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Top 5 Tips for Getting Featured on Google Play

By | Game Business Blog | 2 Comments

Recently, we covered the top tips to help indie developers get their game featured by Apple, but what about getting featured on Google Play?

The Google Play Store is different from Apple’s App Store, so it’s important to approach it differently as well. If you want to get your Android based game or app noticed by Google’s editorial team, there are five quintessential tips that you need to follow. Applying these core strategies will improve your chances of discoverability and your odds of getting featured on Google Play.

Let’s get started!

TIP #1 – Learn How Google Play Works

The types of apps and games that are getting featured on Google Play are the ones that are not only high-quality but Android-friendly as well. Having a solid understanding of how the Google Play Store works is a must if you want to make a game that will get noticed by their editorial team. Staying on top of the latest Google Play news and features will also help lead you in the right design direction for your game.

Google Play operates differently than Apple’s App Store on multiple levels. Understanding how users discover apps on the platform and their best practices and guidelines will make it easier for you to succeed.

First off, Apple tends to gravitate towards newly release titles while Google Play focuses more on engagement, popularity, the type of app it is and the overall quality. Most of the games getting featured on Google Play have a 3.9 to 4.5-star rating or higher and a minimum of 50,000 downloads. These two requirements alone, make having a good promotion and app marketing strategy pre and post launch mandatory, especially if you want your game to get noticed.

The way users discover apps and games in the Google Play Store is based on both automation and their editorial team, which means optimization and creating a high-quality Android-friendly app are equally important.

Discoverability

Users can find and discover new Android apps through the following ways:

  • Collections
  • Top Charts
  • Search
  • Android Excellence
  • Editors’ Choice

Each of these sections can help potential users stumble across your app. The Collections are based on each user’s past activities, previous searches, and location. The Top Charts are lists highlighting new apps, what’s trending, and the most popular games and apps. The search allows users to find apps based on keywords. Google Play’s app search functions much like the Google Search Engine itself which makes SEO practices and optimization useful.

The Android Excellence and Editors’ Choice sections are both led by the editorial team. Android Excellence is a features section that highlights apps and games that meet all of the quality guidelines and best practices that Google Play encourages. According to Google, the apps featured in Android Excellence set the bar.

To get a better understanding of the best practices and guidelines that are required to be considered for placement in the Android Excellence feature category, review the guides in the Google Play Developer Console. They’ll provide you with a wealth of information on how to make a great Android based application. Check out the ‘best practices’ and brush up on the play policies.

The Editors’ Choice section features the best Android apps in various categories with stellar design and innovation. The Google Play editorial team hand selects each of these feature apps. If getting featured on Google Play is your goal, studying both of these sections are key.

  • Google Play Bonus Tip: Use the Playbooks

There are also companion guides called playbooks to provide you with tips on various topics that you can download as an app. The playbooks for developers are convenient ways to learn the basics on certain subjects while you’re on-the-go. It doesn’t include all of the additional documentation and in-depth instruction that you would find on the console but it’s a nice starting point for new or busy devs that want to review the core fundamentals easily.

TIP #2 – Research & Study  the Apps Getting Featured on Google Play

Since getting featured on Google Play doesn’t happen as often as it does on Apple’s platform you have to make sure that you’re releasing a game that is Google Play Store feature worthy. Set aside some time to study the Editors’ Choice and featured games in your preferred category. Browse through Google’s Editors’ Choice section and view their featured apps and games. These games and listings will give you a clear idea of the type of games that the Google Play editorial team are likely to feature.

There’s no guessing involved when it comes to the Google platform. The layout in the Editors’ Choice Games section is an excellent example of this. There are currently six categories listed such as puzzles, runner games, racing, arcade, role-playing, simulation, and sports.

Each of the categories includes a tagline and brief intro that will provide you with a good idea of what the games all have in common. Then they take it even further by giving you a numbered list of the top three reasons why they love that particular app. It’s pretty cut and dry, but if you’re not studying up on the competition, you’ll completely miss it.

So, let’s take a closer look at one of these featured games categories and see what we can learn from it.

Editors’ Choice

In the puzzles category the tagline is ‘Puzzle Games to Test Your Logic,’ and in the brief intro, they make a point to say how puzzles come in many forms from tile-matching to epic adventures. This is a great indication that they’re looking for various puzzle based games that stand out. As you scroll down the page, you’ll see all of the featured puzzle games. You can see the number of reviews and ratings, why we love this, and a short description.

Let’s examine the feature listing for the Editors’ Choice pick ‘After the End: Forsaken Destiny by Nexon M Inc.’ In the ‘Why we love this’ section console-quality art and design, and dramatic cut-scenes are key reasons why the game was featured. It also states that the stage holds ‘plenty of secrets’ which means it’s challenging and engaging as well. If you click on the ‘see more’ button you’ll be lead to the app’s actual page listing where you can view their description, read reviews, and find developer information.

After the End: Forsaken Destiny - Editors' Choice Pick

After the End: Forsaken Destiny – Editors’ Choice Pick

Try to do this when you’re coming up with your initial game concept and design. Every several months check to see which apps are getting featured on Google Play, study them and take notes. A good rule of thumb to follow since it’s only updated quarterly is to create a spreadsheet to record all of your findings to keep as a reference. Just set a reminder to update it when the next list of featured apps are released. Use your research to help you make your game feature worthy.

TIP #3 – Aim for ‘Android Excellence’ to Get Your App Featured on Google Play

Another important tip for getting featured on Google Play is to aim for ‘Android Excellence’ in your game design. Implementing these key factors for success like good UI and UX design, engagement, localization, and supporting Android new features and devices will help boost your chances of discoverability and impressing Google’s editors.

UI & UX Design

Your app must provide players with a great user experience and design. Technical performance is also important. Try to make sure app is polished and free from any errors before you release it. Adding polish is much more than quality graphics, it’s the entire design and overall flow of your game. A polished game has top-notch graphics and cohesiveness throughout. The art style, theme, and gameplay are balanced. The app is interactive and engaging to users.

To create a well-polished app, you have to test it, use the feedback to make changes and improvement and repeat the process until you have a near perfect app. When you’re testing, it’s best to use beta testers instead of relying on friends or family members for feedback. Google Play encourages testing this way as well. They even have an early access program that you can apply for if your game or app launch is coming up or has only been launched within the past 60 days. It’s worth taking advantage of if you qualify.

Another factor that’s often overlooked is size. On Google Play size matters, especially when it’s your app’s file size. Try to keep your game’s file size under 100 MB. Large file sizes will slow down performance and ruin your chances of getting featured on Google Play. Remember, Android devices run more smoothly with low memory applications, so this is a characteristic they tend to look for in apps. In fact, Google Play has a feature game category titled ‘Great Games under 25 MB’ which serves as proof that size can be determining factor.

Engagement

Your app’s overall engagement and retention also determine it’s rank and potential for getting featured on Google Play. The best way to achieve a high level of engagement is to make sure your game has massive replay value. You can do this by making your game’s difficulty slowly ramp up to challenge players. Adding different modes, bonus zones or unlockable worlds and crazy power-ups work well too. You can also add cool unlockable characters and customization options that require players to continue to play to earn them.

Integrating an engaging reward system will add immense value to your game as well. When players are being challenged and having fun, it’s a winning formula. Examine the top charts and featured games with the highest engagement. Read the reviews on why players love the game, play them and try to add those features or aspects into your app. Encourage your users to rate and review your app by integrating incentives or adding a notification pop-up. Include social media sharing buttons within your app so users can quickly post and share.

  • Google Play Bonus Tip: Always Update Your Android Apps

Make an effort to update your apps and games regularly, whether it’s monthly or quarterly. Try to add new content to your app to keep your current users engaged and to help attract new players as well.

Localization

Google Play has over a billion active Android device users in more than 190 countries in the world. The wide reach makes localizing your app an important factor to Google. It’s so much so that you can localize your application directly from your developer console using their services or have your own translations done and import. Not every game or app is ideal to launch globally.

To save money and precious time, Google Play recommends that you do your research and be selective about which countries to target. They also have guides and downloadable playbooks available on localization in the developer console that you access for further guidance.

Google Play Store Feature GraphicAndroid Device Compatibility

Making sure your app supports various Google Play devices is another way that you can not only make your app Android-friendly but increase your chances of getting featured on Google Play as well. Adding compatibility for popular Android-based smartphones and tablets like Samsung Galaxy and Amazon Fire is a good starting point. There’s also Android TV, Android Wear, Android’s platform for VR called Daydream and other devices that you can consider making your app available. Like most platforms, they love it when you integrate their tech and features into your app.

TIP #4 – Optimize Your App’s Page

An optimized Google Play Store listing will also increase your odds of getting featured on Google Play. If you’re unfamiliar with ASO or in this case, GPSO (Google Play Store Optimization) it’s the process of optimizing or improving your app page listing for better visibility in search and ranking. It’s a form of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that focuses on the app store. Your app’s icon, screenshots, title, keywords, description, and reviews all contribute to its discoverability.

Google Play Store Optimization (GPSO)

Your app’s biggest selling point is its graphics. Always use the best high-resolution images possible for your app icon and screenshots. Keywords are also an important factor for optimization. The objective is to find low competitive but relevant keywords with average to high traffic to optimize your listing. You can use tools like the Google Keyword Planner, OneLook, Mobile Action, Sensor Tower and App Annie to research and find ideal keywords to use. For more in-depth tips on selecting keywords, you can check out our previous post, App Store Optimization: Finding ASO Keywords, many of the techniques can be applied for GPSO.

Once you have your target keywords, try to include your main keyword in your app title. There’s a 30 character count for app titles but try to avoid keyword stuffing. If getting featured by Google Play is your aim, you have to make your app listing look professional and not spammy. There’s also a short description and a long description for your game. It’s best to squeeze your main keyword somewhere at the beginning of your short description for better optimization. When you’re writing your long description, try to focus on keyword density and content. Tell readers why your app or game is unique. Try to work your target keywords into your description at least five times or more. Remember the secret to good optimization is quality.

promote your app

TIP #5 – Continuously Promote Your Game

To get your game or app featured on Google Play, you have to promote it continuously. They’re looking for games with well-above average star ratings, reviews, and a sizeable amount of downloads. Promoting your game is also essential for success. There are tons of different methods that you can use to help generate buzz around your app. The first step you should take is to create a website or simple landing page for your app. This can easily be done using platforms like WordPress, Blogger, or LeadPages.

Get social. Create social media accounts for your game or studio on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Start posting teasers, screenshots, and updates consistently. Try to blog about your game development journey to help build a community of loyal fans around your app. Be active on game and development forums and post about your app.

Use YouTube to generate installs. Make YouTube videos highlighting your game in the form gameplay trailers, teasers or Vlogs of your development process and use YouTube cards to add links to your app. Promote your game on sites like Product Hunt. Create a press kit and press release. Contact journalists, bloggers, and game reviewers and pitch your game to them. Try to get a write-up or review on your game from multiple sites to help generate buzz.

You can also invest in Facebook or Google Ads to help promote your game and increase installs.

Truth About Google Play

When you’ve reached the requirements for a possible feature, continue to push and reach out to press. Remember that connecting with Google Play’s editorial team is harder than connecting with Apple’s team. At the time of this writing, there’s not an official submission form for requesting feature consideration. Featured apps and games are chosen solely by the editorial team. You have to create a stellar Android-based app and heavily promote it to get their attention.

However, if you’re lucky enough to find and connect with someone who works at Google Play you can pitch to them directly.

Getting Featured on Google Play

Although these tips will increase your chances of having your game featured, there’s no silver bullet or single factor that will guarantee instant results. Remember, getting featured on Google Play is not easy. Take the time to learn how the Google Play Store works. Study the Android apps that are getting featured on Google Play and look for ways to model to improve. Strive for ‘Android Excellence.’ Also, don’t forget to optimize your app’s page and continuously promote it. Google Play only showcases feature apps quarterly, so do your best to market your game and increase its overall rating. If you want to be successful, be consistent and don’t give up. Success is always closer than you think.

 

Make Your App Go Viral

How to Make Your App Go Viral

By | Game Business Blog | 18 Comments

How can you make your app go viral? And what role can social influencers play in this game marketing strategy?

Well, there are several different methods that you can use to help make your app go viral. Although there is no guarantee when it comes to virality, these tips when applied will give you a huge advantage in the App Store. Let’s get started:

#1 – Create A Game with Viral Potential

To go viral is to become popular suddenly through rapid sharing from person to person or word-of-mouth. It’s every indie game developer’s dream to have their app go viral and quickly become a trending topic. Viral apps receive thousands of downloads, an increase in reviews, buzz, and revenue.

So, what’s the secret to getting people to want to share and post about your game to others?

The answer might surprise you. It all comes down to design and how you promote your game. If you want to make your app go viral, you have to design it in a way that will encourage users to share. Creating your game with viral potential is important. It’s also one of the key factors that top publishers search for, and that you should try to include in every game that you make. An app with viral potential has a ‘wow factor’ or something special that makes it worth talking about or sharing. Anything that can engage and grab a player’s attention long enough to evoke emotion has the potential to go viral.

When you’re making a game, try to include one or multiple ‘wow factors’ within your design. Add unique gameplay and high-quality graphics but don’t stop there. Research and study trends to discover an untapped gameplay mechanic or style that you can integrate into your app. Find games that are performing well and use the model and improve technique to help you come up with more innovative game concepts that you can use. Creating a game with a new twist on a familiar gameplay mechanic could be a ‘wow factor’ worthy of getting players talking.

The Wow Factor & Going Viral

Adding never-seen-before effects, eye-catching graphics, wacky unlockable characters, funny sounds, or an excellent soundtrack that music enthusiasts would want to tweet about can help as well. All of them have the ability to make a user connect emotionally to the game. The secret is to make a game that is addicting. Any app that can capture someone’s attention and fully engage them has viral potential.

