How to promote paid mobile game in the App Store?
Is it worth offering your paid mobile game for Pre-order in the App Store 6 months before release? Why should you optimize metadata in the App Store and position your mobile game at the Pre-Order stage? Is paid UA (user acquisition) profitable for a paid iOS game? What are the steps to getting free traffic on the App Store product page 6 months before the official release? Keep on reading to find out.
Pre-Order 6 Months in Advance
For quite some time now, App Store has been giving developers the option to offer paid mobile games for pre-order. In Pre-Order mode, you don’t need to have the final version of your product published. If you go for it 6 months before the release of your paid mobile game, you can quickly have a globally visible product page where users will subscribe to the waiting list (the fee will be deducted by Apple after the application is published). A year ago, Pre-Order lasted 90 days. In October 2021, you could offer pre-orders for your game for up to 180 days.
Plenty of game developers have no idea about the possibility of Pre-Orders and release the game at the last minute, blocking the acquisition of hundreds of players 6 months before the official launch. Pre-Order paid mobile games are visible in the search results, so it is worth locating metadata (title, subtitle, promotional text, description, keywords – 100 characters) for different countries and languages, and positioning the mobile game already at the Pre-Order stage.
As you can see in the graphic above, at the Pre-Order stage the App Store promotes selected games and provides developers with potential buyers for free.
App Store Optimization at Pre-Order Stage
The most important move for paid games is organic traffic from search and browse channels in the App Store. At the Pre-Order stage, the App Store allows you to locate your product page in metadata and visual terms (icon, game trailer, screenshots). In Pre-Order, metrics such as the daily number of unique views in search results, the number of unique visitors, and the number of saved product pages will be the most relevant for you.
App Store Optimization (improving the game visibility in search results and conversion to a note) at this stage will be based on putting together metadata such as title, subtitle, keywords (100 characters) based on research and appropriate keyword prioritization. Right enough, you also need to have metadata such as a promotional text or description ready. This metadata has no effect on the search results.
The App Store search results for mobile games are affected by the title, subtitle, and keywords (100 characters). You can use App Store Optimization tools such as Appfollow and Apptweak to research keywords for your paid mobile game. Appfollow is a freemium tool that features a limited number of free tools. Apptweak, on the other hand, is a paid tool with monthly subscription.
At the Pre-Order stage, it is worth locating product pages for all languages. You may incur higher costs if you want native speakers to deal with preparing the translation of the description. Your mobile game description does not have to be lengthy as it has no effect on the search and download results. You can limit it to a dozen or so sentences to avoid huge costs right off the bat. Preparing the title, subtitle, short description and keywords (100 characters) doesn’t necessarily require a native speaker.
One of the most important performance indicators for App Store Optimization is also conversion on the product page (number of visits -> number of saved, number of visits -> number of game purchases). To encourage users to sign up for the Pre-Order in the App Store, you need to prepare a very good graphic side of the icon and screenshots. At this stage, you have to win users over with the visuals!
Featuring at Pre-Order and Launch Stage
In addition to free traffic from browsing and searching, one of the key download „sources”, if your game appeals to the App Store editors, will be featuring, i.e., a distinction on the store, perhaps in the category Top Paid Games or, for example, the Today tab in the so-called Stories.
A game that has been featured once can stay this way for a long time (even up to several years if it continues to evolve and the developers introduce updates). What steps to take to get featured in the App Store? The first and most important one is to fill out the form on the App Store page. In the form, you can choose from 4 app categories for featuring:
- A new game to be released soon
- Events that will take place in your mobile game
- A major update to your mobile game
- A story about your game in the App Store or information about a game in development
If you are publishing a paid mobile game without Pre-Order, be sure to complete the form 3-4 weeks before publishing the game in the App Store. By default, you have to give the App Store editors up to 30 days to get acquainted with your game, as well as to prepare a place in the featured games queue.
If you are publishing the game in Pre-Order, when writing about your marketing plans in the form, state that the game will be in pre-order for several months and you intend to acquire players already at the Pre-Order stage.
