Mar 14 AT 9:43 AM Sean Riley 30 Comments

Two person development team made six figures in their first six months on Android

battleheart-mika-mobile-630

Pretty awesome right? I haven’t even told you the amazing part yet, they are stopping development for Android.

You might have caught wind of this story elsewhere with some kind of doom and gloom spin about how it is impossible to ever make money on Android and that developers should flee from the sinking ship sooner rather than later. You’ll be surprised to find that even the developer that wrote the blog post that caused this whirlwind of ridiculous coverage doesn’t think that is true. I reached out to them after reading far too many posts from people that seemed to have skipped what was actually said in favor of the story that they felt like writing.

The developer in question is Mika Mobile, a two person development team that spent about two and half years making games on iOS before porting a couple of their titles to Android.

They launched their first game, Zombieville USA, on iOS in February of 2009. This was about 6 months after the launch of the App Store and at the time there were approximately 20,000 apps available for the then current iPhone 3G. The game was polished and offered stylized visuals that surpassed a lot of what was out there at the time and as a result was prominently featured in the App Store. In the second month it was available in the App Store they saw 150,000 downloads of the free and $2 version. While I couldn’t get an exact split they did indicate that the majority were paid so ballpark estimate they made approximately $140,000 from it that month.

Fast forward to today and they have a total of four paid apps in the App Store and profits are basically steady at a similar level to what they were seeing two and half years ago, albeit from four apps rather than just one. So yes if you are doing the math at home that means that this two person development team is taking in over $1.5 million a year from the App Store. If you are under the impression that is a normal small developer experience in the App Store, then I have some lovely ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.

This tremendous and not likely to be reproduced success in the App Store is the real reason they are leaving Android development and it has nothing to do with difficulties in developing for Android. To infer otherwise is ignoring everything that Mika Mobile had to say in their blog including the fact that they spent only 20% of their time on the Android side of things and yet were producing what most people would consider a healthy living from it.

In the 9 months since they first launched their two Android games, Zombieville USA and Battleheart are both in the 50,000-100,000 downloads range and while again I couldn’t get an exact figure from them that places their earnings from the Play Store at a minimum of $140,000 and possibly quite a bit higher. This was without any major marketing efforts that I could find relying simply on word of mouth, although Battleheart did appear as a featured tablet app in the Market in mid-June. It’s likely that with a concerted marketing effort they would have done even better, but again they are a two person team with a finite amount of time.

Returning briefly to what took up the majority of that 20% of their time dedicated to Android development, it was not related to fragmentation as some have asserted. The two activities that required the most time were the initial porting process (not shocking) and simple customer service (download and payment problems). The latter seemed to be a particular thorn in their side and of course is made all the more exasperating by the fact that those are in fact areas in Google’s control and not really something a developer should be dealing with at all. It’s hardly the first time I’ve heard that complaint from a developer and it is a subject worthy of discussion on its own at some point.

Were it not for the sheer volume of inaccurate coverage this story got I would have left it alone as I would hope that most people would reasonably conclude that trying to make broad generalizations regarding the Play Store, or the App Store for that matter, based on the experiences of one developer isn’t practical.

The real takeaways from this story is that if you are a two person team making around 2 million a year on iOS then by all means go ahead and stick with iOS and more power to you. If on the other hand you are a new developer or you have the resources to develop for multiple platforms then by all means take a look at Android as there’s plenty of money to be made.

Via: ZDNet

Source: Mika Mobile Blog

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 5 years and covering mobile for the last 6. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • YellowDucati

    I heart development

    • jsweetser2

      Fantastic in depth article. I caught wind of this last year when MikaMobile stated on their blog that the download size limit and ‘personal’ customer support was taking up too much time. Battleheart was and still is, the best looking and easily understood RPG that i’ve played to date on Android. It’s too bad that they are abandoning it instead of expanding a few more people to handle Android, but like the OP, i don’t blame them. I still play Battleheart on my phone once in awhile, and i sleep at night knowing i paid for a game that is quality.

      Now, if we could just get Jetpack Joyride from HalfBrick….

  • OnIn2

    Very interesting read, but what does “simple customer service” mean in this context ?

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      Sorry, I didn’t catch that as being somewhat nebulous. They were primarily download and Google Checkout problems, I’ll add that to the post.

      Thanks.

  • taketheleap

    Note to self: learn to develop Android apps. Stat.

    • AsakuraZero

      dunno sounds like users got them with the pants off or they didnt knew where to ask for help about the develop process.

      either way to me sounds like they wanted to milk the cow but it wasnt as easy as they though and loooks like they rage quitted

      • http://mihai.discuta-liber.com/ tmihai20

        I didn’t know about this story. I am sorry they gave up on Android, never tried the game anyway. You didn’t take into consideration the cost to become an Apple developer, it is rather high to start with and you have to pay an yearly subscription. They could have placed filters to exclude some phones, like so many apps do, it would have saved them some precious effort. It’s a little too late saying that “we didn’t mean to blame Android as a whole”, the damage has been done already. I bet Apple fans have filtered only the bad parts about Android.

        • sleepy

          it’s a mac + 100$ a year. It’s not that steep, especially if you pick up the mac used or just snag a mini.

        • jsweetser2

          That’s sort of the point. You pay Apple, they do the customer service. In android, the Developer handles ALL complaints, refunds, etc. Imagine exploding on the market with 25k downloads in your first week and even 10% of them have issues, thats 2500 emails that YOU the developer have to manage, aside from continued development. Sure they could have hired someone to do customer service…but they chose not to. Ultimately it’s their choice. Apple does all the customer care for their developers, hence you pay for it.

