With and without marketing: The consequences
I’ve seen lots of people complaining that they only have a few downloads for their games. I’ve also seen very good games with huge potential and they have 500 downloads or even less. What can we do to boost our downloads and make awareness for our games?
Today I would like to compare two games released by our studio, just from a marketing point of view: Cellogy and Polandball: Can into Space!.
Our first game is Cellogy a free game, which was released on May 2015 just on Android and it has only 217 downloads.
The second one is called Polandball: Can into Space! and it was released:
- Android, 6th January 2016, 11k downloads (Free version with ads + Paid version)
- iOS, 12th February 2016, 3.5k downloads (3$ + with some free campaigns)
- Steam, 16th June 2016, 2k downloads (3$)
You might say, “Well people know about Polandball, that’s why Polandball has more downloads than Cellogy”. Indeed the Polandball comics are well known, but there are iOS and Android Polandball games with less than 500 downloads. Also from what I saw from comments and reviews, most players are not even aware of the comics. Polandball has more downloads because we market the game.
I want to show you some statistics, tips & tricks, how we promoted our two games so far, what went good and what went wrong and what can we do to improve the marketing for our games.
I’ll break this post in 8 parts and you should choose and experiment with what you consider is best to promote your game:
- Facebook & Twitter
- Screenshots & Description
- Review for review
- Paid reviews
I believe that quality is an important attribute here. When you start to show your game to a larger audience, you have to use assets and content from the game. It’s really hard to create a marketing campaign if you don’t have a good quality product. And it’s really hard and counterproductive to sell a bad product.
For example, while having full time jobs we spent 3 months to develop Cellogy and 1 year to develop Polandball. In some ways the games are similar as you have to avoid other enemies by flying/swimming longer without dying. In fact, we have reused code (C# scripts and shaders) from Cellogy to create Polandball.
Polandball looks better, feels better and it took 3 times more energy to develop than Cellogy. If we haven’t had full time jobs I believe Cellogy would have taken 2 weeks and Polandball 2 or 3 months.
That’s why I measured in energy and not in time. There are some successful games which were developed in a few days or weeks..but they are just jackpots, don’t aim for that. How many games accomplished that?
In conclusion, if you have a better product, you can build better marketing campaigns.
The first thing you might notice from above is that Cellogy is just on Google Play and Polandball is on 3 platforms. This means that Polandball is much more exposed than Cellogy and more people can try our game on different devices.
Of course releasing on different platforms requires more time and money to invest into the game. For example, the Steam version for Polandball is different than the mobile version, because it is targeted to a different type of players. The Steam version for Polandball took another 4 months of development.
What should we do next? Release the games on other platforms & stores like: Kongregate, itch.io, GameJolt, Samsung, Amazon etc. If the game is fit for consoles, that might be a next step for you.
When we released Cellogy back in 2015, we didn’t had a Studio Facebook page or Twitter account. I remember that we just posted on our walls the following message: “We’ve just released Cellogy, check it out”.
The result: 20 downloads from our friends. Four of them were kind enough to give us a review. And that was it. That was our first and last social media post for the game. We have’t posted anything since then.
After the mobile release of Polandball, we posted weekly on Twitter and that helped us with a few downloads and people started to follow us. But don’t expect miracles on Twitter, not having followers on Twitter is like shouting to walls and you are wasting breath.
We also posted on our Facebook page, some news and plans for the game and invited our friends to like the page. Then, we posted in a few communities and wrote to some comics fan pages (this is what the game is about) to ask if they could share the game in case they find it interesting.
The result: A few pages shared our game and we gained exposure, also we received lots of feedback from indies from groups like Indie Game Developers or Indie Game Chat. In conclusion, be constant with your posts about the game on every social media network and don’t be afraid to show off. This takes times, but will help a lot.
PS: We wrote to a Facebook message to TV presenter with an IT show and next week we were on National Television. At the time the game was only on Google Play and this event brought over 2000 downloads and helped us with the Steam Greenlight campaign.
