How to get a million downloads with zero marketing dollars
by Kenneth Tan
Kenneth Tan is the producer of Monster Blade, a 3D action game released by Singapore-based developer Nubee.
Getting your game noticed is a big problem for developers with a limited marketing budget. As the mobile app space matures, user acquisition is becoming increasingly more expensive.
It is almost impossible to gain traction without considerable marketing spend – even a product with good virality needs a decent start!
Yet, Monster Blade reached the million download mark in June 2013, two months after its global launch, without us any money spent on its marketing.
This is how we did it.
1. Remember your game’s strengths
We start with perhaps the most basic but often forgotten question, “Why would anyone play this game?”.
It is easy to get lost in development and polish, losing focus on why the game was made in the first place.
If it is meant to be a action title that offers exciting combat (as is Monster Blade), place great emphasis on the battle system and iterate till it feels dynamic and responsive.
Talking about your game is so much easier when you first communicate your vision, then its features.
2. Community building blocks
Set the foundations for a strong community. Select platforms for your players to discuss your game and build easy access points (in-app links, non-incentivised achievements) to these platforms.
Monster Blade has garnered over 100,000 likes on Facebook and uses it as a powerful re-engagement and viral marketing tool. We also have active threads on TouchArcade and various other gaming forums.
3. Truly social
Give distinct advantages of having your real-life friends in the game. For example, Monster Blade allows a player to ‘summon’ his friends to aid in battle.
Make it attractive and beneficial for a player to connect to Facebook. Consider integrating Facebook’s OpenGraph SDK. Plan your OpenGraph Actions carefully and it becomes a powerful tool for viral acquisition.
4. Launching small, thinking big
Get feedback! Running focus tests and internal reviews are great, but the best way to test your product-market fit is to do a limited release.
Choose a country with similar inclinations as your target market and soft-launch your game there.
This is the time to gather metrics and feedback and use them to optimise your KPIs.
5. Time to reach out
Now that you know what makes your game attractive to play, have optimised your product KPIs and generated some hype, it is time to reach out.
Offer previews to prominent app/gaming sites. There are many great articles on PocketGamer.biz that give tips on handling PR pre-launch, use these resources to write a compelling press release. Most importantly, remember your game’s strengths and extol them.
Hopefully you’ve gained some great coverage. Time to hit the launch button..
6. Create ambassadors
There will be players who love your game. Many of them.
Once the game’s community is built, they will reach out and engage you in conversation, giving praise, criticisms and suggestions. Convert as many of them as possible into ambassadors for your game. Let them know that their opinions are valued and be sure to be responsive and helpful.
These ambassadors will in turn help bring and retain many more other players by being responsive and helpful to them.
7. Engage your community, provide great support
Now that you have a sizeable community, remember to engage them at least once a day. Post rewards, offers, thank players for participation, teasers to next updates, videos etc.
There is an arsenal of engagement tools at your disposal – remember that every like, comment and share on your posts generates more interest for your game.
Go the extra mile for your players! Respond quickly to questions and be human – don’t give robotic template answers.
Customer service in a mobile game is as important as it is for businesses with a more physical presence.
8. Quality, quality, quality
All the methods mentioned above are amplified by a single factor: the quality of your game.
Use the soft-launch to polish your game to a sheen. Weed out all critical bugs, watch your metrics and listen to player feedback.
Prepare extensively for the influx of new players, retain and leverage them with social platforms to get more players.（source：pocketgamer）