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Gamasutra.com | Interview: Game Insight On Making Hay From Android Games

27 September 2011

In today’s mobile gaming world, conventional wisdom says if you want to make money, the Apple App Store is the place to be. It is, after all, the birthplace of mega hits like Angry Birds, Tap Tap Revenge and Doodle Jump.

Android, however? Indie developers might make a few dollars, but no one’s getting rich off of it, right? Wrong. Game Insight, a Russian-based developer of social and mobile games is betting big on Android and is starting to see that bet pay off.

Founded in 2009 with six employees, the company has leveraged the free-to-play market to expand its in-house development team to 14 studios and over 300 developers (plus roughly 40 people in administrative roles).

Its titles, which include Crime Story, Resort World and Paradise Island, also appear on Facebook and, in some cases, in the Apple App Store, but the focus right now is Android.

“We’re one of the few professionals who knows how to monetize freemium,” claims Darya Trushkina, VP of business development for the company. “We’re making a lot of money off of Android right now. ... We’re number one [top-grossing] on Android, in fact, so we want to take that position and become even stronger.”

While Game Insight is betting on Android, it’s not about to walk away from Facebook and other social networks or iOS. Both are still significant moneymakers for the company. And while Trushkina declines to address company-wide sales figures, she notes that Paradise Island currently generates revenue of approximately $1 million per month — with 70 percent of that coming from the U. S.

The eye-catching thing about that number is Paradise Island is an iOS game — and a free-to-play one, at that.

“iOS is more like the ideal form for paid applications,” says Trushkina. “Paid apps do much better on [those] than Android, while freemium does better on Android than iOS.”

And, Trushkina notes, Paradise Island is somewhat hobbled. The game currently only uses Google CheckOut as a payment system. “If we had leverage to integrate credit cards or SMS, that [number] would be way higher,” she says.

Web-based social games are actually the current top money earner for the company, but the transition to mobile is well underway. And the move to Android has also opened up new potential revenue hubs for the company.

“We would like to expand our coverage on Android in Asia, where mobile coverage is much higher than social,” says Trushkina. “So as soon as we launch in Japan or China or Korea, I’m pretty sure that Android is going to be — revenue-wise — much higher than social networks. ... I wouldn’t cross out Facebook or Google Plus as a platform — not yet — but I really believe mobile is the platform of the future.”

Shifting to an Android-centric focus hasn’t been without its challenges. While Game Insight has found that players have less trouble with the issue of discovery in the Android Marketplace, the user acquisition costs are twice what they are with iOS — and the company can’t figure out why.

As it works on that and expands its catalog, Game Insight is in a major growth mode these days, interviewing nearly 40 potential developers per week. (Founder and CEO Alisa Chumachenko’s reputation is a big part of the draw, notes Trushkina.) With studios from the Ukraine to Siberia, the company is largely based around Russia, but if the growth continues, it could begin to branch into the U. S.

“We’re thinking about opening an office in the Bay area,” says Trushkina, “but that’s more an idea at this point than a plan. As we grow bigger, though, we’re pretty sure we’re going to do that.”

Read more at Gamasutra.com