Apps kolo

Published on October 16th, 2012 | by treysmith


How my first game made $28,623

Next month will be the two-year mark of creating my first game, or at least starting to create it.  Not only was it my first game, it was also when I met my lead programmer, Nik.  Nik is from the Ukraine and has worked on about 10 games with me since and he’s actually coming to visit next month for the first time.

I decided to find out how much the first source code has made and was shocked to see we just crossed the $28,000 mark and it’s still cruising along to the tune of $1,345.82 the last 30 days.  I created this first game because I am a geek, not because I thought it would turn into a real business with employees and now over 6,000,000 downloads.  This was all just a hobby originally, but looking back each one of these little games I created is a Digital Investment.  A small asset that keeps returning money, month after month.

This blog post is going to take a look back at my first digital asset, an unlikely investment named…

Kolo’s Journey (AKA Music)

This first game I created was called Kolo’s Journey:

I say “was” because if you search for Kolo’s Journey in the app store now, you won’t find it.  See, after a while Kolo’s Journey quit getting many downloads which is pretty typical.  Usually your game will get a lot of downloads, then slowly trail off until it plateaus with a few coming in each day.  This is when it’s time to SHAKE things up and bring life to this dying app.  Now I have a few different tricks I do to bring life back to these apps that I’ll go over in another blog post, but back when Kolo dipped hard, I didn’t know much, so I tried something kinda crazy.

I noticed a few people using a little app store trick.  They were naming an app one single keyword and it would start ranking super high for that keyword, so I decided to give it a whirl. I changed the name of Kolo’s Journey to…

Yup, I literally remamed it “Music.” (with a period at the end because “Music” was already taken).

Low and behold it worked:

 Now, unfortunately this trick doesn’t work after the “Chomp” changes and even though it dropped my revenue I think it’s a GOOD thing.  The fact I could rank #1 for the search term “music” by naming my app “music.” is quite a large and ridiculous loophole ;)

But Music/Kolo’s Journey is STILL plugging along.  In the last 30 days it’s made $677.67.

Here’s the breakdown:

Music. – Last 30 Days Income

In App Purchases:

Nag Screens:
$473.66 Revmob
$24.69 Chartboost

$84.80 iAds
$28.40 AdMob
$9.08 MoPub

Total: $677.67

Currently Revmob is the biggest money maker for Music and the revenue is not too bad, but it gets even better.  After seeing that Music was a success, I figured what the heck… I’ll make a clone of this and call it something else that people search for.

I sat back for a few minutes and thought, “What would be the most searched phrase in the app store?”

Here’s what I ended up with…

I figured if people searched for Music, then more searched for Games, and they most definitely did.

I was ranked #1 for Music but #4 for Games.  This meant the traffic was only slightly better in Games.  Of course now this trick doesn’t work and both apps do about 400-500 downloads per day each (instead of 1500 per day) but still bring in a good amount of income.  eCPM’s were not as high when the trick was working at its fullest potential, so revenue back then was only slightly higher than it is now.

Now I’m ranked around #25 when searching music and nothing for games, but people keep finding them both somehow!

Games is pretty much the same game but with different music and a couple small new features, like an unadvertised sequel.  What is really strange is how CLOSE the financial data is on Games and Music.  Maybe it’s because the icon, gameplay and description are all similar.

Here’s how much it’s made in the past 30 days:

Games. – Last 30 Days Income

In App Purchases:
$10.23 – IAP

Nag Screens:
$476.98 Revmob
$0 Chartboost

$119.71 iAds
$37.71 Admob
$23.52 MoPub

Total: $671.15

(Again RevMob is the main bread winner here.  I use Chartboost successfully in other apps, but in this one I have it turned off as it doesn’t convert as well)

The Hard Cost

My first digital investment (Kolo’s Journey) turned into two games (Music. and Games.).  In a second I will breakdown all the details and show you how much revenue both games made and what was most profitable, but before we do that let’s check out the hard cost and see what I spent to have these made.

Kolo’s Journey was my first game and I spent $1710 to have all graphics and programming completed:

That’s actually a direct screenshot from Nik’s old odesk account as he was helping me figure out the dates and amounts from all of this stuff.

This was before Nik worked for me full time, so I asked him how much to create a clone of this game which ended up being Games.  There are two different accounts of this; he says it was around $150 and I think it was around $300-$500.  I know it didn’t take him long so we’ll go with $350.

That puts us at a TOTAL cost of $2060.  It’s also good to note I never spent any money promoting these games.  I’ve never used TapJoy, bought installs from Chartboost, etc.

Now let’s dive in and check out the numbers.

Full Revenue Breakdown

Below I’ve compiled all data on the two games.  Amazingly they’ve come EXTREMELY close to each other in total revenue.  It’s very odd because Games was launched 30 days later than Music.  Also, Music was a paid app for a while (when it was Kolo’s Journey), therefore it has much more in app purchase revenue.  I thought it was pretty cool I happened to do this research post right when they were so close in revenue.