Posting on Reddit can help a lot, however it’s important to be smart and don’t spam their channels. On Reddit, the story sells better than anything. So don’t just share your link to the game because it’s worthless.
It’s important to share a story or a funny moment from the development of the game.
For example, for title you can write something like “Check out my game” or something like “I quit my job to finish this game“. Which one do you think is going to have a greater impact? The second one, of course :D. People will show empathy and they will respect your drive and devotion for game development. Don’t lie if you didn’t quit your job and don’t come with a fake story, sooner or later people will find out. Be original.
We didn’t create any gameplay videos or trailers for Cellogy. Although Youtube is a very nice tool to promote your games. People will have an opinion about the game just by looking on a video. We did 5 videos for Polandball which gather over 18k views.
Moreover stores recommend to show a video with your game. Also creating a video trailer can capture media and press attention when you email them. My biggest regret with Polandball is that we didn’t create any video during the development phase. My biggest regret with Cellogy is that we didn’t create any video at all.
If you can’t make a good quality video of the game, you should find someone to help you or just put a gameplay video.
Beside trailer, people can also judge the game base on screenshots & description. Remember that you must sell your game even if it’s free. Why? Because there are tons and tons of games out there. You have to win people’s attention somehow.
Providing good screenshots and a good description might increase chances that someone will download or buy the game. I believe that both Polandball and Cellogy have representative screenshots & description. However if you open both Google Play pages for the games, you can see that Polandball has much more quality and more things to say about the game from its screenshots and description.
Note! This is only for the mobile games.
A few months ago, a friend of mine, told me about a mechanism where you create an account on a website You have to download a game or an app, review it and someone will review your back. Like an exchange with other developer for reviews. Having good reviews can boost your app through charts so that’s why they invented this mechanism.
I didn’t know what to say at first because I was afraid that I can break Google Play policy but I was also curios what other devs have to say about my app and I said to myself “it’s not like I’m buying reviews”.
I reviewed like ~30 apps in two weeks in exchange for reviews for Polandball. So here is what happened:
- I installed horrible apps and games which you are somehow forced to give an ok review even if you don’t like them. Some apps where cool.
- I literally filled my phone with apps
- Received back only bad reviews that sounds like “Nice Job” or “Nice app! Keep rocking”, “Best Game ever”
- One app was continuously throwing errors even after I’ve restarted my phone.
- Finally, Google caught me and they don’t allow me to review apps anymore as my account is consider spammy.
Worth it? No. I don’t recommend it at all.
I made an experiment with a paid review for Polandball on Google Play to see if it’s worth the money or not. The review was 100$. Even if the review is very good and it’s marked as sponsored, the answer is no. Don’t pay for reviews.
It’s hard to measure the amount of traffic or number of downloads coming from a review website. You don’t know how many people you win with that money, unless you develop something like a feedback to ask them how they heard about the game. Finally you can consider it as a failed marketing campaign.
Polandball already had ~100 downloads per day. When this review came out and it was on their first page for one week, Polandball number of downloads was. You guess: ~100 downloads. I was expecting this as I’m also running a gaming website for a few years.
Let’s play as a detective. The website is pretty big, it’s number 12,132 Alexa Ranking. But if we are looking on their Facebook pages, which has over 1 million likes, only 20-30 “Indians” like their wall posts, also the whole India follow this account on Twitter. Wohooo and so many G+ followers. Those are bad signs. So I’m guessing that they are also buying their traffic.
I also received emails from smaller website which are on number 3 million on Alexa, asking 200$ to write a review for the game. Rank 3 million means that the website receives like 20 views per day or even less.
My suggestion, if you still want to pay an website, play as a detective first. Check their comments, their traffic, their followers etc. Usually a good website doesn’t ask for money to review your game. It is usually considered bad journalism. Better invest those 100$ campaign in Facebook advertising.
In the end
Make the game as good as possible, so you can easily build marketing campaigns after and stay away from “expensive” tricks. Remember that nobody holds the key for success, don’t thrust someone who tells you that they know exactly how to do it, just experiment and see what’s better for you.
Books I recommend: The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa