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Game Dev Secrets to Indie Success

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Ready to learn the best game dev secrets to creating a hit mobile game?

Today, we’re going to share the same game dev secrets that we used to make hit games like Phases, The Line Zen, SKY, The Pit and more. Then we’ll walk you through the whole process and break down each secret strategy. These strategies are perfect for solo devs or any small indie team that wants to take their game making to that next level.

So, let’s jump right in!

'game dev secrets 1'Game Dev Secrets:  #1 – Reverse Engineer The Hits

In the very beginning, before you start making your game, it’s important to do your research. To create a successful game as an indie developer, you have to not only research top games in your desired niche, but reverse engineer them as well. It’s one of the best game dev secrets to practice.

When you know what’s working and the reason why it’ll lead you in the right game design direction. You’ll be able to make the type of game that players are already interested in and as a result, you’ll be a step ahead of the competition.

As an indie developer, you never want to just ‘wing it,’ it’s critical that you take the necessary time out to research before you jump into creating your game. So, when you start creating your game, you’re not creating something that’s outdated or that people are sick of playing because the trend has been played out.

Researching and reverse engineering hit games is one of the most coveted well-kept game dev secrets around. You have to do your research to make a hit game.

Here’s how we do it:

First, we try to identify some current trends that are going on right now. I’ll walk you through the whole process on both the iOS App Store and Steam platform, but you should use the platform that you plan to use to launch your game. This technique will work on most platforms. 

Top Free Games Category

Open up the iOS App Store and go to the Top Free iPhone Games section. When you’re looking for games to reverse engineer, it’s important to focus primarily on the top free games category instead of paid. There are several reasons why you should do this.

The first is that there’s a very slow turn over rate for paid games in the App Store. Most of the top paid games are older titles that have been around for quite some time. Games like Minecraft, Bloons, Heads Up!, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Monopoly have held top positions for years. However, on the top free games chart, it’s often the opposite. These games are consistently changing, and many of them are newly released games. Newer titles will also give you a better idea of what’s currently trending.

In fact, the top three to five games in the free games category are usually new releases. The entire top free games chart is a 50/50 mix of new and older hits, which will give you a strong chance. Another reason it’s good to focus on the free instead of the paid category is that many of the top grossing games are free titles. The competition is fierce in the paid games category, so it’s harder to break into. You really have to create a unique game and build an entire community of loyal fans behind it to rank in the top paid games category.

When you focus on the free category, you’ll gain deeper insights into the trends that are working, and you’ll be able to increase your odds of success in the process.

To start, let’s examine the iOS App Store. In the top free games category, you’ll find titles like Flip Master, Bowmasters, Snake vs. Block, Pixel Drop and Flappy Dunk. Scroll all the way down and browse through the first top 100 free games. Take notes and jot down any reoccurring themes or trends that you notice.

Reverse Engineer Your Way to Indie Success

If you have an idea of what type of game you’re leaning towards making, look at the top free games in that particular category or genre. Keep an eye out for games that look like they’re from indie developers. If you want to go the publisher route, then try to select games that were published by the same company or publishers that interest you.

Try to pick a couple of games to research and reverse engineer thoroughly. The goal is to find out why that game is successful. Analyze its App Store page, read the reviews, Google the developer or publisher. Then download and play the game. Be sure to take notes. Record anything that stands out to you. Look for themes, trends, break down the app’s gameplay mechanics and study it until you have the answers that you need.

When you figure out how they got in the position that they’re in, you’ll be able to recreate that success. Remember to also look for patterns and trends that on the rise. When you’re applying game dev secrets like reverse engineering, you can make your research as detailed as you’d like. A great tip to follow is to break down the reverse engineering process into different sections such as gameplay, monetization, and art style. Try to come up with a game concept that is currently trending upwards.

Using Steam

Now let’s take a closer look at the Steam platform. Go to Steam’s Top Seller’s section. Then go to the right side panel’s filter options. You should see an option box for ‘Narrow by Tag’ with various categories like Indie, Action, Casual, Adventure, etc. listed. Click on the category that you’re researching. For example, we’ll be analyzing the current trend in indie games, so we’ll click on the ‘Indie’ option in the search filter. A fresh list of top games in that particular category will appear.

Following the same technique, try to pick several games to research and reverse engineer. Don’t stop at just current trends, break down each game and find out what features or aspects about that game is working well and why. Take notes and use them as a reference when you’re finalizing your game concept and planning development.

'Game Marketing'Game Dev Secrets: #2 – Start Marketing When You Start Making

When it comes to game dev secrets, this one is HUGE. Start marketing your game early! Far too many indie developers make the mistake of starting their marketing efforts post launch. If you want to make a hit game, you have to start marketing your game as soon as you begin development.

In our previous article called, ‘Game Marketing Tips from App Experts’ we asked several successful developers to share some of their best marketing strategies. Starting marketing early was one of their top game dev secrets. As an indie dev, you should always be promoting your game. There are tons of different methods that you can do to help promote your game early and generate buzz. You can post teasers of your game on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

Another way to help promote your game when you’re just starting out is to set up a website or blog. You can do a lot with this type of online presence. It can serve as your game’s home base, which will provide you with your own platform to capture emails, make announcements, talk directly with potential new players and fans and build a whole community around your game. You can create a simple landing page announcing your upcoming game and an opt-in for receiving updates, or you can create a developer blog to document your game development journey. If you want, you can even do both.

The Minecraft Technique

Minecraft creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson applied these game dev secrets when he was creating his hit game. He started blogging about developing Minecraft back in 2009 using Tumblr and posting videos on YouTube. You can check out old archive posts from years ago that he posted while making the game. Most of his posts were screenshots in the form of teasers and videos. Notch’s consistency in posting helped him build a solid fan base around his game before it was even released. Being consistent with your promotion is another key factor for success, which Notch was able seamlessly to do using YouTube for videos and curating his content on Tumblr.

Although Tumblr isn’t as popular as it was back in 2009, you can still follow Notch’s technique by documenting your game journey on a popular platform with social features like Medium for example and publishing video content on YouTube. Reddit and Digg are also great sites to use as well to help push your game.

'create a game'Game Dev Secrets: #3 – Create a Game That People Want to Play

It’s also essential that you create a game that people want to play. This is why researching and reverse engineering hits are game dev secrets. To create a game that players want to play, you need to know what’s working and which game types people are gravitating towards the most. Being in the know on the current trends will give you a leg up on the competition. It’ll also guide you in the best direction to go with your game concept.

When you’re trying to make a game that players will want to play you need to come up with a concept that’s unique yet familiar. A good way to do this is by modeling and improving off of other game ideas.

You’d be surprised by how many hit games were modeled and improved from other games. For example, Rovio’s Angry Birds was modeled after a game called Crush the Castle, Supercell’s mega hit Clash of Clans was modeled after a previous Digital Chocolate game called Galaxy Life, and Minecraft was modeled after a game called Infiniminer.

One of the best-kept game dev secrets is the ‘model and improve’ method. It’s the secret sauce that most successful game developers and entrepreneurs in general use. You can apply the ‘model and improve’ technique to come up with bigger and better game ideas.

Here’s how it works:

Select one or multiple games from your previous research that inspired you. Maybe it had a great art style or cool theme or a standout gameplay feature that you liked. Take out your notes and analyze the different aspects of the game and try to brainstorm ways to improve. The goal is to change, remove, or add something to that base concept to make it unique. Come up with new ways to tweak and make improvements on each feature until you have an entirely new game concept that’s 10X better.

Remember when you’re modeling and improving, always to tweak and add something special to it. You never want to copy or rip-off someone’s game. It can get you into trouble if you do. Strive to make a new game based on the idea that you’re modeling and improving.

'game dev secrets 4'Game Dev Secrets: #4 – Package It Together Perfectly

Although it may seem too obvious to be one of our game dev secrets, it’s not. To make a hit game, you have to package every aspect of it together perfectly. This means your game design has to be perfect, the sounds must all be in key, the music has to flow with the game and be trendy, and your game must be polished. A polished game is consistent and cohesive throughout. It’s free from any errors and bugs. Not just technical bugs but issues in the game’s internal design as well. From the core mechanics to graphics, sound, and controls every component of the game is close to perfection when it’s truly polished.

