Death of an AppStore Salesman

Life was easier 3 years ago. You would release a game to the AppStore, people could easily sort by release date, see what’s new and buy your game. And even afterwards they could just search for a keyword and find your app because the whole place wasn’t totally overcrowded yet. And your chances of getting reviewed were decent too… It’s different now. 

Today you might just as well not release your app at all. Your app launches into oblivion. Every meaningful search-keyword is used by a ton of crappy apps that burry your gem many pages back, where no one ever goes. Review sites are swamped with requests and most won’t even reply. And even if you do get reviewed, it doesn’t make much of a difference – a minor spike in sales, and that was that.

The only way to get noticed today is to either spend a ton of marketing money and try to buy your app into the top 10, or to be featured by Apple. And I guess that’s what Apple wants. They’re all about controlled experiences. They want total control of their platform. They want you to buy what they want you to buy.

And I have to admit that it might even be the right thing to do for them! All the customers see are viable options – polished, fun apps that make their iPhones and iPads shine – and only if they dig deep they get to the tons of crap.

But it’s bad news for indie developers trying something different, because you can’t make it to the top all by yourself anymore and there’s a good chance you’ll be overlooked.

It might no longer be enough to make a good game. You might have to make a good game that Apple likes.

Let’s take a short break here. I have a confession to make: When I said you, I actually meant I. This is about me. About me launching NEW ORBIT.

I know that we independent developers are proud of having a close relationship with our players, but at this point – a few days after launch – I can say that I know most of my paying customers in person. I spent 1+ years making this game (and let me tell you: I am mighty proud of it), but I seem to fail horribly at reaching anyone beyond my friends and twitter followers. – If you were mean, you could say I was still pretty far from launching NEW ORBIT into orbit

So is this one of those blogposts? “Boohoo, the AppStore didn’t magically make me filthy rich over night.”? – I guess it is. Or at least it was until right about here.

Because what you and I need to realize is that the AppStore is just one channel – one channel that is becoming a lot less attractive for small developers. There’s a gazillion apps available now, and no, people are not going to take the time to search for your game. They open up the AppStore, are presented with a selection of viable and incredibly cheap options and chose one of those. I bet that most of them don’t even read the app description, lest look for reviews on a review-website and make an “informed” decision…

If you don’t have the means to buy yourself into the top slots through ads and marketing and Apple doesn’t like your app – you’re dead… DEEEEEEAAAAAD! … *cough* … where was I? Right… It’s just one channel. There are other channels, there are enough people out there looking for good games! (Or well, if you built your game to work on this one platform only, then sorry – you’re a fool!)

But I’m not giving up on my game at all. I’m close to being done polishing the PC/Mac version and will soon start working on a little spin-off game I have in mind… And almost all of my few players so far loved it… And isn’t that what really co^#%uwr45345u0-4jiofwakl

Sorry, I think I fainted for a bit there when I ran the numbers of how many units I’d need to sell at $0.99 to recoup the costs of one year of development… Well, I guess getting the rent paid and my little son fed does count a little after all.

But: Things will pick up…
There’s the long tail…
The cream will rise to the top…
Patience is a virtue…
It’s the experience that counts…
We learn from our mistakes…
The best way out of difficulty is through…
Good things come to those who wait…
Oh SCRAP this positive BULLSHIT, I don’t want to wait!

Plan B: Opening Photoshop. Sex sells. Her clothes come off…

Note: I wrote this a few days after launch but didn’t publish it until now – Read Part 2 “Resurrection of an AppStore salesman” here.

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One Comment

    Screwediam on April 15, 2012 at 19:16 | Permalink

    I have been thinking about your problem. I think I have an answer for you. I was thinking about what type of audience would buy your game. I would suggest contacting Day[9] of Day[9]TV and Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry channel. These two outlets have huge audiences and both love to support indie developers who do quality work. With day[9] I would even send him one of your T-Shirts that he may wear during one of his day9 dailies. There are some others on a lower tier I could also suggest but I do not know if they would give you the boost you need. I hope this helps. 

                                                           Michael (aka) Screwediam

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