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Breaking in – Nameless the Hackers RPG
by James Liu on 05/03/13 01:00:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We're new to the games industry, but have had prior experience working in other industries. This gave us a one-time opportunity to capture our experiences as an awkward-unsure indie group.

With very little funding, we had to bootstrap the production as well as the marketing. Nearly everything was done in-house with a small working team of 2.6 full-time people. We actually had four people: two full-time, one part-time, and a friend that helped out for a few weeks.

Over the course of nine months, we made:

Nameless: the Hackers RPG for iOS

Nameless the Hackers RPG Youtube Thumbnail

iTunes Link:
Reviews & Mentions:

This is the first of multiple blog entries that will attempt to break down and analyze our metrics. Our goal is to share what we know, be objective, and make new friends.

Premium iOS - First Month Sales

Nameless: the Hackers has been out since March 16th, 2013. It's been quite a ride. We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into when we decided our first game would be a premium iOS RPG.

Here's what our sales graph from March 16th, 2013 to April 18th, 2013 looks like:

First month's sales for premium iOS game JRPG

We launched Nameless: the Hackers at $1.99, which was 50% off from $3.99. We attribute the majority of our sales based on our pre-launch efforts.

Our Pre-Launch Efforts

As a small group, we felt pretty good about our launch. We don’t have a large war chest of funds, so we had to do our own pre-launch awareness. This is difficult since we have no prior games or relevant titles.

A friend has told us about, it’s a social engagement site that rewards users by entering them into a sweepstakes. Out of all the solutions out there, we felt this one had the most value.

We decided to do multiple giveaways until the launch of our game. We purchased several $25 iTunes Gift Cards at 20% off following a SlickDeals post. Our thinking was that people who want an iTunes Gift Cards must also be willing to spend money on the iTunes store. Secondly, we wanted to compound the effects. We knew we wouldn’t be launching the game anytime soon and we had to keep their attention.

Here is a list of giveaways we did:

#1: Dec 4th to Dec 11th $25 iTunes Gift Code
#2: Dec 12th to Dec 24th $25 iTunes Gift Code
#3: Dec 24th to Jan 15th $25 iTunes Gift Code
#4: Jan 15th to Feb 15th $25 iTunes Gift Code
#5: Feb 15th to Apr 15th $25x1 $10x11 50 copies of Nameless

Each giveaway allowed them to do multiple actions:

  1. Like our Facebook (
  2. Share the Giveaway
  3. Follow our Twitter  (
  4. Retweet the Giveaway
  5. Commented and talked to us on our Facebook posts
  6. Visit our Nameless Game Trailer (\

On launch day March 18th, we had 600 Facebook likes and 400 Twitter followers. The 5th giveaway was during our launch and has just ended on April 15th. We now have 886 Likes and 522 Twitter followers on April 22, 2013.

Splurgy did the following for us over the course of multiple giveaways:

-        770 Facebook likes (Duplicates count)

-        774 Facebook shares

-        706 Twitter Follows (Duplicates count)


-        433 Visits to our Nameless Game Trailer page

In total, we had 3379 engagements (social or action). Based on the cost for the rewards 5x$20 + 11x$10 + 50xFree Promo codes our total cost was $230 dollars.

Each user action was $0.07. On top of that, we’re giving our marketing dollars directly to the players.

It’s important to note that we had to provide the seeding for this. Visiting game websites, asking friends, and posting on sites. We noticed that if we didn’t push the giveaway no one would discover it and sometimes the social viral sharing/re-tweeting can die off. Here are some snap shots of our Facebook like graphs.

iOS Mobile Game likes marketing

Following week for indie mobile JRPG game

Likes generated by launching a game on iOS

No-Push Effort = No Response

If you look at the timeline for the beginning of “Giveaway #2” and “Giveaway #3”, you’ll see we didn’t do as well. We weren’t pushing to seed to the giveaway as much as our previous efforts and it shows! Also if you look at the last “Giveaway #5” on February 15th, you’ll notice it’s also quite flat until Feb 28th when we pushed it again. We were in development crunch and didn’t have time.

