8 March 2011

Flick Ninjas Dev Part 5: Lessons learned from 2 weeks in the App Store - by Toby Youngberg

It's been a few weeks since Part 4 of Flick Ninjas Dev, and I thought it might be a good time to relate my experiences during the first few weeks of availability.  I don't consider Flick Ninjas a runaway success, and I'm far from being done, but I do have some things to share so far. 

Flick Ninjas was released on February 12, and opening weekend looked rather promising.  In the first few days I broke through some of the other numbers bandied about here on Gamasutra.  Things were looking good, and an iPhone publication even contacted me unsolicited to do a review.  My game has a great hook, the controls, and it looked like it was doing it's job.

I really attribute the strong opening weekend to making sure that I was visible places like Facebook, Twitter, and on a few Game development sites including this one.  Leading into the full coming week, I was thinking things might look up.  The next few days, sales trended downward, but still remained at a reasonable clip for having next to 0 public exposure outside of forums and social networking.

Then on Wednesday of the next week, something exciting happened.  My first review was published.  It wasn't a glowing review, but definitely wasn't completely negative either.  The next day, my leaderboards started lighting up, and my OpenFeint analytics started to show big user uptake.  It looked as though this would be my best sales day yet.  Sadly, I woke up the next morning to the truth. 

My game had been pirated, and the cracked build had been spread to all the popular cracking sites.  Sales weren't any higher than opening day, but I read quadruple that number as new users in OpenFeint.  I really hadn't expected piracy to rear it's head this early on, and definitely not this quickly for a 99 cent game.  But I chalked it up to experience, fired off an email with the username of the pirate (for some reason he used his Game Center ID on the cracking sites as well) to Apple, and started trying to continue to promote my game.  Then I noticed something else on Friday of that week that would really help.

Apple had promoted my game on the New and Noteworthy Games section.  It wasn't the front page of iTunes, but it was the front page of Games on iTunes.  I was ecstatic!  I waited with baited breath for the numbers to come pouring in.  The next day, not so much.  Sales however did hold steady from the previous day at around 50 per.  It stayed this way for the next week, and then started to slow down the next Friday when Apple removed Flick Ninjas for the New section.  Sales slowed to a relative crawl.

It's been a week since then, and I just got my Lite version up on the App Store.  In retrospect there are a few things that I wish I would have done early, while my app was in the New and Noteworthy section. 

I really wish I had gotten my Lite version in the store at the same time or earlier than my full app.  My game has a fantastic hook, but you have to try it to believe it.  My visuals evidently weren't up to snuff with some of the heavier hitters, and it kept people from picking it up as quickly as they should have.  Also, having a free version immediately possibly could have curbed some of the piracy problems.I should have risked the money for some advertising during that week.  I had no idea how reasonably priced advertising was on some of the iPhone Game sites.  I easily could have payed for 30 days worth of advertising with the money I've made so far.

So the takeaway from all of this?  Be prepared early to work fast and furious to get your game noticed, and get ready to have to spend some money to make money.  Also, be sure you've got a pretty game even if your game mechanic rocks.  I really didn't think my game looked bad, but it does look a step below the big hitters on the app store, and I really think this is why I've only seen 1 actual written review so far.

Well that's all for this article.  Flick Ninjas is available now on the App Store for 99 cents(US).  Also, if you want to try before you buy, Flick Ninjas Lite is now available for FREE.  Check out my personal development blog for more information as time goes on.

james sadler
4 Mar 2011 at 10:41 pm PST

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