MTG Tracker 5.1 Released

Today the version 5.1 of MTG Tracker is available on Google Play.

For a very long time, people have been complaining, and with good reason, that the Advanced search needed more options.

Although the previous version allowed to search for green enchantments that cost 3 or less, or green cards that had “gain life” in the text that are valid on Modern, It was impossible to search for green enchantments that have “gain life” in the rules text.

This was specially noticeable when searching key pieces for combos or when building tribal decks. Another example is to search for humans with first strike.

For one reason or another, that feature has dropped from the list from version to version, but given that it was arguably the biggest flaw of the app, I am happy to have it solved.

The new advanced search looks like this:

Advanced search example

The complete list of changes is:

  • Improved Advanced search
  • Includes latest set: Modern Masters
  • Adds “Exiled” section to Playtest

And in case you were wondering, there are 7 cards that are green enchantments that cost 3 or less, valid in modern which have “gain life” in the rules text.

Advanced search results

App Gold Rush: The gold is (almost) over

While the feeling of Gold Rush in the field of mobile apps and games still exist, my impression is that the gold has been mostly depleted for a while -at least for indie developers-. This post is the summary of the journey of MTG Tracker, and how it has performed over time.

Note: MTG stands for Magic the Gathering, a very popular collectable card game. MTG Tracker is a tool for players of this game, not a game on itself.

Not so long ago, in January 2012

Back then, the free version of MTG Tracker just won 3rd place on BestAppEver Awards 2011 and was by far the most popular mtg app on Android.  In a surprising twist of events,  WotC (the makers of the game) suspended the app via a copyright C&D letter. At that very moment it was over 220,000 downloads, averaging 400-500 downloads per day.

That attack on 3rd party mtg apps took down 3 other apps, leaving Android mtg players with crap apps and the paid version of MTG Tracker (why it was not targeted by the C&D letter is something I don’t know).

The side effect of that suspension was a significant increase on the downloads of the paid version, and also the growth of some apps that were not popular before.

Fast Forward to June 2012

As WotC seemed to not be targeting 3rd party apps anymore and they even removed their official app from Android and iOS App Stores, I decided to resume development of MTG Tracker, which was on maintenance mode since January.

The new features made the gap between my app and the rest even bigger.

The re-publishing: January 2013

With no news from WotC in 1 year, and 6 months since I resumed active development of MTG Tracker, I decided to publish the free version again, under a new package name (after removing all copyrighted material, of course).

The app is -as it was before- the best Android MTG app, since it has even more features than before and competition has not improved that much (one of the other apps has improved quite a lot, but still misses 2 key features)

The downside of using a new package is that it enters Google Play as a new app, starting with no downloads and no ratings. Only the name of the paid app to back it up.

One would expect that given the popularity of the old free version, the growth of the paid version and the lack of quality competition, this new release will quickly catch up with the pace of downloads it had before, specially given that there are much more Android smartphones out there.


Looking at the figures

It has been 4 months since the initial release and a few weeks since an important update. The paid app is still keeping the same pace, but the fee app has barely passed 10,000 downloads in this period of time.

That is less than 100 downloads a day.

That is 20% of the downloads it had before, per day.

That is why I say that the gold is over.

Wait! What? It doesn’t make sense

Disclaimer: I don’t have any hard data to back the conclusions, they are just my hypothesis after analyzing the figures.

I think there are 2 main problems.

The first problem is lack of discoverability. Right now, doing a search on Google Play returns all sorts of apps, and getting in the top 5 of a search by the keywords you are targeting is quite difficult. Why my app is behind other apps with the same relevant keywords, even thou MTG Tracker has more ratings, more downloads and better average ratings… and it is also newer. It puzzles me.

The other problem is user weariness. Let me explain it: All the early adopters were eager to install and try each and every app. That eagerness does not last forever, I am actually surprised it has lasted that long, and the new users are nowhere close in activity as the early adopters.


MTG Tracker was suspended from Google Play on Jan 2012, being the leader on its niche. When an improved version was republished in Jan 2013, the traction it got was significantly lower. One year of difference and a better app results in less downloads.

[AppCrafting] Design Vs Development

I say in one of my talks that development is not the most important part of making apps since design is at least at the same level. In this post I want to give some insights of what I mean. Let’s imagine that there is something I want to do with my phone and I check if there is an app for that.

Your first problem should be some sort of SEO equivalent: You want to appear high in the lists for the common related search terms. But lets imagine you have that sorted out.

The user has a problem, searches for a solution and finds two (or more) suitable options. Obviously people are going to install one first, and if that app works fine for them, they are very likely to stick with it and not even try the second one. They will only seek for a replacement if they are not completely happy with the initial choice.