A great example of a polished game is Playdead’s Inside. They did an excellent job of polishing their game to the point where you’re immersed into that world. When you’re making games, you want players to be fully engaged. Having too many imperfections and bugs in your design will ultimately turn off players from your game. This is why it’s essential that you package everything together perfectly and make sure it’s polished.  

Polishing Your Game

Polishing is not easy, but it’s important to do if you want to make a successful game. If you want to add polish to your game you first must review it. Sit down and take some time analyzing your game. While you’re playing it, play close attention and look for any small details or aspects of the game that could be improved. Consider the characters, sound effects, unique features, controls and search for any errors. Make the necessary improvements and then use beta testers to gain further feedback. Ask your friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers to test your game. Hire beta testers or enlist the help of volunteers on forums to check your game. Use the insight you gain from testing to make improvements until your game is completely polished.

More Game Dev Secrets

In the video above, Trey explains all four game dev secrets in detail and shows you examples of the games and methods that he used. He’ll also reveal a bonus game dev secret that helped him get his game Phases greenlit on Steam and more.

'game dev mistakes'

5 Things Never to Do When You’re Creating Games

By | Game Business Blog | 10 Comments

What shouldn’t you do, when creating games?

After analyzing thousands of games, here at Buildbox, we’ve discovered that there are five mistakes that new game creators constantly make. Avoiding these common game design errors is important if you want to be successful in the game business.

Below are the top five things NEVER to do when you’re creating games:

Character too big

#1 Character Too Big

Making your game characters too big is one of the biggest mistakes that we see in games. It’s also an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re new to game design.

For some game developers, making game characters, large may seem like the thing to do. Maybe they’ve devoted a lot of time or money creating the perfect superhero or monster character for their game and want to show it off. Or they believe by making it larger it will make the game more fun and unique. New game creators often assume that it’s better to make their game characters big because they’re much easier for players to see.

Although these reasons make sense in theory, when you’re creating games you should never make your character too big.

Here’s why:

In game design, size matters and bigger is not always better, especially regarding character size. Your character should be small and proportionate. When you make a game with characters that are too big it’ll seriously affect the gameplay and your player’s overall experience in a negative way.

A well-designed game has balance, and when your characters are bigger than normal, it makes the game feel off. Large characters also take up large portions of the screen which distracts from the other elements of your game like cool backgrounds and obstacles. The larger your character, the more difficult it is to clear jumps, fly, or maneuver through various zones. It makes the game harder and less fun because the character is less agile. In physics based games, larger characters carry additional weight which will ultimately slow the game down.

If you make your characters larger than necessary, your game will not only look unpolished, but it’ll also look unprofessional. It’s important to remember when you’re creating games to avoid making your characters too big.

It’s best to aim to make your game characters small, especially for mobile games that will be available in the App Store or on the Google Play platform. Most of the top games have little characters. Games like Trey Smith’s Phases featured a small white ball as its main character, and it was a huge success. The game .PXL which was created by a Buildbox customer and published b Appsolute Games is another great example of how you can use small characters in your game and be very successful.

When you’re first starting out creating games, it’s always wise to use small characters. From a level design perspective, you can do much more with a smaller sized character than you can with a large one. This opens the door up to exciting possibilities. Unlike big characters, which limit what you can do you’re able to build more interesting game design concepts. It’s easier to come up with unique ways to spice up your gameplay and make levels more challenging when your characters are small. For example, you can add secret tunnels when you have smaller characters, which is very hard to do with big characters. Your game will instantly become more fun and exciting.

When you’re creating games, try to make sure your character size is correct. The earlier on during the game design process that you do this, the better. But at any time if you notice your character may be throwing your game off you should adjust its size. A good way to determine if your character is too big is to take it and impose it on a popular game like Super Mario Bros. You might be shocked by how much smaller this ideal character size is in comparison. Game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto knew what he was doing.

You can actually check your game’s character size against any popular game or classic to get a good idea of how much smaller or bigger you may need to make your character. To do so, just take your game’s screenshots and load them into an image editing software like Photoshop or Illustrator and compare it to whichever popular game you choose and adjust accordingly.

