Episode 4: Listen How Jesse Davis reskins games quickly for himself and for clients by creating awesome asset packages ready to use plug in the most famous reskin source codes!
Mobile app flipping podcast episode 4.
Welcome to the mobile app flipping podcast, this is your host Yohann Taieb.
My goal is to help you get the most out of reskinning apps. Whether you’re already a full-Time entrepreneur or trying to get a business going, this podcast is for you.
We will be interviewing professionals that are already doing app reskinning for a living. We will also invite source code sellers to get to learn about what they have to offer. And finally, we
will talk to industry experts to learn how to become more productive at flipping apps. And now, without further ado, let’s get started.
Today we have an amazing guest, his name is Jesse Davis, he’s the president of Hydraulic Games, and he does app flipping not just for himself but for other people as well. Hello!
Jesse Davis: Hello, How are you?
Yohann Taieb: Doing great, how about you?
Jesse Davis: Great Yohann!
Yohann Taieb: My pleasure, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and also about your interesting background and where you actually live?
Jesse Davis: Sure, well I’m from Baltimore, my family is from Baltimore but I guess I got started in game design quite a while ago, I think in 2001, I designed a game called “Charred Dirt” with a friend of mine who used to work at Best Buy, if you’re familar with the american electronics chain.
Yohann Taieb: For sure.
Jesse Davis: So we bought this old sort of a remake of a PC classic and it came out and it was really fun. A lot of people got excited and downloaded it, but then I moved on into I.T. A few years later, I met a Thai woman, little north of D.C and we ended up getting married. We always talked about the possibility of going back to Thailand, but you know, at this point, there was no real make games yourself for me. I mean you can make games for the PC or Flash, but there was no monetizing off of it.
Yohann Taieb: That’s right, it was either you go triple A, like a big investment or you try to do something small on the side, but not much could come out of it.
Jesse Davis: Exactly. And I was always like you know, I grew up on games like Super Marios Brothers, classic early PC games, so I really has a passion for 2D art, and back then, everything was 3D. If you didn’t do 3D, you were out of the game industry, the PlayStation age.
The iPad came out and that sort of changed everything. Now 2D games are really hot. You have big titles like “Angry birds”, “Where’s my water”, people making money off of these, independant guys, and you know, it just blew open the market. So I thought Hey! Maybe I’ll try to do some 2D artwork again.
Just on the side, last year I was starting to make some games with a friend of mine, and I ended up pretty far on a game. Then my wife got pregnant with my son and so we kinda made the decision to factor in what we’re doing. We decided to make the permanent move to Thailand. I didn’t have a job, there was not much demand for foreign I.T workers in Thailand, so I said you know what? I’ll take my art passion, my side job and see if I can make some money off of it.
I started doing some work for a gentleman who was reskinning an app, and I was like Hey! This is pretty cool!
Yohann Taieb: Oh okay, I see… So if he can do it, you can probably do it yourself, right? You can just cut him out of the equation and get all the profit for yourself.
Jesse Davis: Well, yeah of course, that did pop into my mind that Hey! I should do this too. But it did sort of open up the doors into the reskin community. Hey! People are flipping apps and
buying source codes and I started realizing that there’s sort of a niche, maybe a spot forming in this community. There needs to be people that they can create these games and do the graphics and
all that stuff too. So I’ve been sort of on both sides of the coin, I’ve published a few games, but I think a lot of our business actually comes from other game developers. They wanna have
reliable outsourced graphics. They want asian rates but they want american reliability and speak english to somebody. So that’s worked out pretty well and I’m getting pretty cozy in that gaming scene
over here. But, mainly we’re just providing art services to people like yourself and your customers.
Yohann Taieb: My audience…
Jesse Davis: Yes your audience!
Yohann Taieb: So from what I understand, your business is kinda two-fold. You do app reskinning for other people, but you also do any other type of art, so anything more involved you can definitely take it, right?
Jesse Davis: Yeah that’s right. Actually my first app was a 2D isometric game, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the original Farmville, that sort of game, I started off with that.
So, that actually was really difficult! I was using terrain height, pulling a lot of stuff like references from Final Fantasy tactics, and different types of quasi 3D games in the play.
It was pretty difficult stuff so coming from that, doing all these 2D games was a pretty easy job, just doing basic graphics.
Yohann Taieb: Okay, so some of the people listening to this podcast are app flippers. A question they probably have right now is, ok so, they have this source code and they’d like to use your services.
What types of services you provide and how do you deal with it? Like how do you handle the process?
Jesse Davis: Well initially it was just me. And then I hired another guy, we actually just opened our studio with a full complement of artists that I’ve hand selected in order to do these things quicker. I guess I’ll take you through the basic reskin process, how it works and what’s involved.
