Making Alto’s Adventure free on Android helped it reach a whole new audience

When it came time to port serene snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure to Android, Ryan Cash, from developer Snowman, was a bit worried. He’d heard plenty of stories about how hard it was to make money on Android and the challenges of supporting so many different devices. Eventually, the studio partnered with mobile developer Noodlecake for the Android version, and the two decided to make the game free to better suit the platform.

And while it’s true that the Android version of Alto’s Adventure hasn’t been as lucrative as its iOS counterpart, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a success. In fact, it helped the small studio reach entirely new audiences in countries where the iPhone doesn’t have much penetration. “Our top countries for Android are so different from our top countries for iOS,” says Cash.

Next week, will see the Android debut of the game’s sequel, Alto’s Odyssey, and it comes at a time when Alto’s Adventure is doing particularly well on Android. According to Cash, the game has been downloaded more than 36 million times on Android and has slowly evolved into a healthy business for the studio. One of the reasons for the game’s success is that it’s been regularly tweaked based on player feedback. Initially, Alto’s Adventure on Android was supported by in-game ads and a single in-app purchase of a coin doubler. But as time went on, players actually requested more ways to spend money.

Alto’s Odyssey

“We didn’t sell any coin packs for the longest time, and people were emailing all of the time asking for them,” says Cash. “It was a shock to me, people asking for monetization. We adapted as we went and retroactively tweaked some of the monetization. By doing that, we were able to better service our players and also increase revenue. It seems odd that you could make more money but also make your customers happier. You’d think if you add more monetization, you’re actually going to piss people off. It was the exact opposite.”

Cash admits that, even with these changes, the free version of Alto’s Adventure still doesn’t monetize as well as a lot of other free-to-play games. But for a studio of just seven people, it does well enough. And, more importantly, it has allowed the team to reach new players it otherwise couldn’t. According to Cash, while Adventure’s number two country for Android downloads is the US, the rest of the top five consists of countries where the paid iOS version has few sales. That includes Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico. “We don’t really sell any copies of our iOS game in India,” says Cash.

Over the past few months, the free version of Adventure has been updated with a few paid features, including the aforementioned coin packs as well as unlockable characters. Part of this was to test the waters before the impending launch of Odyssey on Android. “We wanted to do it before Odyssey came out to see if would actually monetize and make sure people were happy,” Cash explains. “So we ran that test with Adventure, and it worked.”

Alto’s Odyssey is coming to Android on July 26th, and that date represents another accomplishment for the studio. It took Alto’s Adventure a full year to move from iPhone to Android, but with Odyssey, that number was cut in half. Closing that window between platform releases is an area the studio hopes to continue to improve. “Our goal is to keep getting better at that,” says Cash.

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