Another way to make your app go viral is to create a game that is challenging. You can accomplish this by adding hard or almost impossible to beat game modes into your app or by making your gameplay fun but harder than other similar titles.

Flappy Bird to Crossy Road

An excellent example of this is Dong Nguyen’s game called Flappy Bird. The game had been out for over a year before it went viral, but when it did, it became one of the most popular games to hit the mobile scene. The gameplay mechanics were based on the classic Super Mario games, but Nguyen added a twist. He made the game extremely challenging. One person tried his game and found themselves completely obsessed and frustrated with how difficult it was. They went to social media and started tweeting about the app which led to others trying it and posting about it.

Practically overnight, the game had quickly gone viral. Flappy Bird was making thousands of dollars per day and skyrocketed to the #1 position on the charts. The game’s success was due to its ability to evoke emotion from its players. Although it appeared to be straightforward and easy to play, the game was in fact, extremely hard. The challenge of playing and successfully clearing a level created a ‘wow factor’ that was worth sharing.

A good reward system can also be a ‘wow factor.’ Hipster Whale’s Crossy Road is a great example. Their reward system is timed to provide players with cool bonus gifts for staying engaged. The ability to get ‘free stuff’ and unlockable characters just by continuing to play gives it a ‘wow factor’ of its own.

If you want to make your app go viral, you also have to make sharing easy for your users. Integrating built-in sharing options into your app and encouraging players between sessions to share, post or tweet their score can increase your odds of going viral.

#2 – Make Your App Viral Using Current Trends

Basing your game concept on current trends is another strategy that you can do to make your app go viral. This method can produce some serious results if your timing is right. If you want to make a viral app, you have to stay on top of the most current pop culture trends. Keep track of the top trending topics and hashtags on popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Check Google Trends, and YouTube trending feeds. Then find a trending meme or craze like the latest dance or online challenge that’s still gaining speed and incorporate it into your game’s theme.

The Meme Based Games Takeover

We’ve seen many of our Buildbox customers create meme based games that have gone viral using our software. Games like the Water Bottle Flip Challenge, Juju on the Beat, Running Man Challenge, Damn Daniel, Cash Me Outside, Trump on the Run, and Bernie Sandwiches all went viral. They also all used this technique by creating a game based on current trend. However, the secret to their success was the fact that they were able to quickly create their game and release it while the trend was still trending online. The key when you’re creating a viral app is to act fast. You have to release your app while it’s the latest thing.

All of the meme based games that were created using our software like Damn Daniel, JuJu on the Beat, and Cash Me Outside reached the top of the charts because they were one of the first games released based on that specific meme. The timing was perfect. If you want to make your app go viral, you have to take action right away and get it released in ample time. Develop your game quickly or use a codeless software with rapid development features like Buildbox to make your viral app before the trend fades or the competition becomes too fierce.

#3 – Apply Social Influencer Marketing Strategies to Go Viral

Game creators often overlook the potential of social influencers, but they can produce great results in your game marketing efforts. Hiring or partnering with social influencers (people on social media with large followings and credibility) to promote your game can make your app go viral.

No one knows how to draw awareness and engage better than someone who has already managed to dominate a particular niche or platform on social media. Also, you don’t have to be a major studio to work with social influencers either. We’ve seen many developers do quite well with this tactic working on a smaller budget and scale.

Here’s a quick summary of how it works:

First, you decide on your budget and the max amount you’re willing to spend. Then you find social influencers on social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Musical.ly or Facebook with your target demographics and reach that you believe could be a good fit for your game. You follow and connect with them, then go in for the ask and see if you could hire or form a partnership. If they agree to it, they’ll promote your game to their thousands of followers to help get the word out. For each app that you’re trying to push, you’ll typically use 2-3 different social influencers.

Social Influencers

How to Find Social Media Influencers & Connect

You can find social media influencers yourself, or you can use social influencer software or agencies to connect. Each route has its share of pros and cons. The first method which is finding social media influencers yourself can feel overwhelming for many new developers. However, if you enjoy networking and have the time, it can save you some extra money since it’s free to do.

To find social media influencers manually here’s a quick rundown of the process:

You start by doing some research on who you’re trying to target for your app. Is your game designed for casual gamers of all ages or primarily younger audiences? Choose the best social media platform that your potential player base that they’ll most likely be using. Another technique to help you pick a platform to target is to research your competitors and find out which social media networks they target.

Create a ‘Social Media Influencer Contact’ spreadsheet in Excel or Google Spreadsheets. In your spreadsheet designate columns to list the influencer’s name, contact info, all social links, notes, and date of contact and follow-up. This spreadsheet will not only help keep you organized, but it’ll also make the reach out process much easier.

Searching for Micro-Influencers

Using the social media platform of your choice start researching the top social influencers that would be a good fit within your app’s niche. The way you do this can vary with each platform, but in general, you should search for micro-influencers. These are social influencers with smaller followings (50,000 to 100,000 followers) but have high engagement. The engagement is an important factor when selecting a social influencer. Always aim for the influencer with a lot of likes and comments. Look profiles that have followers that are active and engaged for better end results. When they promote your game, their fans are more likely to click on the link and download your app.

Avoid influencers with tons of likes but zero comments. Also, try to scan through their list of followers. If you notice a lot of followers without a profile photo, be aware that they could be bots and the influencer may not be as influential as they appear. It’s important to thoroughly check them out before adding their name to your list. You’re going to be paying them for their shout out or app promotion, so it’s critical that they’re real influencers.  Most micro-influencers charge anywhere from $25 to $500 per shout out or post, so you want to make sure it’s worth it.

Social Influencer Marketing Tools

When you’re trying to find social media influencers, you can also use individual sites and tools. Buzzsumo has an influencer search section that allows you to sort through potential users within your preferred niche quickly. There’s also Followerwonk, Klear, Iconosquare, and Traacker that you can use as well. The only downside is that they’re not free. There are also large agencies like Viralnation or Mediakix that connect brands with social influencers, but those are predominately for major companies. If you’re an indie developer, you’ll want to manually find social media influencers or invest in some tools to speed up the process. Most influencers have their contact information listed, but if you’re having trouble finding it, you can use sites like EmailHunter.co.

Connecting with Influencers

Try to identify and connect with your target influencers early on and follow them. Retweet or like some of their posts and comment to build up a rapport. It’s also important to personalize your email when you’re contacting an influencer. Compliment them, let them know why you wanted to get in touch and how your app or game could benefit them and why their followers would be interested. Then ask them for a shout out or whatever promotion you’re trying to set-up. Be sure to include all your contact and social handles and any specific hashtags you want to be used.

Finally, end the email asking them if they have any questions, politely give them a deadline and thank them. Mark in your spreadsheet when you sent out the request and follow-up if you don’t receive a response.

If you happen to be skilled at networking and have a significant following on social media, you can approach social influencers to form a partnership. In a partnership, you help each other to promote various projects or collaborations. However, this tactic is primarily for more established developers.

Best Tips to Help Make Your App Go Viral

If you want to make your app go viral, you have to create a great game with viral potential. Try to add features deserving of a tweet or post. Include ‘wow factors’ in your gameplay, graphics, characters, and effects. Add a difficult challenge to get players talking. Keep them engages with a good reward system. Encourage users to share with clearly visible built-in sharing options within your game. Make your app go viral by basing your game concept on a trending meme or craze. And don’t turn a blind eye to the power of today’s social media influencers. You can use social influencer marketing strategies to go viral. Try to identify your influencers early on. Target micro-influencers when you’re just starting out and working within a budget. And always check their engagement, followers, and comments before you connect.

Following these tips will help improve your chances of success, but there’s no set formula to make your app go viral. However, with a bit of luck and these strategies, the odds will be in your favor.

How to get featured by Apple

How to Get Featured by Apple

By | Game Business Blog | 6 Comments

Do you want to learn how to get Apple to feature your App?

Today, we’ll share the five key steps you need to take to help you get Apple to feature your app and gain major exposure for your game. Let’s dive right in!

Step 1 – Design a Great iOS App Worthy of Getting Featured

If you want to know the secret to getting your app or game featured, here it is:

There is no secret! Apple is specific about what type of apps and games they want to promote and how you should go about creating them. If you want to get featured by Apple, you have to design your game with Apple’s platform in mind. Simply making a great game isn’t enough, you have to make a great iOS based game.

Let’s walk through the whole process …

Study the App Store

First, you need to study the App Store. Make it a habit of researching and analyzing the games that get featured each week. Studying and researching featured games, will give you a good idea of the direction you should take when you’re designing your game. Visit the App Store homepage and view all of the featured games and stories. Jot down the game names and download the ones that catch your eye. Pay attention to the art style, gameplay mechanics, icon, screenshots, features, and themes. Look for any reoccurring patterns or trends and make a note of it. Then try to investigate even further and examine their App Store page listing. Read their reviews, visit the developer’s website, and Google the game to see which media sites have covered them.

Add New Apple Features

It’s also important to keep up-to-date with Apple’s new features. This is HUGE! Apple loves to promote apps that include iOS based features, especially the ones that they’re currently highlighting. So frequently check their website for the latest updates. Try to add new iOS features, technology or aspects that Apple values to your game to increase your odds of being selected.

For example, Untame Games created the indie hit Mushroom 11 which was recently featured by Apple as Editors’ Choice and won the 2017 Game Design Award. The indie title was not new to the scene, it had been available on Steam and multiple platforms prior but Untame Games turned their great game into an innovative iOS game by adding Apple’s 3D touch control feature. When you view their App Store page listing, it’s noted in the description that the game features an ‘iOS Exclusive: Force Touch enabled for a fully immersive experience.’ Adding Apple’s new features can give you an advantage when you’re trying to get featured.

'Mushroom 11 apple features image'

Show Exclusivity to Get Apple to Feature Your App

Showing loyalty to the Apple brand is also a method that you can use to design your app to be feature worthy. Releasing it solely on iOS or first on the platform can work in your favor if you use it as an angle in your pitch to get featured. Ustwo’s Monument Valley 2 is an excellent example of this strategy in action. The game’s feature tagline reads, “A deeply beautiful journey. Only on the Apple Store.” Although the first version is available on both iOS and Android, the sequel is only currently available on iOS.

You can also try integrating high valued features like IAPs (In-App Purchases). Not only do these bonuses boost replay value but they also stand out to the editorial team. Apple is starting to put a higher emphasis on promoting IAPs with the new iOS 11 App Store design. App Store page listings will have a special section showcasing available in-app purchase items for your game. Developers will be able to highlight their best items, characters or upgrades directly on their app page. Remember, Apple generates revenue from apps that have in-app purchases so including this factor can also help you get featured.

'Editors Choice Apps image'

Here’s a brief list of the factors that Apple’s editorial team consider:

  • Good UI Design & User Experience
  • Uniqueness
  • Localization
  • Quality App Store Product Page
  • Gameplay
  • Graphics
  • Audio
  • Replay Value
  • Controls

You can find more information on what editors are looking for on Apple’s discoverability page. Also, keep in mind that they only feature apps that are new or include major updates.

Step 2 – Add Polish & Update

Before you start pitching to get featured, it’s paramount that you make sure your app is ready. Apple is all about aesthetics. If you take a look at the App Store homepage, most if not all of the featured games have high-quality graphics. Make sure your game’s icon, screenshots, and graphics are all top-notch. It’s also important to add polish to your game. Polish equals quality.

To add polish to your game, you have to look it over and find any minor or major details that you can improve on. Don’t rely solely on your judgement for this step. Seek out beta testers to help you find errors and get valuable feedback on your game. Make all the necessary changes and then re-test. Repeat the process until you have a polished well-designed game. Every aspect of your game should be cohesive and high-quality from the art-style and UI down to the game’s core mechanics.

If you’re trying to get an app that you’ve previously released featured in the App Store, you need to have a significant update. Again, testing is essential. Use testers to find areas where your app or game can be improved and other issues that need to be addressed. Then make all of the necessary changes.

You’ll also need to add new content to your game when updating to get featured by Apple. This can be in the form of new worlds, game modes, characters and of course special features. As we mentioned earlier, adding Apple based features can increase your odds of getting noticed.

New App Store

Step 3 – Get Press & Generate Buzz

Getting press coverage and features often go hand in hand. One can land you the other and vice versa. So, it’s vital that you reach out to press to see if you can get sites like Mashable, Tech Crunch, Touch Arcade, and others to endorse your app. When you receive media coverage, you’ll have social proof that your game is great and deserves to be featured in the App Store. You can use this social proof to your advantage in your pitch to get featured by Apple.

The two major determining factors for getting press are your hook or USP (unique selling point) and press kit. Having both of these ready to rock-n-roll when you’re reaching out to journalists and reviewers will make gaining coverage easy. If you’re not familiar with creating your hook or press kit, we discussed in detail how to form both of these in our previous article called, ‘How to Get Press.’

Your hook or USP describes what makes your game great. It’s the tagline that you’ll be using to promote and pitch to not only journalists but to Apple to get featured as well. To come up with your hook, play and analyze your game. Look over your feedback from testing and create a list of features and reasons that describe what makes your app special. Is your game a hybrid of two other popular games? Does it include the latest features from Apple? Then examine the list and select the best hook to use to push your app.

The Press Kit

Once you’ve nailed down a hook, you need to create a press kit. A good press kit will have a gameplay trailer/preview, icons, high-resolution screenshots, any additional banners or logos and a press release or text document with information about the game. In general, your game trailer should be 30 to 90 seconds in length. However, Apple is now allowing up to three app previews (30-second limit) to be added to your App Store page listing it’s wise to create multiple versions of your trailer as well.

