I love those moments in some movies where the filmmakers speed up the action so that, in the space of a few moments, the viewer can get to see an entire house or some other long-term project get assembled from start to finish. In a way, that's sort of what Ustwogames has done about the story behind its hit mobile game, Monument Valley.
In an infographic recently posted on the company's blog, Ustwogames offered the kind of behind-the-scenes glimpse that's rarely offered in developer circles. Monument Valley, which has already managed to generate more than $5.8 million in revenue based on 10 million device installations and nearly 2.5 million official app sales (at $3.99), was created over the course of just more than a year, or 55 weeks, by eight developers. All that hard work didn't come cheap, either: The company said the initial costs reached approximately $852,000.
The stats don't stop there, though. The company breaks down revenue over time, sales by country, the most-played chapters in its storyline and even the way its camera-friendly features were used within other apps such as Twitter or Foursquare.
As I looked through the impressive data visualization behind Monument Valley, I couldn't help but recall another developer blog post that caught my eye last year. It was about Unread, a news app whose creator documented in similarly meticulous detail the long slog it took to not only get the game out the door and into app stores, but the disappointment at barely managing to make $21,000 in revenue.
You could put these two case studies next to each other and see them as sitting at opposite ends of a spectrum. I prefer to notice the similarities: The considerable upfront costs and time required to make something great. The savviness about marketing and paying attention to early users. Most noticeably, there is the willingness to expose some of their secrets to the world at large. Though the motivations may be different in doing so, they are no less valuable to the scores of other developers who will follow in their wake.
It's also probably a mistake to suggest that most mobile game developers should strive to be more like a Monument Valley and less like an Unread. No matter how you slice it, there's no easy route to $21K, let alone $5.8 million. Better that you should simply strive to be a working mobile developer, releasing great products, studying what worked and perhaps even making your peers a part of that journey.--Shane