Re-skinning an App Template

Why did I want to try one of those re-skin app templates?

Maybe you’ve seen these before? Simple app templates for sale that you can easily re-skin.

They seem to be all the rage lately. So much so that Apple and Google both appear to be on the lookout for them.

Supposedly, they require little experience, no coding skills, and very little time to crank out.

All the heavy lifting work has presumably been done for you — all you need to do is redo the creative assets, tweak a couple of lines of code, ad the IDs for your advertising networks, and boom you’re done!

I’ve been seeing different templates available for quite a while, actually.

So earlier this year when the Flappy Bird craze became such a big deal (February 2014) I saw an opportunity to jump in and give one a try.

The Flappy Bird Craze — and a Template

I don’t know about you, but when the Flappy Bird app first became popular I thought:

  1. This thing is complete crap.
  2. I mean this app just sucks.
  3. I hate it.
  4. The developer, Dong Nguyen MUST have been scamming the app store somehow to generate that many downloads. It was crazy!
  5. I mean this guy was making $50,000 a day!

Which got me thinking, “Hey, I could make fun of it while trying out one of those clone templates I keep seeing!”

After running a quick search, I stumbled across a version from RagDog Studios that looked like it would do what I wanted very easily AND very quickly.

flappy-bird

The RagDog folks created just about everything needed to get an app in the store. The code was complete—meaning that there were no extra pieces that needed to be coded. It was ready to go right out-of-the-box, save for your own artwork and sound effects.

The template was very well done and very well documented and really was ready to go with just a few tweaks. RagDog even have a service to do all of the reskinning for you at very reasonable prices. So you don’t have to know how to code!

Anyway, for €20 (about $30 US) I purchased their Flappy Bird template.

The hardest part for me was coming up with an idea to make it unique.

I wanted to create a parody of sorts, because, as I saw it, Flappy Bird was a crappy app. It was really hard to play. It was very crude. And, to be honest, I was a little annoyed that such a simple app had climbed to the top of the app store! (And to this day I’m not convinced there wasn’t at least a little funny business going on.)

Since it was so crappy, I thought, “Hey why not call mine Crappy Bird?”

And so began the development of Crappy Bird—the hilariously terrible parody of Flappy Bird! (And I do mean terrible. I intentionally didn’t put a ton of effort into this experiment.)

Okay. Template In Hand. What Next?

Well, for the most part this app was nearly complete. Aside from the fact that the art needed to be completely redone. (Their licensing agreement requires this.)

So I started with the art. I needed to create a new background, skyline, clouds, grass, ground, pipes (I chose very stupid rock columns in a paranoid attempt to avoid copyright issues with Nintendo), plus a new bird animation, buttons, titles, etc.

crappy-parts

It was a lot of artwork, but it really didn’t take too long to re-create. I used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but any graphics program would work just fine.

I also wanted to give the app a more humorous twist—after all, this was to be a parody app.

pewp

What better way to drum up a few laughs than to make the crappy bird, well, crap! This did add a little extra code in order to make it work properly but probably took all of 15 minutes to get looking just right.

I know. Very low brow. But, hey. My previous attempt at low brow was quite successful!

There were also a few sound effects that needed to be re-created: The wing flap sound, the button click sound, the crash sound, the death-spiral sound, and I had to create something special for the crapping sound.

Most of these required nothing more than a microphone and Audacity.

To create the death-spiral sound I used this cool online audio tool called Bfxr that lets you create cool 8-bit style sound effects right in your browser!

That’s all there was to it!

All in—with sketches, artwork, new sound effects, and a few code tweaks—it probably took me 8-10 hours to complete the app and submit everything to the app store.

The Results

menu-screen

First, let me start by saying I was a little nervous when submitting to the app store. There was a LOT of attention on flappy bird clones. And to be honest most of it was not good. I was more than a little bit worried that Apple would not approve my app at all. So when I submitted—and had to wait for what seemed like forever—it was a little unnerving to say the least.

So when it finally was approved, I was quite relieved and very excited to see what would happen!

Quick Tip: Want to know how long review times are taking on the app store? Search Twitter for the hashtag #iosreviewtime.

The Setbacks

There were a few setbacks and things that didn’t go as planned. There always are, it seems.

