A little more of one week has passed since the launch of Tiny Stack, and a lot of things have happened since then. I've also learned a lot of lessons during the process, and I'm here to share them!
Lesson no. 1: Have realistic expectations
Fortunately I had realistic expectations since I started working on my project, but this is a mistake many newbie developers do: Fooled by past success stories they think they can become instant millionares building a quality app/game for the app store. Sure, you have to build a quality app if you want to become successful but there's a 99% chance your app won't sell as you thought it would! A survey states more than half of applications submitted earn less than 500$ through their lifetime.
Lesson no. 2: Make as many apps as you can!
This is very important and technically none in the app store become successful by just building one game. If you search for the most popular iOS games you will see they weren't their developers first application! Even Rovio has failed different times before the success of Angry Birds.
Lesson no. 3: Getting noticed is hard
The biggest challenge in the AppStore is not building an app, but getting that app noticed! Especially if your'e working as indie or alone. Your game will appear in the new released lists and maybe attract the attention of a dozen of people. The day after your app will be already buried in the list by the amazing amount of new apps being submitted.
Lesson no. 4: Getting your game reviewed is hard
I've learned review sites usually review only the popular game of the moment and the games they see in the top charts, which seems reasonable since those are the apps users are most interested in.
I spent a whole day contacting review sites and all I got were a lot of robot replies, a few human replies and no review yet. I still think contacting review sites is a must for a new indie developer, but unfortunately chances they will review your game are very tiny. If you want to get reviewed easily you have to be in the top charts, which brings to the question: How do you get there?
Another lesson: Send promo codes! Some people think sending unsollicited promo codes is a bad idea and a big waste. Absolutely not! By sending promo codes you've made extremely convenient for them to give your game a quick try. So my 2 cents are: Send promo codes unless the site explicitly states they do no want one.
Lesson no. 5: You have to give something for free!
It should be obvious that marketing a free app is much easier than marketing a paid one. People love free things!
iOS apps are ridiculously cheap nowadays, yet that small price is a big barrier between you and your customers. That sounds quite crazy, but people won't spend a buck they spent for a coffee, for an iOS app which lasts a lot longer and is generally more useful. Angry birds became truly successful only after a lite version was released. Other successful games like Doodle Jump and Cut the rope provide a free version. Tiny Tower and Pocket Frogs use the freemium model which has proven to be successful too, because it's based on something (more or less) free.
That's all for now! I may share the sales data of Tiny Stack in the next few months if they are interesting enough, so stay tuned! :)
Also if you have any tidbit to share, please post a comment below!