Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Market Your Way to a Top 25 Paid Mobile App Game

A Case Study of Piston Game's iOS Success on the Apple Store

Here is a post from Reddit User and Piston Games member brainsolid explaining their success of their iOS game Gemibears. It is an excellent list of marketing advice that distills months and years of experience into a bite-sized piece and the thoughts applied here can be extended to any App, not limited to games.


We here in Piston Games just launched Gemibears for iOS and after few days break through to top paid 25 overall in US.


This was really hard and interesting, so I would like to share with you our experience. There are 10 steps to get top paid 25 overall in US:

1) Make a great game and prepare great marketing

You need to spend on marketing as many time as you spend on development. Bad app can be pulled to top by great marketing, but when your campaign will end — app will be dramatically dropped down. This is what you see every day in top free charts with lot of farms that makes rocket jump because of great marketing and falling to nowhere another day. So you must make great game.

2) Test your gameplay

But game must be great not just for you — because what you make is already great, otherwise you wouldn't do it, right? Every developer just love his game because it's like a child and sometimes you just not strict enough to your child. So test your game a lot — give it to your friends or even strangers. And don't ask anything — just look at their reactions and make conclusions about mistakes and advances.

3) Catch all bugs

 Test game on different devices and firmwares. The worst thing you can have is a great game with bad review, because of some bug. Don't release unfinished product. And have some support page, like getsatisfaction, so people will tell your about bugs not by App Store reviews, but on your support page.

And if you miss some bug — use expedited review. You can use it once a year, but it really helpful — about one day and update with fixes will be on App Store.

4) Don't make lite version

It's boring and player will have to pass through same levels in full version if he buy it. But you need free version for players who would like to try your game! So make something special — we call it Gemibears Mini. It's free prequel for Gemibears, it have completely different planets, levels and additional game mode — all these features are original and don't appear in paid version. Same way was made Trainyard Express and Hambo Begins. Different content for free is a best way to show your game and have positive response from players, because you don't cut anything from the game — you add something new to it.

Remember that your paid and free (not light!) versions — are separate products. Free will help you with promotion of paid, but you need to promote free somehow. So plan your marketing for both free and paid versions.

5) Cross promo and ad

Make cross promo with other cool games. Gemibears have promo screens, buttons and so on in different games from our friends. This is not about money, more about your connections. Send email with cross-promo proposition to games you like, or even travel to another city for meeting with their developers. Because support from other great games will give you lot of downloads.

Connect all your previous games by some cross-promo module. You can make in house solution or use something like chartboost — but 3rd party solutions are not flexible at all.
Use paid ad — but use it carefully. Buy iOS ad ONLY. No web, no magazines, videos or anything else outside device. You can buy installs for free app in chartboost or buy ad spot directly in Backflip, EA or Zynga games using Burstly, but be careful planning your budget.

6) Make something that will generate new users from inside of your game

We have twitter community in Gemibears and Facebook connect in Gemibears Mini. Both give an option to attract new players, because community is always great idea and attract new people, and by connecting your friends to the game you can gain additional content.

7) Make all marketing efforts in one day

Don't spread it for month or even week. We release Gemibears few days before all marketing and have no downloads at all. But after using all marketing that we prepare in just 3 days — top 25 occupied!

8) Icon, screenshots and trailer

You need a genius icon. Most of people make decision about buying or not your game just by looking at it icon. We make about 26 different variants of Gemibears icon before we considered it good enough. Great, to be honest.
Other really important part — App Store screenshots. Actually, they aren't just screenshots — they are banners. Most of people don't read description, so take each screen and tell about key game features on it. Be brief and persuasive. Not "unique gameplay", but "match-2" — this is truly unique!
Official trailer. If you don't make it — some youtube teen will record video from shaking hands and all people will see the game as it looks at this video.

9) After release buzz

Don't underestimate any additional free buzz that you can make. Register your game in Facebook App Center if you have any fb functionality. Submit your icon (it's must be great, do you remember?) to iOS icon gallery sites. Make TouchArcade forum post — in upcoming section before release, in discussions right after or even make some contest!

Don't expect Apple feature on App Store. You can't control featuring process, so concentrate on making great game and marketing.

Don't expect Press will admire your game for first time, even if you have a great game. Press and blogger like success stories, so you will have press after success, not before it.

But you have to write to everyone. Make not just text letter, but some custom html template or at least image banner for header of the letter. This way we have TUAW game of the week for our previous The Screetch game. They ignore our text letter with promocode, so we make nice-looking picture, send a latter again and — it works!

10) Write useful post on Reddit!


The thing I find the most interesting is that they spend a large chunk on advertising in one big go in a highly targeted way - bid to spend as much as fast as possible in a short period of time dedicated to users on Apple iOS mobile devices - a PPC approach that embraces the fleeting popularity of mobile games. Brilliant.

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