Successful developers know making great games is only half the job - great marketing is also required to ensure discovery and sales of their work.
Really successful developers understand that making great games and marketing them well is just the cost of admission; converting the person who bought your game into a continuing customer is the real objective.
The companies that emerge successfully from this infant market will be the ones who connect with their players through games that people play with their friends every day.
Give it some sizzle
Giving players one great game and hoping they buy another isnt the path to success.
Developers who think their work can speak for itself should examine the advertising budget of Coca-Cola, which spends north of two billion dollars a year to keep selling the sold.
Give me two billion dollars and Ill have you believing Trucks & Skulls is one of your food groups but thats not happening any time soon. We need more modest means of connecting with our players.
The four step method
How does Appy Entertainment connect to players through our games? We hit it from four angles.
Firstly, quality: Well, duh. Actually, not so duh. We all know the story of the fart app guy that struck it rich. The market has a taste for novelty but weve chosen to concentrate on quality games - both because we cant help ourselves and because we think quality games have a better chance of winning the long-term allegiance of players.
You can do a great fart app, and maybe make a pile of cash, but its like that trick where Daffy Duck blows himself up with dynamite; its hard to come up with a second act.
Secondly, frequent updates: Doodle Jump, Pocket God and Angry Birds keep adding quality content for their original price of 99c. Every update is a little love note to their players, encouraging them to re-engage with their games, to recommend them to their friends, and to look forward to what they are doing next.
Since its introduction four months ago, we have released five free updates for Trucks & Skulls, adding new mechanics and pushing our game to over two hundred levels. We love our players! And we have been fortunate to receive their love in return.
From you to me
Thirdly, conversation: We talk to our players all the time. Our games include feedback mail links, and every email is answered. We talk non-stop on our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. We communicate with instant updates via the Livebar in our latest apps, and we talk to Trucks & Skulls players with weekly free emailings through our Level of the Week Club.
We have a hundred thousand daily average users happily enjoying our games, but wed like to hear more from them.
An underpinning of conversation is that it goes two ways. Its all well and good to talk at players, but what you really want is for them to talk with you.
Better yet, you want them to talk with each other, to reinforce their enthusiasm for your work, and to recruit new players on your behalf.
Most social games are built around this prospect, encouraging you to recruit your friends and interact with them to get ahead. We are moving Appy in similar directions, but from the start weve encouraged player interaction through our fourth means of connection (and here is a place where I think we are just slightly ahead of the market).
Care to share?
Finally, sharing: FaceFighter practically compels players to share photos of their friends after theyve beaten them up. Trucks & Skulls lets players share screen shots of the games best moments, and also encourages players to create their own levels to share with friends.
The challenge for Appy, and for the market as a whole, is to bridge social game mechanics with content sharing tools to empower players to connect with each other in more meaningful ways. Games must evolve beyond offering in-game bounties for player referrals and populating game landscapes with the Facebook ghosts of disinterested friends.
The connection between players and game creators needs to be genuine, and it needs to flow in all directions.