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The power of getting featured by Apple

By on October 23, 2012
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This guest post by Music and Sound FX creator Whitaker Blackall has been republished with permission from his blog. 

I’ve been promising a Polymer numbers post for a long long time. But I’m lazy and haven’t gotten around to it. And for that, I’m sorry. However, my laziness has paid off in a way, because now you can see how the rankings, sales, and analytics have varied over many months, various Apple features, and updates. I took some of these screenshots a couple weeks ago when I started writing this post so some of the data is a bit old but nothing out of the ordinary has happened since then, so you’re not missing anything. Also, if some of the pics are too small to read, open them in a new tab and view them full size. One last thing: I don’t list any dollar amounts, because I’ve been told that it’s not smart. But you can get a pretty good idea from unit numbers, etc. Okay, let’s get started!



I’m starting with sessions because it just blows me away. Polymer has been played over 200,000 times. That’s just crazy to me. This graph clearly shows what will be completely obvious by the end of this post: Apple features are awesome. Yes, having great reviews on Touch Arcade148 Apps, and many other publications helped a lot. But I’m convinced that the Apple features were by far the number one contributing factor to the massive sales spikes.

The two main spikes in this graph represent both times I was featured by Apple. The first was beginning April 26th, when Polymer was released. It was featured in the iPhone app store, in the “New and Noteworthy” section of the Games category. The amazing thing about this is that it isn’t nearly the most visible spot for a feature. To get into this section of features, the user has to first find the Games banner, which isn’t always entirely obvious. I can only imagine how many sales you’d get with a front page iPhone app store feature.

The Games feature banner

The second spike is when the iPad version of Polymer was released. This time, I was re-featured in the same spot in the iPhone store, but was also featured in the iPad’s main feature section, reachable by a single swipe on the front page of the app store. While I’m sure it doesn’t get as much traffic as the iPhone app store, it was still quite incredible (especially since this time the app was at $1.99 instead of $0.99). One last really cool thing is that even though I got only about half the sales on the iPad update’s launch (compared with original launch), there were actually slightly more sessions, which I’m assuming means that a lot of the original buyers opened it up again after having it dormant on their phones for awhile.


New Users

This graph isn’t that different than the last graph, but instead of showing how many times the game was played, it shows how many unique devices opened it up. The important thing to note here is that since it is measuring devices, these aren’t necessarily all new users. In fact it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people who already had it on their phones installed it for the first time on their iPads upon the major update. If there really were 3,325 more actual new users during the week of July 16th than there were during the week of April 23rd, than sales would have been much higher.


Session Length Distribution

This graph is pretty cool. First of all, I find it amusing that people have opened Polymer for less than three seconds about 10,000 times. That’s just funny to me. Usually the only time I’ll open an app then close it again immediately is when I’m getting rid of a notification badge, but I’ve never sent any notifications. My best guess is that these less-than-three-second times are from when someone opens it, gets a text, immediately switches to text back, then switches back to the game (for example).

The far end of this graph is definitely the most interesting though. It’s pretty cool that most sessions are 3-10 minutes long. I’m assuming that most of those are more towards the 3-minute side, but it still makes me happy that it beat out the 1-3 minute bar. Even more awesome is that people have played Polymer for longer than 30 minutes in one sitting about 10,000 times. That’s insane! I rarely play iPhone games for that long, and it brings joy to my little heart that some people are that engrossed in my game.


User Session Info

There were 7,180 people who opened Polymer once then never opened it again. Damn, guess it didn’t make a good impression! There were also 11,048 people who may have played Polymer more than once in a single day, but after that day was over, never played it again (although the “one-session users” are included in this, so I think that means that there are therefore 11,048-7,180=3,868 people who opened it more than once in a single day, but never after that). Now, the number I really like is the 8,338. All of these guys installed it then came back and played again at a later date! Thanks guys. I like you. There is one more thing to note with these numbers: as I said before, the “users” actually represent separated devices. So, for example, if someone plays Polymer 1,000 times on his iPhone, but only once on his iPad, that one iPad play would count towards the “one-session users” as well as the “users active on only one day.” Therefore, I’m sure these numbers are pretty skewed.