'Making Game too slow image'

#2 Game is Too Slow

Similar to making your characters too big, making a game too slow will also cause major problems. A lot of game creators think that making their game slower will make it easier for players, but this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. A slow game makes it more difficult for players to time jumps to avoid obstacles or to move from one platform to the next.

If your game is slow, your players will quickly become frustrated and feel like they’re being cheated out of a good score. When you’re creating games, you never want your players to feel cheated. If they do, it’ll result in not only poor player retention but bad reviews as well. Your game’s gameplay should feel balanced. It shouldn’t be too easy, but it shouldn’t feel too hard either.

When you’re creating games, you want your game to be exciting to players. A game that is too slow paced will be boring, and you don’t want to bore your players. Both frustration and boredom are two of the biggest culprits for players losing interest in a game. If it’s too slow, your game will quickly turn from fun to hard and dull in 15 seconds flat.

Avoid this common mistake. Try to give your game a nice flow for good player retention. Make sure it runs smoothly. Check for slow pace or slow moving characters that could potentially put off players. Check for bugs that could be slowing your game down as well. Remember, a lag of any kind will ruin a player’s experience. So, it’s important to prevent this by making sure that your game is never too slow.

'creating games image'

#3 Game is Too Hard

Making your game too hard is another big mistake that we see game creators make. You should never make your game so difficult that players feel like they can’t win. We discussed this topic in-depth in our article called the 5 Secrets to Game Design. When you’re creating games, you have to find that perfect balance of difficulty, challenge, and fun. Every great game has nailed this. It’s paramount that you do the same with your game’s design.

The goal is hit somewhere in the middle, in terms of difficulty. Not too hard or too easy, which we’ll touch on more later. Although extremely hard games can be fun to some, most players find them frustrating and often feel cheated. If you’re trying to get your game published or want your game to be a hit on the charts, you should never make your game too hard.

You don’t want to build a game that’s solely at your level because as the game’s creator you’ll be better than most people at playing it. Remember, what you perceive as easy may not be for someone else. To gain a better perspective on where your game is at, you should playtest.

Playtesting is an excellent way to gain valuable feedback on your game. Have your friends, family members, co-workers or even strangers play your game and gather their input. To help gauge how hard it is, when you’re playtesting instead of asking them what they think, watch them play. Pay close attention to their facial expressions, reactions and keep track of how long they play. Did they instantly die or played through several levels? Judging by their expressions not what they said, do you think they were having fun?

Try to playtest your game on as many people as possible to help you determine how hard your game actually is.

'game too easy image'

#4 Game is Too Easy

On the opposite spectrum, making your game too easy is also a huge mistake. When you’re creating games, and you make your game way too easy, players will quickly lose interest. Much like games that are too slow, it will feel dull and boring.

Your game has to have some challenge to be fun. There are multiple ways that you can do this, but one of simplest methods is through the use of obstacles or enemies, depending on your game’s genre. Obstacles can be in the form of spikes, rolling balls, pipes, deadly laser beams, bottomless pits, rotating platforms or anything your imagination can think up. There are endless possibilities and combinations. The same goes for enemies. It’s completely up to you what you incorporate into your game.

When you’re creating games, make sure you include various objectives and obstacles that will challenge and engage your players. Additional features like power-ups that increase speed or multiply coins are also great to add. Power-ups add a dose of excitement into the mix, which can help make your game more challenging. Players might have to jump across a pit of spikes and onto a moving platform in order to snag a cool power-up that gives them super speed. It’s all kinds of different scenarios that you can create.

If you’re having a tough time coming up with interesting gameplay ideas, do some research. When you research other games and reverse engineer them you’ll have a better idea of which direction to take your game. Choose the App Store or whichever store for the platform that you’re planning on launching your game on and pick the top popular games in that particular category.

Study the games by checking out their page, researching the developer, and playing them. Take notes as you play the game and write down anything that stands out. Pay attention to the obstacles and gameplay mechanics for ideas. Never copy. Instead, model and improve on the game’s core concept.

