While primary storefronts such as Google Play and the iOS App Store have historically been the major distribution platforms for companies on mobile, in recent years with changes such as IDFA, alternative distribution storefronts have become more and more appealing.
And for companies aiding in the publishing process onto alternative storefronts the move has proven a winning formula for both parties. Flexion is an alternative app store publisher that works with developers to take over the distribution, management and updating of their titles to alternative storefronts like the Amazon Appstore or Huawei App Gallery.
Recently, they reported a 12x revenue boost to the game Evony: The King’s Return, a result of their publishing partnership with developer Top Games. We got the chance to speak to Jens Lauritzson, CEO of Flexion, to get a better understanding of the benefits that such a relationship can bring.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us how your partnership with Top Games on their title Evony: The King’s Return came about?
Jens Lauritzson: We started talking with Top Games in 2020. They were impressed with how we were growing revenue and audiences for some of the world’s most successful mobile games on the alternative app stores.
In 2021 the Amazon Appstore was the only alternative app store that Top Games were publishing Evony: The King’s Return on. Top Games were publishing it themselves.
Top Games saw that it didn’t make economic sense to continue self-publishing Evony on Amazon. The game was flying on Google Play and even if the game could generate 10% more if distribution was expanded to other channels, the opportunity cost of doing it themselves was too high.
So they chose Flexion to take over distribution of Evony: The King’s Return on the Amazon Appstore. They also asked Flexion to expand the game’s alternative app store presence and we launched it on the Huawei App Gallery, ONE store and the Samsung Galaxy Store.
Flexion reported a 12x revenue boost for Evony after taking over publishing on the Appstore, how did you achieve this?
We took on all elements of distributing the game, including handling all the technical requirements, updates, operations, user acquisition, platform relations and promotions. And were able to boost monthly revenues by 12x with no upfront costs and very little effort for Top Games.
Flexion has published over thirty games on Amazon and developed a deep understanding of the store and how to drive success. The result is a very close relationship with our colleagues from Amazon, and short lines of communication between all departments from business development, to marketing to customer care and everything in between.
We work hard with the developer and Amazon to make sure game updates are live on Amazon and in all the other stores in line with the developers release on Google Play store.
Flexion has also made inroads in expanding the game’s presence in Europe (especially the UK) and Japan by working closely with the local Amazon teams.
Other success factors have been Evony: The King’s Return being one of the first Android games on Windows 11 thanks to Amazon’s deal with Microsoft on the Windows Subsystem for Android™. Flexion has also been relentlessly promoting the game on Amazon Fire devices and with Amazon and Top Games, it developed special features for Prime Day promotions.
What are the unique challenges presented by publishing to an alternative app store?
The opportunity cost for developers to access the alternative app stores themselves is too high compared with the return. And often the work to maintain the games in the stores is too time consuming for developers. Outsourcing (to Flexion) is the only viable approach.
We have around 100 people working on the success of each game and have spent years developing services and platform relations. It is a classic win-win case for outsourcing. Developers make more money from their games and can reach new audiences without all the effort required. We have invested in people, technology and services specifically for this that no one else can offer and publishers could never justify this investment on their own.
Getting to the alternative app stores brings Android game developers a new audience of high-paying users. That boosts revenue. And thanks to Flexion, getting to the alternative app stores requires little effort from developers compared to doing it themselves.
The mobile game market is going through significant challenges and structural changes. For instance, the changes to IDFA on iOS has caused a lot of problems for developers who were relying on well targeted user acquisition to drive revenue. It is much more difficult now to do ROAS (return on ad spend) positive campaigns and it is predicted that similar limitations will come to Google Play in 2023. This means developers need new revenue streams which makes the alternative app stores a much more attractive way of marketing to and acquiring paying users.
The alternative distribution market has traditionally been difficult to evaluate for both developers and investors due to the lack of official performance data. The success numbers Flexion has been sharing about how we’ve helped developers reach a new level shows that even the biggest publishers should start taking an interest in the alternative app stores. For instance we average a 10% boost in revenue for games on the alternative app stores compared with their performance on Google Play and we generated more than $50 million in revenue for Android game developers in 12 months.
What are the specific sorts of support that Flexion offers on alternative app stores?
We offer developers an easy way to add revenue and audiences for their games. We take on the technology and marketing challenges of adding a game to alternative stores including Huawei’s App Gallery, the Amazon Appstore, the Samsung Galaxy App Store, Xiaomi GetApps, and the ONE Store.
Our approach has proved attractive to game developers because there is little upfront cost or effort required from their side. This is essentially a bonus for games that already do great in Google Play.
We understand the alternative app stores in depth. Flexion has people with expertise and experience, and technology that no-one else can offer. We have around 100 people working on the success of each game and have spent years developing services and platform relations. That gives us a huge advantage when it comes to generating revenue.
As well as handling the technical part of publishing games to the alternative app stores, Flexion runs user acquisition and platform relations to maximise the audience our clients’ games reach and therefore the revenue each game generates. Last year, Flexion acquired influencer marketing agency Audiencly to boost its distribution power and marketing expertise. This helps game developers generate even more revenues from their distribution in new channels.
What industry trends do you think will be important for Flexion in 2023?
The challenges that developers are facing in acquiring users will continue and will drive new forms of marketing services outside traditional programmatic advertising. Influencer marketing will become a more viable and interesting model for driving awareness and engagement.
In parallel, new regulatory pressure in Europe and the US will make it easier for new distribution channels to compete with Google Play and the App Store. New over the top payment services will get more traction with developers and we will start to see developers offering self distribution independent of app stores. This is already established in China and developers from this market are likely first out of the gate.
What does Flexion have planned for 2023?
We are continuing to grow our game portfolio and supported channels. We will also focus on growing our position in the influencer marketing space as well as exploring new services for our game partners.
It should be an exciting market for alternative distribution and marketing while it continues to be difficult for developers in the App Store and Google Play.