Here’s the full data:

The games have been live for about 22 months and made a total of $28,623.86 with no signs of slowing down.  Not bad for a $2200 investment… actually looking at it from an ROI perspective, that is pretty amazing.  That’s a 1289.5% ROI:

Over 1.8 years that is a 733% Annual ROI… Not bad considering the current CD rate is 1.1% at the time of this writing ;)

Thanks for checking this out.  I really enjoyed breaking this all down as I wasn’t sure of the revenue on these.  It’s been a blast.

Thanks for reading and talk soon,


P.S. – Ok, going back to play Dishonored now… this game is so good!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Trey Smith is the founder of Kayabit, a game company with over 10,000,000 downloads on mobile devices, Secret Headquarters, Inc, a marketing company that teaches entrepreneurs how to build their businesses and L-System records, a house music label from San Diego, CA.

34 Responses to How my first game made $28,623

  1. Brian Reyes says:

    Wow, great insights Trey!

    It’s super awesome to see where you started in the app development process and the progress of where you are today. Congrats!

    I just produced an app and it was finally approved by apple. I learned a lot by building this first app and finding a talented ios developer was a challenge. It was great that you found Nik. I’m curious who did the graphic designs for your first app and what analytic and marketing tools did you use?


    • treysmith says:

      Thanks man! Nik also did all the graphics. He was a graphic and character designer before programming. In the beginning I used:

      Now I use those and all the things you see listed in this article.

  2. Chus says:

    Hi Trey

    I like Your blog and your dj sets!
    Great article I like the way you have to think out of the box
    We must check redmov,i read about in other post from you
    About the DVD you send copies to Europe?

  3. Wes says:

    Thanks for sharing the details, Trey. I’ve enjoyed learning from you. Our second app, Ninja Storm, just came out. We’re hoping we can see success like yours some day.

  4. David Janner says:

    Hey Trey – really enjoyed reading this account! Geez that is a fantastic price to produce a game!

    At this point in time, regarding app seo, it might be better to include longer titles in order to capture more kw searches, especially since apple seems to have closed that old loophole. What do you think?

  5. Pat says:

    great post Trey. I wanted to find out if you have any kind of coaching program planned for creating apps. I missed your last coaching offer..


  6. Interesting Trey how the industry has changed huh brother? Good to see you using the DVD strategy

  7. Troy James says:

    Hey TREY! Great post. If this doesn’t get the masses interested in this business model, then I don’t know what will. You always over deliver! I love it. Keep up the great work.

    Cheers, TJ

  8. Michael says:

    Trey.. you’re very inspiring to me. I have a quality game that in it’s first month hit #1 on the iPad charts. Total in 2 years I have around 250k downloads. It’s a paid app and in 2011 I was bringing in average of $6500 a month. This year we’re struggling to stay afloat. Last month I made a free version of it with ads and THAT version just does not get downloads. No one is finding it. But when make my PAID version free I get 20k downloads a day. And even though I have 4.6 stars and 4000 ratings my ranking struggles and really bad apps end up much higher in search results.

    So I’m thinking about putting ads in the paid version to monopolize on the 20k I can get when I make the paid one free. But here’s my question. When you switched Kolo’s Journey to free, I assume you added ads at that point and that it didn’t have ads before? What about the people who paid for it? How did you handle that dilemma? You’ve said that you don’t think paid games should have ads, but if you switch a game from paid to free and add in ads, how are you handling that? Thanks!

    • treysmith says:

      Dude, this is a TOUGH ONE! I wish there was a way to “cookie” customers but there is not. When I swapped Kolo’s over to free, it was only out for about a month so it wasn’t a real big deal.

      After Kolo I went Freemium so it hasn’t been an issue since, but here is my advice:

      1. Make another paid version with ads that you can turn off and on via a plist file on your server (we do this in all of our games)

      2. Release the app for a high price like $5.99

      3. Drop the price after 24 hours (you will have most likely NO sales at a crazy high price)

      4. You’ll get lots of traction from price drops sites because it’s a large drop

      Then you have your free version to play around with instead of your paid version that people have invested in over the years.


      • Michael says:

        Great advice on the 5.99 thing. I experimented last week with swapping the free and paid version, making the paid one free and the free one paid for 3 days… then switching them back to see if I’d get mass downloads on the free one now. Nope! It just went back to normal. Almost no bump. Made me start thinking that the initial price might matter. I still don’t know where my paid one is getting discovered when it’s on a free promo.

        This is what I’ve been contemplating… With the app store the way it is now (chomp) it seems like new apps that I put out are going to struggle. I’m not that good with marketing. I think my best company asset is this one game that when I update gets 200k update downloads. And when I make it free I can get 20k downloads a day. I also have about 7k email addresses of people who signed up to my high score service.

        I already have a server side where I can load plist style data into my app. I do this now to change ad company priorities, market my own apps, etc. So I’m thinking about adding in ads to the paid one but having them turned off by default. Using a bool property something like wasFree which I’ll have as NO by default. I’ll set the server plist var wasFree to YES when it is free, and on a new install I’ll set the var. This will turn on ads for people who didn’t pay but keep all the old users with no ads. Any time they do an IAP it will switch it to NO. Once it’s no it won’t switch back.