Create one standard 90-second trailer to use to pitch to journalists and for promos. Then edit or re-create three 30-second versions of the trailer with each video highlighting different key features of your game. Use the 30-second previews for your App Store page listing. Remember, when you’re creating game trailers you have to grab the viewer’s attention, zero in on your hook and get them excited about your game. The goal is to excite, entertain, and explain.

Make sure to include 3-5 high-resolution screenshots of your game in the press kit also. Your gameplay screenshots should show your game in the best possible light. Try to take screenshots that point out your game’s features and uniqueness. Include high-quality icon, logos, and banner images in your press kit as well. When you write your press release, try to focus on your app’s USPs. Then convert the files into a downloadable link or create a digital press kit page on your app’s website that’s easily accessible.

Contacting Journalists

Use your App Store research to help you create a press list of potential journalists and game reviewers to contact. Google each writer and read some of their work to see if they are worth pursuing. If they are, find their contact information and add it to your list. If you can’t find their email address, you can try using tools like VoilaNorbert, Found.ly, or Rapportive.

When you’re emailing press, the information that you’ve gathered in your press kit is your secret weapon. Use the press kit, your hook, and research to help you make every pitch you send unique and distinctive. Keep your pitch to journalists short but detailed and always include your press kit link or page URL.

Step 4 – Establish a Relationship with Apple

All of the apps and games that are featured in the App Store are hand-picked by Apple’s editorial team. So, it’s important to make genuine connections and build up a rapport with individuals who work at Apple if you want to get featured. Establishing a relationship with someone at Apple can give you the upper hand when it comes to getting features. One of the best ways to network and connect is by attending conferences and major events like WWDC. Attending events is an excellent way to meet and build a relationship with Apple employees that can put in a good word on your behalf or feature your game if they happen to be part of the editorial staff.

You can also network with Apple’s staff through social media. Join LinkedIn and enter ‘App Store Manager’ into the search box. Filter the results by your preferred country or location and look for people managing the category that fits your app. Connect with them on LinkedIn or use the Chrome extensions like Email Hunter to help you get their email address. Check out their other social media profiles like Twitter and Instagram and find out more about them. Maybe they have a particular hobby or movie that they enjoy. You can use that knowledge as a conversational piece to connect with them.

Step 5 – Pitch & Get Featured by Apple

If you want to get featured by Apple, you can pitch your app directly via their website. In the past, developers were able to email Apple at appstorepromotion@apple.com or appoftheweek@apple.com, but this contact method is no longer valid. Apple has created a form for developers to submit if they want to pitch their game to get featured. You can locate this form at https://developer.apple.com//contact/app-store/promote/ when you log into your developer account. Or you can access it from the contact us link at the bottom of Apple’s discoverability page.

The App Store feature form is divided into three main sections:

  1. Developer Information
  2. App Details
  3. Your Story

The Developer & App Details

In the Developer Information section, you have your contact details from your account, and you only have to type in your developer name for the app that you’re pitching to get featured. The next section is the much longer, it entails all of your app details from the app name, category, countries releasing in and business model to the release date. It also includes a ‘Describe Your App’ section. In this area, you need to list your game’s key features and any supported Apple technologies. There is a 1,000 character limit, so be concise. Use your hooks (USPs) and list any significant Apple features (i.e. 3D touch). Also, mention your business model and if you have any noteworthy in-app purchases available to engage players.

Your Story

The final section of the form is called Your Story. In this area, you have to craft your personal story. Provide Apple with a little bit of background info on who you are and what inspired you to create your game. Take some time to brainstorm and write a brief but compelling narrative. Mention your game’s unique features and gameplay mechanics. Try to make a reference to any social proof or press coverage that your app has received as well.

Write down the date that you submitted your pitch to get featured by Apple, and keep it for your record. Recording it can help you determine if and when to follow-up or re-submit if necessary. Sometimes Apple doesn’t notify you when your app has been selected. So continue to check weekly to see if your game has been featured.

Getting your game featured in the App Store is not guaranteed nor an easy task, but if you do get featured, it can open up a lot of doors. Use these steps to help increase your chances of landing a feature on the App Store!

game marketing

Game Marketing Tips from App Experts

By | Game Business Blog | 3 Comments

What’s the secret to game marketing success? And which app promotion strategies are the best at delivering results?

Well, we reached out to a few of our most successful Buildbox developers that have become app experts at not only creating great games but gaining massive exposure for them also, to get their opinion on the topic.

The two questions asked were:

  1. What would be your advice to indie developers that want to get their game noticed?
  2. As far as app promotion and game marketing strategies go, what do you think is the most important strategy that game developers should follow?

The answers and insights from these top developers were nothing short of amazing! Check it out:

Simon Crack – Founder of Dead Cool Apps

“I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach. You really need a holistic view.”

“Make no mistake it can be very hard for an indie developer to market their own game. However, if you are going it alone you need to cover many of these bases:

– Share on social and forums on your progress of your game – People love to follow your progress!
– Post trailer/footage to YouTube
– Utilize FB ads if appropriate
– Apple Search Ads
– Make trend based games
– Post to Product Hunt
– Paid Social Campaigns
– If you make an awesome game contact Apple for a potential feature
– Influencer Shout outs
– Partner up with an Influencer
– App Store Optimisation (ASO)
– Start to build a brand
– Keep knocking on doors – One will open sooner or later!

As far as app promotion strategies go, I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach. You really need a holistic view. It totally depends on the game/app. But like I mentioned above there are a lot of ways to go. If I  had to name one strategy it would be: Make a great game – It can really be that simple. Marketing a great game is a lot easier than marketing a bad one.

Honestly, that’s the hardest part. If you make a great game – you’ll suddenly have options like pitching Apple for a Feature.”

DeadCoolApps is a small, indie mobile game studio based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Founded by Simon Crack in 2012, they have created over 300 apps, reached the top charts many times and generated tens of millions of downloads. DeadCoolApps are proud to have been Featured by Apple 14 times in New Games We Love.

You can follow DeadCoolApps on FB, Twitter & Instagram.

Kevin Wolstenholme – Founder of RisingHigh Studios

“Documenting your journey of building the game is by far the best way to build up some engagement, and it also has the side effect of keeping you accountable and on track time wise.”

“Start early, and I mean early.

As soon as you have anything at all to show, start posting on your blog / social media channels. These can be early sketches or concepts, and videos will always perform better than flat images.

Post regularly, make the commitment and weave this into your development cycle. People live there lives in weekly cycles, so be sure to at least post on the same day every week. People don’t notice announcements; they notice consistency.

Keep posting even if no-one is watching, commenting or reacting, especially when starting out. It can seem like a waste of time, but there will be a point when you’ll start to see a little traction, the biggest companies in the world all started with that first post.  

Documenting your journey of building the game is by far the best way to build up some engagement, and it also has the side effect of keeping you accountable and on track time wise. There’s nothing like a bit of public accountability to keep you pushing on, certainly through the tough times where you’ll need to plow through and complete the project. 

We always post on our Facebook page every Friday ( and often more during the week ) and always post screenshots or video’s for #screenshotsaturday on Twitter. From the 8-12 week development cycle of our latest game ” • Glide ” ( Featured by Apple in 112 countries ), we posted pretty much as soon as we had something to show and continued right up until our launch day.

#SCREENSHOTSATURDAY

 

screenshot saturday montage

While there is an argument for worrying about copycats, the biggest issue is not being ripped off or cloned. This will always happen eventually, the real problem is not being seen at all.

Keep an eye on the biggest mobile game focused websites out there and pay attention to articles that they are interested in. Make a note of the editors and follow them on social, like their tweets and occasionally reply to them if you have something genuine to say, this can be just enough to break that ice when you finally come around to pitch them.

It’s no longer about huge promotional pushes or bursts, but more to do with long-term updates and prolonged, sustained work. Sure, these social media blasts and influencer promotions work and can be super effective, but to maintain ranking, you’ll still need a solid game to once that blast tap is turned off.

The biggest app promotion you can do is build the best game you can, based off solid research and proven mechanics. I realize this sounds like a poor answer, but actually, it’s the honest truth.

While great marketing can get you exposure for your game, you have to be honest with yourself and ask if your game has the quality, polish and the x-factor that the market wants.”

Kevin Wolstenholme is the founder of the UK-based indie game studio, RisingHigh. They’ve been featured by Apple in ‘Best New Games’ 12 times along with several ‘Get Your Game On’ features by Amazon.

You can follow RisingHigh on FB and Twitter.

David Reichelt – Creator of Color Switch

“I recommend failing fast and a lot. You must first make a lot of bad games before you get to your good game.”

“Well, of course, you need to make a good game. This is easier said than done. You have to study game design, analyze games, and make games. I recommend failing fast and a lot. You must first make a lot of bad games before you get to your good game. Once you do get there, you don’t need to do too much other than email a publisher and send a short trailer of your game. If it’s a good game, it will speak for itself.

If you are doing the marketing yourself, it would be good to team up with a social influencer these days. Any marketing will only really work with a good product.”

David Reichelt is a game designer and creator of the hit Color Switch (which has amassed over 150M downloads worldwide). It was also ranked #1 in All Apps in over 50 different countries across the globe and broke the App Store record for holding the #1 spot for the longest length of time, a jaw-dropping 27 days.

You can follow David Reichelt on Twitter & Instagram.

Akim Kasabulatov – Indie Developer / Metal Bear Studios

“Invest the biggest part of time into improving art-style and game graphics.”

“The game graphics and screens should sell a game to players. Invest the biggest part of time into improving art-style and game graphics. Also, make good video trailer and localized description. When only one screen can sell the product –  you did a great job.

Try to find contacts with platforms and show them your game, ask feedback. Always send press releases and announcements to press. Do it in few weeks before release. Post topics on gaming forums and tell players about your game.”

Akim Kasabulatov is an Indie developer. He’s been making games professionally for several years and playing games since he was five y.o. His accolades include Osteya: Adventures (App Store Best of 2016) Developer and the Apple Featured game, Dropper!

You can follow Akim Kasabulatov on Twitter.

Game Marketing Tips from the Pros

I’d like to thank all of the developers Simon, Kevin, David, and Akim for taking the time to share some of their best game marketing strategies and advice.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Make a great polished game. A great game will be able to sell itself.
  • Start marketing your app early.
  • Do your research. Study other games, game-focused websites and stay up-to-date with the latest trends.
  • Take advantage of ASO.
  • Document your game development journey. It’s an excellent way to help build a community around your game.
  • Make getting press and reaching out to influencers a priority.
  • Get active on social media and post regularly. Remember consistency is important.
  • Experiment with different Ad campaigns.
  • Pitch to Apple and try to get your game featured.
  • Make sure your game graphics and art-style are cohesive and polished.
  • Don’t depend on one strategy or specific channel to effectively promote your game, use multiple strategies and platforms. Post on social media, forums and Product Hunt.

Remember, game marketing isn’t easy. Don’t give up. Keep at it. Failure is just success in progress. You have to keep making games, learning, improving and promoting until you find success!

ASO

App Store Optimization: Finding ASO Keywords

By | Game Business Blog | 8 Comments

ASO also referred to as App Search Optimization is the process of optimizing your mobile game or app to help boost it’s visibility and rank in the App Store search results. Although there’s no longer a silver bullet to app discoverability, ASO is an important part of marketing your indie game. It can improve your app’s chances for better visibility which can ultimately lead to more downloads.

In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of ASO and share some of our best strategies to help you research and find relevant keywords. Using these simple ASO methods and tools will make it easy to optimize your App Store listing and move up in rank.

Let’s get started!

ASO Basics

The following are the six essential components of ASO:

  • Title
  • Keywords
  • Description
  • App Icon
  • Screenshots
  • Reviews

Your game’s title, associated keywords, description, app icon, screenshots, and reviews all play a role in your app’s overall visibility. It’s important to optimize each of these key factors to get the best results. At its core, ASO is similar to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The goal is to use keywords and high-quality content to improve your ranking. Instead of Google’s search engine, your target is the App Store’s.

Title & Keywords

The title of your app and your keywords are essential for ASO. It’s how you’re going to be found. So, make sure to include your primary keyword in your app title, if it’s your app name that’s even better. Apple has a 50 character limit for app names, and users can see only the first 25 characters without clicking on the app. Google Play has a 30 character restriction. Keep all of this in mind when you’re coming up with your title. Quality is vital when you’re trying to optimize your app, so avoid stuffing keywords.

The keyword field is critical to your app’s success. You only have a 100 character limit to list your target keywords. For good ASO, make every character count. Avoid using spaces or stop words in your keyword field like the, to, a, and, or of, unless it’s part of a long-tail keyword that you’re trying to target. List your target terms in the keyword field separated with commas like this: speed,madness,traffic,rivals,racing,extreme,road

Description

When it comes to app descriptions, Apple and Google Play are very different. Depending on which platform you’re submitting your game to, there are several key points that you need to remember to optimize your app listing. If you’re publishing an app or game on iOS, you don’t have to write a lengthy description or include a bunch of ASO keywords. However, it’s paramount that you nail the first three lines in your App Store description. Users can only see those first few lines. If they want to read the rest, they have to click more. You have to really convey what your game is about and entice them to download or click to find out more. Always try to write a good description and list some of the main features of your app.

Google Play ASO functions similar to SEO. Writing a quality description, including keywords throughout and listing features ALL matter. In Google Play there is a short description and a long description. Always try to work your main keyword into your short description for optimization. With your long description quality and keyword density is key. Try to write an excellent app description and include your target keywords a minimum of 5 times within the text. Avoid stuffing keywords. Make sure they flow naturally with the text the same way you would when writing SEO content.

