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Inside a Mobile Game: Development, Revenue Numbers Shared

In the high-stakes mobile app arena, developers don't typically share a lot of development information about their apps, but Ustwogames did just that last week by posting an infographic with behind-the-scenes numbers about its Monument Valley game.

The developer provided sales and development metrics for its "illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness" game, offered on the Apple App Store for iOS devices, the Google Play store for Android devices and via Amazon for the Kindle Fire.

The app is listed for $3.99 on the Google Play store, described as a puzzle game with more than 100,000 downloads and a 4.7 (on a 0-5 scale) ranking from nearly 53,000 reviewers.

The London-based games studio, which emphasizes a Twitter feed as its Web site, shared much more information in the infographic, indicating the game took some 55 weeks to create with a core team of eight developers at a cost of $852,000. The accompanying $1.99 Forgotten Shores expansion pack took some 29 weeks at a cost of $549,000, said the company, which noted that actual team sizes and the amount of work varied across the project lifecycle.

 Monument Valley on an iPad
[Click on image for larger view.] Monument Valley on an iPad (Source: Ustwogames)

The payoff from this year-long effort? More than 10 million device installations, nearly 2.5 million official app sales and more than $5.8 million in revenue.

The Apple App Store for iOS apps was the big moneymaker, fitting in with standard industry perceptions that the App Store generates more money for developers because of the higher-scale clientele. The thinking is that while the more pedestrian Google Play store has more apps and attracts more developers, many more of those apps are free and its users don't spend as much money on the paid apps.

That's borne out by the Monument Valley numbers. The game raked in more iOS sales (about 1.7 million transactions) than Android sales (about 296,000) and thus generated almost 82 percent of total revenue, compared with about 14 percent of revenue for Android. Amazon numbers were far less than those two, with a mixture of paid and free transactions that generated about 4 percent of the revenue.

The April 3, 2014, launch date garnered the most one-day revenue, $143,530, prompting one reader to comment: "55 weeks to develop, and need to sell it in one day (the one day it is in the Apple App Store top list) ... crazy business."

The crazy development business also shows other signs of lifting the veil of secrecy. Jared Brown, co-founder of time-tracking software developer Hubstaff, commented on the Ustwogames post and provided a link to a live dashboard from metrics firm Baremetrics Inc., showing his company's revenue and much more data.

"Kudos for sharing your revenue numbers," Brown commented. "I'm a co-founder of Hubstaff and we're big fans of being transparent with revenue data. It's so hard for other entrepreneurs to understand what to work on if they can't see what's working and how much money can realistically be made."

Ken Wong, Ustwogames developer and designer, credited Monument Valley's visuals and aesthetics for helping the geometry-laden game make money.

"It happens that the way that you make computer games, and especially computer graphics, is a lot of illusions and magic tricks," Wong said in a video on the game's Web site. "So when it comes to making money with Valley, it's actually a really natural fit. We're very lucky to have people on the team that are -- maybe they're programmers, but they have some knowledge of art. And we have artists who have an interest in programming."

Here's the graphic:

The Monument Valley infographic
[Click on image for larger view.] The Monument Valley Infographic (Source: Ustwogames)

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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