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App store reality show

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It’s interesting to see; In the past few weeks I’ve been reading negative stuff in my twitter stream from “indie” developers about not making any money on any of the app stores. That alone isn’t really interesting, but the reasoning behind it is.

It often feels like I’m watching one of the many talent shows on TV, you know how it goes. First bits and pieces of an interview with a contestant who has big plans and dreams and is ready to become the next big singer, artist, idol, what ever.  Somehow, and somewhere in their mind, they made them selves believe they are really awesome at what they are about to perform.

This same thing is happening with many “indie” or “hobby” developers. They created their latest game and have somehow convinced themselves that THIS game is THE game that everyone should and wants to be playing.

Just like that contestant on the talent show, these developers often are very unhappy when their game bombs, isn’t noticed, not written about, and most importantly not making them famous and rich.

Personally I think there are two reasons for this happening. First their is the very low threshold of the various app-stores. Basically any yahoo can post their latest creation. Just like on these TV-shows, the app-store owners often don’t CARE about the quality of your game, just as long as it runs and keeps the busy stream of fresh new content coming.

The second reason is that NOBODY is telling these people that the quality just isn’t there! Friends and family are all cheering “cool dude, another app, you must be getting rich $$$” but none of them is playing your game.. are they?  and no, your kids don’t count!

Sadly there is no simple fix for this. I can, however, provide you some tips that work for me. Keep in mind that this works for me and that doesn’t mean it works for every developer or is a sure-fire thing.. but maybe there are some tips here.

So here we go, tip 1:  be honest to yourself !  I’ve told this to many people and most likely blogged about it before. When your game is done, look at it, and compare it to other “hit” games on the market.. now be honest, does your game live up to those commercial standards? no? then do something about it and don’t dump it into the world.

tip 2: the amount of companies that are build on just a single hit game can be counted on one hand. These are NOT the rule or the goal you should be aiming for. No matter what these companies make you believe, they had no clue this would happen, it just did!  Most other companies, and also much older and longer lasting companies, are build on top of many, many, many quality games. They are building their company brand. Every game in their portfolio is part of that brand and has to be a certain quality, targeted at their own audience and expanding their audience with every title.

So don’t expect to create a single game and make money, it often takes many quality games to build a fan base that will then check out all your existing games and become your advocate.

tip 3: polish your game! Never take a short cut! Not in the mood to add that little extra animation to your character? why not!? you might think it’s unimportant for your game, but people actually DO notice stuff like that.  You had some great idea’s but you can’t seem to get it into the game? take more time to make it work! Don’t take the easy way out, cause you are basically asking your growing fan base to trust you on delivering something cool.. wouldn’t be fair to just sell them short, would it?

and finally tip 4: work your ass off. There are many articles telling you how to do marketing, so do it, learn it, take the time for it. Dumping your game onto an app store, mailing a few sites isn’t how it’s done. Be vocal, be out there, engage with fans, engage with journalists and game bloggers, because you don’t wanna sing a song in the bathroom, you want to perform on a crowded stage and do a world tour.

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  • Excellent article. We’ve just completed our second game, and we enjoy these kind of instructive posts which allow us to learn from others’ experience. We think that you’re absolutely right about these 4 tips. However, we have the feeling that tip 2 and tip 4 are really, really mandatory for succeeding. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nice article indeed! Succeeding in the app space is no easy task, it only comes with hard work.