App discovery has to be one of the biggest hurdles that independent developers will face in the mobile marketplace. When limited marketing budgets butt up against a crowded app space, it’s difficult for small devs to attract attention to their work. This is one of our primary obstacles we’re facing with our new release, Vex Blocks for Android. We’ve made the game, people seem to like the game, how do we get people to notice the game with our marketing budget as constrained as it is? I’d had a successful mobile developer recommend to me in the past that when you launch a new game, all you need to do is to pay the Russians $5,000-10,000 to get you to the top of the app charts and then see if you stay there. If your app doesn’t stay there, move on. That wasn’t the particular answer we were looking for with this game release and that’s where App Turbo helped out.
About a week and a half after we launched the paid version of Vex Blocks on Google Play, Yuhao Zeng of the Paris based App Turbo contacted me to ask if we’d be interested in promoting Vex Blocks with their “App of the Day” app. They expressed interest in our game and thought their users would too. The idea was simple enough. We make a full copy of our paid game available for 24 hours, free, and they’d promote it. As we had our hands full with free version of Vex Blocks, our app marketing had at that point consisted of a few press releases (where we could afford them) and emails to review sites who had historically ignored us. We received the details, talked them over among ourselves and ultimately decided on “What the hell?”
I don’t want to sound like an advertisement for their service, but I like when others share their indie development experiences and if I can help another dev in our shoes, I’m going to pass it along. Yuhao was fantastic throughout the process, quickly answering any and all questions I threw his way. The “App of the Day” app is regional, covering a good chunk of Europe as well as Russia, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Japan. Prior to the promotion, the free version of Vex Blocks was managing roughly 100 downloads a day in the 2 weeks since it’s release. We were hoping that perhaps this promotion might give us a boost of a couple of thousand users and help us get the ball rolling a bit.
When all was said and done, over 90,000 users downloaded and played our game in the 24 hours the promotion ran this week, of which roughly 80% have so far stayed as active users. I’m sure that’s nothing to some developers, but for an indie team like ours this is a huge step forward. The next day, the free version of Vex Blocks jumped from it’s regular 100 a day to roughly 6000 where it’s stayed so far. The paid version of Vex Blocks is also experiencing a nice spike. For an English only game, I’m pleasantly surprised that so many decided to give us a try in non-English speaking countries and the feedback from users has been fantastic. The goal was to help Vex Blocks find it’s way into the hands of gamers and raise awareness, and in that this exercise was a complete success. It also served as an excellent opportunity to help narrow the list of the 2000 some Android devices that the game was available on and weed out a few devices that were incapable of playing our game.
There are a number of “Free App” type applications like “App of the Day” (http://appturbo.it/) out there but in our inexperience we didn’t even consider reaching out to them. Although I haven’t used a similar service to promote our titles, I’ll certainly contact the App Turbo team again for this type of service. If you’re a developer with a mobile app to promote, it certainly couldn’t hurt to send a quick email to Yuhao (firstname.lastname@example.org) and see what they can do for you. I know I’ll be partnering up with them again for the iOS release of Vex Blocks and hopefully for future releases after that.