HiRoads case study: the aftermath

Do you remember Filippo Bodei‘s HiRoads case study?

After two months with HiRoads in the wild, Filippo shares with us the result of his project.

« Here we are again after about two monts since HiRoads went live!

Today, the 21st of January, I can count 1203 registered users and 250 roads published on www.hiroads.com
What does it mean? It means an average of 20 new users and 4 new roads per day.
Also a grand total of 1050$ (Mochiads + AdSense + 2 site-locked version) was earned.
But let’s start from the beginning.

No good deals on FGL, so I went the solo way!
A light version of HiRoads was released only on Newgrounds and Kongregate, bringing 115,651 views the first and 894 the second.
The game released was a light version because it had only 18 roads and had many in-game advertisement of the full game playable on www.hiroads.com (more roads, level editor, community and user generated content). I was trying to drive traffic on the site: instead of building a game portal and drive traffic through sponsored games, I tried to build a sort of portal around only one good game.

The Newgrounds experience (releas date: 11/14/09): it was saturday afternoon when the game was approved on NG so many players were online and it had good scores immediately.
I missed daily top 5 only for a position, but HiRoads was the 2nd best scored game of the day. NG daily top 5 mixes movies and games, and movies get high scores very easily so that games are flushed from the ranking very often. So it was for HiRoads: 4 movies in the daily top 5 and only one game (which was very good indeed). NG really needs a daily top 5 for games only.
After a week, sadly noticing how bad were the games on the NG frontpage, I asked personally TomFulp for the frontpage. Obviously I gently asked for it, starting the message with something “Hi Tom, maybe you missed HiRoads blah blah… it has good scores blah blah…”, and so it was frontpaged.
It stayed only for a week (again, I see games that are on the frontpage for months and I can’t understand how those games can be played) but it was enough to receive 115,651 views, 1,994 votes ( 3.73 avg) and 107 reviews (7.7) score.
NG has the usual problem: a storm of low score voting people that mess up things a lot. No matter how good is your game, you are going to receive a bunch of 0 votes only because it exists. Also, the average player on NG is not very smart, I had many low rated reviews saying “its a skyroads ripoff/clone/copy” and guess what? It actually is a skyroads clone! I didn’t want to believe what I was reading.
Anyway I had very good traffic towards hiroads.com from newgrounds and the game spread on a million other sites.

The Kongregate experience (release date: 11/15/09): very little to say, it was a big error releasing the game on sunday. It lasted 2 days and then was lost in the ocean… I was very curious to see how a good arcade game could do on KONG, a portal where it seems that the millionth TD clone can make you a rich man… Sadly, we will never know!

The HiRoads experience: traffic on hiroads.com varied a lot. I had an average of 5k views until the 22nd of Dec and then dropped to under 1k (I think that’s because the game was played during school time). Since the 4th of Jan I have 2k visitors a day. I monetize traffic with AdSense (waiting approvation from CPMStar), but I cannot define a trend as earnings vary too much. I also got afflicted by smart pricing that made clicks to bring in veeeeeery little. So I tuned ads on hiroads.com, switched some illustrated to text, removed some useless and my CPC went back to a normal state.
How users behave on hiroads.com?
I built the site integrated with phpbb and facebook. Nearly no one wrote on the forum and only 29 users connected their account to their facebook profile.
The community factor was pretty much a failure, but I didn’t give up. I built an ajax chat system similar to the one on GameJolt, and that became the most used feature of the site. The chat actually is flooded by students that spend their time insulting each others and I seriously doubt that they ever played the game…
Another curious fact is that I have about a thousand users that registered an account but never activated it! I’m sending remainder periodically, but probably the mail is caught by the spam filter.

Now the plan is to build a facebook application that let you play the game and users’ roads, but not build levels… I hope it spreads so I can count on more facebook traffic and test its viral capability.
Also, I’m still waiting on MindJolt approvation and we all know that this site alone can make the difference.
Soooo, I hope that the most is yet to come…

Conclusions:
I tried different marketing solutions but I can assume that all my traffic (direct or indirect) comes from the good old NG. A lucky strike on NG is everything (at least for my experience with HiRoads). Kong opportunity was wasted, and so was the attempt to advertise the game on indie blogs (I was pushing in the skyroads remake direction). I only got a mention in the “link friday dump” on Jayisgames, which is always good, but that did not bring too much traffic as a full article would have done.
I’m waiting for a little redesign of the site before trying to push a little more on the marketing side.
So, Friday is the better day of the week… it seems that a lot of people play games on Friday evening and night (UTC time), and so on Saturday noon.
Starting back, I would release the game on Friday both on NG and KONG, would make the registration process easier (no phpbb, the forum is useless at the moment, but I still hope it populates) and would heavy market the game only after it has started.

It’s all for now, if something interesting will happen, I’ll let you know! »

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214 GAME PROTOTYPES EXPLAINED WITH SOURCE CODE
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