First, the Apple reviewer deleted the keyword “flappy” from my keyword list, which I am 100% convinced would have led to significantly more revenue if they hadn’t. I don’t blame them, they were just doing their job—but it was quite disappointing.

Second, before I submitted my clone there were very few clones. Yes, there were some—and they were getting a lot of attention, but certainly room for more… but by the time my app went live there were perhaps a hundred more. Booo! I had waited too long!

Third, was that when I came up with the idea for crappy bird there were no other “Crappy bird” Apps in the store. But on THE VERY DAY that I submitted MY Crappy Bird game to the app store for review, three OTHER games called Crappy Bird went LIVE! A bit disappointing to be sure.

However: this last one may actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Here’s how:

One of the most popular crappy bird apps was being advertised HEAVILY by its creator (a guy who used to work for Apple, by the way, so I’m wondering if/how that might have helped him).

Now if you remember, the original Flappy Bird app was pulled from the store by its creator due to the intense pressure he was under… but it was still installed on millions of devices at the time, and it was a hot commodity. So it was getting a crap ton of attention.

crappybird

And if you were playing this original Flappy Bird that no one else could download, you were constantly being bombarded with an advertisement for… you guessed it… Crappy Bird (the other version, not mine).

This other crappy bird guy had figured out something genius! And I’d love to know what is ROI was!

The plus for me was that a huge number of people we’re searching for “crappy bird” in the store and discovering MY version of the crappy bird app and downloading it.

Take Note: If you advertise your app — and your app has a memorable name — you’re going to get people to search and download at a later time. I mean, how often do you click on ads to download games? Advertising can apparently work quite well for branding purposes. Even for someone who has an app with a similar name, it seems!

Anyway, so right out of the gate I had a bit of an advantage from a lot of the other flappy clones—in that some guy was paying BIG BUCKS (and probably earning big bucks too for that matter) to advertise HIS Version of Crappy Bird—which led to a TON of downloads for MY Version of Crappy Bird!

I’ll take that dumb luck any day, thank you very much!

All right. I’m sure you’d like to see some actual results! Let’s take a look at some charts.

Downloads:

downloads-crappy-bird

Here are the downloads. As you can see it’s VERY heavy on the front-end and trails off rather quickly. Not a huge surprise as the number of flappy clones exponentially grew at the same time interest was waning.

The big spike right after the first dip was when I released a new version with app name and keyword tweaks. Some success there, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Revenue:

revmob-crappy-bird

vungle-crappy-bird

Here are the advertising revenues broken out by ad network. I only chose two for this app, which in hindsight was a bad idea. It’s always good to build in several and then moderate them on the backend with server-side code.

I chose RevMob and Vungle for this app, because at the time they were generating the best eCPM revenues and were simple to implement.

You can see out of the gate it was awesome! Earning just shy of $100 per day for several days! Although short lived for peak earnings, it still generates several dollars a day.

Not bad for an app that took me just a few hours to make and was really just to poke fun at another game while testing the viability of re-skinning apps.

Conclusion

As you can see, from a simple $30 mobile app template I earned $1,673.73 in revenue! Granted I spent a few hours re-creating the assets needed and adding a few tweaks.

But WHAT A RETURN ON INVESTMENT! What is that? About 5500% return on my original $30? Not too shabby ROI if you ask me!

With that kind of return, I will most definitely try another re-skinning template soon.

Side Effects

Before I wrap this up, I should note that a side effect of re-skinning templates apps is that you can really learn a lot of neat tricks on how other developers create their apps.

I’m a B+ coder on my very best day (heavily assisted by caffeine), so it’s a treat to learn a few tricks from people who are clearly much better developers.

If you haven’t checked out app templates yet, I encourage you to do so.

On my resources page I link to several different companies who offer app templates for very reasonable prices!

My favorite so far is RagDog Studios.

Their templates are probably the most complete of what I’ve seen out there. They are also very easy to re-skin and modify. I highly recommend them, and am seriously considering signing up for their membership program where they promise AT LEAST three new app re-skin templates every month! (The only thing holding me back right now is time to get them all done!)


Links And Resources Mentioned In This Post

RagDog Studios – Re-skinnable app templates.

My App Development Resources Page

Crappy Bird (my app)

Crappy Bird (the infamous other one)