Yohann Taieb: So let’s say it’s me, I’m coming to you and say Hey Jesse, I bought this source code and I want an amazing game out of it. Where do I start?
Jesse Davis: Ok great! Well first we start with the idea. What’s your game idea? What do you wanna do? And obviously whatever you’re up for I’m up for. ASO (App Store Optimization) and keyword research is pretty key to make a successful app. That’s really the first step, getting a good idea, is this idea gonna be something that’s gonna make you money? I’m not a marketing expert but I usually give tips on what’s gonna be good and what’s not gonna be good.
Yohann Taieb: I mean you doing it for people, you can see some sort of a trend, recurring, right?
Jesse Davis: Yeah, exactly. I never market myself as a marketing guru. But in certain ways, I’ve learned a couple of hard lessons through publishing games and I’ve seen how critical the marketing step is. Your only real advocates on the App Store are your app icons, your description, your keywords…
Yohann Taieb: And screenshots.
Jesse Davis: And your concept, that’s all you got! So if those things aren’t on point, your game is gonna flop. I try to help my customers get a good concept. Like one I’m working with right now,
I said Hey! he came up with a theme that I thought was similar to the show “Breaking Bad”, so I said that’s a hot show right now. It’s probably gonna turn pretty good on keywords.
Let’s piggy back off of that, so that was like a great idea. So the theme is important, and after that we move on to concept sketches. Either myself or my team members would come up with some ideas,
some concepts, we get to where there’s a common understanding to where the game is going, this is the look of the game. We try to define what kind of style the customer wants.
Then from there, once we pretty much settled on here’s the resources, here’s what’s involved, and all that, we get it into production depending on the size of the game…
Yohann Taieb: ok, hold on… Let’s say I chose… Ok we’re approaching… I mean Halloween is almost over, so let’s say Christmas season. I wanna try to take the holiday season and let’s say I picked
a Christmas theme. What would you do? Would you just give me some options of different style, themes or how would it work?
Jesse Davis: I guess some customers might say Hey! I want this look, this style, or I want this photo… Some people would be like do whatever you want. It really depends on the customer, but
I would say maybe we should go for this style, this theme, you would try to talk back and forth and agree on a direction that would be good to go. Usually, I would assign it to the artist I feel has
the closest match to the style of the game we’re going for. I have people that can do quasi realistic paintings all the way through simple Angry Birds’ art.
Yohann Taieb: Excellent! Have you ever had to work with programmers as well in the sense that sometimes there’s some heads on display, some little buttons here and there that are very specific
to a source code?
Jesse Davis: Absolutely!
Yohann Taieb: How does it work usually?
Jesse Davis: I found that just because the nature of reskins is that they don’t need a lot of programming, I’ve had a hard time keeping a full time programmer on, because he’s only involved in such a
little bit bit of the process. I usually have people go elsewhere for programming. Internally yeah, I have a guy who does freelance work for me to help me publish my titles. I have done a completely custom original app as well as Avalanche Mountain for example, a hot game. We’ve kinda revamped that, throwing some different features and options back in there that I think the customer would like. So yeah, it can be done, but I feel like it’s not my core skill set that I’m good at with the programming, so I usually leave that with the pros!
Yohann Taieb: Ok, no problem. Ok so that’s for the graphic side. Now, there’s the audio side of the app reskinning equation. Do you help with that as well? Or do we need to find some other
Jesse Davis: Yeah. A friend of mine has an audio production studio back in Baltimore and we used to do a lot of music together. I also have a music background as well so usually I have one of
my employees start to sort of gather sounds. I think the biggest problem with audio production, the people don’t realize the time it takes to find that perfect sound on the internet.
It’s kind of a scavenger hunt for almost a day. If someone just goes around, pokes around websites until you find some really great sounds, some royaltee free music and things that we can use for
the game, then usually it’s a matter of editing the sounds, normalizing them, trimming dead spaces off of the sound effects. Occasionally I’ll reverse the sound effect or splice two sounds together to
make a hybrid sound. It depends what we’re going for. Usually, a basic sound package I usually do on a game probably runs on average around $80. Most of that because of the scavenger hunt you know, fond the sound kind of time that I’m billing for.
Yohann Taieb: Oh ok. Yeah that’s totally affordable. I’m sure you can keep reusing those audio assets for other app reskins, absolutely.
Jesse Davis: Yeah I try, but usually we try to find some unique sounds. I certainly don’t want every game to sound the same way.
Yohann Taieb: Yeah I know what you’re talking about. Especially in the casino games, 70% of them are using the exact same sounds.
Jesse Davis: Right.
Yohann Taieb: Now let’s talk about price. Can you give us some kind of a price range, let’s say an actual real example like the Avalanche source code. How much would it cost us about?
