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Five Steps to Increase Discovery of Your Mobile Game

By on March 25, 2011

This is a guest post from Rob Weber,VP and Co-Founder of W3i

With over 52,000 games available in the iOS App Store, and thousands of games also available for Android, gone are the days of smartphone gaming when simply building a game and getting App Store approval was enough to drive success. Now mobile game developers need to focus on identifying ways to increase the discovery of their mobile games to be successful. Follow these five steps, and you’ll increase your likelihood of developing a blockbuster game:

1) Create a Quality Game

Although every game developer starts out with the mission of creating a game that doesn’t suck, the reality is that most mobile games have minimal play value. How do you increase the probability of developing a quality game that consumers want to play?

One way you can lower your risk of creating a low quality game is to focus on proven game mechanics, but with a new environment. For example, Brian Robbins of Riptide Games first launched the iLookGood app in July, 2010. Based on the success of the iLookGood app, they released iLookFunny, iAmZombie, iLookGangsta, iArrPirate, iPrincess and iLookChristmas in the next five months.

Daybreak Heroes image

Another way you lessen your risk is to be the first to bring a proven game concept from another platform to mobile. For example Veiled Games decided to launch the new freemium game Daybreak Heroes, which was partially inspired by the web game Kingdom of Loathing although metamorphosed during development.

Want to take a larger risk? Try inventing an entirely new type of game like the start-up QONQR. Designed over a single Startup Weekend in the Twin Cities, QONQR is launching a unique, location-based app described as a “cross between Foursquare and the classic board game Risk” where players capture the geographic areas that they are actually in by sending nanobots to defeat enemy armies there or purchasing virtual missiles to attack other areas. QONQR was selected to present at the recent SXSW Accelerator.

2) Find profitable distribution channels, especially pay per install networks, to improve your chart ranking

  • Plan to have burst advertising campaigns so that your traffic peaks in a short timeframe, which will jumpstart your App Store rankings and result in maximizing organic traffic to your app.
  • Promotional campaigns of four consecutive days are more likely to have the biggest payoff.
  • Weekends have higher traffic than weekdays in the App Store, so start your campaigns on Thursday so you get your top ranking at the start of the weekend for a natural 20 percent lift.

One insider secret is that nearly every top ranking app in the App Store is using cost-per-install ad networks. Cost-per-install ad networks are the most cost-effective way to drive burst promotions for your app. Understand the ROI on your media buys and continue to buy profitable traffic.

3) For paid games, leverage discounting strategies

There are several discounting strategies to test. posted a blog “Mark Rein slams App Store sale culture: We’ll add value, not drop prices” where Mark Rein , VP of Epic Games, developer of Infinity Blade had posted a Tweet:

“Folks we are NOT going to screw the folks who bought Infinity Blade at $5.99 by dropping the [price] only a few weeks after we ship!”

As I pointed out in my blog, deep discounts during the holidays – like EA aggressively reducing their games to 99 cents – allowed them to successfully control chart rankings through the holidays capitalizing on the organic traffic driven by top ranking. Low and behold, Mark Rein reduces the price of Infinity Blade to $2.99 at GDC ($5.99 regular price). Read more about holiday promotions in my blog posted here.

Michel Kripalani of Oceanhouse Media recommends discounting but making the discount noteworthy enough to get PR. This was very successful in driving traffic for the Dr. Seuss apps.

Launching a paid app and then making the price free can drive distribution as price trackers like AppShopper identify when the price of an app drops. Users monitor and download apps from these price trackers, and they can give you a lift, especially in international markets.

4. Carrier/device manufacturer deals

Networking and building relationships can grow your business. Keith Pichelman of Concrete Software advises:

“Because we have created a close relationship with RIM we were able to get early versions of their first OpenGL devices and consequently were able to release the first OpenGL game for BlackBerry – PBA Bowling 2. Since it took advantage of the new BlackBerry capabilities, RIM has now featured the game over a dozen times on App World helping it become one of our top selling BlackBerry games.”

5) Get Featured by Apple

Features are very unpredictable but the benefits are worth some marketing effort. Paul O’Connor of Appy Entertainment advises that Trucks and Skulls “roared out of the gate” due to Apple featuring the game in the very first week in iTunes. Paul advises to launch your app at key mobile events – like GDC Austin, timing the launch so that the app is available when the press hits. By getting media attention at the conference, your app could get the luck it needs to be featured in the App Store like Trucks and Skulls.

In the current mobile app environment you cannot just launch your app and hope for success. You need to become a marketer and try various distribution options like those mentioned above. If you have any additional distribution tactics, sound-off below.


Rob Weber is the Co-Founder and VP of W3i. W3i is a market leader in the monetization and distribution of mobile and social apps, browsers add-ons and desktop applications. W3i operates an iOS investment fund, Recharge Studios, which funds the development and distribution of freemium iOS gaming.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: