Launch Day – or how to make your Android or iOS game a success

Hiya! My name’s Aran and I’m in charge of the marketing for Save the Teenies.

So here’s the big news: Save the Teenies has launched worldwide to great acclaim 🙂

If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you may have missed this momentous event. If you haven’t already, you should download the app for Android or iOS for free!

What I wanted to briefly talk about besides this great news, is how to market your app if you’re an indie developer. Obviously, this experience was hard won for me, and I wish someone was around to point me in the right direction.

Our game has been selling well over the last few days since launch, especially on iTunes and I believe that came down to one thing and one thing alone. Here it is:

Quality

If you’re app is not quality, it will never succeed. So you’ve made a Christmas game where you flap a santa’s hat through some candy canes (not at all like every other floppy/flippy/flappy bird clone ever) and you’re wondering why it is not shifting even one unit.

It’s because you’re app is lacking in Quality. Now that’s a really hard thing to say to someone who has put even a small amount of effort into a creative medium and shared it with the world. But it’s true. Rhonda from Mississippi doesn’t go to the App Store, browse for casual games and chooses to install Fluppy Santa 3 HD Christamas Edition when she could just download Angry Birds or Cut the Rope like her friends have.

 

How can we stand out on an app store that contains 1.3 million Android and 1.2 million iOS apps and have a hope of competing with those big guys always in the top 50?

 

You need to start from the start. Great idea and a Passion to construct that idea into an app. Drive to sell that app to the world. Accept small victories as big ones.

Great Idea 

Save the Teenies, while bearing a slight resemblance to other games, is unique. Not all unique things are good, but we think that our unique has hit the right tone of familiar and fresh. That idea was what started the whole long process.

Passion

Here at Giant Margarita, Save the Teenies was in development for nearly 2 years. That doesn’t mean it was continuously worked on like some Frankenstein super app. But it was the sole hobby of two talented developers who juggled full-time jobs and families to create the game.

And the game was good.

Drive

Getting our game onto social media like twitter and facebook early on was the best decision ever. I was skeptical at first. Who would like a game on facebook that didn’t exist yet? But people did, from all around the world. We got Save the Teenies fans in Slovakia 🙂 Social media before game lauch, preferably a month or longer seemed to work well for us.

Putting up meaningful posts, creating a, posting character teasers all helped to create a bit of a buzz.

We jump started the page by inviting all our friends to like the page after we made some promo banners and bootstrapped some content. That bought us around 300 likes (some people just can’t be told like things apparently). While not a huge number, that was now our springboard. We paid for some (very) moderate advertising on facebook to get our game out as well. This was a great decision, as for a really tiny (sub $100 dollars) sum of money and some careful audience targeting we were getting a steady stream of likes per day. These weren’t pay to like profiles either, we very specifically targeted our core audience, matched their app playing behaviors (in this case playing a game in the last 7 days) and only targeted western countries. This was to make sure that old Jimmy LikeAlot in Indonesia didn’t make facebook and his ungainful employer some money by engaging in like buying.

When the game was ready to launch, we posted a big launch post with all the relevant links, a gorgeous post image and a big thank you. We also crucially asked people to share the post with their friends if they thought the Teenies were cute. Result? 13,000 impressions around the world, 37 shares, 50 comments and over 100 likes. Not bad for a game with a marketing budget of a peanut from a company no-one had heard of three weeks before.

Reviews

To my mind, reviews for apps from unknown developers these days come in two flavours. Paid, or paid. You’re not going to get reviewed by a moderate sized website with good traffic without encountering a paywall. These sites will review your game for an “expedited administrative cost”.

Basically, an ad masquerading as a review. Whilst it’s hard to not want to cough up the money for some exposure, we here at Giant Margarita would rather have our app reach a handful of people, than engage in pay-for-comment type situations. The worst app in the world will have its praises sung to the heavens if the dev pays enough to the reviewer.

We submitted press releases to quite a few review sites and have received very little encouraging news. Time will tell if any reviews come out of this process. It seems that other indie devs are suffering from this blight just as much as us. Our advice? send out a nice email to some little guys, basically begging for a quid pro quo promotion and hope for the best. That’s not say that games don’t get reviewed for free, but they’re usually either games that are made by well established companies, or are games that have already taken off in popularity.

In my anecdotal experience, Rhonda from Mississippi doesn’t sit on app review sites all days trying to find apps to download. Rhonda just goes the the app store. Heaps of people read reviews, but the VAST majority do not before they click download on the App Store or Play Store. Better spend that time cranking your direct social media profiles, meeting people in person or creating attractive app icons.

So what have we learned from this long and sometimes discouraging process? It’s hard being indie. But that’s why we struggle, for the joy of making games.

To recap, once you know you’ve got a good game idea we’ve learned from our own experience to focus on these things:

  1. Creating, polishing and finishing a game so that it can stand next to big name games and not be laughed at.
  2. Getting your game on social media, creating gorgeous promotional materials and engaging as many of your real and facebook friends as possible. Burn the app name into their memory. Save the Teenies. Hard to forget right?
  3. Try for, but don’t obsess (and especially don’t pay) for reviews. What’s more important is making a game that 500 people liked and downloaded, than buying app reviews from people who didn’t care to game the system. And if your game gets a little bit successful? It’ll get reviewed in no time at all.

Indie is about small people making games from the heart. Getting that game out there is hard, but if you like it, the game is already a success