Jesse Davis: It depends on what’s really involved with the game. My standard rate, how I price things, is generally around $15/hour. And then I calculate how big the game is, how many hours
I think it would take to flip it, and then I would come up with a price. I try to stick with a fixed price, cos I think a fixed price is fair to the customer.
Yohann Taieb: Yeah definitely.
Jesse Davis: You don’t want to increase overtime and the customer is like Wow!! This is costing too much money. I know custom apps can be like that but as far as reskins you know, I already
have all the assets so I should be able to make a good judgement call from the beginning. This game is gonna be X price, so a game like Kingdom Prince which is popular, I usually do that one
around for like $550 and probably around the same for Avalanche Mountain, around $550. And you know, there’s a lot of games that I can do for less like real basic games I think there’s one called
“Crazy Poppers”. We just did a “Crazy Poppers” reskin for a little under $400 I think, with sound, and that turned out really great. The customer was happy with it. I think we flipped that in a little
over a week.
Yohann Taieb: Very nice. Now, from all the source codes you’ve seen going back and forth, which ones are the ones you think…Have you ever heard anyone say like which one work out
Jesse Davis: Hmm, I think the success is more up to the theme and marketing. From an app reskin point of view, there’s been quite a few games or types of games that I think work well.
Puzzle games are a great way to start. Games like “Viva Stampede”, I think I’ve done some different memory match type games. They tend to be lower on the assets and certainly there’s a lot of
replay value to games like “Candy Crush Saga” and stuff like that, so I think they’re great games to start with.
Casino games, slot games, I’ve done a lot of slots reskins. Again, people can sit there and play slots for hours. The assets are fairy minimal, I can do a slot game for $300, sometimes even less
depending on what’s required.
Yohann Taieb: So would you advise somebody who’s just starting the app flipping business to start with a casino slot game? Or a memory game type of thing?
Jesse Davis: Yeah, I mean not specifically, there’s games but I would say start with a smaller game. I think you learn just so much from your first reskin and there’s totally examples that
they’re gonna blow me out of the water, I think I just saw a guy last month released his first app made $30,000.
Yohann Taieb: Wow, very nice.
Jesse Davis: So there’s totally examples that are gonna prove me wrong but see for the average person, you don’t know much about this industry, don’t know much about keywords optimization, and ad
placement, marketing. You can learn an incredible amount through your first couple of reskins.
Yohann Taieb: Yeah you’re right. Baby steps, huh?
Jesse Davis: Yeah baby steps, I saw your pinball game, something simple like that, that is a good place to start. Something with a few assets, something you can get out quickly, get your feet wet.
I definitely wanna keep it under $1,000, probably closer to the $500 category and once you get the process and you see what’s working for you, then move from there.
I’ve seen a couple of people that sort of played hit and miss throwing out different themes for different app reskins and one of my customers hit it pretty big with a world war 2 game, like a dogfighting sort of shooter game, fairly easy to reskin, doesn’t have a lot of assets, mostly points sliding around which are not really animated except for the propeller.
So, he’s been flipping those kinda games and they’re been doing really well for me so sometimes it’s a little trial and error, but I think you start with something small, try a couple of reskins of it and you just need a bit of patience in this industry, for sure.
Yohann Taieb: What do you think is more important in the sense that would you go with the theme of a game is actually more important than the actual game mechanics themselves?
If you have a working theme, would you rather apply this one to multiple different type of game mechanics, or would you do the opposite like you keep one game mechanics and apply lots of
different themes on it?
Jesse Davis: Well, if you don’t know what’s successful, keeping one game mechanic and try several themes, for example I talked to another guy on a marketing group who did the “Avalanche Mountain” game, he said he did two games. The exact same game mechanics, two different themes, one game had 1,500 downloads, the other one had over 100,000 downloads. Same exact game, same amount of money out into it.
Yohann Taieb: Ok so here, it was the theme.
Jesse Davis: Right, but you know, if you’ve done…If you’re looking to build your app portfolio, you probably want some diversity. You don’t want five reskins of the same game. The customers will catch
on to that. You sort of have to balance it out, it’s strategy, figuring out what’s the right move.
Yohann Taieb: Well thanks a lot for your advice on reskinning those source codes. Now, I have a couple of general questions here and there. Is there any kind of book you would recommend for anyone who would wanna start in the app flipping industry? Any kind of book, whether it’s on the graphics side, the business side or the code side? Anything that helped you?
Jesse Davis: Yeah, there’s been a couple of books. I guess I only have one strong book, again this is a very new industry, so over the next two years you’re gonna see a lot more resources. I know
people that are building and writing books and things like that right now. I think the general “go-to” book is “App Empire” by Chad Mureta.
Yohann Taieb: Right, we had Patrick on the show right before you and he said the exact same thing.
