In spite of neglect and passing a full year without updates of any kind, Cave Diver continues to attract users and a minuscule but still significant amount of advertising revenue. Let’s take a look at what that taught us.

For the past week and a half, we’ve been working on fixing up some of Cave Diver’s glitches and bugs, and to recompile it on a more modern platform to make it a little more future proof.

The game itself is a silly little thing that owes everything to a certain little bird. However, we grew quite fond of it as we used it as a testbed for various technologies and systems, as we detailed previously.

So, what did we learn from a year of data?

  1. No one logs in on Facebook unless you force them to.

    We didn’t force anyone to log into Facebook to share the game with their friends. And so no one did. Sure, we could come up with some way to make people do this, but why?

    Our data showed that not a single used boasted about their score on Facebook, or logged into Facebook from the mobile app to perform any other function. So, why make people? There is no point if they’re not going to share the game at all.

    Cave Dive players did leave Google reviews (positive and negative, mostly positive), and engaged in forums and emails, but not a single one of our users used the “log into Facebook” button. We’d show you a graph because that stuff looks cool, but you can’t graph a zero. So there, no graph for you.
  2. Quality does count for something.

    There is a lot on the Internet about how you can strategically place your game in certain channels, and on which calendar dates you can release to optimize your reach, and all kinds of information on how to maximise the potential of your game. All the advice in the world forgets to remind you to make a good game.

    Without going into a subjective measure of whether we think Cave Diver looks good (duh), we can objectively state that it’s a quick gaming fix that doesn’t try to ram adverts down your throat, and manages to present itself as a better quality product than your average amateur clone.

    While Cave Diver is a commercial failure, we are constantly surprised by the stable, 2.5k user base that to this day regularly installs and plays the game, as well as the fact that we have a handful of new, positive reviews every week.

    Without advertising, hacking, leading, misleading, forcing or harassing users to do so, a significant portion have managed to find and play the game on its strengths. So don’t just check off marks on your “Uber Marketing Haxxor Revealed Gaiden” list. Make a good game.
  3. Admob isn’t that bad. Your traffic is.

    Starting by stating that we haven’t yet drawn the attention of the Chinese Spam Dragon (we’re not being racist, we’re not forgetting you other, wonderful spam-laden countries. It’s just that the Chinese are still the best at it), so our traffic retains a relatively interesting profile for English-speaking marketing, Admob has outperformed our expectations by a scale of about a million billion trillion %.

    If you browse game development channels, you’ll read a lot of complaints about people throwing hundreds of thousands of views at Admob to only receive cents in return.

    Well, our experience is that by throwing a few thousand views (and more) at Admob gets you actual, whole, real dollar money back. So if your Admob is not fulfilling your rich indie developer dreams, stop blaming Google for a minute, and check the quality of your traffic before posting another negative rant about how your hard work is going unappreciated.

So, January 2016 brings a new Cave Diver version. We’re going to call it “final”, as it’s unlikely we’ll revisit the game in the future, but there were a few things we felt we had to address to make it more stable in the long run.

We removed all Facebook code (since it went completely unused), and switched from Admob to UnityAds. Because reasons, nothing against Admob. We also added some in-house adverts for our other upcoming games. We made it possible to continue a good run by watching an ad as payment, and fixed a whole lot of little glitches. We also implemented Google Play leaderboards and achievements, because apparently people don’t play in dark, dank caves anymore.

Go figure.

Head over to Cave Diver’s page to find out more about the game itself. Otherwise, you can give it a spin for free on Android and iOS (latest version pending Apple’s approval, may be a week or more).