Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to market windows phone games

Last week our new game snowball ninja hit the windows phone marketplace so since then most of our time has been spent on marketing activities promoting it.  At this stage it seems our strategy has been fairly effective as the game is ranked between 20-60 in most major windows phone marketplace regions, for free shooter games.

ranked 28th

Getting the game into the top 50 lists has been our immediate goal (more-so than making short term revenue) as the most important ingredient in the ascendancy of some of our other successful apps has been making it into the top 50 for a particular marketplace category.  Once an app reaches this level it has a very good chance of maintaining it's place as the level of visibility you get for a top 50 app is huge. 

Our marketing strategy
Here's a few marketing tips we came up with for developers of windows phone games.  It's based purely on our intuition and the experience we gained marketing snowball ninja over the last week.

Make your game interesting and addictive:
This goes without saying. If your game sux no amount of marketing is going to be worthwhile.  Making it as "sticky" as possible should always be in the back of the game designers mind.

A couple of weeks ago I was tossing up whether to include a leaderboard for Snowball Ninja or include it in an update at a later stage. I knew it was important but having spent quite along time developing the app the urge to get it out was hard to overcome.  In the end I decided to include it which delayed the apps release by 3-5 days.  I'm now convinced I did the right thing by including it as this has been a major ingredient in users coming back again and again.  I can see this when I check the overall leaderboard and notice that many of the same users are returning each day and fighting it out for top spots.

Chose a category for which new games are less frequently released?
If your game could fit into multiple categories choosing a category for which new games are less frequently released can be an effective strategy.  This is because when your game is released it will spend longer at the top of the "new" list in its category resulting in better visibility and more downloads. 

Choose a title that contains words that are frequently searched for
A while ago I saw a game with a strangely familiar title.  I think it was something like "angry ninjas vs fruity birds".  I assume the author was hoping their game would show up when users search for popular games such as fruit ninja or angry birds. To me this seemed a bit tacky but I understand the developers reasoning.

In our experience Title seems to be weighted much higher in regards to marketplace search than the keywords entered when submitting a game to the marketplace. It has also recently been revealed in msdn forums that only the first 5 keywords entered are actually used in the marketplace.

I actually wanted to call our game snowball bandit which I think sounds better and is probably more appropriate but ended up going with snowball ninja as ninja is such a popular search term.

Beta test your game
Beta testing has 2 great advantages.  Firstly you will get a much higher quality game by acting on the feedback you get from your beta testers.  In addition beta testers become great evangelists for your game.  They show the game to their friends and are likely to tweet about it.  I got some great feedback from my beta testers and all of them have been nice enough to tweet about my game which I'm sure has been an ingredient in its success.
If you're having trouble finding beta testers try  http://www.wpbetaportal.com

Pay for advertisements
We paid for the following advertisement on 1800 Pocket PC which is an excellent site operated by George Saijo and dedicated almost exclusively to windows phone news.  Apparently over the course of a month you can expect about 50K-100K impressions for the type of advert we purchased which came to $100.

Try to get reviews and write-ups
Getting bloggers to write about your apps is a great way to get attention that will result in more downloads.  So far we have had two reviews / write ups which have helped increase our exposure.

The first can be found here on bestwp7games.com and the second was on the dutch blog pocketinfo_nl.  It can found here in dutch and here in english.

-You can submit your game to bestwp7games for a review or press release by visiting this page.
-Another good option is wmpoweruser where developers can write an article about their game.  This can be done here.

Ad exchange networks
Ad duplex is a great way to increase awareness of your apps.  Essentially you agree to serve ads for other apps in your application and in return ads for you own app are shown in other participating applications.

After reading about how taptitude used ad duplex to help increase their exposure we decided to make this part of our strategy.  So as soon as Snowball Ninja was submitted I set about updating the rest of our apps to support ad duplex.  For some I implemented a web service which allows me to remotely control whether ad duplex is used exclusively or only when a pubcenter advert fails to load.

Over the past 3 days we have served over 130K adverts in the ad duplex network and received over 110K back. (See screenshot below)

Write about your game on social media sites
This is another no brainer.  Get out their and write about your game.  Tweet about it. Post links on facebook. Write blog posts about it. The more you write about it the more exposure you will get and therefore the more downloads you will get. 

I was able to connect with all my beta testers as well as the two bloggers who did write-ups on Snowball Ninja through twitter.  So this was definitely an essential part of our marketing strategy.

Has a strategy like this worked for you?  Do you have other ingredients in your marketing strategy.  Please tell us about it by leaving comments or hitting us on twitter.


  1. You have + 3000 active on the first day??? What the hell...

    I only had +200 install per day on the first week. I did press release on bestwp7games and wmposeruser. Used add duplex campaign and I was stuck in the new section for a long time AND went into the top 30.

    The category was 'racing and flying' thou. Maybe this category is much less popular than the others?

    Do you have any clue?

  2. The number I believe you're referring to is not active installs for snowball ninja. It is the rate at which our app updates which included adduplex were installed. This screenshot was included mainly to illustrate ads served vs ads received.

  3. One thing that we do for SpiveyWorks apps that I didn't see mentioned here was cross-promote your own apps. You might already have 2 or 3 different apps in the marketplace and if you already have thousands of users it's easy to include a message on the main screen to try your new app. We've seen cross-promotions like this result in about 5% of the user base of an existing app download and try out the new app.

  4. Good point. This is something we've done with our silverlight apps but did not include in Snowball Ninja. Definitely something to add to the 'to do' list for the next update.

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