by Jon (Updated on 2015-10-17)
Note: Looking for how to publish your game? Check this article out instead.
Developing your game is only half the battle. Taking it to the App Store (or Google Play) and reaping the profits of your hard work (whether in actual revenue or downloads) is a challenging task, arguably more so than developing the game itself.
Whether you are building a free game or a paid one, you want to give your game as much exposure as possible in order to maximize its ranking in the App Store charts. It's never been OK (except in 2007, perhaps) to just publish an app to the store and expect it to fly off the shelves.
This guide covers the bare minimum that you’ll need to do to launch and promote your game.
First and foremost, pick a workable concept from the outset. A game that isn't fun is unlikely to fly.
The golden rule is to pick a game that fits well with mobile devices. Games with virtual keypads or complicated controls tend to fare poorly.
If you look at what's out there (Angry Birds, Temple Run, Tower Defense games), the games that fare best tend to be entirely touch driven and easy to pick up without much instruction.
This isn't the same as being casual or dumbed down. You can still make a sophisticated game. Just don't make the learning process and control scheme so complicated.
They'll catch issues that slip by your eyes. As you build more games, you’ll build up a list of trusted beta testers to give you feedback.
If you’ve got several games, build a website to represent your brand (or studio). Cross-promote your games through all channels - your site, social media and prior games. Don't fall into the trap of rebuilding your audience from scratch each time.
Start up a Facebook page and Twitter feed for your “brand.” Most blogs offer an easy way to link to your Twitter account and Facebook pages, so make sure you add those to your blog or website.
You want to build up interest in your game before you launch it, not after.
Join communities such as TouchArcade and post your game idea in an appropriate forum topic area when you’re ready to do so. Regulars will provide critiques of your game and help you improve your marketing techniques.
A review by a major outlet like AppAdvice or 148Apps can give you that little boost you need to hit the charts.
Make the description concrete and to the point. Don't use vague terms such as "unique gameplay." Instead, say what's unique about it. If YOU were browsing that entry, would you download or buy your game? Put yourself in the user's shoes.
Don't just take random screenshots. Show off the best that your game has to offer. Add captions to the screenshot to explain what's going on.
Let your friends, family and Internet contacts spread the word. Don’t be afraid of using social media. Announce the game on developer-oriented communities such as Touch Arcade (and give away promo codes). You’ll not only get hits, but well-pointed critiques of the game.
Launch a web (Flash) demo of your game on sites like Kongregate and Newgrounds. Then, link to the mobile version at key points (main menu, end of demo, etc.). It’s an effective way to upsell users on the paid product.
If you’ve published games that have an active userbase, update those games as a way of cross promoting your new title through those existing games! Players who love your older games are likely to want to try your new ones too.
Address user concerns and give them a reason to keep playing. It helps to have a concept that has replay value to begin with (or else you'll have to encourage replays through additional content).
Build a loyal following by keeping social media channels up to date. Post about updates to your game, your other games, and anything coming up. Always provide a link to, or banner for, the game(s) at the beginning and end of your post.
Consider tweaking your game’s price or making the app free for limited time if sales are below expectations. Timing is important, and sometimes the lost sales for a free app are greatly outweighed by the publicity and rise in rankings, leading to increased sales afterward. If you’re able to get featured by sites like Free App a Day, your app could hit it big.
Last but not least, if the game is doing reasonably well, consider building seasonal content for it. For example, adding a holiday-themed level pack during the holidays, or a simple reskin. It’s amazing how well these can convert if done well and timed appropriately.