Experience in creating a referral program, finding partners and attracting new users to the game Battle for the Galaxy.
This story is about Battle for the Galaxy – MMORTS from the St. Petersburg’s studio AMT Games. At the beginning of my work, the game was already released for two years on two major platforms – Google Play and App Store.
At the interview it turned out that a desktop browsers version is also available, which by that time (summer 2016) for about a year had been published on one of the popular gaming sites without much traffic though.
The above-mentioned web version received about 200 unique visitors a day, while the Android version already had about 30,000. Nevertheless, the potential of the web direction was obvious, so I joined them team to work on the task of attracting new users to the web version of the game.
Preparatory work and networking
The above-mentioned first site had its own API for purchases and authorizations. That is common for high-load projects in this area, as well as for social networks.
But it was also quite clear that there are plenty of other large projects and small projects without own API, which we also wanted to cover and provide them with the ability to track users and purchases on our side, as well as allowing users on these sites to keep progress and make purchases.
During the time I was signing first contracts with partners, explaining them how this will work, the programmers created a build with Xsolla payment system, Facebook authorization and a tracking tool that allowed partners to see and installs and purchases from their sources.
We began to offer this build to all small sites, as well as large projects that do not want to wait in the queue for integration of their API. The queue is probably not quite the exact word, but human resources are limited and we could afford to connect no more than one API per month, and in priority there were APIs of sites like Facebook, VK, ArmorGames.
All problems without chronology
At all stages, we have faced various difficulties and problems, from organizational to technical.
I started looking for partners completely without offering them a percentage of the profits or a fixed rate for advertising, we thought that the proposal would be interesting enough only because they would earn with advertising on their pages, and our game would be just a content for them. A month later we changed our mind and started offering 50 percent of the revenue from the attracted users.
The web-version also had its own specific technical problems, bugs and limitations:
- Iframes do not send push notifications, which has a negative effect on retention.
- Game’s performance in browser is significantly worse than on mobile devices.
- Users have to download the game’s content completely every time they come to play, while on the phone they launch the game instantly.
- In this regard, we also had to abandon HD graphics, and reduce the possible zoom.
- For the browser version, I had to create buttons, contact form, boot screen with troubleshooting tips, to be able to get some feedback from users who could not start the game or faced issues.
Separate problems were also in the organizational work:
- Some contracts negotiations took nearly for 4 months
- Translation of contracts into Russian
- Creation of documentation of the tracking system functionality for partners and admins.
Each site that added a game – requires also the current work:
- Dealing with user comments
- News posting
- Creating the art in the required sizes
- Featuring negotiations
Results for more than a year
Within more than a year of work, we managed to bring the web version to stable 15,000 users a day. A total of 1200000 new users came through the period.
We continue to integrate API sites, there are big plans to finally make some releases in China. In addition, the creation of a system for tracking purchases and users – allows even non-topic sites to include our banner in the rotation of advertisements, and participate in our affiliate program.
And other important point – we do not have to buy advertising. The web version of the game is promoted entirely on the referral traffic. Growing volumes compensate the half of the revenues we are sharing with partners. And we continue to develop the project.
Partners in turn – receive income from both us and from advertising on the page in which the game is integrated. As a consequence, sites with a mostly non-paying audience still add our game, because their users repeatedly return to the page and watch the advertisement.
I wrote this post in order to tell you how to do promote your web-based game without the advertising budget. This is especially true now – with the growth of fraud, cheating clicks and even winding KPI.
I personally burned my limited money many times before during my experiments – I can only wish you not to pile budgets on advertising campaigns, but invest in infrastructure, find partners with targeted traffic and gradually increase turnover. There will be no instant result, but this is a safe and long-term way.