Event Summaries

First of all, I find it very cool that over 3,000,000 polymers have been made! Crazy. These numbers also make it clear that the Two Minutes game mode is by far the most commonly played, followed by One Polymer, then finally, Bombs. Keep in mind that Two Minutes is the only mode unlocked at first, so it makes sense that it would be the most common, especially for casual gamers.


Two Minutes Scores

One Polymer Scores

Bombs Scores

These score charts are interesting because they show that casual gamers greatly outnumber more serious gamers. Well, I should probably rephrase that because I’m not sure that Polymer could ever be considered aserious game. What I mean is, most of the time, people play Polymer without much strategy for getting high scores. It seems that most people are far more interested in just the sliding, matching, Polymer popping, and overall experience of the gameplay than actually getting a high score. There is one thing, however, that could skew the One Polymer results: the length of time the game lasts. People who play One Polymer casually may only take about a minute to submit their score. As a result, they may end up submitting ten different low-scoring polymers in one sitting. On the other hand, someone who is going for a high score may take ten minutes or more on a single polymer, resulting in only one play per sitting, thus greatly skewing the results towards the more casual gamers’ scores.


Polymer Size

This is probably the most satisfying graph in the whole post. I find it very very cool how nearly perfect the curve is. This graph makes it clear that polymers get increasingly difficult with every added piece, almost without exception. The only exception is an interesting one: apparently 4-piece polymers are quite a lot easier to make than 2-piece polymers. When I first saw this, I was really confused, but upon further thought, it makes a lot of sense. There are a number of ways you can form 4-piece polymers, with various combinations of pieces, but only one way to form a 2-piece polymer. Therefore, even though 2-piece polymers are extremely easy to make, 4-piece polymers are still pretty easy and much more common.


This is Interesting…

I find it crazy that someone made a 69-piece polymer. There are 70 on the board. They used all but one piece. Wow. I think he tweeted me when he did it but unfortunately I can’t remember who it was! Even more amazing than this is that someone made a ONE PIECE POLYMER. Excuse me, but HOW THE HELL?! I have no idea how that’s possible. It must have been a bug, but I just find it amusing. I’m sure whoever it was was pretty surprised too.

CRAZY UPDATE: So apparently it was Žiga Hajduković who made the 69-piece polymer. Even more amazing is that HIS TWO-YEAR-OLD SON MADE THE 1-PIECE ONE! They are a very talented Polymer family on both ends of the spectrum! And by the way, you should check out his game Dream of Pixels. I’ve been beta testing it and it’s beautiful!



(Even though some of the other pics are a bit old, I took this one just now so you get updated stats with iOS 6.0) I think this makes it pretty clear that it’s becoming pretty unnecessary to cover anything less than iOS 5.0. I’m a bit surprised that so few people have used iOS 6 compared with iOS 5, but I think the main reason for that is just that there hasn’t been a Polymer update or anything noteworthy since iOS 6 was released. I’m hoping that with today’s update, the iOS 6 numbers will increase!



(I just took this screenshot right now as well so you could see iPhone 5 stats) I find this pretty interesting, mainly because of how few iPhone 5’s there are. But like I said in the firmware section, I think it’s mainly due to the fact that most people just haven’t been playing Polymer lately. Hopefully the update will change that (especially because of the special two additional rows of pieces added to accommodate the taller screen!)


All Time Downloads

Polymer has been bought over 11,000 times!


All Time Units

By far, the initial launch day was the highest day of sales. This was due to being featured by Apple, having a short $0.99 sale, getting lots of good press coverage, having a ton of really awesome friends and followers on Twitter who helped spread the word, and this Reddit post, which is the fifth most upvoted submission of all time in r/gamedev. It’s also even in the sidebar now! Even though the iPad update didn’t result in as many sales at first, it had a slower decline, resulting in more downloads per day for longer.


