Skyrocketing Your Game's Visibility

Whether you’re developing games for iOS, Android, or some other platform, it’s going to be pretty easy for your app to get lost in the vast sea that grows at an alarming rate each and every day.

If you don’t want your app to drown, however, you’re going to have to take an active role in getting the word out. Nobody believes in your game better than you do—so the difference between nobody knowing about your game, and everybody knowing about it depends on the amount of effort you put into it not only during development (which is equally as important, obviously), but the effort you put into it afterwards as well.

A common scenario is that a developer pours their heart and soul (maybe?) into creating their masterpiece, and then once it’s finished, it’s “wait and see” time… almost like a break to take a step back and see how it performs out in the wild.

Unfortunately, hoping that the initial day of visibility is enough to make your game go viral is about as dependable as planning to win the lottery. Developing your game—I hate to say it—is only the beginning (which is why a high quality rapid development SDK such as Corona is essential, in my opinion).

After releasing five games to the iOS app store, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I’ve learned from each and every one of them. I documented what works, what doesn’t, what needs improvement, what needs to be done, and what needs to be tried with every single one of my launches from here on out.

What I’m going to share with you is my personal plan-of-attack for our next release (and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes once the game does get released). The following is exactly what I’m going to do pre-launch, and post-launch to help increase my chances of having the next successful game.

Beta Testing via TestFlight

I’ve personally suffered from a buggy release before, where I had to scramble to fix bugs and other usability issues as soon as the game is launched, and trust me, that’s the last thing you want to be doing on the “big” day.

For my next release, I plan on gathering a small handful of people and using TestFlight (a great, great service) to administer beta testing before I’m ready to submit the game for approval. I’ll have beta testers watch for bugs, and I’ll also monitor any usability suggestions to see if they will actually benefit the game (and not just change things for the sake of someone else’s personal vision for the game) and then adjust accordingly.

Then, once the first beta testing “phase” is over, I’ll gather another small handful of people to see if they catch anything that the first group didn’t. I’m pretty impatient, especially when it comes to releasing a completed game (especially since you have to wait out a grueling approval period), but I’ve learned that testing is of utmost importance.

You don’t want your beta testers to be the first ones who leave your 1 or 2-star ratings in iTunes. Unfortunately, I learned that one the hard way :-(

Social Networking Services

Prior to doing any kind of promotion, I’ll be setting up a Twitter account and a Facebook page dedicated solely to this next release. This will give me a way to track user interest before the game is even launched (followers), and also provide a more focused platform for delivering news, announcements, requests, etc.

Pre-Launch (Coming Soon) Trailer

Either mid-way through development, or once the game has been submitted to the App Store for approval, I plan on creating a short “Coming Soon” trailer and uploading it via YouTube. This trailer will be used as the basis of most of my promotional efforts and will help build some initial “buzz” before the game is actually released.

I’m not very experienced in creating trailers, but it doesn’t have to be hollywood quality. It just needs to be short, entertaining, and show off the best of what your game has to offer. The trailer I plan on creating is going to be simple, but I think it’ll be effective in getting the viewer to want to play the game and share the trailer with others.

Here’s a short summary of how I plan on having the video play out:

  • Trailer starts with the Beebe Games logo.

  • Small animation on the logo, directly relating to the game (I won’t spoil it just yet).

  • Black screen, game logo pops up (very bold).

  • The next screen is just a few words describing a main feature (“XX Levels”), and then the next screen following that will do the same (all this happening just seconds apart).

  • The next screen will be a couple seconds of gameplay footage (not enough to let them know what’s going on, but just enough to peak their interest). The screen will flip one-two times showing more gameplay footage.

  • More features, more gameplay footage. That whole process will repeat a couple of times until…

  • Black screen shows: “Coming April 2011” (or projected month of approval), the Twitter/Facebook links, and of course a link to the Beebe Games website. A short animation (continuing from the initial intro-animation) also plays and the trailer ends there.

Once the game is released, I’ll modify the trailer (possibly include more content) but change the “Coming Soon” to “Now Available” so I can still use it for promotional purposes post-launch.

All of the above can be done relatively easily if you have a few Flash skills (or are well versed in manipulating Corona transitions), have some kind of screen recording software, and can use iMovie to cut and splice things up (and publish, of course).

Word of Mouth

While I’m waiting for the game to be approved (and also once it is finally approved), I’m going to be blogging about the game, posting to the Facebook/Twitter pages, starting new threads at the appropriate forums (not spamming, notice how I said appropriate), participating in existing threads (while a link to the trailer sits in my signature), and sharing the trailer in as many places as I can.

This is your chance to go crazy, and be evangelical about your upcoming game… just don’t participate in SPAM.

Press Release on Launch Day

Before launch day, I’ll have written up a press release that I plan on distributing on the day of launch. You can either hire someone to do this for a fee, or if you’re a decent writer you can do it yourself (there are plenty of guides online that can help you with the format and content).

Distribution will be handled through a service called prMac.com, which I haven’t personally used, but I’ve heard good things about. It’s very affordable too so I hardly consider it a risk. If you know of a better one for iOS games, please let me know.

Try Your Best to Get Reviews

This is hit or miss, because there is a vast amount of games being submitted and nearly every one of them is being sent out to reviewers. I’m going to try my best to get as many reviews of the game as possible once it’s released, and then just hope for the best from there (that’s really all you can do).

I’m not going to be too bummed out if my game doesn’t get many, and you shouldn’t be either… give it a good shot, but then move on. There’s plenty of other things to do.

OpenFeint Free Game of the Day

Since our games often use OpenFeint, I always take the opportunity to submit my games to their “Free Game of the Day” service. If you’re approved, you’ll set your game free for a day and it’ll be promoted on FreeGameOfTheDay.com, which will drive TONS (and I’m not kidding), TONS of downloads to your app.

You’ll also experience a nice sales boost (either during, via In-App Purchases) or after the promotion once you game is set back to paid (you’ll share the profits with OpenFeint for that day and for a small period of time after, but hey, they helped you out so why not?).

Not all games are approved (they are pretty strict, actually), but it’s worth a shot. I have high hopes that our next release will be featured on that site in the coming months after launch.

There’s other similar services that you should try to get featured on as well. Another great one that I’ve used is freeAppCalendar.com.

Monitor Feedback and Update!

Whether it’s via Email, your Facebook/Twitter, or even iTunes customer reviews, you should be monitoring the feedback on your game and start constructing your first update ASAP, because it could be weeks before the update is available for your customers to download.

Like I said, I’m not perfect, and not any one of our five games have applied ALL of the above, because all of that is an accumulation of knowledge I’ve gained from my current experience as an app developer.

However, you can bet our next release will apply each and every one of the things I mentioned above, and as a bare minimum, yours should too. That is, if you want others to know about your game!

If you don’t feel excited enough about your game, or don’t think it’s “good enough” to warrant that kind of energy and effort, then perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board and make sure your app has all the elements of a successful game before even thinking of making it more visible.

Good luck, and here’s to your next release :-)

This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of blogs by indie iPhone developers featuring two posts per day. You can subscribe to iDevBlogADay through RSS or follow the #iDevBlogADay hash tag or @idevblogaday on Twitter.

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