Modeling and improving is one of the best ways to create a game that’s unique but still familiar. The goal is to make your game challenging but not too hard nor easy, somewhere in between. Never make your game too easy.

game not polished

#5 Game is Not Polished

The fifth and final mistake that we see game creators make is not having their game polished enough before its release. A polished game is one that is not only free from errors, but every aspect of the game from the graphics and UI to the gameplay mechanics are cohesive. Unfortunately, releasing an unpolished game is frequent mistake developers tend to make. New game creators, either completely skip this process or they rush through it leaving certain areas unpolished.

This is a BIG mistake if you’re trying to make games professionally. Publishers, game reviewers, and most players prefer games that are high quality and polished. Adding polish should always be your critical final step before any launch.

So, how do you add polish to your game?

It’s easier to do than you think. To begin the process, review and play your game. While you’re doing this, look for any areas that could use improvement. If you notice the tiniest thing wrong, fix it. Check to make sure all of your images are correctly aligned, and nothing is out of place. Also, check your art style and theme to see if it’s cohesive with the rest of your game. Manage your assets to ensure your game’s file size isn’t too large to avoid a slow loading game.

During the polishing stage, testing is important. Use play testers to help catch any bugs or inconsistencies that you may have missed. Try to gain as much viable feedback as possible and use the suggestions to fix and add more polish to your game.

Always remember when you’re creating games, never to skip this essential process.

In the video above, Trey Smith goes further in detail on these five common game dev mistakes. Whether you’re new to creating games or have been making games for awhile, this 30-minute video will give you some deeper insight on exactly how you can make a game successful. Watch as he shows you how each error can significantly affect your game’s overall design and playability. Then follow along as he demonstrates different ways to correct each mistake.

If you’re creating games, then knowing how to avoid these five major mistakes is key.

For more tips, you can also check out our previous article, What NOT to Do When Making Games.

'Making Games how to stay motivated'

Making Games 101: How to Stay Motivated

By | Game Business Blog | 9 Comments

When you’re making games, knowing how to stay motivated and focused is important. Motivation is a HUGE determining factor for success. However, when you’re a solo indie dev making games only in your spare time, finding the motivation to see your game project through can be difficult.

The simple truth is it’s hard staying motivated.

Life is always happening. It’s easy, especially for new game creators, to get distracted, overwhelmed, or completely lose interest and end up abandoning their game.

For most indie developers, the first game is actually the hardest one to make. This is why knowing how to stay motivated and focused is so essential when you’re making games. All the tools, strategies, and resources in the world are useless if you don’t have the momentum to follow through.

OK, I know what you’re thinking …

So, how do you stay motivated as an indie game developer?

Well, there are six strategies that you can apply to help you stay motivated to finish your indie game or any big project that you decide to take on. These techniques when practiced will make it easier for you to stay focused on exactly what you want to achieve.

Let’s jump right in!

Finding Your Why for Making Games

If you want to know how to stay motivated, you first have to know your why. As the great late entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn once said, “When the why is clear, the how is easy.” Understanding your ‘why’ is a major step to accomplishing any goal. When you know it, you can use it to channel your motivation.

'Why is Clear Quote'

To find your why simply sit down with a piece of paper or note taking app, whichever you prefer and write down your answer to either of the following questions:  

“Why do you want to start making games?” Or, “Why are you making games?”

Take some time to think about it. Try to find your real motivation. Maybe since you were a little kid, you’ve always dreamed of making your own game. Or it might have been a particular game that inspired you to get into game making.

Are you making games to achieve financial freedom and quit your day job? Do you enjoy making games and do it just for fun?

Make it Visible

Dig deep and record your why. Once you’ve written down your reason, you’ll want to use it as a reminder. Remember, your ‘why’ is not only your reason it’s your motivation. Save your ‘why’ on a piece of paper, index card, post-it note, or on your phone.

Make a reminder notification on your phone with your ‘why’ to pop-up periodically or after so many days has passed. You can place your ‘why’ for making games on a post-it note on your computer or set it somewhere on your work station. Jot it down on your calendar. It doesn’t matter which way you do it, as long as you make it visible and accessible to you.

When you’re making games, and you feel like quitting, all you have to do is look at that index card or post-it note, and you’ll remember why you started. This small but simple tangible reminder will keep you going when things get tough.