  • hinds

    Smear campaigns on android development is nothing and those who want to consider developing for android should try it themselves before reading the BS smear articles about android. If a developer has a top notch app it will do well! The android community is second to none when it comes to support.

  • spazby

    bottom line, there is money to be made anywhere if you put in time and skills.. congrats to these developers

  • Warden Chinbach

    I find it disturbing that Android-focused sites are almost the only sources on the internet to find unbiased news. Usually it’s the other way around with tech.

  • tarman

    i look at them as whiny bitches. they weren’t making as much on the Android platform as they are on the iOS platform so they make up some crap story that developing on the Android platform is a headache.

    • jsweetser2

      You’re an idiot.

  • Nathan D.

    Nice article, cool to hear that developer can make money on four apps alone, hopefully we could hear more success stories for android developers

  • The Dave

    So…they couldn’t hire a CSR at $10/hr to cover that side of the job and still rake in the mula from Android??? Sounds like a HORRIBLE business decision on their part.

    • http://www.ndroidgamers.com B2L

      Completely agreed, with all of that money they could’ve easily expanded and added a few CSR’s.

      • jsweetser2

        The question is still, do they want to? Everyone has choice, and perhaps they hit a goal and don’t NEED to make more money. if you’re comfortable, why push it? Expanding the business has headaches of it’s own. Hiring people, finding reliable service, paying them, incorporating, overhead (maybe), etc. If they had started on Android and ported to iOS, then given up on Android, i’d say Shenanigans. But it was the other way around. They ‘tried’ Android and it was just more than they wanted to put into it. simple.

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      I didn’t fully understand their decision making there either. I’m actually surprised there isn’t a company around that offers to do basic CSR work for developers for a reasonable fee.

      • sleepy

        You are a 2 man shop, you and your friend (or wife) making cool games, having fun and getting paid… a lot. You could grow your business by 10% by hiring 2-3 guys to handle CSR for that new platform and take on all the management headaches associated with hiring three guys (payroll, management, healthcare.. the whole shebangiebang). Or you could let that 10% go for now and think about revisiting it when it’s more like 50%.

        I for one am with Mika on this one.

  • dVyper

    I need to step up dev on my own stuff…

  • Phil

    I don’t know. It doesn’t make much sense to me and it still seems very much like they aimed to bash. I don’t think I could find two individuals that would complain about only making 6 figures in six months on top of already making over 1 million. And as this article clearly pointed out they benefited from being early on the iOS platform when app quality wasn’t quite there. Now they are 3-4 years deep on the Android platform when you have nearly console quality games being released. They weren’t being realistic at all in their expectations. And it doesn’t seem that they were being very honest in their representation of the situation on their blog either.

  • http://www.typhonrt.org/ Mike Leahy

    For the most part I came to a similar conclusion in a post on G+ about the issue:
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/117904596907381647757/posts/NeW9TTz9KkD

    At the core of the matter is that Mika Mobile is a 2 person (a couple) outfit who have art / animation backgrounds. They had some great success on iOS, so much so that it provides more than a healthy lifestyle. The crux of the matter is that they chose to remain a _lifestyle business_ instead of growing and hiring an Android tech expert or customer support rep that can easily field the additional technical & sales / customer support concerns of Android. While I’m sure a good deal of dev knowledge was picked up over the past couple of years they are self-described generalists w/ little tech / dev background. SInce they are also using Unity one can also say the burden is on the middleware to overcome the hardware (GPU) variety in many respects. So yes.. Instead of expanding their business they are choosing to (gamble on) stick to one platform. Quite likely they are set for life even if things dry up in a couple of years. The long game is to support more markets especially Android, but not every company has the same business goals. I think what they are doing is fine, but they are wrong on all accounts about Android from a tech perspective and should have just said they are happy with the economics of Android and that (quite likely) they are running a lifestyle business.

    • http://www.typhonrt.org/ Mike Leahy

      “should have just said they are happy with the economics of Android”

      zoinks! Android == iOS.. ;P

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      Nice post Mike and a far better description of the technical side of things than I’m capable of at the moment.

  • westy

    This is why i love this blog. You guys make it a point to get the facts. Hands down my favorite android blog. Back to these developers, i love this game and really wished they didnt quit on us. They should at least make the update to make us happy who bought the game. I have boycotted them and given them poor review because of it.

  • matt

    iOS devs are stupid!!!!! They release an app/game on app store it has a great success and after a year or so they decide to port it to android …. but they forgetting that when there was hype for their app on app store someone on android market “cloned” the game and made bunch of money cost there was no alternative . Best example …. fieldrunners HD how long it took to get to android? But in the mean time we had robo defense and robo defense 2 …. guess who won

  • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

    I suspect the root of Mika Mobile’s compatibility problems stems from the fact that their games are *ports* of iOS games to Android. Knowing their history, it’s probably a safe assumption that they never intended to be cross-platform, and the Android port didn’t follow Android development best practices due to the iOS-centric application design (and best practices). It’s a common problem in the software development field: the quick fix (i.e., “band-aid”) is simply living on borrowed time and increasing technical. Eventually, a high level of technical debt becomes unsustainable and difficult to “pay off” because it’ll take so much time (and money) to fix what should have been done incrementally all along.

    So really, in situations like Mika Mobile’s, you really end up digging your own grave.

  • leganzish

    Thanks for actually stepping back and taking a logical look at this Sean! Its nice to have someone write a piece on this that isn’t sensationalized. Good article.