So, you made a great game and many of your friends love it. Here’s come to one of the biggest challenges of many indie developers – how to promote the game with a minimum budget? We are not marketing experts, but here are a few things we learnt on promoting our games and acquire users with zero dollars:
1. App Store Features
The first and easiest way to get traffics is definitely Apple’s App Store features. I use “easiest” here because I assumed your game is, again, in very high quality. Apple likes indie games and they are very friendly and supportive to indie game developers. You can try to reach out their editor team by sending them an email, or even better, we’ve got the personal contact of an Apple editor in a local gaming event. You will need to contact them 10 weeks before the official launch, and briefly pitch why your game/app is better than others and unique in the market. Here’s a detailed guild to get Apple features.
Also, try to put in Apple’s features as much as possible to increase the chance of being selected, e.g. Game Center (must have), IAP, promoted-IAP, ARKit, Sign in with Apple, ReplayKit, Apple TV, Apple Watch, etc. If you’re using Unity, we recommend using Easy Mobile Pro, which makes the integration for Game Center and IAP very easy.
Don’t forget to keep Apple updated when you have a big update of the game, you can also get into the Best New Updates section.
Also, note that Apple has introduced today stories in App Store since iOS 11, it may be harder to be selected in the stories, but it will give you much better effect if you do get in. (We haven’t got a game selected into today stories, hopefully, we will in soon future 😛)
How about Google Play? Well, indie games are pretty passive coming into Google. Until now, we still haven’t got any contact with their editor team, even though we tried. We were told that the editors only reach you when you putting a significant budget on acquiring users through AdMob. Our game, No Humanity, was sometimes got into the sub-category features, but never featured in the home page, even though we got 5k~10k organic users alone in Google Play. You probably need to partner with a big publisher so the game can get featured securely in Google Play.
The second thing to do is definitely to get the presses to review your game/app. And again, this requires your game to be high quality and unique. Here is the ultimate list of them (and also here), you may spend some time and pick a dozen of them, send them a promo code of your game and get the editors to play it. Also, check out these tips if you found it hard to start with.
3. YouTubers / Influencers
There are more and more YouTubers reviews games online. If your game gets played by them, the downloads can be multiplied in a short period of time. Your game may be required to be viral which can keep the audience of the YouTubers entertained. There are no golden rules on how to make a game viral. For example, Flappy Bird got extremely viral with very simple gameplay and very less content. In general, make your game fun and putting surprising content in, be creative and follow the trend on what’s popular.
You can try to invite the YouTubers to review your game, but we found that this way is not very efficient because most of them require payment. There is a risk that you cannot ensure the amount of traffics they bring to you and it worth the price. Many small or big publishers do partner with YouTubers, we cannot judge if that is good or bad, you should probably do it if you have a good monetization model and high LTV for your games. For us, we decided to be out of this option and just make sure our games are fun enough that the YouTubers play our games by their own wills.
We also constantly monitor if any good YouTuber all over the world has reviewed our game, so we would put them in the review list on our YouTube channel. You can take a look at them and see if they are willing to do a review of yours too. Another tip is that try put a lite web version of your game online too, because some YouTubers may play the web-based game instead. A famous German YouTuber LUCA played our web version of No Humanity with 550k views, that resulted in 200k downloads at the time the video was published!
4. Referral System
Last but not least, a good in-game referral system can actually help you to get new players constantly, as well as keeping the old players retained. The 3 ways we talked about above, require your game to be high quality and probably taking effect in a short period of time. With the referral system, any game can get advantages from it with constant daily new users. We’ve been using Megacool for our games for a while and we are pretty happy about it. It provides GIF capturing and sharing, as well as the referral system with easy integration.
It is also important to design a best referral workflow and rewards that can maximize the performance. The famous game C.A.T.S. uses Megacool extensively with different referral tiers. In No Humanity, we kept it simple by displaying the share GIF preview in each game end, and rewarding player in-game coins for the referral.
In our case, every 10k of DAU make around 30~50 new and re-engaged players. Although the ~0.5% doesn’t look like much, it actually saves you quite a few of money if you’re acquiring users with a marketing budget, which also increase the retention slightly. Furthermore, they are users who opened your game, not just the install count that commonly used in user acquisition.
It’s also worth to mention another referral system service, GetSocial. They are pretty active in marketing and introduced to us. We didn’t end up using it but it is surely a more completed solution with functionalities like chat and friend system. You should definitely take a look at it.
That’s all we’ve been doing for user acquisition, wish this can help you in growing your users.