Cumulative Units

This clarifies some things. This graph makes it obvious that even though the initial spike for the 2.0 update wasn’t as high, it actually resulted in a good amount more sales than the initial release did, due to its slower decline.


All Time Profit

This shows the profit from release to now. My highest day of profit was actually after the 2.0 update release, due to the fact that it was featured in the iPhone and iPad stores, it got some more press, and it was now at $1.99. In fact, since the decline was slower than during the initial release, I actually made a decent amountmore profit from the update than I did from the initial launch!


iPad Rankings

iPhone Rankings

Units with Rankings

Apple features are awesome. Apple features are one of the best ways to get ranked. But how do you get an Apple feature? No one but Apple really knows, but here are some tips. For one thing, Apple loves when you use their iOS SDK features. I tried to use as many iOS features as I could, including GameCenter leaderboards, multiplayer, and achievements, In-App Purchases, and of course the Universal update. Another thing that is extremely important in getting featured is design. If your app doesn’t look Apple-worthy, they won’t feature it (most of the time). Finally, try to get press! How do you do that, you ask? Well, the way I did it was by getting to know a lot of press people on Twitter. And in case you’re not very familiar with Twitter, I wrote a guide to promoting your game through Twitter. Apple is impressed when apps get good press.



Clearly, the US has been the biggest and most important market for me. But I find it interesting seeing the international breakdown. I wish I could find out why 6 Americans returned it though…


In-App Purchases

In-App Purchases have accounted for about 8.5% of my total profits. As you can see, the most expensive IAP ($2.99) is actually the most commonly bought, but that’s because it unlocks a ton of stuff. You can also see that by far, people more often buy IAP when some sort of popup shows up on screen and basically asks them to buy it. If it’s hidden away in a store, it’ll be won’t be bought nearly as many times.


The First Month

This is the first month of sales, beginning on April 26th, launch day. You can see that Polymer got pretty high in rank but then kept declining until it fell off a bunch of charts. What I find most interesting about this is that rank is primarily determined by frequency of sales, not just by quantity of sales. In other words, 1,000 downloads in one day will make you rank a lot higher than 1,000 downloads spread out through an entire week. I suppose this is rather obvious, but here’s my point: focus everything you have on launch day. Do absolutely everything you can to get as many downloads as possible on launch day. Don’t shoot for launch week or launch month, and don’t prematurely get too much attention before launch. The more buzz on launch day, the higher your rank will go.



This last graph was inspired by Mike Meade (of Mikey Shorts fame). I was talking to him recently about how much weight I gained while making Polymer and he suggested I make a graph of “Programmer’s Body Weight Over Development.” So I made a graph with fabricated numbers (because I don’t have any body weight analytics set up) but . . . it’s essentially correct. I got married in November of last year, and for the wedding, I ended up losing weight until I was about 170 lbs. I was really proud of myself! But, beginning January 1st of 2012 (around when I started Polymer), I started gaining about 2 lbs. every week. I was sitting on my ass all day every day programming. I stopped working out. I ate like shit (literally whatever I felt like whenever I wanted). And I generally just didn’t care about my health at all. I definitely don’t recommend this. I continued my binging once Polymer was released for a couple more months, resulting in a net weight gain of about 40 pounds in all over a period of about six months, which is insane and stupid. Finally I’m back on track, and have lost about 15 lbs. since August, so that’s good!


I hope you have gotten something out of reading these stats! Please let me know if you have any questions about anything, and if you have Polymer, make sure you update! If you don’t have it, get Polymer here! And if you’d like, follow me on Twitter!

About Whitaker Blackall

  • jamiebeach

    Great article. Just curious what was used to collect these great stats (except for that last graph ;) )?

  • Marek Zareba

    “My best guess is that these less-than-three-second times are from when someone opens it, gets a text, immediately switches to text back, then switches back to the game (for example).”

    I often hit apps by accident and then immediately close them, which I think is probably more likely in this case as well.

    Just a minor point. Overall, great post! Thank you for taking the time to write this.

    I can definitely relate to the last graph as well :P