December 2011

iOS: $3.766

Total: $4439.96

In EURos, that’s roughly my old salary! And January is looking even better than December did.
I am currently working on another Kids App. If it has only half the success of the previous ones, and sales keep as constant as they are, I will start working on a “real” game again. Maybe I’ll pick up one of my prototypes or start something new. I’m not quite sure at the moment. But that’s exactly the point where I wanted to be: have enough income to work on whatever I think is best. Without too many people around me who tell me what to do 🙂

Phew, this is a hell of a blogpost. I hope it can motivate you a bit. I am sure there are a million question right now and a lot of things I missed in this post, so please write anything you want to know down in the comments section. Good luck to you all!


  1. nice , by the way? which status tool are you using ?

  2. Thanks, I really appreciate it!

  3. Hi! I heard your story. When I heared you say you had a baby, I belive we are the sample indie game maker. Because I found your start indie life from MAY 2011. I also from MAY 2011. And, I also got the same news four months ago that I will have a baby.
    The difficult is that I have not earn enough money. I released two iPhone game. But it’s not good. I think all I have not more than $100.
    I’m confused. I didn’t known what to do next. How to earn enough money? I have not enough money for the next year.
    But I think I will have a try from now. I will keep trying for 8 month. I think I’m not hard work than you. I will work even more harder.

    Thanks your story! It motivates me.

    • Hi,

      its great to see that I motivate you with my story.
      Of course, there is no gurantee for success in the appstore. You should clearly balance the pros and cons of going on for another 8 months. It is risky, but if you think you can manage it, then go for it. Be sure to clarify it with your wife though 🙂

  4. A big thank you for your blog. I stumbled on it after a 60 minutes report on how simple and easy it was to become an app developer. (I think i was looking at SDK’s at the time, but somehow found this)

    Considering i haven’t programmed in about 10 years, and most of that knowledge gone with it, it was great to see from your blog and others who started with Corona, that a little bit of timeperseverance and what looks to be a good strategy has helped you with your app success.

    I’m not looking at the “quit the job” dream, but it would be fun to see how easy and successful it would be to put together an app and see how it goes. I haven’t grabbed your ebook just yet, may do that down the track for some extra tips,but at the moment i’d rather concentrate on getting my head around LUA and Corona SDK first.

    Was there any good resources you used to get started? I like your puzzle idea, which i might replicate to wrap my head around the mechanics, but there’s a few tutorials around on angry bird clones and interactive ebooks that might help me get used to everything.

    You’ve got me hooked on your blog so i’ll be back to see how your progressing 🙂

    • Great to see that I inspired you!

      Chosing corona to get into mobile development fast is a good idea! What helped me in the first place was the corona community / forum, and the IRC channel for corona. There are many experienced corona devs in the channel willing to chat with you, and people from the staff keep coming there every now and then. Only downside for me was that I reside in germany, and most of the US devs are asleep when I am awake 😛

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    It really motivates me when reading success stories, as my dream is also to be free, and make an income from Android apps, though I’m almost unfamiliar with game programming.

    I have a question,
    Did you bought the full version of Corona SDK, or you developed under the trial?
    And what can you say about LibGDX comparing with Corona?, if you have any prior experience.

    Thanks and best wishes.

    • Hi Andy,

      I bought the full version of Corona, since only with this version you are able / allowed to build apps that can be sold.
      For evaluation purposes you can still use the trial version, since you can build and test on your devices with this version, too.

      I dont have experiences with LibGDX yet. I am currently evaluating http://www.monkeycoder.co.nz/ and it looks rather promising to me. But you need some decent programming skills to make the most out of monkey.


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