What is Rawr! for a Reason?
Rawr! for a Reason is our line of awesome mobile games that provide awareness and support for the causes that make the world a better place. Our goal is to create a sustainable indie mobile game development company that donates 50% of its net profit generated from optional in-app ads to charity.
Where It All Began
In the beginning, Rawr! for a Reason didn’t start out as Rawr! for a Reason. In 2015, I read (link to the article) that the viral game Crossy Roads made $10M from optional in-game ads and thought “I could do that!” At this point in time, I had no ambitions to donate 50% of my profit to charity—I was just interested in using creative techniques to “hack” my way to profit.
For the next few months I went to work creating the next Crossy Road. My original plan relied on two hypotheses that I thought might lead to success:
- The majority of people download free games from browsing the top charts.
- I could spike to the top of the app stores by posting about my game in thousands of different places and getting around 20 downloads per post.
I tested the first hypothesis by talking to dozens of mobile gamers to learn where they downloaded mobile games. Almost everybody either downloaded them from browsing the top charts or a friend’s recommendation (an answer I was not expecting.) A few “hardcore gamers” downloaded games off recommendations from YouTubers, review websites, etc. Hypothesis 1: Confirmed.
For the second hypothesis, I bought a dummy Unity game off ChupaMobile and published it to the app stores to test the number of downloads I could get. I conducted 45 experiments on every community I could think of ranging from small Facebook Groups I managed to wrangle my way into, forums of every nature, Reddit, Craigslist, etc. I averaged 4-5 downloads per post (much lower than the 20+ I was expecting.) Hypothesis 2: Failed. I couldn’t crack the top charts solely by “hacking” downloads.
Back to the Drawing Board
After the second hypothesis failed, I put my game project on the back burner. Busy season was ramping up at Wrestlingmart, where I was pouring all my focus into implementing NetSuite. I was still writing in my journal about my game project from time to time, and began to have a shift in perspective. What if I moved my focus from the idea of marketing to draw lots and lots of little downloads all over the place and instead I focused on creating the viral-ness from within the game? How could I make my app so that people would be inclined to share it, blog about it, and talk about with their friends? I’d have kittens, make fun of Kanye’s antics and the Kardashian lifestyle, and feature some of Trump’s most ridiculous one-liners.
I kicked the project back into a high gear. I continued to brainstorm ways to make apps viral and started to talk to indie app developers, YouTubers who review mobile games, and gamers themselves to better understand the mobile game market. I noticed several issues that plague the mobile game market from these various perspectives:
- The majority of people download mobile games from the top charts or recommendations from friends. It’s a catch 22 situation. The only way you get downloads or word of mouth referrals is by cracking the top charts. The only way you get to the top of the top charts is by getting downloads and referrals.
- In-game ads have a very low conversion rate and are seen as annoying and disruptive.
- Mobile gamers lack the brand allegiance that console and PC gamers have. This makes it hard for mobile game companies to continue to make successful games because they rarely had supportive fan bases. The industry is plagued with one hit wonders.
- Most games fail to captivate their audience for more than a few brief moments.
How Rawr! for a Reason Came in to Play
I started bouncing ideas around on how to overcome these issues. During that time, I was working on my own personal goals and thinking through the impact I want to have on the world. The idea of “games for good” formed in my mind, eventually leading to Rawr! for a Reason. It allowed me to avoid all of the issues I saw with the current mobile development market AND do something positive for others. More importantly, Rawr! for a Reason was already 10x as engaging of a project as the previous model. I got excited just thinking about it.
I developed a set of new hypotheses:
- Could the “viralness” of both our mission and integrating “viral topics” allow Rawr! for a Reason overcome the top chart’s Catch 22 issue?
- Would an ad make where a portion of profit it generated went to charity make a user more inclined to watch it and click it?
- Would I be able to develop a passionate following of gamers who would be loyal to my studio, the charitable causes my games support and the games I produce?
- Would gamers play my game longer not only because of the quality of the games but the fact that they support good causes?
I started talking to potential customers, bloggers and vloggers about the idea and got pretty much a universal confirmation of my theories…. but I felt that there might be an intense dichotomy between what a user says and what their actions will be. If I walk up to somebody on the street and ask if they would support a company that supports charity, their response would be “Yes!” as long as they believe in what the charity stands for. However, their actions might differ once effort is required. I needed to know: would the supportive gamers I talked to and their peers really be influenced by Rawr! for a Reason’s mission when making real life decisions of whether to review the game, watch ads on the game, share the game, etc.?
To find out, I created a working prototype called Polar Melt. It brought awareness to global warming by featuring polar bears jumping from iceberg to iceberg and providing global warming facts at the end of each game. I got a semi-positive response form this game… but it was too rough of a prototype and not novel enough or fun enough of a game to succeed.
The Next Steps
My goal these next few months is to create a polished game that requires a minimum amount of effort to validate if my thinking is correct. To do that I think I will need a game that is:
- Super fun
- Easy & cheap to program
- Has a high potential to go viral
- Can support a cause I am passionate about
This is the abridged version of where I am today. I plan to share a lot more of the things that I’ve learned in the process including:
- How to get 1,000 5-star non-spam reviews easily
- A story with a bad developer who I learned a lot from
- How to talk to YouTubers about your games so they will actually cast them
- How to make the games that casters will want to cast without you even asking
Edit: I changed CharityGames (a placeholder title) to Rawr! for a Reason