Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

5 Reasons iPhone Game Marketing Is Getting Harder

This should come as no surprise, but marketing iPhone games is getting more difficult, not easier. Here's five reasons why.

  1. Apple's no help. They've tinkered with the iTunes store a bit, but if your game doesn't happen to be either a top seller already or one of the employee picks, you're lost in the shuffle. It doesn't help when you go to the game categories and they are based on what the publisher says with no enforcement. So, for instance, the Roleplaying category is stuffed with social media games that have nothing to do with actual RPGs the way gamers understand them. We wait in vain for adequate search tools; something that gave you multiple parameters to check off would be nice, so you could find all games that included Nazis that were under $1.99 and had at least a 4-star rating. Their new Game Center holds promise for hooking up players... but that's only after you've already found the game. The only consolation, I guess, is that apps of all types have the same problem.
  2. The hardware and software is changing. The consoles stay the same for years... maybe decades. But the iPhone gets a new version every year, at least. The hyper-competitive smartphone market means new features keep getting added to the hardware. It's not just a faster processor or more RAM; it's new sensors, a new screen resolution, new cameras (now in front, too). You have to keep studying the hardware platform to make sure new features don't break your game... or allow the competition to get a jump on you. The iOS software keeps getting revised, too, and has new features as well as the possibility that your software may get broken in the upgrade. You can't just sit back and watch the money roll in; you have to keep programming and testing. And did I mention the iPad, and the iPod Touch?
  3. The installed base is fragmented. Because there's constant new hardware and software, the iPhone market isn't one big market; it's a bunch of smaller ones, with older hardware and system software to worry about. So you have to think about which versions you'll support, and make it clear in your marketing what is and is not supported. And inevitably narrow your market, unless your game is so bone-simple it runs on everything.
  4. The competition is increasing. The number of games in the App Store is somewhere north of 40,000, and it's going higher. More smaller developers and more larger developers are getting more titles into the App Store. It's harder to have a unique game, or even unique elements. And you're getting lost in the endless stream of new stuff.
  5. The competition is getting better. More and more competition is increasing the polish on the titles. And more and more established companies are realizing how important this market is, so they're bringing all of their formidable talent pools to bear on the development task. Plus, they have dollars to spend on marketing, and they can piggy-back marketing efforts onto their other marketing. It's not enough you're drowning in competitive games, they can start trying to drown out your marketing efforts too.
So what can you do about all of these things? Answers tomorrow.

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