Dev Talk: What’s the Best Way to Promote a Mobile Game? (Part 2)

Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, the weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.

This week I posed the following question(s): “In your experience, what’s the best way to promote a mobile game? Is it submitting to review sites? Social media? Paid advertising? Some or all of the above, or something else entirely?”

Ollie Brown, Loveshack Entertainment

It’s all of those things combined really, although we’ve never done a heaps of paid advertising. I think for the FRAMED games there are two things we did that really helped and were invaluable to building recognition of the brand and interest in the games.

The first one applies more specifically to the original FRAMED. From the outset, even when the game was only a 10-level-long vertical slice, we started entering it into as many competitions as we were eligible for, things like IGF and IGF China, Indiecade etc. We were very lucky that in a lot of cases we received nominations (or even won) some of the categories in these competitions and awards. That gave us not only a huge boost in visibility, but also ‘seals of approval’ that we could leverage when we finally released.

The second boon for us (and this probably relates to being quite successful with the above approach), is that the FRAMED games are unlike anything else. They have no real genre and they have a truly original gameplay concept. This makes it much easier for us to stand out in a crowded market and become a talking point amongst gamers.

Valerie Bourdeau, Thunderbox Entertainment

First of all, here is what doesn’t work – we’ve found advertising on the App Store, Google and Facebook to be really ineffective. The cost per conversion is often much higher than the modest price of our “premium” apps. On Facebook, it can end up costing as much as $25 per install! But the ROI might be more worthwhile if you have in-app purchases to make up for it…

Submitting to review sites is crucial, but it can be a daunting process. Apparently key review sites receive about 200 submissions a day, so they can’t play ’em all. To improve your odds, you have to create a solid press list, keep it updated, and personally target the right outlets and writers for your game. Make it easy for them to write the reviews you want to read by providing a good press kit with all the details and assets they need. And send review codes directly – nobody will ever write you back to ask for them!

We’ve found that the best things you can do are to build a great relationship with your key online influencers and get them involved in a conversation leading up to launch. Betas and previews can help you build those relationships.

On iOS, our number one referrer is the App Store itself, so App Store Optimization is critical, coupled with regular updates to help float your app back onto the front page every once in a while. We follow dev instructions to the letter and keep our contacts at Apple informed whenever we have an update, which has helped us get featured. Also, it should come as no surprise that whenever we slash prices, we get a nice uplift in revenue… there seem to be a lot of bots that monitor app sales and tweet them out.

And finally, if Apple offers you a promotional opportunity, take it! The chaps at Apple have put three or four our way, all of which have required some work on our part, but they have always been well worth the effort.

Philipp Döschl, FDG Entertainment

It depends on the game. Surely the best and most important thing is to have a good relationship with the platform holders like Apple, Google and Amazon. Besides that, there’s no secret recipe that will make a game work through promo. It depends massively on the potential of each game and what works best for it. Not every game has the potential to make millions. This being said, probably the most effective ways are paid user acquisition, social media (if the game has the potential to go viral), and being featured in a successful movie or series. This list is of course not extensive.

Mobile gaming only focused media outlets have close to no relevance when the goal is to reach potential customers, unfortunately. They’re a good resource for the industry itself, but the number people interested in mobile games news and so on is significantly lower compared to other platforms. Things change of course if you manage to land on major tech websites, blogs or magazines with a mobile game.

Ivan Zucchelli, Zuki Games

In my experience… it’s a complete nightmare! 😀

We created a mid/hardcore arcade mobile game, with a cartoon 2D/3D mix, but big websites think we made a casual game. Reaching mid/hardcore gamers to interest them in a mobile game is the hardest thing I encountered. I’d say it’s a package. Just talk about your game to all the people who want to listen.

Twitter was good, Facebook didn’t bring us much of an audience. Submitting to review sites is a necessary step — we ignored the paid ones.

As long as your game is different enough, people answer I think! It was my first time communicating about a video game, and we were lucky enough to be featured on the App Store. I have no idea why, I wasn’t even aware it was going to happen. But it worked.

So, I’ll say: do things as professionally as you can. Plan your release. Tell people. Look for opportunities to share your game, a bit every day. It’s not something you do in the last week before release: it’s a mountain that requires a bit of effort, daily.

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