App Icon & Screenshots

For ASO, you need app icons and screenshots that are polished and attention grabbing. They are both major selling points for your game and the first thing that people notice about your game. Never submit an app with low quality screenshots or a lack-luster icon. For App Search Optimization make sure all of your images are high-quality. Don’t cut corners here. Use high-resolution images and the correct size for each platform that you plan on publishing your app. Remember, you want to use colors and images that not only represent your game but are striking as well. Just look at the icons of some of the top games in the charts, and you’ll get a clear idea of which styles and combinations work the best.

Although there’s only one screenshot required to submit your app, always take advantage of the other available slots. Aim to have at least four if not all five screenshots of your game included in your App Store listing. To further optimize place your very best screenshot first to help captivate users. Try to show off the best features of your app. You can also add captions to help emphasize your unique gameplay and to point out specific features.

Reviews

Another determining factor in your listing’s ASO is your app reviews. It’s important to have a good amount of positive reviews, to help boost your game’s ranking. To get more reviews you can ask your friends or family members. Integrate an app review plugin that will pop up and ask players to review the app at a certain point in the game or after a set amount of uses.

Finding Your ASO Tools & Keywords

According to Apple, 65% of all app downloads come from search queries within the App Store. To get your app ranked in the App Store Search, you have to find keywords with high traffic and low competition that are relevant to your app. Researching and finding keywords is mandatory for ASO. I know what you’re thinking …

So, how do you find low competitive keywords?

What is the best strategy?

Which keyword research tools should I use?

Well, the secret to finding low competitive keywords is to follow the basic formula for achieving organic downloads, which is (relevance) + (competition) + (traffic quantity). Use multiple ASO tools to analyze and find the best low competitive keywords for your app. Then work them into your title (if applicable), keyword field and description for total optimization. It can be daunting at first, but I’ll walk you through the whole process.

ASO Tools

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ASO keyword research tools you’ll need:

You can use all of these tools or just one or two, that you feel works best for you. When you’re conducting keyword research using multiple techniques and tools can help you with the brainstorming process as well as narrowing down your list.

To get started, open a notepad or text editor program for taking notes and creating your potential keyword list. Think about your app or game and start typing all of the keywords you think you should include. Don’t think too hard about it. Just write whatever comes to you.

Using OneLook for ASO

A great tool for finding keywords is the dictionary site called OneLook.com. To use this tool for ASO go to  www.onelook.com and scroll down to the bottom of the page to where it says ‘advanced help’ and click on the ‘reverse dictionary’ or use the following direct link – http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml I highly recommend bookmarking it.

OneLook

In the ‘Describe concept here’ search box enter the primary key for your game. Ex: I’m researching keys for a new racing game. So I’m going to type the key ‘racing.’  A numbered list of related terms for racing quickly appears. What’s impressive about this tool is that the list is automatically sorted by relevance.

The trick is to use a descriptive word that applies to your game and its overall concept. You can play around with this tool as much as you want and try searching different words. Pictured below is the extensive list of potential keywords that we now have available at our fingertips just for plugging in the word ‘racing.’

Onelook keywords

Within this list, there are over 100 related words that can be further researched. One of the first terms is racetrack which might be a good search term. Racers, Rallycross, Karting, Grand Prix , are also unique keywords, many of them are words that you wouldn’t have thought of right off-the-bat.

The Tools & Techniques

OneLook is a phenomenal tool to use to help you generate not only great keywords but unique game names as well. Dragsters, for example, is another unique key that could also be a cool game name. There’s also advanced filter settings that you can use to refine the search results if you’re looking for more specific terms as well.

Now that we have a list of related words and phrases to work with try to look it over and start adding any words that you think would work well for your game.

Copy and paste some of the keywords that you feel have potential, but don’t overthink it too much. Try to focus on selecting terms that are relevant to your game’s concept. Choose the words that you think will work well for your game. We’ll do further research and examine the data on each term later. There’s also no length limit when you’re creating your potential keyword list, so try to add all the words you believe might work.

  • Quick Tip: Don’t forget to periodically save your NotePad or Text Edit file as you go!

App Store Search Method

Now let’s research some ASO keywords using the App Store Search Technique. To do this, just grab your iOS device and tap on the App Store icon and then tap the ‘search’ option located at the bottom of the screen. You’ll automatically see a list of Trending Searches. Now tap on the search bar at the top of the screen and enter one of your game’s main search terms or a name that you’re using for your keyword research.

For example, when you enter the word ‘racing’ a short drop down list with terms like racing rivals, racing in car, racing games for kids appears. Look at the list and see if any words stand out and investigate further. Try a few other terms from your list. Ex: The keyword ‘racer’ brings up popular searches like racers vs. cops, racer x, and traffic racer. Keywords like cops, x, traffic, car, rivals, kids, games, and racer might be good keywords to target. Add any new words you find to your ‘potential keyword list.’

Using Keywordtool.io

You even take this technique a step further with the use of the ASO research tool called Keywordtool.io. This search tool is great to use for research. Its App Store search option allows users to go beyond the top dozen or so searches that appear on an Apple device and view a longer, more extensive list. Knowing what’s out there and what people are searching for is quintessential when you’re trying to optimize. There’s also Google, YouTube, and Bing search features available for subscription members. However, using the App Store Search tab is free.

Keyword Tool

After you’ve recorded a couple of potential terms from the search performed on your device, go to keywordtool.io website. Click on the App Store Search tab and enter the same search term you researched earlier on your phone and then hit enter. A massive list of game names and phrases that people have searched for in the App Store will appear. Scroll down and pay attention to the keyword suggestions marked in bold.

You’ll notice that the same ones from your device are listed along with hundreds of other terms in no particular order. This list is not prioritized like Apple’s with only the top and most recent searches. These suggestions include virtually every possible search related to the key you’ve entered. Keywordtool.io makes it easy to find unique keywords quickly. Continue to scroll down the suggestions and add any terms to your list that you feel are noteworthy. Using both the Apple’s App Store Search and Keywordtool.io will give you a broader range of keywords to use.

Amazon 

Amazon, the popular shopping site, can also help you find unique low competitive keywords. Simply go to Amazon and click on ‘Shop by Department’ and scroll down and click on the ‘Toys & Games’ category. Search in the toys category not the video games section. In the search box try to enter a related term. As you scroll down look for any words that catch your attention that you haven’t already added to your list. Hunt for keywords hidden within the toy names but try to stay away from the notable brand trademarks.

You can also do this method by going to the left side of the screen under ‘Toys & Games’ and finding a relevant category related to your game’s theme. For example, if you’re creating a sports themed game than you might want to browse through the sports & outdoor play category or if your game has a cutesy animal theme then maybe the stuffed animals or puppets category might work well for you. Remember, this technique is just to find those few possible gems that you might have missed, so try not to spend too much time searching for keys here.

Formatting Your Keyword Spreadsheet & Picking Your ASO Tool

The goal of all of these techniques is to build your game’s name and or keyword list off of data instead of pure whim. Although we’ve created this long list of possible keys only half of them will ultimately make it to our keyword spreadsheet, and only a small portion of those will be used. Despite the lengthy process, the result will produce not only some killer low competitive keywords but a file of researched keywords that you can refer to later down the line when you update your app or need some keywords for a new but similar themed game.

By now you should have a long list of potential terms. Open up Excel or Google Spreadsheet and create a keyword research spreadsheet. Name the first column ‘Keyword list.’ Then select keyword analysis tool or tools that you want to use. Sensor Tower is what we’re using in this walk-through, but you can use any analytic platform you prefer. It’s good to use an alternate version to compare data like Mobile Action, but if your budget is limited, you can use just one. App Annie, Search Man, AppCicada, and AppTweak are also options.

To format your spreadsheet, designate a column for each of the platforms’ data statistics. For example, with Sensor Tower, you’ll need to add columns for traffic, iPhone difficulty, and competition.

Finding Low Competitive Keywords with Sensor Tower

Now let’s research each keyword and refine our list. Go to Sensor Tower’s ‘keyword research’ section. Enter the first word on your list into the search bar and hit enter. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see the statistics on traffic and difficulty for that particular word.

As pictured below, traffic for drift is 5.3, and the iPhone difficulty level is 3.9 which is low, making the odds of ranking for this keyword relatively easy. Any keyword with traffic over 1.0 and iPhone difficulty under 4.2 on average is considered to be a low competitive keyword depending on the level of app competition or the number of iPhone Apps listed. The competition is the deciding factor on whether or not it’s a keyword you’ll want to use.

Sensor Tower Search

For example, Drift is considerably high on the traffic scale and low in rank difficulty. The competition for it moderately low, making it a great keyword to use. So, that word is worth keeping on the list.

Sensor Tower’s App Search Optimization Features

Let’s also take a quick look at the keyword spy feature in Sensor Tower. When you research a term, the top apps that rank for that particular keyword will appear. Clicking on the ‘keyword spy’ icon will reveal a list of all of the app’s keywords. You can click to track any of the keywords listed. It’s a great ASO tool to use to see what keywords some of the top ranking games are using.

To speed of the process of researching keywords on your list, you can utilize Sensor Tower’s keyword tracking feature. Simply go to the ‘Keyword Rankings’ section under App Store Optimization. At the bottom is an ‘All Keywords’ section that allows users to add search terms that they want to track. Sensor Tower will automatically pull up all of the data for each keyword you enter.

Click on the green ‘Add New Keyword’ button and a box will appear. Start to copy and paste the words from your ‘potential keyword list.’ It is considered a bulk upload so remember to separate keywords with commas. Add as many of your keywords, if not all of them into Sensor Tower’s tracking feature, then click on the small arrow below the iPhone difficulty heading. The results will filter with the lowest iPhone difficulty level appearing first. Go down the list deleting any keywords with high overall competition or any terms you feel would not be a good fit for your game, now that you’re looking at it again, along with its data.

Sensor Tower Keywords

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the ‘download reports’ followed by the ‘daily report for all countries’ option. Sensor Tower will generate an Excel spreadsheet with the data for each keyword. You can use this generated spreadsheet to edit the data to your preference before copying and pasting it the keyword spreadsheet.

Narrowing Down Your ASO Keyword List

It’s best to break down the data into an easy to read layout first. To do this start by eliminating any unnecessary information. All you really need is the Keywords/Terms, Traffic, iPhone Difficulty, and Competition columns. The App ID, App Name, and Country columns can be deleted.

The Device column can also be removed, but it’s important to edit it prior. Sensor Tower generates both iPhone and iPad statistics. Open up your keyword spreadsheet. Then copy and paste the data from Sensor Tower’s spreadsheet.

Now that all of the hard work is over, all you need to do is select the keywords that want to use for your game. There’s no right or wrong way to analyze your spreadsheet at this point, but you can make it easy to dissect by color coding the keywords that are your top choices.

Pick the best terms to use and narrow down your list. Then choose your final set of keywords.

  • Quick Tip: If you see a term that you might want to use later on or include in the game’s description, highlight it a particular color in your spreadsheet as a reminder.

Make Big Things Happen …

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

Remember, it’s the small details, like your app’s icon image, the name, gameplay screenshots, and those little-hidden keywords that can help determine how well your game will rank in the charts. Taking the time and effort to research your keywords, can lead to success. Use these ASO techniques to find those “little details” that will make big things happen for your game!

'how to get press game marketing image'

How to Get Press (Game Marketing 101)

By | Game Business Blog | 13 Comments

Getting press coverage is one of the most effective game marketing methods for launching your app or game. However, it can also be a challenge for indie developers. In this article, we’ll show you how to easily get press and the best strategies to use to help you market your indie game like a Pro.

Let’s jump right in …

Game Marketing 101: Start with a Great Game

Before you start finding press contacts to pitch to, you have to make sure your game is great. A game that is just okay or below average will not gain any coverage. For your game to get press coverage, it has to be good. Make sure your game is polished. It should have high-quality graphics, unique gameplay features and be free from any bugs or errors. Double check to ensure it’s up to standard. Look closely at every aspect of your game. Search for any areas that you could improve on. Maybe the graphics could be better, or it lacks the right sound effects. Seek out minor and major weak spots and make the necessary changes to improve it.

To help you pinpoint with accuracy where your game stands use beta testers. When you use beta testers, you’ll be able to get the most honest feedback, which is essential if you want a well-polished game. Your game has to be ready when you present it to journalists, bloggers, and reviewers. So, always check to make sure you’re pitching the best possible version of your app.

Find Your USP / Hook

Once you have a great game, you need to find your app’s USP (Unique Selling Point) or hook. Your USP or hook is what you’ll use when you’re reaching out to press. It’s your secret weapon. Think about what makes your game stand out from the crowd. Ask yourself, ‘What makes my game special?’ Take some time to analyze your game. Sit down and play it again. Then take out a sheet of paper and begin to brainstorm a list of all of the features that make your game special or unique. Try to come up with as many things as you possibly can. You can have a tester, friend, or family member also do the same for additional input.

Examine your list. Select the best USPs you see. Choose a variety of hooks from your list. The goal is to have hooks that showcase your game’s gameplay which will impress game journalists and reviewers and hooks that feature a ‘bloggable’ factor that any general blogger or reporter would find interesting. It’s good to have both of these types of USPs in your game marketing arsenal when you start reaching out to journalists.

Build Your Press Kit  

The next step is to make your press kit. In game marketing, press kits also known as media kits include all of the promotional material and information related to your app or game. It’s usually compiled together in a downloadable file or located on a particular page on your website. To market your indie game, you need a press kit ready that’s readily available. Press kits are time-savers that make it effortless for journalists and bloggers to learn more about your app. Don’t expect success. Prepare for it. If you want to succeed in gaining press coverage, you need to have one in place.

Your press kit should include a demo video or gameplay trailer, high-quality screenshots, icons, banners or logos if any, and a press release or document providing general details about your app or game studio.