How to Stay Motivated with Your Game Development Goals

To keep motivation and productivity up, it’s also important to set game development goals. Ideally, you’ll want to do this early on when you’re making a game. Setting goals and prioritizing them will also help you to stay motivated to finish your game. There are three different techniques that you can use when you’re setting your game development goals.

Keep It Simple

The first technique is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple). When you keep your goals short and simple, it makes them more doable. Try to start out small and work your way up. It’s paramount that you avoid taking on more than you can handle. Taking on too much at once is one of the biggest motivation killers. So, avoid this altogether by keeping your goals simple and very precise.

Focus on just the core plan that would be necessary to create a working prototype of your game. Don’t flood your goal/task list with every single idea or feature you have in mind. Remember, you can always add things later to change or build up your game as you progress. That’s what the polish phase is all about.

In the beginning, start small. Keeping your goals small and specific will give you laser-like focus allowing you to check off all the tasks on your to-do list quickly.

'Game Development Goals'

Break Down Your Goals

Breaking down your goals into manageable steps is the secret to tackling any big project. When you’re making games, there’s a lot you need to do. So, it’s essential that you also break down each task into smaller actionable steps.

For example, one of your game development goals might be to ‘make the art for your game.’ Although it sounds simple enough, that’s a huge goal. It implies that you’re making the art for your entire game. Which means you’ll have to come up with the color combinations, decide which tool to use, make the background art, create the objects, enemies, platforms, main character, menu art, UI buttons and all the unlockable characters if any. There’s no way you can do that all in one go. Always break it down.

You’re setting yourself up for failure when you make large goals that aren’t realistic or attainable within your time constraints. For each task that you want to accomplish, you need to break it down until it’s short, specific, and actionable.

To get started, get out a piece of paper and start writing down all of your to-do’s for your game. Look over your list and ask yourself, could this be broken down even further? If so, then do it. Continue to break it down until you have a list of simple but actionable steps that you can tackle each day.

Divide & Conquer

The third technique focuses on prioritizing your game development goals and tasks. I like to refer to this as the ‘Divide & Conquer’ method. When you’re breaking down your goals into actionable steps, it’s important to prioritize them. With this strategy, the goal is to divide our tasks and organize them in a way that will help us stay motivated as we work to complete each one.

'Tip for Making Games'

Fun Versus Hard

We’ll do this by rating our tasks in two different areas: fun and difficulty. Let’s start by reviewing our list of goals or tasks for completing our game. Based on a scale of 1-10 with one being the least fun and ten being the most, examine each job and give it a ‘Fun’ or ‘Enjoyment’ level rating.

Now, based on the scale of 1-10 with one being the easiest and ten the hardest, examine each task honestly and give it rating of difficulty. This will be different for everyone. You may be great at making your own game art and can easily make images or characters in Photoshop, but it might be difficult for you to come up with unique gameplay mechanics or vice versa. Consider your skill level, what you’ll need to learn or do, and the time constraints involved.

Over or underestimating what you can do and how long it will take, is one of the most common mistakes people make. Nothing is worst than getting to a point in your game development process and realizing you don’t have the time or skill to complete the task.

Having a clear idea of what’s required and what you’re capable of is critical if you want to succeed.

Once you have your tasks prioritized by difficulty, review all the goals with a difficulty rating of 5 and up. Determine whether or not it’s possible for you to learn the skill necessary to accomplish it or if you’ll need to enlist help. Just because you’re a solo dev doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Hire an outsourcer to do any task that you’re not able to whether it’s due to skill or time constraints. Outsource sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr are great places to find help.

Mixing it Up & Keeping it Interesting

Now that you know which goals are attainable and the level of difficulty or fun involved, it’s time to start mixing things up a bit. If you want to stay motivated, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. The same applies to making games and the goals that you set.

Unfortunately, not every aspect of game development is exciting and some parts are just downright hard. To keep yourself pumped, you have to mix things up when you’re scheduling your game dev sessions. Instead of just going down the list, you can arrange your to-do’s so you’re never doing a task that you don’t enjoy for too long.

Try to tackle the hardest tasks first based. We tend to procrastinate when it comes to tasks that are either difficult or boring. So, break up those days with easier high ‘fun level’ tasks to help keep things interesting. If possible, avoid scheduling tasks that you find mind-numbing back to back.