After sending the form, you will have to wait for an e-mail confirming the possibility of receiving the featuring. Currently, the App Store qualifies selected games very quickly (response from a few hours to 2 business days). If the App Store pre-approves your game for featuring, you will receive an e-mail with the title Your app, xxx, may be featured on the App Store with the following content.
Dear xxx xxx,
Good news! Your app is being considered for featuring on the App Store, where we regularly showcase amazing apps and the developers who create them.
App Name: xxxxx
App Apple ID: xxxx
Our global editorial and marketing teams aim to help, inform, and inspire users while helping you drive downloads, re-downloads and awareness of your in-app events. To take advantage of this opportunity, please follow the steps below to provide visual elements that we can use if your app is featured:
- Review the Workflow, Policies, Formatting and Uploading sections of the App Store Promotional Artwork Guidelines.
- See below to find out what types of artwork to provide, and follow the links for important details on composing your artwork.
- Import your artwork into the provided Photoshop templates from the guidelines.
The e-mail will contain links to the guidelines for graphic materials that you will have to prepare and upload to your App Store Connect account in the Promotional Artwork tab. Just remember one thing! There’s no need for you to prepare all the graphic materials. Prepare only the ones you were asked for and send them within the indicated deadline. After sending over the graphic materials, you will receive an e-mail informing you about the acceptance or rejection of promotional materials. If your promotional graphics are rejected, you will have to redo them.
The mere fact that you have received the above email does not mean that your mobile game will be featured in the App Store. There is a big chance of that, but the game may not be honored in the end if it doesn’t appeal to the editors, who will test the mobile game and check for playability, quality, fun and errors. If you are making a paid mobile game that is nothing else but a 500th clone of another game, then you won’t stand a chance.
If you do not receive an e-mail about a potential featuring in the App Store after completing the form, it will mean that your mobile game is missing quite a lot in terms of quality, gameplay, fun, graphics, etc. Do not look for App Store editors on LinkedIn and do not send them a pitch. There’s nothing that they hate more.
After the graphic materials are accepted, the App Store editors should get in touch with you, and you will remain in contact over email. Good luck!
Building a List of Contacts, Websites, Forums, Discussion Groups
Paid user acquisition for mobile games in 2021 does not pay off. Of course, you can test, for instance, low bidding for cost per click in Apple Search Ads Advanced to increase the App Store ranking for the selected keyword. That said, it’s a long-term process and you must have experience with Apple Search Ads Advanced campaigns and App Store Optimization. Other paid user acquisition sources will not pay off due to the high CPI (even over PLN 100 for one paid installation) in mobile game marketing.
One of the key sources of acquiring a paid mobile game user are references to the App Store from:
- websites about mobile games
- discussion forums (e.g., TouchArcade Community, Reddit, etc.).
- Facebook discussion groups/friendly mobile game developers and their FB accounts
- Twitter (from your account where you can show the results of your work throughout the development period)
There are several dozen such groups on Reddit alone. Promoting a paid mobile game in the App Store should start a few months before the game is launched. How can you build a list of websites (contacts to journalists), discussion forums or news groups on FB? You can find Facebook discussion groups dedicated to mobile games through the Facebook search engine.
To prepare websites about games or forums, you will have to use a SEO tool such as Ahrefs, Moz or Semrush.
Prepare a list of:
- the most popular paid mobile games in history (e.g., Monument Valley, Minecraft itd)
- paid mobile games available in pre-order and featured at this stage
- actively promoted paid games, e.g., on the TouchArcade forum
- games similar to yours
and start analyzing which pages, sites, groups lead to these applications in the App Store.
Build a contact list, establish contacts with journalists, collect the first testers, register on forums, and write about your game progress as much as possible! You will need traffic from pages referring to your product page in the App Store.
Mobile game marketing is no piece of cake. Compared to freemium games, you will be limited in terms of the number of views in the App Store search results, as well as traffic selection, but if you analyze the rankings in the App Store, the sale of paid mobile games for iOS is still an option! 🙂
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