Create a Trailer / Demo Video

Every good press kit should have a gameplay trailer or demo video. In game marketing, videos are one of the most efficient visual tools to use. They help to captivate press and to win over potential players.

When you create a game trailer, it should be short. Aim for a length between 30 to 90 seconds, no longer. To record your video, you can use software like iMovie, Quicktime, Fraps, Shotcut, TechSmith’s Camtasia or Lightworks. Choose whatever tool works best for you. Try to record lots of gameplay video and then edit it down into your ideal 30-90 second trailer. If you’re not good at video editing, you can hire an outsourcer to do it for you.

A good game trailer should instantly grab the viewer’s attention to excite, entertain, and explain. You only have the first 20 seconds of your trailer to captivate your audience. Don’t waste valuable time showing the start screen, your logos or with a long intro. Try to dive right in with highlighting your gameplay and hook. If it’s possible to show everything your game is about in a single shot go for it. The goal is to get their full attention and get them pumped about your game.

Be sure to highlight your USPs or hooks throughout the trailer. Your unique gameplay and or features is how you stand out in the crowd. Edit different segments of your gameplay with a soundtrack that sets the tone of the game and creates the perfect mood. Audiojungle.net is a good place to find music and sounds for your game. Trailers are all about showing people how cool your game is.

An excellent example of a game trailer that nailed this is Tribute Games’ Flinthook. The trailer immediately grabs your attention by diving straight into the gameplay. It also manages to highlight the game’s main hook repeatedly, which happens to be an actual hook action featured in the gameplay mechanics. When you watch the video, you automatically know what Flinthook is about, and you’re psyched to check it out. You want your game trailer to do the same. Keep it short but exciting and descriptive.

Include High-Quality Images

Your press kit should include a variety of different high-quality images to promote your app. It’s important to have these types of images available, so your game will be represented in the best possible way. You don’t want journalists to be forced to use Google to find your game’s screenshots or your studio’s logo. What comes up in the search may not be the best depiction of your app or company. Always have at least 3-5 good-looking screenshots that highlight the best features of your gameplay. Add icon images sized for each platform that your game is available on as well. Additional images like banners, your studio’s logo, and your profile image are good to have too.

How to Write a Press Release

Your press release is a major part of your marketing strategy. Knowing how to structure it and what to include is important. Try to create two different versions, one in a PDF that includes images to add to your press kit and another in a plain-text form that you can use and quickly reference when needed for emails.

Below is a quick rundown of the standard Press Release structure for an App (PDF version):

  • App Icon and App Name (top, center of page)
  • Subject Line (ex. Brain Crusher App Now Available on the Apple App Store and the Android Market)
  • App Summary (brief, 1-2 sentences, USP/hook)
  • Location / Date / Introduction
  • Screenshots
  • Description (details about app, features)
  • Pricing / Availability
  • Website URL (app website link for more info)
  • About Your Company (mention Studio and other apps if any)
  • Press End Symbol (always end press release with the following symbol centered “# # #”)
  • Media Contact Information (include your contact info like email or social media links and app download link)

When you’re writing your press release there a few things that you have to keep in mind. The first is remember that your press release is not an advertisement. They are announcements. So try not to exaggerate and appear gimmicky in your release. Focus on your unique selling points and the facts about your game. Also, remember that all press releases must be written in a third-person perspective. Avoid using the term ‘I.’

Take out your list of USPs and hooks and use them as a guide when you’re writing your press release. Your app summary line should answer these two question simultaneously, “What type of game it is?” And “What is the app’s unique feature?” In the introduction section, you explain this further summarizing in 2-3 sentences what your game is all about. And finally, in the description section, you discuss the game’s features and reiterate the hook. Remember to only include images in your PDF version for your press kit. In the text version follow the same format but leave out any snapshots. Although it’s recommended to have a press release in your kit you can also choose to just have a simple word document with all of your game and studio’s information as well.

Pulling it All Together

Now that you’ve got a press release, game trailer, and all of your images it’s time to decide how you’re going to pull it all together. If you prefer to have it available at the bottom of your app’s website as a downloadable link, you can convert the files. Then if necessary, using a hosting service embed it into your site. You can also choose to have your press kit on display visually. There are tons of different styles of press kit templates that you can download for free or buy to integrate into your website. Search and find a layout that fits your game or studio’s style or hire an outsourcer to create one for you. If you have difficulty adding your press kit to your website you can enlist the help of someone for that also.

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How to Get Press Coverage

When you have your press kit complete, you’re ready to start marketing your game. The first step is to figure out who to reach out to. To do this, you’ll have to conduct some research. Go to the same platform your game is on and find similar apps to your that are doing well on the charts and make a list. Then go through each game and research to find out which sites have covered it.

Go to Google and click on the ‘Google News’ tab. Then type in the search box the name of the game that you’re researching. Every site that has mentioned the game will come up. Check it out to see if getting a write-up from that news source would benefit your game. If so, find the journalist that wrote the article and write down their details. All of the names that you find during this process should be added to your official press list.

Create your press list in Excel or a Google Spreadsheet. Designate columns to record the company, journalist’s name, website, Twitter profile link, email, author page or link, additional contact, role, and type of media. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it once you have a functioning list. You can also categorize your list by types so all the gaming journalists are in one group and all of the YouTubers or Bloggers are in another. How you organize it is entirely up to you, as long as you record the necessary details.

Take your research further by searching online specifically for bloggers in your app’s niche and YouTubers. The goal here is to find bloggers and social influencers that discuss indie games to reach out to as well. Add all of your findings to your press list. If you’re having trouble finding their emails, try looking at the staff page on the website or their Twitter bio section. Also, you can download the Gmail extension Rapportive. It reveals contact details within your inbox, which can be helpful if you’re trying to guess someone’s email. You can also use email finding tools like Voila Norbert or Muck Rack. Both are great tools.

Emailing Press

Take the time to go through your press list and further research each journalist. Reading several of their other articles can help you better determine whether or not to reach out and pitch your game to them. If they don’t seem to be into your app niche, then remove them from your list. Also, try to follow the journalists that you’re interested in pitching your game to on Twitter. Your odds of getting press coverage can increase when you establish relationships and connect.

When you’re emailing press, make each email pitch unique and personal. Avoid just copying and pasting a generic template. Instead, address the journalists by their name in the email, reference the previous articles they’ve written to signify you’ve done your research and have a great newsworthy game to pitch. Write your email subject heading like you would a news article title. Use your press release as a guide. Don’t forget to work in your game’s hook. It’s an effective marketing strategy. Keep your email short and include links to your game and press kit page.

For press coverage, send emails at optimal times according to the writer’s timezone. You can make a note of it on your press list. Remember the best times to send email is early in the week during morning hours. Tuesday through Thursday are the best days of the week to reach out to journalists.

Promoting Your Indie Game like a Pro

Remember it’s essential to start with a great game that’s capable of selling itself. Review your app and if it’s not there yet, fix it. Study your game and find it’s unique selling point or hook. Use that as a guide when you’re creating your press kit and pitching to journalists and bloggers. It’s the special features in your game that makes it newsworthy. Always try to use that to your advantage. For you press kit, create a killer game trailer, snag some eye-catching screenshots and images, and write up a press release. Add it to your website or dedicate an entire page to showcase your game’s awesomeness. Send out press releases to sites like PRMac and PR.com.

Research and find journalists or bloggers that you can contact to help you get the word out about your game. Connect with them and establish a relationship. Follow them on Twitter, read their articles and when you’re ready to reach out to press, send them an email pitch. The results might surprise you. Getting media coverage is just one of the many strategies you can do to get your game noticed. When you’re promoting your indie game, try to start early, make a plan and stay consistent.

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What NOT to Do When Making Games

By | Game Business Blog | 13 Comments

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered some of the best strategies to use when making games, but what about the ones you should avoid?

If you want to succeed in game development, it’s equally important to know what NOT to do. Below is our list of the most common game dev mistakes that you should avoid if you want to be successful at making games.

Trying To Do It All

Taking on too much and trying to do it all is a frequent mistake that indie developers tend to make. Don’t get stuck on the false concept that since you’re an indie, you have to do it all or build everything from scratch. That’s not what being indie means. Being indie just means you’re making games without a large team and financial support from outside sources.

Think about it this way, when you’re an indie developer you’re a small business, an entrepreneur. And like any other business, you don’t have to do it all. If you try you’ll find yourself quickly becoming overwhelmed, falling behind, and on the brink of giving up. Avoid falling prey to this common pitfall.

When you’re making games, you have to map out a plan for yourself. Consider what tasks you’re capable of doing and the ones that are above your skill level. Then set a deadline for when you want to have your game completed. Be realistic and weigh out your options using that timeline. If coding and programming are a skill that you lack then consider using codeless software like Buildbox or any other tool that can help you get the job done. You can also hire a coder or programmer from outsourcing websites like Freelancer or Upwork.

Do you need game art? If making your own isn’t an option look into sites like Game Art 2D, GameDev Market, or Graphic River to purchase art. Another option is to hire an artist from an outsourcing site to do it for you. You can even hire a virtual assistant to help you with small tasks that need to get done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it either. Post on forums and get input from other developers. You can also enlist the help of friends and family members with the development of your game as well.

Remember, trying to do it all will only slow down your progress. You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman; you are human. Most likely, you’re going to need some help. Think about your budget and consider your skill level and time restraints. Try to learn what’s necessary, do what you can, and outsource the rest.

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Skimping on the Art

Don’t skimp on the art in your game. This mistake is a game killer. Poor graphics or using low-quality art to cut corners and reduce costs will only hurt your game. Your game’s art is the first thing potential players and critics see. They use their first impression of the app to determine whether or not they’re going to give it a try. If you skimp on the art in your game, your game will look unprofessional and very low quality. Players will quickly dismiss your app and never download it. Don’t let this happen. Remember your art is just as important as your gameplay. It helps sell your game.

Examine your game and ask yourself, “Does my game’s graphics look as good as some of the top games in the same category in the top charts?” If the answer is no, then you need to create, buy or hire someone else to make better game art for you. We have an in-depth article on called, ‘How to Make Game Art’ with some great tips and list of game art asset sites that you can use that’s worth checking out.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a graphic artist to make your game art. Buildbox founder, Trey Smith, used the tool Pixelmator to create all of the art for his hit game Phases. There are tons of different free tutorials online that you can use to learn how to make your game art and graphics.

Creating Clones

It may seem like a good idea at first, but making games that are clones is a BIG mistake and HUGE waste of time. There’s no real retention or value in creating clones, plus if you get flagged, there could be some legal ramifications involved as well. Making games that are knock-off versions of other games is just bad business in general.

If you want to be successful, your game must be unique but familiar. Don’t copy. Aim to make a better version of a trending game instead of a clone. Each game that you create should have something special or different about it. When you’re making games the secret is to use a proven game mechanic but present it in a new exciting way. With this method, you’re able to create a unique game that also feels familiar to players.

Using the ‘model and improve’ method when you’re brainstorming game concepts will help you come up with great game ideas. Research the top trending games in your selected category or genre and study all of the games from independent developers. Download, play them and analyze all of the different elements. Investigate and find out what’s working and what’s not in each game. Then try to come up with new ways to change or improve on each aspect in the game. Use those concepts to form an entirely new game that’s unique but based on the same winning format.

Making Games Without a Landing Page

Every game should have an official website or landing page to call its own. Making games without a homebase will put your app at a severe disadvantage. Avoid making this mistake. You need a website for your game to make it easier for fans of your game, potential new players, and press to find and contact you. Having a nice landing page will provide you with a platform to promote your app, announce updates, capture emails, and build a whole tribe around your game. In today’s high-tech world, a site for your game is a necessity.

You can create your site using platforms like WordPress, Wix, Blogger, Leadpages, Unbounce. Always include eye-catching screenshots of your game, gameplay video, and a method to capture emails. Which will give you a way to contact people interested in your game and send updates or invites.

If you don’t have the time or lack the skill to make your site, you can hire someone on an outsourcing site to create it for you. Try to set up your website during the early stages of game development, so you can use it to help promote your game throughout the entire process.

Make sure your game has a site or platform that you can use to communicate with others directly. But don’t stop there, go beyond that. Get active in the gaming community and social media platforms as well. Network, socialize and connect with others to help build a following for your game.

Promoting Post Launch

Another game dev mistake we see often is waiting until the launch of the game to start promoting. To avoid making this blunder, start promoting your game early. Your marketing should start as soon as the development of your game begins, not when it’s finished. Create your app launch strategy early so you can get the buzz going way before it’s time to release your game. Always be promoting.

There are dozens of different ways that you can market your app. You can blog about your game on your website or create a developer blog to document the making of your game. Post teasers and sneak peeks of your game on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Post YouTube videos to promote your game. Show gameplay footage or VLOG a day in development. Just remember to start early. The earlier you start, the better your odds will be for success.

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Impromptu Game Development

Winging it or ‘impromptu’ game development is another mistake to avoid like the plague. When you’re making games, it’s critical that you have a game plan. Don’t jump in and start making games without having a concept in mind. Try to come up with at least three concepts before you start creating your game. When you have multiple ideas it’s easier to pinpoint the best game design. Options can also prevent you from getting stuck on a particular idea that’s simply not working. When game creators try to wing it, they often find themselves lost. It’s important to avoid this and hit the ground running, as the saying goes, without any major stumbling blocks. Research is paramount. It’s essential that you know what’s trending and what games are dominating the charts. Having this type of information at your disposal will help lead you towards success.

Browse through the top charts in the platform of your choice. Jot down anything that stands out to you. Read the game’s description, check out the reviews and comments. Google the game and its developers. Dig deep and find out what they’re doing that’s working so well. Also look for the mistakes that they’ve made. Use research tools like Google Trends or App Annie and discover all you can to help you create your strategic plan.

