Despite what you may have read or heard, successful games do NOT sell themselves. Marketing is as important to games as any other product, and whilst having a good marketing plan doesn’t guarantee success, not having one won’t help you unless your game is extremely innovative and extremely lucky.

There are over 850,000 apps on the App Store, with approximately 33% of those falling into the Games category. That means there are 283,050 games competing with you for people’s interest. Furthermore to get top 10 in the U.S App Store you need 80,000 downloads in one 24 hour period, and this number growing all the time.

The current cost-per-install for mobile games in the Apple App Store stands at US$2.73 and is trending up. Compared this to the average monthly revenue per user has leveled off at US$1.96.

This means if you are not featured by Apple or coax installs through viral means, you have to use an app marketing firm like TapJoy, ChartBoost, etc. just to get your game on a user’s device. And unfortunately there are no guarantees that anyone will actually play your game or spend money within your game.

So, with this all in mind, these tips are gathered from numerous websites and our own observations of the App store.

Marketing Budget:

Your marketing budget should be about a third of what you spent on the development of the game. So for a $50K game, you should be prepared to spend and additional $15K on marketing. It sounds like a lot of money especially after spending on game development, but the old adage is true – to make money you have to spend money.

Start Early:

Start thinking about your marketing plan early. Get onto your social networks early. Set up your game Twitter account, your Facebook page, your Tumblr early. Share work-in-progress pictures and video about your game on your networks.

Expand your networks by reaching out to mobile game networks and review sites. But don’t stop there. If your game is about saving animals, then start looking at animal lover websites. If it’s about fishing, hit up fishing forums. Remember to get involved in the forums and become a member of the community – don’t just use it as a place to spam your game.

And don’t neglect email. Email is still the best way to interact directly with your audience.

Trailers:

Trailers are just as important for mobile games as console games. Trailers are big business on YouTube and Vimeo, and can be used as an advertisement in and of itself. Many “free games” feature advertisements of other games and you might need one to utilise this revenue function.

Create a 30 to 90 second advert for YouTube and Vimeo. Be as professional as your budget will allow, but be funny / creative about the advert. Use game assets to make a funny cartoon, for example.

Also, because your game is going to be on a mobile, make the trailer mobile friendly. Another suggestion is to use mobile video apps like Vine to make a 6 second video to showcase gameplay. If your game doesn’t look fun in 6 seconds, think about how to refine it until it does.

And if you think 6 seconds isn’t long enough, I’ve been in a room with the VP of a games company deciding which games to put into production. He looked at 10 games in under 2 minutes. He approved those which impressed him immediately only after barely touching the screen.

Appstore Feature:

The biggest market is also the hardest to get into. To get top 10 in the U.S., you need 80,000 downloads in one 24 hour period, and this number growing all the time. It’s less for the UK; you need only 20,000 downloads, and in Australia only 8,000.

To get into the top 100 of the Australian App Store, you only need 2,000 downloads in one day. So be smart about where you wish to launch.

Once you get there Apple’s own “app discovery” effect kicks in as users see you featured on the front page, and you tend to stay there.

Apple features apps in it’s Store not to benefit developers but because those apps benefit Apple and it’s customers. Apple will feature something which leverages Apple iOS. Develop good and original software and Apple will look at you more favourably to be featured more than the other 1,000 apps being released that day.

Use your keywords smartly. Avoid general and generic keywords and be specific with them. Also consider placing your title in the genres with little competition such as Kids, Music, and Puzzle. Just make sure it’s appropriate.

Get the words right. Use engaging language and succinct sentences to grab attention and be clear about what your game is and who it is for.

Get the time right. Never set a date for launch because you don’t have control over Apple’s Submission Process. One little thing wrong such as a similarly named App or anything else can upset the apple cart and deny you submission. And be aware of the busy times on the App Store – most app downloads occur on the weekend, so obviously it’s best to market your app during a weekend.

Use the best screenshots from your game on the Appstore. Choose the most engaging screen shots and show the best parts of your game.

DO NOT TRICK Users with fake (photoshopped) shots because they will be spotted instantly and you’ll get bad press and rejected from the store.

Go universal and aim for launch on iPhone, iPod, iPad, iPad Mini, and also have language translations in your game. Games which are translated sometimes get tractions in markets they weren’t originally intended for. The eighties band A-Ha are still popular in Brazil, and sell out concerts over bands like Coldplay.

Lastly, the Appstore is extremely volatile, and changes the way it operates all the time. What works (or can be exploited) now might not in a month or two, let alone in a year’s time, so don’t invest in schemes which promise to raise your ranking and such. Be aware of the changes happening in the App Store, and make sure you’re quick to change things when Apple announces things have to change. Many Podcasts simply vanished from the charts when the App Store altered the way the images needed to be presented.

Reviews:

Reach out to review and blog websites. Send them early or free builds. Target those which seem to have the kinds of audience you want. No point targeting kids games reviewers if you have a mature rating, or first person shooter reviewers if you’ve got a fishing game.

Social Media:

Utilise your already established Twitter and Facebook to get people talking about the game once it’s launched. Offer competitions with prizes such as in game currency for getting people to “like” your Facebook page or retweet a post. And get some advertising on Facebook and Google. My podcast went from 50 ‘fans’ to over 250 ‘fans’ after spending $15 on Facebook adverts.

Think long term:

One in Four apps are downloaded and tried once, and never used again.

Furthermore, on average, mobile game developers need have to keep players engaged for two months or more before they can start making a profit from their mobile game.

The best way to encourage engagement is by continuing communication with your users. A successful tactic is retargeting. By targeting specific users based on their mobile behaviors and actions from the feedback provided by metrics, unique ads can be served urging a user to open your game, or even more effective – perform certain actions within the game.

And a real simple way to get users to come back is update the game icon. It puts an update in the App Store, and attracts people back to the game. I for one cannot stand the little number in the circle appearing on my phone, so constantly update my apps.

Certain games do this every big holiday – Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, Easter… but think outside the square as well – maybe think about Summer and Winter solstice, special days like Google does with it’s doodle. But be sensible with it – no point making a special icon for Martin Luther King Day icon if your game has nothing to do with Africa America.


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