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25 Feb 2014

How my first game made $28,623

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(Note from Trey:  This post was originally made on my blog in 2012 and has great insights on thinking outside of the box when starting your app business.  Nik has now moved to the United States to work full time and my business now has over 13,000,000 downloads.  The games mentioned here now have crossed the million download mark together.)

Next month will be the two-year mark of creating my first game, or at least starting to create it.  Not only was it my first game, it was also when I met my lead programmer, Nik.  Nik is from the Ukraine and has worked on about 10 games with me since and he’s actually coming to visit next month for the first time.

I decided to find out how much money the first source code has made and was shocked to see we just crossed the $28,000 mark.  Even better it’s still cruising along to the tune of $1,345.82 the last 30 days.  I created this first game because I am a geek, not because I thought it would turn into a real business with employees and now over 6,000,000 downloads.  This was all just a hobby originally, but looking back each one of these little games I created is a digital investment.  A small asset that keeps returning money, month after month.

This blog post is going to take a look back at my first digital asset, an unlikely investment named…

Kolo’s Journey

This first game I created was called Kolo’s Journey:


I say “was” because if you search for Kolo’s Journey in the app store now, you won’t find it.  See, after a while Kolo’s Journey quit getting many downloads which is pretty typical.  Usually your game will get a lot of downloads, then slowly trail off until it plateaus with a few coming in each day.  This is when it’s time to SHAKE things up and bring life to this dying app.  Now I have a few different tricks I do to bring life back to these apps that I’ll go over in other blog posts, but back when Kolo dipped hard, I didn’t know much, so I tried something kinda crazy.


I noticed a few people using a little app store trick.  They were naming an app one single keyword and it would start ranking super high for that keyword, so I decided to give it a whirl. I changed the name of Kolo’s Journey to…

Yup, I literally renamed it “Music.” (with a period at the end because “Music” was already taken).

Low and behold it worked:


Now, unfortunately this trick doesn’t work after changes Apple made with App Store Search.  Even though it dropped my revenue I think it’s a GOOD thing.  The fact I could rank #1 for the search term “music” by naming my app “music.” is quite a large and ridiculous loophole ;)

But Music/Kolo’s Journey is STILL plugging along.  In the last 30 days it’s made $677.67.

Here’s the breakdown:

Music. – Last 30 Days Income

In App Purchases:

$473.66 Revmob
$24.69 Chartboost

$84.80 iAds
$28.40 AdMob
$9.08 MoPub

Total: $677.67

Currently Revmob is the biggest money maker for Music and the revenue is not too bad, but it gets even better.  After seeing that Music was a success, I figured what the heck… I’ll make a similar game based on this source code and call it something else that people search for.

I sat back for a few minutes and thought, “What would be the most searched phrase in the app store?”

(NOTE:  I don’t believe in CLONING games.  I believe in Modeling and Improving.  It’s fine to borrow code and assets between your games, but you always want to make your next game better than the last.  These were rhythm games and we added a lot to this new version).

Here’s what I ended up with…


I figured if people searched for Music, then more searched for Games, and they most definitely did.

I was ranked #1 for Music but #4 for Games.  This meant the traffic was only slightly better in Games.  Of course now this trick doesn’t work and both apps do about 400-500 downloads per day each (instead of 1500 per day), but still bring in a good amount of income.

Here’s how much Games has made in the past 30 days:

Games. – Last 30 Days Income

In App Purchases:
$10.23 – IAP

$476.98 Revmob

$119.71 iAds
$37.71 Admob
$23.52 MoPub

Total: $671.15

The Hard Cost

My first digital investment (Kolo’s Journey) turned into two games (Music. and Games.).  In a second I will breakdown all the details and show you how much revenue both games made and what was most profitable, but before we do that let’s check out the hard cost and see what I spent to have these made.

Kolo’s Journey was my first game and I spent $1710 to have all graphics and programming completed:


That’s actually a direct screenshot from Nik’s old odesk account as he was helping me figure out the dates and amounts from all of this stuff.

This was before Nik worked for me full time, so I asked him how much to create a new version of this game which ended up being Games.  There are two different accounts of this; he says it was around $150 and I think it was around $300-$500.  For the sake of making the numbers as realistic as possible, we’ll go with $350.

That puts us at a TOTAL cost of $2060.  It’s also good to note I never spent any money promoting these games.  I’ve never used TapJoy, bought installs from Chartboost, etc.

Now let’s dive in and check out the final numbers.

Full Revenue Breakdown

Below I’ve compiled all data on the two games.  Amazingly they’ve come EXTREMELY close to each other in total revenue.  It’s very odd because Games was launched 30 days later than Music.  Also, Music was a paid app for a while (when it was Kolo’s Journey), therefore it has much more in app purchase revenue.  I thought it was pretty cool I happened to do this research post right when they were so close in revenue.

Here’s the full data:


The games have been live for about 22 months and made a total of $28,623.86 with no signs of slowing down.  Not bad for a $2200 investment… actually looking at it from an ROI perspective, that is pretty amazing.  That’s a 1289.5% ROI:


Over 1.8 years that is a 733% Annual ROI… Not bad considering the current 5 year CD rate is 1.1% at the time of this writing ;)

Thanks for checking this out.  I really enjoyed breaking this all down as I wasn’t sure of the revenue on these.

Thanks for reading and talk soon,


8 Responses

  1. nice. Why not showing how to make great apps for less than let’s say 500 dollars ? can you develop a near to no cost business model for apps I think that’s the real deal 🙂

  2. Dan Lee

    Thx for the cool sharing. I believe behind the scene; you & your team has invested lots of energy & focus from its initial conception to countless Version updates. Its true that Success comes thru hard work & great teamwork.

  3. Tangi Webb

    Thx, I’m a individual took me 1week to re-model a popular app game called flappy bird to Dragonator…yes” 1week completed with 1designer & lead programmer..Wow. Used the base code & just changed character/graphics/title/added three extra environment scenes for users to pick and that’s basically it” Cost of project(outsourced) $1800AUD for IOS & Android. Released now on Android…check it out, and share your views. Thx Guys:)

  4. AMK

    I need to know if Nik was your friend or a Free Lancer from oDesk.
    Does developers from oDesk can be trusted with the app ideas that can be submitted?

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