When you’re making games, always take the necessary time to do some research and create a plan for your game project.

Not Testing

Testing is an essential part of game design. However, many indie developers neglect to test their game before releasing it properly. Testing your game is important. It’s the only way you can find out if there are any obvious bugs, errors or major issues within your game. Also without testing it’s difficult to tell whether or not your gameplay is balanced. Balanced gameplay is crucial for success. You want your game to be in the middle when it comes to difficulty. It shouldn’t be too easy to the point where it’s a bore, but it shouldn’t be so hard to beat that it’s frustrating either. Testing allows you to gain valuable feedback on where your game stands on all three of these aspects.

Try to test your game using beta testers. They provide the best feedback. You can use beta tester sites or find testers on your own in gaming forums and game dev communities. Friends and family members can also help with testing. Gaining feedback from testing is critical when you’re making games. Try to get as much feedback as you can and make any changes you need before you launch your game.

Publishing Too Soon

Rushing during the development process and releasing a game before it’s ready, is a common mistake among indie developers. A game that has not been polished is a game that’s not quite finished. Never publish an unpolished game. Adding polish is an important final step to take before you present your game to the world.

Polish is a term frequently used in game development that refers to the overall quality of a game. It’s consistency and cohesiveness throughout your game. A polished game is free from errors and bugs. It has unique features that make the players’ experience more enjoyable. From the art style, UI, and controls, all the way down to the core mechanics, everything is cohesive within a polished game.

To add polish, you must first review your game. Pay close attention and look for any small details or aspects of the game that if tweaked could help improve the game’s overall quality. Polish can range from adding better characters, enhancing sound effects, additional features, color themes, button functions or placements to fixing unwanted errors. Any improvement small or large that you can do to make your game visually or gameplay-wise better will add polish.

Remember, don’t make the mistake of publishing your game too soon. Take the necessary time to sit down and examine your game. Look for any minor details that you could improve on. Also, use your feedback from beta testing to help you find weak areas in your game. Make the required changes, re-test, and review again. Repeat until your game is polished.

Going Big, Then Going Home

There’s a saying that goes, “Go big or go home.” Unfortunately, too many new game creators apply this when making games. They make these big overly ambitious plans to make this complicated game. Put all their time and effort into it. Then when they hit a roadblock or get burnout they just give up. Avoid making this mistake. When your’e making games, it’s important to keep in mind that you can always make more games. Don’t try to stuff every good idea that you’ve ever had into a single game.

Pick a game category, do your research, and decide on a game concept that will work well with your vision. When you have new ideas or features that come into play, write it down and save it for your next game. This is extremely important to do when you’re new to making games. Start small and go from there. You can work your way up to bigger and more complex game projects when you gain more experience.

To prevent burnout schedule specific times to work on your game. Try to stick to your plan as much as you can. If you’re starting to get frustrated or mentally exhausted, then take a break. Stretch, listen to music, go for a walk, watch a movie, meditate, play a game, do whatever you enjoy doing that helps you relax. Then come back to the issue or problem later with a fresh perspective. Sometimes you may need more than 30 minutes to 2 hours. Maybe you’re at a point during your game development process where you’re not sure which direction to take or have some higher priority things that you need to attend to and juggling both is taking a toll. If so, take a scheduled extended break.

Give yourself a week or whatever amount of time you need to step away from the project and clear your head. Set a reminder on your phone and calendar and schedule the day and time when you’re going to start back on your project. Don’t be afraid to take a break when you need one and step away for a bit. It’s better to take a brief break than to throw in the towel and give up completely. Never give up. Great things take time.

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Neglecting Previous Games

Lastly, don’t forget about your previous games. Remember when you’re making games, the development process is never over. You should always strive to improve and update each of your games on a consistent basis. Neglecting your previous games is a small mistake that can have big consequences later down the line. When you neglect to update, fix errors or bugs, add new levels, characters, or even features to your game your overall player engagement will steadily decline. You’ll lose players consistently over time, resulting in poor retention and less than desirable revenue.

Updates help you establish a loyal fan base. They prove to your players that you’re serious about your game. And that you also care about the player’s experience enough to maintain it. All of the successful games update on a consistent basis. So, it’s wise to do the same. Try to schedule regular updates at least once a month, even if it’s just to address a few bugs. Also make time to do significant updates introducing new levels, characters, items or game modes. This can be done monthly or every couple of months to help keep your game fresh and fun.  

You can also use updates to promote your game continually. Supercell’s Clash of Clans does an excellent job of this. They’re constantly updating their game and promoting each new update with teaser videos, announcements and more. It’s a great strategy. Another way to make the most of your updates is to utilize the release notes section for your game. Avoid writing the standard ‘Minor Bug Fixes’ or ‘New Game Mode.’ Instead get creative. Try to get people excited about your latest update. Tell them about the cool new characters and surprises. Updates are important to keep your game alive. Be persistent and make time to schedule them regularly.

Remember, when you’re making games, what you don’t do or neglect to do can hurt your success.

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5 Secrets of Game Design

By | Game Business Blog | 6 Comments

We’ve talked a lot about gameplay and level design on the Buildbox blog, but today we’re going to focus on the more obscure secrets of game design. Below you’ll find five often overlooked, but extremely important, factors for creating unique games that people want to play.

  • Surprise and Wonder
  • Character Size
  • Game Universe
  • Familiarity
  • Zen Balance

Let’s take a closer look at each of these …

#1 – Surprise and Wonder

Adding surprise and wonder to your game is a factor that’s rarely discussed, but critical for any game to achieve long-term success. It’s also the secret sauce to turning a new player into a life-long fan of your game. Surprise and wonder can help players form an emotional connection with your game. Establishing this connection is key when you’re creating a game. You want your players to fall in love with your game and keep coming back for more. Without that emotional connection, players will quickly get bored of your game, quit playing, and ultimately delete the app. As a result, your replay value and retention will be ZERO, along with your profits.

Emotions + Rewards

However, when you add emotions and rewards into the mix you create an interactive experience that becomes memorable. Players will want to continue to explore or beat their previous score to see what rewards or special bonus is awaiting ahead. It’s all about the element of surprise and wonder when you’re trying to capture a player’s attention. You can create an emotional experience through the gameplay, characters, level design, and even with the user interface using this game design technique.

Since games are an interactive media, it’s extremely easy to evoke emotion from users. Sound effects, music, character expressions; text, movement, and even color combinations can really help players connect and get into your game. Keep your game’s theme and art style in mind and brainstorm how you can add these elements in each aspect. Maybe you can add interesting sound effects or background music that compliments your game’s pace, mood, or theme. If it’s a racing game, adding a fast-paced adrenaline-pumping beat will resonate with players. If your game is an eerie platformer you can add spooky background music and creepy sound effects that play whenever an item is discovered or platform falls. It’s the small details that add surprise and wonder to your game.

Adding More Surprises in Your Game Design

Characters are also powerful elements to use. You can do a lot with them. They can give your game emotional depth and serve as an effective reward system. During the game design process you can add different unlockable characters, give them animated actions, effects, and unique expressions that play into your game’s core theme.

Rewards can add both surprise and wonder while emotionally connecting with players as well. Unlockable characters and unlockable items can be used to create a gratifying reward system. Coins, points and praise (an often underused type of reward) can be effective too. Praise can be in the form of text or as a sound that’s played when a stage is cleared or a bonus item is found. Animated sequences or cut-scenes can be used as well to celebrate clearing a level or as a teaser to excite players about the fun new challenges ahead.

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Wonder via Power-Ups

Portals and power-ups can definitely add a sense of wonder and intrigue to any game as well. Hidden portals also add massive replay value to your game. Players enjoy discovering new gateways or orbs that teleport them into a new world that they haven’t yet explored. It’s engaging and a fun surprise. Special powers in the form of power-ups or bonuses are great too.

Nintendo’s Super Mario World masterfully used power-ups to add surprise and wonder into their gameplay. A great example of this is the mushroom power-up in Super Mario World. When it’s consumed it turns ordinary Mario into Super Mario, a much taller, stronger version of himself. Players are also rewarded additional points. The power balloon power-up in Super Mario World is another good example of how you can use power-ups to add surprise and wonder. When Mario or Luigi collects the balloon it makes them swell up like a balloon and float in mid-air. With game design, get creative. Make your game fun with features that will captivate players.

#2 – Character Size

In game design it’s essential to remember, size does matter. Bigger is not technically better when it comes to down to a game’s character size. A common mistake we see new game creators make is making their game characters too big. Your game character needs to be proportionate. Avoid making it larger than necessary. When your characters are too large it not only makes your game look unpolished and unprofessional but it also distracts players from truly experiencing the gameplay.

Gaining the right perspective on this early during the game design process is key. A good way to determine if you’ve made your character size too big is to compare it to classics like Mario. You can do this by taking all of your game’s screenshots and loading them into an image editing software like Photoshop or Illustrator and comparing it against other popular games. Mario is a classic and great standard to use. You can also compare it to popular games of your specific genre as well. If you notice that it’s off, simply adjust the size and resave.

#3 – Game Universe

One of the secrets to game design is to create universal laws for your game. These laws apply to the overall aesthetics of your game. The way your game looks and plays has a great deal to do with the universal laws that you apply. Maybe all of the buttons in your game are colored blue to match well with the color scheme and the art style that you’ve chosen. Or maybe particle effects in your game are similar for similar types of objects. There needs to be consistency so the game feels more natural and not convoluted. Try to keep the same style and corresponding theme throughout your game. Remember it’s a thin line between being creative and being tacky.

The goal is make your game as cohesive as possible. Avoid mixing multiple color combinations and wild patterns together. Pick one art style and stick to it and try to use color combinations that mesh well together. Decide which laws you want to follow in your game design. Ask yourself questions like, “What is my art style direction?” “Which colors or combinations will look best with my main character or theme?” Take your time to research various color schemes, consider your options and plan it all out.

Choosing the Right Color Scheme for Your Game

If you’re not quite sure what colors work well together start by looking at the combinations used in some of the top games. Then explore creating your own color scheme using one of the many color palette and scheme tools available. To find out what looks best you can use sites like Colourlovers, PaletteGenerator, The Color Scheme Designer, COLRD, and Adobe Colour CC. Also StripeGenerator is a helpful tool to use to come up with colors and patterns. Most of these types of tools are completely free to use. There’s also color scheme generator apps that you can use such as The Color App and Coolors for on-the-go convenience.

You can also find game design inspiration from browsing online. Sort through Google Images and look for interesting color combinations and patterns that speak to you. Pinterest also has a lot of color schemes and palette ideas.

Following the 60-30-10 color principle rule can help you when you’re selecting a color scheme for your game design as well. This color principle works well for simple style games, but it’s not ideal for more complex games since you’re limiting the amount of colors that you’re going to use. So consider your game type when you’re choosing your color schemes.

With the 60-30-10 color rule you pick one main color that you’ll use for 60% of the color in your game such as the background. Then you’ll use 30% of your secondary color. This color can be implemented in platforms or specific objects. And lastly, 10% of your accent color, which can be used as the main color for buttons, small items, details, and objects. Many of the top minimalist style games that only have several core colors, applied this principle to their game design.

game design examples

#4 – Familiarity

The familiarity factor is another vital part of game design. Your game should definitely feel unique, but it’s also good to have it feel familiar to players. Nearly all of the most successful games are based on core mechanics that have already been popular. Super Mario Brothers wasn’t the first platformer, Call of Duty wasn’t the first ever first-person shooter, and Angry Birds wasn’t the first slingshot game. If you do a little research and dig deep, you’ll notice that nearly every popular game ever made has been based on core mechanics that players are familiar with.

Familiarity is one of the secrets to game design because it makes your game easy to pick up. When you design your game this way anyone can start playing the game almost immediately without a lot of instruction. It’s important to design a game that’s easy to understand. You want to avoid putting them off with overly complicated gameplay. Strive to make your game unique but still familiar to players.

So, how do you make a game that’s unique but familiar?

The best way to do this is to use the ‘Model and Improve’ technique. This is the formula that virtually every successful app, product, and business has used to find success. There’s three basic steps to modeling and improving on a game concept. The first step is to research. Examine the App Store and look at all of the top games that are similar to the type of game that you want to make. Write them all down.

The second step is to analyze the games and figure out what aspects of each game are working and which are not. Download and play all of the games and take notes. Write down anything that grabs your attention about the game. Pay close attention to all of the different elements of the game from the user interface, characters, backgrounds and gameplay to small details like sound effects, Ad placement and monetization tactics used.

The third step is to take all of your findings and brainstorm new ways improve on the game concept. This can involve adding, substituting, removing or all three. Think about what feature or element you could add or swap out to make the game better. Consider different improvements or changes that could be made in every area of the game. Keep brainstorming until you have a completely new game concept that’s unique but familiar.

FUN FACT: The first true platformer game was Nintendo’s Donkey Kong released in July 1981.

#5 – The Zen Balance

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The final secret to game design is finding that perfect balance of difficulty, challenge and enjoyment. All great games have nailed this perfect balance, or as we like to call it the ‘Zen Balance’ factor. Classics like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Sonic the Hedgehog are all good examples of this.

Try to think of ‘Zen Balance’ in game design as a scale. On one end you have a boring easy game and on the other end you have a very difficult to beat game. The goal is to design your game to be somewhere in the middle. When you accomplish this, you’ll have the perfect balance of excitement which will keep your players engaged longer.