Jesse Davis: That’s definitely been a “Go-to” book so far, but there is a lot of good blogs. I know Carter Thomas, bluecloudsolutions.com has a lot of excellent advice as well as he hand picks very good reskins, very good value. They have reskinned a lot so you’re gonna run into other people with the same reskin, but that’s a great place to start.
Yohann Taieb: Right, like you just said earlier, this is a very new industry so it’s a very small pool of key players, but it’s gonna keep maturing out and we’re gonna get a lot more people in this industry… That’s for sure. Mark my words and your words!
Is there any internet resource that you recommend for an app flipper? I mean besides of course your services.
Jesse Davis: Yeah. As far as resources go, there’s so much that I’ve used! For finding graphics, I know some people would use stock photography sites, like iStock photo, things like that to grab little clip arts, and photos. I’ve seen people do like photographic reskins, obviously they’re not creating any art so you’re just buying stock and in that case you can flip apps pretty cheap.
So stock photography sites are great, one of my favorite font site is dafont.com.
Yohann Taieb: Yeah, I love this website.
Jesse Davis: My favorite thing is that you can type your own text, your logo or whatever and then do searches based on that, and it shows the font is your text which is just awesome for finding
just the right font that’s gonna match up with your game. I definitely check on a couple of different forums, I think “touch arcade” has some great forums for developers, there’s a lot of Facebook groups if
you really wanna get plugged in into this community, start getting connected with these Facebook groups. you’ll end up seeing the same people over and over again.
Yohann Taieb: For sure. Thank you! So we know what you’re working on right now, but where are you planning on taking this? What’s your next level? What are you gonna be doing this coming year?
Jesse Davis: Ha ha! I can’t give away all my secret, but certainly a big focus right now is, since we just opened shop in Bangkok, is to grow more staff. I just had an interview today, trying to have more
capacities so we can handle more customers and do some more projects, and certainly I’m used to doing this quickly. Before I was taking a little lot longer, but now that I have a bigger staff, we’re able
to flip games in a very timely fashion. A lot of it is a numbers game you know, building up your apps. Another thing we’re working on that you and I discussed earlier, is ready to go content packs.
I’m starting to look into content services. Now that brings up something really new that I’ve never seen anybody talk about. Ok, so you’re reskinning an app, it’s a common app, let’s take
“Avalanche Mountain” for example. So you’re reskinning “Avalanche Mountain”, you’ve done all this great work, you’ve put in new graphics, new sound but the problem is that your level in your game
looks exactly like everybody else’s game out there. Exact same levels.
Yohann Taieb: That’s right.
Jesse Davis: The layout’s the same, the hills are in the same place…
Yohann Taieb: You know, let me chime in, I’ve seen some users on game reviews who are complaining about it in the sense that this game is exactly like hundreds of slot games, and they
all use the same mechanics. People are trying to catch it now. That has become a problem, probably saturation. That’s why every time we have to come up with new source codes and refresh them.
Jesse Davis: Exactly, so I’m thinking one step ahead. If I was a developer… Well I am a developer…If I was in my customers’ shoes, how would I make my game stand out from all these other clones?
The answer is content, changing the content. That’s a little bit tricky to do you know, cos now you’re getting into the game design, not just graphic designs, not just art, you’re actually constructing
levels. I’ve been having my staff work on some different level packs for “Avalanche Mountain” since that’s a good candidate. A lot of people have it, relatively easy to edit the levels.
So hopefully in a week or so I’ll be selling “Avalanche Mountain” content packs where you could buy a full pack of levels, all the levels for the game. They’re in a file, you literally just drop them
into the game code and bam! Every single level changes to a brand new level.
Yohann Taieb: That’s a time saver, big time!
Jesse Davis: They’ll be affordable too. I haven’t fixed the price yet, but they’ll probably be around $50. So for an app developer with a ton of games, especially if it’s the same game, that’ll be a way of
differentiating the game between the customers. I’ll have a second content pack for that game to follow soon.
Yohann Taieb: Oh great, I’ll definitely put a link on my show notes. How do we get in touch with you if we wanna hear more about you?
Jesse Davis: Great! Well, I guess hydraulicgames.com is our website and we have a services page, there’s a little web form on there. I mean you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can
fill out the little form on the website, I’ll get right back to you, but I’m very easy to get a hold of.
Yohann Taieb: Well Jesse, thank you for your amazing advice. Keep in touch!
Jesse Davis: Thanks, I appreciate it.
Yohann Taieb: One last thing I wanted to say before leaving, is at some point Jesse was referring to one of my courses. He was talking about my udemy.com course. I have a course that explains to you step by step how to make your own Iphone game in one day without coding. That’s basically an app flipping course. It comes with the Pinball game source code with unlimited license and the course cost $97. Please go take a look at it and
the reviews and ratings, that’s an excellent course to get you started.
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