About app promotion in the App Store: Developer experience

Vasily Popov and Roman Sidorov from SilentAppsTeam told the portal about how they launched their applications in the App Store, what actions they took and what came of it (the material of the information resource “Habrahabr” was used). The story is told in the first person.

The statistics of the “apple” app store abound in thousands and millions, while Apple does not forget to mention at any presentation how many billions have already been paid to developers. But, as they say there, it’s no picnic. It’s getting harder to succeed in the App Store, the competition is too great, there are too many large publishers.

Gone are those fabulous times when it was enough just to put the game on the App Store to enjoy an indefinite vacation at your own expense at some luxury resort in a few months. If you do not put any effort at all on marketing and promotion of the application, then the chances of getting even a four-digit sum will be comparable to the chances of finding a gold bar by sifting through a children’s sandbox.

Google is full of materials on the topic “how to promote an app in the App Store”. For the most part, they are quite superficial and more like advice from the series “it’s good to be rich and healthy, and it’s bad to be poor and sick.” In this essay I will try to share our personal experience of following all these tips.

We are a small team of developers from Riga Silent Apps Team. By saying “small”, I mean a team like “vodka-sweatpants-sandwiches” — we work on iOS projects in our free time from our main work, we do not have extensive financial capabilities. There are quite a lot of such home teams in the App Store, new ones continue to connect every day.

Our first application for the iOS platform was an analogue of the TV game “APOZH” — a relatively popular toy inReverse Party Game. I’m sure many people have played it or at least seen it with friends. We even have followers on the Android app Inverser.

At the end of August, we posted our second app on the App Store — the Hipsta Chez game, which is a combination between Color Lines and chess (an analogue of the old cult game “Putin Chess”).


By the very moment of launch, we had prepared poorly, we simply did not have enough time and energy. Perhaps no one knew about the release of the game except our friends and acquaintances. Yes, we have prepared everything necessary, polished the game itself to a shine, prepared a mini-website, mounted a small demo video, released right before the weekend. But at the same time, no contacts were established with journalists, no advertising was prepared, and we are not talking about publishers at all. Therefore, in the first few weeks, about a dozen people bought the game.

Many recommend making a kind of “boom” from the moment of launch, which is preceded by preliminary reviews of the application on thematic sites and advertising. But it is difficult to prepare a sufficient level of a promotional campaign without having sufficient time and financial resources. We decided to finish the game itself first, and then take up its promotion.

Press release

Immediately after the launch, a press release was published. The publication was organized through several specialized websites. But despite the huge number of links, this did not affect sales in any way at all.

The conclusion here is very simple. Spending money and time on distributing press releases makes sense, perhaps, only if there is already a well-established name that someone will react to in addition to automatic cross-news posters on Twitter.

Name change

Out of pure curiosity, perhaps, we contacted one of the largest publishers and offered them our game for evaluation and potential cooperation. The publisher’s representative politely replied “thanks, but no thanks”, but he was kind enough and explained that any game with the word “Chess” in the title is doomed.

Panicking, we decided to change our name, fortunately by that time we didn’t have a name as such yet. So the name Hipsta Chez appeared, consonant with the original Hipster Chess, but not frightening the Western player with the word “chess” in the title.

I must say, now I rather regret this decision, although it is impossible to say for sure whether it was beneficial or vice versa. We understood the problem with the unpopularity of chess from the very beginning of development, but decided to take a chance and tried to show in every possible way that the game is not really chess.

Game Reviews

Among other things, immediately after the launch of the game, we sent letters to the editors of all major sites that publish reviews of games for mobile platforms. This is probably the most popular move used by independent developers. The largest sites receive up to a hundred requests for reviews per day!

As a guide to action, we used the list on this site — http://maniacdev.com/2011/08/ios-app-review-sites/

To our surprise and joy, we were answered by several large sites, including one of the most popular — toucharcade.com . As a result, several very positive reviews were published.

After the review on toucharcade.com the game was finally noticed. On the day of publication, about 100 people bought the game, the next day about 70. But a week later, the situation returned to normal, sales fell to zero again.

Reviews certainly help, especially if they are reviews on major sites. But then a lot will depend on the game itself and its potential “virality”. Today’s “mobile” consumers are so spoiled by both quantity and quality that if the game does not catch on at first glance, in a few seconds, then there will be no chance of interest. As soon as the reviews left the first pages of the sites, buyers switched to other products.

Free jerk

One of the most effective ways to promote apps in the App Store is to reduce the price to zero for a limited period of time. At one time, we started with this move with inReverse, and then achieved considerable success, reaching the first place in the Russian top of free applications, where we spent a little less than a week. Later we repeated the free promo, but with the help of a well-known website freeappaday.com , which helped us reach the fifteenth place in Japan.

freeappaday.com almost every week brings several games to the American free top. And here, perhaps, it should be noted that it is the American App Store that is an indicator. No other App Store can compare in scale with the American one. A place there in the free top 25 is about 100 thousand downloads per day. A place in the top three is about 300 thousand. For comparison, a week in the first places in the Russian top brought us only about 50 thousand downloads.

It was decided to repeat the promo on freeappaday.com for Hipsta Chez. The cost of the site’s services is not so great when compared with large-scale advertising all over the Internet, but you can’t call it small either (the bill goes for thousands of dollars). Therefore, we decided to prepare as much as possible to do our best.

First of all, an update of the game was prepared, which included a couple of so-called in-app purchases. This is the main tool with which you can earn money on free apps.

Then we prepared the inReverse Party Game update, which included several small, but long-sought-after features. However, the main purpose of the update was to advertise Hipsa Chez. In total, inReverse has been downloaded by several hundred thousand people in less than a year (the vast majority, however, are free). And although not all of them have the game saved on their phone or iPad, we decided that it would be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity. We linked the ad to the promo date on freeappaday.com and they made it as minimally intrusive as possible (the ad is shown only once, unless the user has chosen “remind later”).

The third preparatory step was the drawing of an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S via Twitter. We have prepared a simple page with the terms of the contest and launched banners on Google Adwords advertising this particular draw, and not the game itself. The essence of the draw is simple and already quite standard — you need to subscribe to our Twitter @HipstaChez and retweet a simple message. All hope is that many of the participants of the draw will try the game itself.

Promo on freeappaday.com It was scheduled for Monday, October 17th. Not the best day, unfortunately, but there were no other slots available. Hipsta Chez and inReverse updates, as well as a Twitter lottery were launched on Sunday. Thus, we hoped to concentrate the attention of as many people as possible in one very narrow time interval. The more people download the game in a day, the more chances they have to break into the top, and those who download applications exclusively from the top are already connected there.


Alas, but so far we have not managed to get into the American top. The game remains free at the moment, and the Twitter lottery will last until the end of the month.

Soon there will be New Year’s holidays, and with them new opportunities for various promotions. And advertising always remains one of the simple but effective methods of popularizing the application.

In the end, all this is quite a valuable experience that will be useful to us in promoting our next application, which we have already started working on.

A source

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