        Cause with 5k downloads on my free game I was making up to $20 a day in ads. On a free weekend of the paid version I can get 60k downloads. That should put my ad revenue in the range of $240 for a while after that promotion.

  9. Garry says:

    Thanks for the info Trey – very inspiring. I must push ahead and follow your footsteps – well most of them anyways… Thanks again!


  10. Rob says:

    Hey Trey,

    Great article! I love the way you and cousin Frank do things so unconventionally! Do you have any experiences with apps that were NOT games? Will these techniques work with apps that are not games? In your opinion is it better to try and monetize with paid downloads, or strictly advertising?

  11. Rui Zhi says:

    Hey Trey,

    Great post. Is it possible just to download the DVD?


  12. Fazila says:

    Hi, there
    that was an insightful article
    Thanx for sharing your experience

  13. Tim Thomas says:

    Hey Trey when you duplicated your game and changed the name and the music as you discuss in your post… Did you submit the second game under a different developer account or are they both under the same developer account?

    I’m planning on following this strategy but I wonder if I submit such a similar app under the same developer account, if apple will reject it. Any input you have is greatly appreciated. Great post man!

  14. daneil says:

    Hey trey,

    As a person who bought your course and followed it I can tell you that it was VERY helpfull upuntill the part of getting traffic.
    I have already created 3 games but the whole getting traffic is realy HARD.
    Any suggestions on that other then dropping the price? This does not seem to work that well any more. I wonder if the fact that your apps were released earlier in the days of IOS along with your online marketing skills is the reason you can utilize cross marketing better and get traffic to new apps. Is it hopeless getting into this market now? Should we focus on android from now on?

    Any tip would be helpfull!

    Thanks man

  15. John says:

    WoW great stats from such a simple game… lots of money made from your original game, who would have thought. One thing I have yet to do is in-app purchases… need to get on this. I currently use RevMob but I’m not seeing the figures you are producing yet.

    Thanks for sharing…

  16. Marie says:

    Dude! Your links not working for the DVD :-( I’m getting an error message saying: “404 Not Found. The resource requested could not be found on this server!” Is it still available?

    Just a random question, do you think this strategy would work for apps in all categories – like the more niched apps in business etc? Make them free with interstitial ads and then have in-app to ad-free version or extra features? I’ve seen lite versions in niched areas but some are just restricting features without ads – it seems they’re missing out on revenue – but not sure if all markets would be happy with ads? Could it turn off customers in certain niches? Dude, I know you don’t a crystal ball but any advice or pointers would be awesome! Thanks heaps in advance!

  17. Lindsay says:

    Hey Trey, love reading your stuff,
    i am a fresh developer and dont ahve e great deal of knowledge on it all just yet but curious as to how a game like jump pack which has 1,473,778 downloads on iOS alone only made 80K. is there something that i am missing or is this the sort of figures that you would expect. I take it is was a free game just with ads?

    Also wondering if you use any indian programmers for your apps. I have recently used some to make my first app but wasnt a 100% satisifed with their talent. Would you recommend using programers from anywhere inparticular for best results as i am looking for a team to make my next game and i want it to turn out AWESOME.

    thanks mate

  18. Nitesh says:

    Hi Trey,

    Me and my friend were looking to start our own App but got stalled by this critical question which is partly answered by your post.

    Question was: All App have limited life cycle. It goes dead after some time. So one could only make money in its initial days.

    It happened with your KOLO, but dont you think this is critical blocker……apart from tricks you applied to KOLO, how do you cope up with this problem for all your app?

  19. Reusing the same source code for multiple apps is pretty smart on your part. Although nowadays Apple got more strict regarding this issue, and you will probably have to change the graphics as well if you want your second app to be accepted, it’s still a very smart decision.

  20. Roger Funderburk says:

    Is this only $5.00?

    No cost but $5.00 right?

  21. chris says:


    Really interesting stuff

    I have just released my first app called pandapop which did pretty well at the start especially in china but now its diing down a bit.

    I’m hoping when i submit some updates beginning of feb it should spark it up again.

    I might try out your method of using pretty much the same app and upload again as a different name with bit different design but i don’t want to annoy anyone.

    Its a shame i didn’t initially put it up as a paid app so missed chance of putting it to paid then change to free.

  22. Antonio says:

    Wow, dude, great job!

  23. Pingback: Mobile Marketing: Tips And Tricks For Beginners | browbrain1

  24. Zoongos says:

    With our game Re!Sources!sources/id508545253?mt=8
    we are pulling around $20 a day and we are using RevMob.
    This is our teaser:

  25. Pingback: Announcing… | Trey Smith Blog

  26. LiveRock says:


    I subscribed to your online magazine and has been very insightful.
    I have launched a 2048 clone called Power 2048 and still waiting for results:

    This is where it can be found:

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