You can use any method for scheduling that suits you best. Whether it’s a calendar, reminder app, planner, or an advanced to-do list app like Things or Todoist, there are lots of great options available. Always take the time out to schedule your game development. It’s the best way to stay on track and maintain your momentum to follow through and finish your game.

Remember, there are only so many hours in a day, so being able to make the most of your time is important.

'tip for making games'

Get Involved & Make Games Your Passion

Another way to stay motivated when you’re making games is to get involved in the gaming community. Join game development forums like GameDev.net, TIGsource, IndieDB, Buildbox, and Reddit. Participate in the discussions and visit them frequently to get ideas, ask questions, and see what other developers are doing. Forums are great sources to find inspiration. Try to join gaming based forums as well. Choose several gaming platforms that you’re interested in and find forums related to that genre.

Get active on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Follow other game developers, gamers, and game reviewers. Read their posts and watch game reviews and game development tutorials on YouTube. You can also listen to gaming and game development podcasts to help get you in the zone. Make it a habit to search for game dev inspiration daily. There’s always something there if you take the time to look.

Also, keep up-to-date on the latest gaming and industry news to help you stay in-the-know. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn. When you’re immersed in the gaming scene, it’ll fuel your passion for making games. It’ll be easy to stay motivated and focused on making your own game when you’re learning about other games and developers on a regular basis.

Last but not least, play a lot of games. It may sound counterproductive, to be playing instead of making games but sometimes it’s the best way to get motivated. Try to download the latest mobile games or top games on the platform you enjoy on a regular basis. You can even play classics like Super Mario Bros, Tetris, or Zelda that you haven’t played in awhile. Always try to play new or different style games to spark your creativity and get you excited about making games.

'Gamify Your Game Dev'

 

Gamify Your Game Dev

Turning your game development into a game or gamifying your game dev is also an excellent way to motivate yourself to continue working when you don’t feel like it. There are two cool ways that you can do this. You can come up with your own game and reward system, or you can use an app like Habitica to gamify your game dev. Habitica also known as HabitRPG is a free app that allows you to turn your to-do tasks into a game instantly. It simulates a pixel RPG with monster characters, gear, prizes, and even the occasional boss fight. When you make progress on your goals you’re rewarded with points and prizes. It features a mobile app and chrome extension allowing you to play on-the-go and on your desktop. Habitica an excellent tool to use to stay motivated.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourself type, you can create your own game. Simply look over your game development goals and select specific checkpoints. You can pick any task or group of tasks that you like. Maybe when you design three unlockable characters, you earn a reward or point. When you’ve accumulated enough points, you can reward yourself with something that you’ve been wanting or a fun activity. This way as you progress along in your game development you’re having fun treating yourself. It’s completely up to you how you choose to gamify the process.

Take it EASY …

'Take Breaks'

Do something else, other than making games. Working non-stop on a project can often lead to burnout and kill your motivation. To prevent this from happening you need to schedule breaks. Take some time to relax and unwind. Try to avoid reaching the point of mental exhaustion or frustration by working breaks and days off into your schedule. The best thing you can sometimes do when you’re making games is to stop and do a different activity for awhile or maybe even for a day.

What is relaxing for some may not be for others, so try to focus on activities that you enjoy or find therapeutic. Listen to your favorite music, workout, take a nap, watch a film, bike, meditate, go for a walk, game or whatever works best for you. You can schedule 30-minute breaks or longer sessions lasting several hours. Don’t be afraid to step away from your game when necessary to help clear your head. Taking breaks is good. Just make sure you always come back to it.

To help stay on task, you can set your phone’s timer or a reminder notification, so you’ll remember to start back working on your game.

Start Making Games – Just Do It!

As actor Shia LaBeouf, repeatedly stated in his infamous motivational video posted on YouTube, “Just Do It!”

Taking action can fuel motivation. It sounds simple, but it’s very true. If you want to be successful in game development, you have to make making games a priority. Add ‘working on your game’ into your schedule and make the time. The only way your dream of making games will become a reality is if you take action!

'getting featured on Google Play'

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 | 19 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 | 7 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 | 4 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!

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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.