A month ago I was riding high. I’d been through a wonderful weekend where I promoted my math apps via the wonderful App Friday and appadvice.com sites as a part of trying to launch my new game Claustrophobic.
I wrote about that experience in The Power of Promotion. I even spoke about it (rather clumsily, I might add) at a local Cocoheads meeting (video).
I’ve been really amazed at the longer term results of that promotion.
Whilst Claustrophobic has failed to capture the interest of the gaming public, both of my math apps (though primarily Tap Times Tables) have improved their sales on a day-to-day basis. Whilst I’ve not made any money at all from Claustrophobic, the act of promoting the math apps via App Friday and appadvice.com has paid off to the extent that my costs of development (apart from time) and marketing for Claustrophobic have now been covered.
To give you an idea of the before/after for my sales:
So you can see, that whilst I’m not getting rich, the difference is quite obvious.
After a couple of weeks with Claustrophobic in the store, it became quite obvious that I had to do something to try and get the game moving. I had got about 2000 downloads in that first week where it was free, but by looking at game center, I could see that people were uninstalling the game at a rate of about 10 per day. Not good. I wanted people to play it and have fun.
One user was happy enough to write a review in iTunes and provide me with some very useful feedback about the game. After some very detailed discussions online, I got to work and made a raft of improvements to the game play. This user was an experienced game developer and player, and the help was invaluable.
Here is an image showing the rather dismal rankings after launch. Certainly not the sort of graph an app developer wants after a launch:
So with a new version done, I readied it for release, and got it into the store. I then scheduled the app to go free on the 22nd of February, and let the kind people at appadvice.com know about it.
Whilst I wasn’t going to promote via App Friday this time, I thought I could get a good boost from appadvice.com and get the game in front of a lot of people. My hope was that they would enjoy it and get the word out.
Here is where it got a little frustrating for me. When we schedule an app price change, the price change starts in the first country to tick over that midnight boundary into the date we’ve scheduled. This makes sense, but it only has an effect if the people in that country notice.
All app developers know how important it is to get ratings, reviews and rankings in the US app store. Another thing that is important about that US app store is that it also has a huge infrastructure of support websites such as appadvice.com, 148apps.com, gamezebo.com, etc. These sites are all US focused, so when they say something, they say it in US time.
What does this mean? Well, even though Claustrophobic was free in Australia from midnight on the 22nd, no-one seemed to know. OK, so it’s my job to let people know, but hang on, isn’t that what appadvice.com was going to do? Well yes, but not in Australian time.
So for a whole 24 hours in Australia, nothing basically happened.
And then the US woke up…and so did the rest of the world…
Notice how clearly that jump is at midnight on the 23rd (Australian time)?
Now I can’t be sure exactly what time appadvice.com post their links and update their appsgonefree app with the new data, but it’s pretty amazing to watch an apps ranking go from nowhere to everywhere so suddenly.
Looking at this, we can see that in the US, Claustrophobic quickly jumped to around #55 in the Games/Action (iPad) and around #100 in Games/Action (iPhone). It then stayed there until the app went back to paid.
As I mentioned above, it was really quite frustrating to see what whilst the app was free for some time leading up to the US hitting the 22nd, there were plenty of other countries that simply didn’t know that they could get the app for free.
I guess that to a large extent this shows my lack of marketing skills, as it should have occurred to me to look for sites like appadvice.com in other parts of the world and coordinated things a lot better. Sometime on Saturday this hit me and I reached out to Kristin Heitmann of www.apppmedia.com, one of my friends in the ParentsWithApps community who had previously posted about experiences in Germany.
Kristin kindly sent me some links to app promotion sites in Germany, and I started working. Of the three sites I contacted only one actually responded, and that was APP gefahren
They were very quick to respond and offered to promote my app via a push to their customers. Initially the offer was as a paid-for service but after some discussion, they very kindly offered to do the push for free to help me out. My hope was that I would get a nice bump in Germany and I’d be able to give something back.
Prior to the push by APP gefahren, Claustrophobic had peaked in Germany at a rank of about #110 as shown below:
Once the push went out, there was a definite jump in rankings:
So whilst appadvice.com is great for high rankings in the US and other countries like Canada, it was clear that to get that extra boost in countries like Germany it’s just as important to have other sites like APP gefahren in on the action as well.
So what actually happened to the downloads? Did Claustrophobic got nuts like the math apps?
Sadly no, but I think that the main reason for this was nothing to do with how I promoted the game; I think it was more that it was a game. The whole “game” category in the App Store has soooo many more apps, and competing in such a large market is not easy at the best of times.
Education, as I’ve said before, is a much better market to be in just at the moment. The selection of apps in the Education category is far smaller, and it’s much easier to get noticed if you frequent the right sites, and make yourself known.
Getting visibility in the games universe is hard. Gamers are a tough crowd. They love their games; they expect a lot from them. There are some very impressive game houses out there producing awesome visuals that build up the expectations of the gamers. It’s not easy to get noticed in that environment without something new.
To be honest, I still think that Claustrophobic, whilst not in the league of a lot of other games out there, has something new; something I haven’t seen anywhere else. I still think it has potential (as does Jennifer Allen at 148apps.com). Version 1.1 saw a lot of changes, and the next version, 1.2 which I’m working hard on will bring a number of new features to the game as well.
So, how many downloads?
These took my ailing 1900 game centre players to just over 5000. As I write this, that is down to 4600 players, with about 110 players each day. It’s great to see people getting better scores; it shows that they are actually playing the game and playing it over and over. Apart from wanting to earn something from the game, I’m really hoping that people genuinely enjoy it.
So where to from here? Version 1.2 is moving along nicely. It’s going to incorporate a whole bunch of things that have been asked for by users via reviews (there are some truly wonderful reviews in iTunes, and by wonderful I don’t just mean positive). It will also become the starting point for an educational game.
I also have a huge new feature, but I’m not sure if I can pull it off technically. If I can, I think it will be a game-changer. Watch this space.
If you’ve found this information helpful, the please feel free to share, or to let me know via a comment. Here are a few links to people that have helped me out. If you’ve helped me and I’ve missed you, let me know and I’ll add you in.