Often new game creators tend to focus too much on one end of the scale. They either make their game too easy or too difficult. Neither is fun for the player. You don’t want to design a game that’s so easy it quickly becomes boring or so difficult that it’s not fun to play.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to make this mistake especially when you’re the only one testing your game. The problem that many creators have is that they get to know their game too well so when they try to test it themselves it’s hard to pinpoint accurately how challenging their game actually is. This is why testing with beta testers is so important. It’s the only way you can truly determine where your game measures on the ‘Zen balance’ scale. Try to always test on multiple types of people, to make sure your game has the right level of difficulty.

Solid Game Design

Remember to use surprise and wonder to help your players build an emotional connection with your game. Try to keep your character sizes in-check and be sure to make your game’s universe as cohesive as you can. Your game concept should feel familiar but unique. And always test rigorously to find that perfect ‘Zen Balance’ of difficulty within your game.

All five of these techniques are the key to solid game design and the secret to success.

App Launch Success

12 Steps for App Launch Success

By | Game Business Blog | 6 Comments

We’ve released many articles about getting publishers, but what about launching your app solo?

Launching an app is a BIG deal, especially when you’re an indie developer. There are already millions of apps in the App Store, how do you get your game to stand out? The truth is … if you want your game to be discovered and get downloads, you have to lay the foundation for success way before your game’s release. To do this, it’s critical that you plan your app launch strategy early.

In fact, it’s important to plan your app launch strategy early on during the development of your game. The biggest mistake we see developers make is waiting until the actual launch of their game to start promoting. As Buildbox founder, Trey Smith states, “Your marketing starts when development starts.”

In this article, we’ll cover 12 of the most important steps to successfully launching your game solo. With these steps you’ll be able to create a solid app launch strategy and generate enough buzz to get your indie game noticed.

Let’s dive right in …

Step #1 – Do Your Research

When you’re creating an app launch strategy, research is the first step. It’s the best way to find out what’s working, what’s not, and what you need to do to compete. Your primary goal is to gain a deeper insight into your target demographic (player base) and what they want in a game. This information alone will lead you in the right marketing direction.

Now, you can go as in-depth with your research as you feel necessary but for time constraints, we’ll going to cover the basic research required to start building your app launch strategy.

When you’re researching you’re trying to find the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who is the competition?
  2. What are they doing?
  3. Who is your target demographic/player base?

Before you begin, you need to have a game concept and category in mind. Browse the charts in the chosen platform that you’ll be releasing your game on and look for similar games that are performing well. Write all of your findings down. Create a list with the game name, publisher/developer, and contact info. Only make a note of the games that are similar to the type of app you want to make, that catches your eye, and appear to be made by individuals or small indie teams. Big games from major companies like Supercell’s Clash of Clans or King’s Candy Crush is not your competition. Remember, you’re launching your app solo, so you’re researching others that have done the same and found success.

What’s Working & What’s Not?

Once you have a decent list of potential competition, it’s time to investigate. Go to the game’s App Store page and read all of the customer reviews. Analyzing the game’s user reviews will give you a good idea of what they’re doing that’s working great and where the game is lacking. Take notes. Then download their games and play them. Pay close attention to game’s features and those points players made in the comments. Jot down anything noteworthy.

Then research the developer. Go to their website. Do they have any social media accounts? If so, visit them too. Go even deeper and Google the game to see what media coverage if any they’ve received. Check out the images and backlinks. See who has written about the game and make a note for later reference. You should be able to get a good idea of what they’re doing and what your target player base wants in a game.

'app store games image'

Go Deeper …

For specific target demographics info, you can use tools like App Annie and Sensor Tower. A quick free hack that’s worth trying is using the Google Adwords Display Planner. Just log in with your Google account and click ‘Tools’ and then ‘Display Planner.’ Type the game’s website link into the landing page box and hit ‘Get ad group ideas.’ Data will appear showing demographics for individuals that have visited that site. Age, gender, and even interests. This technique won’t work for every game, but it’s a cool hack to try. Facebook’s Ads Manager is also another option that you can use in the same way for digging up data.

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll have all the information you need to use throughout your entire app launch to help promote your game.

Step #2 – Build an Online Presence

For an efficient app launch, an online presence is essential. Building one will provide you with a platform outside of the App Store that you can use to market your game easily. The best way to do this is by creating a website to serve as your home base. With an official website or landing page, you can promote your app, capture emails and build a whole community around your game.

A site is practically mandatory if you want your app launch to be successful. It will provide you with an easy way to directly interact with users, press and to network. You can have a full website with a blog and links, a standalone landing page, a combination of both or a personal blog and a separate landing page for your app. All of these options work great. The secret is to build your page early during the beginning stages of development. When you do, you’ll have ample time to grow a following.

Blogging about the development of your game is also an excellent app launch strategy to use. It’ll not only help you form a fan base for your app before its release, but it’ll also serve as cool chronicle on the making of your game that you can reflect back on.

Two of the most popular platforms for creating websites and blogs is WordPress and Blogger. You can start off free, but we recommend getting a domain name as soon as possible. It’s important to establish your site as the official page for that particular game or indie studio.

For landing pages, you can use sites like Unbounce, Leadpages or Instapage. Your landing page can be a powerful marketing tool if done correctly. Make sure it features attention-grabbing screenshots and a demo of your game, a message announcing that that game is coming soon, and a clear call-to-action encouraging visitors to sign up for an invite or updates. It’s paramount that your page can capture users’ emails. So you’ll have a direct channel for promotion.

blogging optionsIf you’re not skilled in making a website or simply do not have the time you can hire someone to create one for you by using outsourcing sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Quick Tip: To establish authority make sure your website has a matching domain name (Ex: If your game name is ‘Bad Sam’ your landing page should be ‘badsam,’ ‘badsamgame’ or ‘badsamapp’ if possible.) You want to get as close to the original name as you can. Your home base should also include a contact form or email, About and FAQ sections if applicable.

Step #3 – Get Social

Now that you have a website, you’ll need a social media presence as well.

I know what you’re thinking … with all of the different social media platforms out there, where do I start?

Try to base your decision off of your research. Which platforms are your competitors using? What are the social networks that your target demographics use the most? Those are the channels you need to join.

However, in general, it’s good to have a Facebook and a Twitter account. Both of these accounts are essential for promoting your game, establishing authority and reaching out to press and potential influencers. All three are major elements of any solid app launch strategy.

There are dozens of different social media platforms that you can join, which is why research is so important. Use your data to determine which outlets would help you reach your game’s target player base. Avoid trying to take on too much in the beginning. Only focus on the two or three platforms that are necessary to give you a fair advantage. If you’re still learning the ropes, Facebook and Twitter are excellent starting points.

Quick Tip: Always add links to your social media accounts on your website and blog and vice versa.

Step #4 – Create a Marketing Strategy/Action Plan  

Okay, you’re official now. You have a website; you’re on social media … now what? Well, it’s time to get organized.

For your app launch to run smoothly and for you to keep your sanity while making your game you must have an action plan in place. Start by referring to your research. Examine what other developers were doing to promote their game on various platforms and the frequency. Did they post every day or multiple times per day? Did they blog weekly or monthly? What type of content did they use?

Then sit down and come up with your content marketing strategy. Simply set aside some time to plan out each week or month, and what you’re going to create and share to help promote your game. Try to schedule it in a calendar with reminders. You can do this using Google Calendar, Evernote, or an Excel Spreadsheet. List which days, times, platform and what you plan on sharing. You should have plenty of ideas from your research. This step is all about getting everything organized into a specific schedule that you can follow.

For example, maybe you’ve decided to blog once a week about your game’s development process. If so, pick a day and time, and topic to write about for that week. Add it to your calendar. Or you might be planning on going on Twitter to connect with fans of your niche. Create your tweets for that week and schedule them into your calendar.

If you’re overwhelmed or too busy, you can always hire a virtual assistant to help you with the task. Having a content marketing strategy and schedule ready to go whenever you need it will alleviate a lot of stress and make the app launch process easier to handle.

Step #5 – Prep for Press

Press is an important aspect of any app launch. However many developers try to tackle it too late in the game. Try to create your press contact list early.  During the development process is ideal. Refer to your previous research on similar top performing games and search for any press or media coverage. A quick Google search will turn up results. Once you have the site name, you can look up the writer and find their contact information.

Before you add them to your press list make sure they’re a good fit. Check the website’s engagement and following, and browse other articles that the writer has written to make sure your game would be of interest to them. If they meet the requirements, add them.

The next step is to find their contact information. This step can get a little tricky. You have to dig deep to find journalist emails. Start by googling their name to see what comes up. Try to find their email and any social media accounts. Often a writer will list a contact or personal page on their Twitter profile. Check out their website and see if you can find their email or a contact form.

If you’re still having trouble, try using Chrome browser plugin extensions like Rapportive, Found.ly or Find Anyone’s Email – Contact Out. There are also sites like Buzzstream, Muckrack, and VoilaNorbert that you can use. If you’re on a budget, VoilaNorbert features a low pay as you go option and 50 free leads, which is cool.

When you have your list, slowly start contacting and making connections. Follow them on Twitter. Keep up with their latest posts and use what you learn to create a reach-out email that will warrant their attention.

'press'

Step #6 – Find Influencers

Journalists aren’t the only people who can help spread the word about your game. Don’t overlook influencers. Social media influencers on Twitter and YouTube as well as the popular game or niche bloggers can help push your app launch towards success. Influencers have huge followings. When they post, tweet, review or mention your game, you’ll instantly get exposure. Networking with them and reaching out can help you in your marketing efforts.

Try to find influencers to reach out to from different platforms. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, popular indie game bloggers or reviewers are a good start. To avoid wasting time, focus only on individuals that would be interested in games, Indies, or your app’s particular niche. For example, maybe it has a classic retro feel, try to seek out influencers that are fans of old school games. You’ll increase your odds of a yes. Then make a list of influencers and start connecting.

Step #7 – Create a Great Demo Video

To promote your game, a demo video or gameplay trailer is a must. They are the best visual tools to have in your app launch arsenal to grab the attention of both potential players and press. A great demo video should be between 30 to 90 seconds. Try not to waste unnecessary time with long intros. Aim to immediately capture your viewers’ attention with amazing graphics and highlights.

Your demo should also be exciting and explanatory. It’s essential that anyone who watches the demo, immediately understands what your game is about. Keep it simple, engaging and focused. Remember, gameplay trailers are about showing people how fun and unique your game truly is.

Step #8 – Be Sneaky & Post Sneak Peeks

Sneak peeks, and teasers are visual reminders that your awesome game is coming soon. They can be in the form of gameplay videos, game screenshots, character screenshots, GIFs of the game’s gameplay, text posts announcing what you’re working on or even a Vlog related to the making of your game. For a successful app launch, try to create and share teasers strategically throughout your game’s development. The goal is to get people excited about your game and anticipating its release. So, always try to be sneaky with your sneak peeks and spread them out over a period of weeks or months before your release.

Quick Tip: Before you post a screenshot or video make sure it’s a good representation of your game. You want players to get excited about your game not think poorly of it before it’s even launched. When you’re still early in the development phase, try to use teasers with clever imagery or tagline to spark players’ interest until your game is ready for its first close-up.

Step #9 – Promote, Promote, Promote!

If you’re an indie developer launching an app solo, your mantra should be, “Promote, Promote, Promote.” You should always be promoting your game. There are dozens of different ways that you can promote your game on a consistent basis. You can join developer and gaming forums. Post about your game or add your app’s download link in your signature. You can also add your app’s link to your email signature with tagline and info.

Be sure to cross-promote by including links and mentions of your game on all of your social media profiles and websites. You can even add a pop-up banner on your website to your game link. If you’re not into web design and don’t want to spend money, you can add this option using the add-on feature from HelloBar.

Try to promote your game on YouTube by uploading cool gameplay videos, walkthroughs, and tips. You can also submit your app to review sites and places like Product Hunt. Try to turn promoting your games and apps into a regular habit.

Remember, when you’re launching an app solo all of the marketing efforts falls on you. There’s no big team or advertising budget to rely on. You have to make promoting your game a priority.

'Promotion'Step #10 – Use Beta Testers

Using beta testers is also an important step to take. When you’re launching your app solo, your game has to be 100% ready before you can put it out there. Testing allows you to catch any game issues, crashes, or bugs before you release your app to the world. It’s also a great tool to use to gain valuable feedback on your game in general. You can conduct testing in several ways but using beta testers instead of close friends and family members can deliver the best results. Since there is no emotional connection, beta testers will provide you with deeper insights into your game. To be able to improve your game this info is essential. It will also result in a much smoother app launch.

You can find beta testers on your own on various forums and gaming communities. There are also beta tester sites that you can use like Ubertesters and Usertesting. Try to get as much feedback as possible and make all the necessary changes before you release your game.

Quick Tip: Always make sure your game is polished, features unique gameplay, great graphics and free of errors or bugs before your launch.

Step #11 – Plan Your App Launch Date

In a successful app launch, everything is planned including the release date. It’s important to review your research and determine the best day for launching your app. A magical day that will deliver tons of downloads does not exist, but some days are better than others. Each app category varies. Refer to your research and strategically pick a date that will give you the highest chance of discoverability.

Quick Tip: Try to stay up-to-date on the latest in industry news especially concerning mobile and tech. Avoid planning your release date on the same day as a popular product or app is scheduled to launch.

Step #12 – Get Your Press Kit Ready!

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Usner

You have to be prepared when opportunity presents itself. So, make sure you have a press kit ready. Press kits are time-savers and help to not only establish authority but professionalism as well. Press kits (sometimes referred to as media kits) contain promotional material (i.e. screenshots, demo video) and other information to help journalists and bloggers learn more about their app or game. Having a press kit readily available will make it easy to get press and alleviate the stress of fumbling around trying to pull something together whenever a reviewer or blogger shows interest.