Facebook Likes after Launch

If you compare the download graph below to the March 21 – April 21 “Like Graph” (located above), you’ll notice there’s a correlation.

iOS Nameless the Hackers Like and Giveaway Link

In the lower left corner of our title screen we have a BoxCat icon that leads to our Facebook page. It seems to be around a 10% conversion from Nameless: the Hackers downloads to Facebook likes.  However, we cannot confirm if this is only a coincidence or actually due to the button, but we see a strong 10% correlation from sales and Facebook likes.

Our Thoughts on Pre-Launch Efforts on Mobile

  • We were happy to have stumbled on to a way to give our marketing dollars to the players. It may not be massiveily effective, but it's got a lot of value for very little cost. 
  • Giveaways seem to have a nice compounding effect. Each player stays for the next giveaway and you can get more value by doing more giveaways over time. 
  • We plan to continuously give away iTune gift cards for the rest of the year. 
  • Free Apps and Premium Apps are completely different. We're pretty happy about picking Premium even though it's not a block buster.

Next Upcoming Topics

It takes a while to make these, we have the following topics we'll be also touching on in the next few days. We'll be posting 1 every 2 days until we're done.

Stay tuned! 

Check out our website: BoxCat Games

Follow us:

Facebook Page
Join Our Newsletter

Feel free to ask us anything in the comments. =) 

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Phil Maxey
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Interesting article. What analytics service were you using?

James Liu
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We're currently only hooked up to TapJoy, Chartboost, AppAnnie, we also have the metrics from iTunes also.

We're connecting Flurry and TestFlight next. These two can possibly give us more gameplay metrics on how far they leveled or when they gave up on our game due to difficulty.

For media, we're registered to Google Alerts for a few different permutations of Nameless the Hacker RPG.

We're cross referencing them to compare graphs and accuracy and dates.

Ryan Watterson
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Really cool game and hearing your experience and seeing your data is helpful. Looking forward to the next entry

Matthew Burns
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Great post! Thank you for sharing your experiences and data.

Jesus Bosch
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its interesting, but do you really feel happy with premium? with your sales figures you probably even didn't cover your development costs... :-(

James Liu
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You're correct. We did not recover our costs yet. Not including sweat-equity (our personal hours), we spent $14,500 dollars. Made back $4,600 so far. 2.6 people over 9 months with living expenses in Los Angeles, California is a pretty high number too.

We're not expecting the same amount this month because of our trend curve. As an RPG, we're hoping to have a longer tail-end for Nameless. Our story is harder to copy and we feel pretty good about the AppStore reviews. 502 (all versions) mostly 4/5 stars out of 3481 downloads, about 14%. Crossing our fingers that we'll stay relevant. =)

We're pretty happy as our first game.

Premium? Not sure yet.

But the data we're seeing does show us that the AppStore is not suitable for premium. We're hoping the AppStore will make a few changes to enable Premium games to survive. For our type of production, we feel the following would help.

- Remove Secondary Categories (Top games take up two spots)

- Introduce Game Campaign Utility/Apps Category (Cheats, Strategy Guides, and Minecraft Skin Utilities should be in their own category)

- Separate Paid w/o IAP and Paid w/ IAP. (Facilitate consumer trends to see the difference between these type of productions)

- Enable Developer Issued Discount Codes (An important Sales tool for premium products, very different from world-wide sales drop.)

- Perhaps take a que from Extra credits and allow categorization by Aesthetics of play.

We'll be going into detail on these in a later post. We thought about these for a long time.

Bryson Whiteman
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Thnaks for sharing this stuff James!

James Liu
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Hey! "The Guy with the Afro" (as you put it). What's up! We remember you from the IGDA meet-up. =P

James Liu
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Btw: Second Post is up.

Christopher Thigpen
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Very interesting article. I look forward to playing it. Best of luck to you all.