The first choice

Which app will users install? The one they expect the most from. I don’t know how the decision is done for sure, but there are two important factors:

  • Average rating & number of ratings
  • Visual aspect

These two factors can combine in many ways, and that will depend of each user. This means that a not very good looking app with lots of good ratings has a chance of being installed and an app with gorgeous screenshots and few ratings has a chance as well.

Since the ratings are not under your reach, your safer bet is to attract users with a great design.

If the first choice they make looks pretty enough and works nice enough they are not going to bother trying other app, but what will happen when one of them is not sufficient?

The seek for a replacement

You may get more reviews if you were there first (a.k.a no other option) but if your app has a clumsy UI users will not be completely happy and from time to time they will look for an app with the same functionality but better looking. In this case the design is important to keep a leader position by not making people want to look for a replacement.

On the other hand, let’s imagine that you have the best looking app. You have a lot done. A bunch of people is going to install it based on the featured graphic, screenshots and so on, but here is when development comes into play.

A nice design is going to bring you users, but it is the functionality of the app which is going to keep them with it. Again, if your app looks pretty and works nice they are not going to bother trying other app, but what will happen if the app is slow, crashes, misbehaves or misses key features?

The delusional moment

What happens in that the app does not fit the expectations and then the users are going to be frustrated. It is very clear to me that two things will follow:

  • They are going to try the other app
  • They are going to give you bad ratings

A nice design puts high expectations (as a high rating does it as well) and if your screenshots put the stakes high and the development is not on par then the frustration is going to be much bigger.

A user that has an app that works and replaces it with other that is better looking will give a good review to the second one (he is not necessary frustrated), while a user that replaces a bad developed app with another one that works is more likely to leave a bad review on the first one. A frustrated user is very likely to give a 1 star rating.

People want apps that look nice and work fine, there are thresholds for both characteristics. But while in one case you may be giving a good review to a competitor, in the other you are risking a bad review to yourself. It is harder to frustrate a user with a mediocre design that works than with a nice design that fails.

And then the snowball effect of bad reviews will roll and the design will be more and more irrelevant in the decision process of being the first choice.

That’s why you should care a lot about the design, but never, ever, put development in a lower place.

Note: This post was inspired by the official Magic the Gathering(r) app and how it states to already existing apps such M:tG Tracker.

A big elephant enters the room

Let me talk about one of my favorite projects: Magic TG Tracker, it is the most popular Android App for Magic the Gathering in both the paid and the free version, here is Magic TG Tracker in Android Market if you feel curious about it.


Yesterday we had shocking news, Wizards of the Coast announced an “Official app”. For those who don’t know it, they are the guys that make the real game, and they already have a couple of computer versions as well.

Many users asked me how I felt about it either on the facebook page of the app or by mail. It took me a while to put my thoughts in order, since there were lots of them.

First, I think is good to have competition, that always pushes products to the next level. Maybe there is going to be a bit unfair, since Wizards is a big company and Platty Soft is only one person, but I still believe I can build a better product. They also have the brand support and they can do any type of in-house marketing that I can’t, but we’ll see.

Secondly, they are announcing their iPhone app, the android one will follow. This can take quite some time, and building an app like Magic TG Tracker from scratch is not a small task, if they are going to build it after the iPhone one is published I will expect a few months to get it out. During this time people is going to search more for Android apps for Magic, and that is good for me.

But what really intrigues me is the purpose of Wizards, let me explain. There are two main reasons why -in their position- you may want to have an official app.

  1. Improve brand perception
  2. Generate profit

Let’s analyze them, its when things become interesting.

Their app is going to be free, but they are going to charge for the updates with the new sets. So it seems they are trying to make profit.

Magic TG Tracker is the most successful app of his type. It has even been in the top50 of Tools in the market. It is been nominated to best reference app of 2011, you can vote for it. Yet the income I get from it is not enough to make a living out of it.

What I mean is that the income for this app is going to barely pay for the development, even if it generates money, it is not going to be a significant amount for a company like Wizards. I may be wrong and the brand of Wizards will make the app have much more downloads than I do, but allow me to doubt it. More than 200.000 installations are quite a lot, few apps have more than 250.000. The next free app is not even at 50.000 downloads.

And this leads me to the final point. If the app is not going to generate a significant revenue for Wizards, they should keep it completely free and use it a tool to improve the brand perception. I think they are a victim of the gold rush of the apps.

Even facebook and twitter have their official apps, yet there are others, and many people prefer to use them.

I am not afraid of losing my user base. I know they like the app, and I am keen on improving it farther, and I will keep working on it. I’ll let you know if the impact in the amount of users and downloads when they release the app, in the meantime, version 4.0.2 has just been published and 4.1 is going to be on the works on Monday.