A good press kit should include high-quality screenshots, banners, icons, demo video, and a press release or document with general information about your game and or indie studio. Keep it brief but engaging. Also make sure to include all of your game’s social media links, website and a contact email in your press kit. Save your press kit as a file that you can access whenever you need to or post it on your website. You can gain more exposure when your press kit link is available on your website for anyone to access. You never know who might check it out.

Final Thoughts …

Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work to get your indie game noticed, but it can be done. When you’re launching an app solo, you have to start planning your marketing strategy early. Do your research, build a following around your game with blogging, get social and network with press and influencers. Engage with cool teasers, beta test and stay consistent with promoting your game. Remember the secret to app launch success, is to start early.

Game Ideas

19 Ways to Come Up with Game Ideas

By | Game Business Blog | 10 Comments

Are you having trouble coming up with new game ideas?

If your mind is going blank and no matter how hard you try nothing seems to come to you. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. The truth is … being creative and coming up with game ideas is a skill that you have to hone, not a talent. Anyone can become a master at generating awesome game ideas if they apply and practice the right methods.

Although, there are dozens of different techniques that will help you unleash your creativity. We compiled a list designed specifically with game developers in mind. Each of these 19 methods will help you get those creative juices flowing again and make it easy for you to come up with a killer game idea.

Here’s how:

#1 – Play a Lot of Games

Games have the ability to transport us into a different world, entertain, and challenge us in new exciting ways. When you’re trying to come up with your own unique game idea, they’re also one of the best ways to find inspiration. It’s really important to try to play a lot of different style games, not just your personal favorites. Try to start with the classics and work your way up to the Indies and then some of the more popular newer titles. Games like Space Invaders, Tetris, Mario Bros and others is a good place to start, especially if you haven’t played many of them before.

Believe it or not, most of the games that we consider to be classics were created by individuals or small development teams. Also, many of the classics are simple style games that feature dynamic gameplay with tons of replay value. All of which are the secret ingredients to a successful game. Revisiting them can help get those wheels turning again. Notable indie games like Limbo and Monument Valley are great to play and study as well. Try to find a few of the top current games in different categories to play also.

When you’re playing, pay close attention to all of the little details that make the game fun and unique. Grab a small notebook and jot down any features, themes, color schemes, characters, effects or gameplay mechanics that stand out to you.

Classic Games Image

#2 – Be Observant of the World

As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

To be creative and come up with game ideas you have to be able to connect things. And to connect things you need to be observant. Start paying attention to all the little details. Notice your environment, people, and all the small things that we often overlook. The tree tops, the clouds rolling by, clothes tumbling in the dryer, virtually anything can be used as inspiration when you’re fully aware. You never know what might spark an idea for a new theme, background or interesting gameplay concept.

Try to pay attention to everything around you and come up with ways you could implement them into your game. Ask yourself, “Could this be used in a game?” If so, ‘How?’ Write it all down. The answers might surprise you. You’ll also find that your creativity level will spike as you continue to practice being observant. Ideas can spring from the strangest places.

#3 – Seek Input

As the wise saying goes, ‘When in doubt, ask.’ Always seek out input from others when you’re trying to come up with game ideas. Ask around. Try to start up a ‘game related’ conversation and sneak in some possible game concepts that you’ve been bouncing around in your head. Be inquisitive and find out what type of games people like to play by asking your friends, co-workers, family members or even strangers on the street. The more opinions, the better. If it’s a concept you’ve been thinking about but not quite sure, ask people what they think of it. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone you’re working on a game when you do this. If you’re afraid of someone possibly stealing your idea, you can be vague with your question and still gain valuable feedback.  Asking around will help you get a good idea of which direction you could go with your game.

#4 – Use an Idea Log

Everything begins with an idea. So it’s important to keep track of them. Use a small notepad or an app on your phone to record any ideas that pop into your head. Using a game idea log can make it easier to come up with ideas. Before you know it, you’ll have an entire little book of potential hit games.

The key is finding a method that suits you best, that you’ll be able to keep up. If you like the nostalgia of pen and paper, invest in several small pocket size notepads and keep one with you wherever you go. If the paper method isn’t your style, you can use the note app on your phone to create a game idea log or download one of the many notebook based apps that they have available. Whichever method you choose, remember it must be easily accessible.

You never know when a random idea will hit. When you have a system down for capturing great ideas, you’ll never be without one.

#5 – Mind Map It

Mind mapping is a visual method of brainstorming where you use words, images, and colors to connect ideas around a specific topic. Using this technique, you can quickly generate lots of different game ideas. It’s also a fun way to organize creative ideas.

To start mind mapping a potential game idea, you’ll need a piece of paper, pen, and some colored pens or markers. Choose your game type (i.e. arcade, platformer, puzzle, action) and write it down in the center of the piece of paper and circle it. Then begin to write down main ideas using one word and ‘connect’ by drawing a line from the circled word to your centered game type. These ideas can be a theme, feature, background element, game mechanic, character, effect or any other detail. Try to write and circle each idea in a different color. You can even doodle or draw out the idea if you wish. It’s your mind map. Go through each, brainstorming and breaking down those ideas until you have a big beautiful, creative map of your next game concept.

Mind mapping allows you to connect ideas and figure out what’s missing more quickly. In fact, the brain works better creatively with non-linear techniques like mind-mapping.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking … but what if I don’t want to sit with colored pens mapping? Well then, don’t. There’s mind mapping software that you can invest in. The software allows you to create a mind map quickly on your computer. And there are also dozens of apps like Mind Vector, Mindly, MindMeister and iMindQ that you can download for free on your phone to mind map on-the-go. The apps are a cool option. Many of them utilize the Cloud and can be saved and accessed later from anywhere. You can also collaborate with friends or teammates which are great if you’re working with someone else or a small team.

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#6 – Research

To come up with a great game idea, you need to know what’s already working. Research is a necessity, especially if you’re trying to come up with winning ideas. It’s important to research which games are topping the charts, in which categories, and why, so you don’t end up wasting your time on a concept that no one is going to like or play. Researching the charts and current trends will give you a slight advantage and make it easier to brainstorm new ideas.

To research just browse the top charts in the App Store. Look at all of the high ranking games in the same category that you want to make your game in. Pay close attention to the games that appear to be from indie developers and write them down. Then thoroughly research each game. Google to find out more information about the games. Then download and play each game. Analyze the game’s features and jot down any element that stands out. Examine your notes and use them as starting points to base your game idea on.

#7 – Get Active in the Gaming Community

Being active in the gaming community is another way to spark creativity and generate game ideas. When you’re involved in the game scene, ideas automatically come more easily to you. So get involved! Become active in the gaming community. You have to do more than just play a bunch of games to do this. To be involved you need to join and actively participate on the forums. Browse different message boards and read what other gamers and developers are discussing. Post and ask questions. Get curious. The gaming community is an untapped resource that developers need to take advantage of. You can find inspiration, learn tips, and get guidance, network, and gain lots of useful feedback from gamers and peers.

#8 – Model & Improve

We believe strongly in the ‘Model and Improve’ method, here at Buildbox. It’s the secret technique that many successful developers and entrepreneurs use to come up with killer ideas. When you model and improve, you’re taking a concept, breaking it down and finding new ways to make it better. By adding something extra to it, modifying it or combining it with other elements you end up creating an entirely new version that’s unique. For game ideas, simply research to find popular games in the niche you’re interested in and then analyze them. Once you’ve broken down the game’s features and key elements, brainstorm different ways to improve on each feature. Ideas will quickly start to flow.

#9 – SCAMPER Method

David Reichelt created his hit game Color Switch (which to-date has amassed over 150M downloads) using our software, Buildbox. When asked in an interview, about his process for coming up with game ideas, Reichelt credited the SCAMPER method from the Michael Michalko book called Thinkertoys. The SCAMPER method is basically ‘model and improve’ on steroids. Instead of simply brainstorming ways to improve on a concept you apply nine specific techniques to help you reinvent the concept. Each letter in the acronym represents one or more idea triggering questions that you need to ask yourself.

To use the SCAMPER technique you have to analyze an idea and ask yourself if you can substitute, combine, add, modify, magnify, put to other use, eliminate, reverse or rearrange it. It’s an innovative way to get creative and brainstorm new game ideas.

'new ideas image'

#10 – Focus on a Genre

If you’re having trouble coming up with game ideas, focusing on a specific game category or genre can help. The more specific you are, the easier it is to generate ideas. Try to pick a game genre that you’re interested in and begin to brainstorm ideas only in that category. Whether its arcade, action, puzzle, racing, shooter, adventure or strategy, try to focus only on that particular genre. When you’re brainstorming game ideas, look at other similar games in that category and search for ways to model and improve.

#11 – Pick a Theme to Explore

Sometimes you need to go even further and when you’re thinking up game ideas and pick a specific theme to explore as well. Selecting a particular genre and theme will help you better pinpoint the type of game you want to create. A few minor details can make a huge difference in the overall shape of your game. For example, a simple shooter style game with a space theme is now much more interesting. Adding that one extra touch can ignite your imagination. As you think more about the concept, you’ll be able to come up with more elements to add and pretty soon you’ll have a great game idea in the works.

#12 – Start-Off with a Character

Starting off with a character in mind is another method that’s worth trying if you’re stuck in the middle of a creativity block. When you select the main character first, it can make the process of coming up with a game idea much easier. You can simply brainstorm around that one core element until you have a complete concept. Your main character can be a person, creature, object or a particular place. Once you have a set character, try to think up different possible scenarios that could work. Consider how your character would interact and respond. Brainstorm alternative themes, challenges, and gameplay based around your main character.

#13 – Schedule a Brainstorm Session

Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to think up ideas. Avoid sitting for hours on end, waiting for something to come to you. You’ll burnout quickly if you do. Instead, try to break up your brainstorming sessions into manageable blocks. Pick a time of day that works best for you. Everyone is different. Some people get their best ideas early in the morning, enjoying a cup of coffee, while others prefer to burn the midnight oil. When you schedule a brainstorming session, it’s important to pick a quiet place where you can think. Set your timer for 15 to 30 minutes and then start brainstorming potential game ideas. When the timer goes off, stop. Continue to go about your day or do some other activity until your next brainstorming session. Depending on your schedule and time restraints you can do one or multiple sessions throughout the day until you’ve come up with something great.

#14 – Use Constraints

Constraints or limitations help to encourage creative thinking. If you need to come up with some unique game ideas than adding constraints is the way to go. They’ll help you narrow down your options and focus your creativity. Try to use constraints like theme, time, tools and skill to brainstorm your concept.

Start by selecting one specific theme that your idea must be based on. Give yourself a deadline to complete your game. When you know, the amount of time you have available is limited you’ll have to think up game concepts that are doable within those set limits. This will keep you from thinking in the mind frame of ‘unlimited possibilities’ which often is what leads us towards a creativity block. Constraints help to keep your design concept realistic which is important to do.

Tools and your current skill level are also restrictions you need to consider when you’re coming up with game ideas. What type of game can you make? Which tools do you need to help you accomplish your goal? What is your budget? Knowing and working within your limitations will lead you towards success. Turn your restrictions into an advantage by using them to fuel your creativity.

#15 – Draw Inspirations from other Mediums

Games are not the only type of media that you can draw inspiration from. You can also draw inspirations from other mediums like film, TV, art, music and books. What are your favorites? What is it about them that speaks to you? Search for elements in other mediums that could be used as a base for a game idea. It could be anything. Maybe a cool concept or action scene from a movie or show, a beautiful piece of art, a great song or the song’s album cover. Inspiration is everywhere when you’re looking for it.

#16 – Take a Break

Sometimes the best way to come up with ideas is to take a break from coming up with ideas. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works. Stepping back from the process and doing something else will allow you not only relax but to avoid burnout as well. Whenever you’re at the point where you’re beginning to get frustrated, take 20 minutes, an hour or even a day and break away. Take a long shower or power nap if you need one. Go for a walk in the park. Play your favorite game or listen to some music. Do whatever you like to do to unwind. Then when you’re ready to come back to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes.

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#17 – Use a Game Idea Generator

When you need a little help coming up with game ideas, generators are also an option. Now, we don’t recommend using them literally. Some of the results can be outlandish, but they’re great tools to use to spark your creativity. Simply take the random idea and tweak it to a realistic concept. You can also play around with it and pull different elements from each idea generated to come up with a cool idea. Game idea generators are fun tools to use to help bust through a game creation block. Two good game idea generators to try is Orteil’s Game Idea Generator and Streaming Colour’s Game Idea Generator.

#18 – Read the Latest News & Reviews

Reading the latest industry news and game reviews can also help generate game ideas. Online publications like Gamasutra, PGBiz, Polygon, IGN, 148Apps, Touch Arcade, and Indiegames.com are all excellent sources to help keep you in the know. When you have a good idea of what players like and what they don’t like, you’ll be able to come up with game ideas more quickly. Try to make reading and staying up on the latest trends a habit. To keep track of your game news, download an RSS feed reader app like Feedly or Pocket. You can also add any interesting game development blogs to your RSS feed as well. The more embedded you are in the game scene, the better.

#19 – Just Start & Game Ideas will Flow

If you’re having trouble coming up with game ideas, sometimes it helps just to start creating something. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your own expectations on what you should be making. Diving right in and making a ‘practice’ game can alleviate a lot of the self-imposed pressure and unleash your creativity. When you’re not worried about making a perfect game, and you’re just messing around, your wheels will start turning, and ideas will come to you as you go. Just pick a random game type and run with it. You might just end up with the perfect game, by accident. You never know.

When you feel stuck, try one or all of the great tips mentioned above. Remember, making games, in general, should be a fun process. If you’re struggling to come up game ideas, take a deep breath, breathe out and relax. Play a ton of games, be observant, try different methods of brainstorming, research, work within your limitations and remember that ideas will come to you as you go.

Remember, creativity is just about connecting things and being more open and aware.