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Four steps to writing a killer app store description

Make your game's first introduction count

Four steps to writing a killer app store description

All too often the last task when creating a game is to prepare its app store listing. For a lot of game makers this is a real chore.

Programmers, artists and musicians aren’t interested in writing copy, and that’s perfectly understandable. It’s a job in its own right, but few indie studios have the luxury of a dedicated marketing department or being able to outsource the work.

User POV

However, it must be remembered that this final task is the first introduction to your game that the player is going to have. That makes it one of the most important tasks on your slate, and can be the difference between app store obscurity and rampant downloads.

With millions of games on various app stores, you can be pretty certain that if your product is likely to appeal to a particular gamer, so are several hundred - if not thousands - of similar ones. Luckily for you, the race for consumer interest is less about being the first or the best, but more about being the most immediately attractive.

The importance of a great description on the App Store, Google Play, Steam, Amazon or any other digital store can’t be overstated.

It’s worth taking a second to consider that word - Attractive.

It’s completely overused, and doesn’t necessarily mean the best looking of a group. Taken in its more literal form - something to which you are drawn; that you want to be in proximity to, and find appealing - then it becomes clear that you need to craft an initial impression that your particular audience will be attracted to.

First impressions, fast

Once they’re interested you’ve got plenty more time to begin building on your new relationship, but if your game’s app store listing isn’t immediately attractive, it’ll be overlooked and that potential download is lost forever.

The importance, therefore, of a great description on the App Store, Google Play, Steam, Amazon or any other digital store can’t be overstated.

So let’s take a look at how to craft that perfect app store listing, and what sort of challenges you’re faced with when your game and its potential players first come face-to-face.


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  • 1 Tools

    Tools logo

    The good news is that you don’t need a brand new toolbox for creating your listing. All you really need is a good word processor and a loose grasp of basic copywriting skills. We might as well brush over the word processors, just so you’re properly equipped, but there are some slightly more ephemeral elements to a great app store listing that you might find harder to acquire.

    Word processors

    We aren’t really in the business of making solid recommendations, but here’s a rundown of what’s available.

    • Microsoft Word: The word processor to which all others are compared. It took a slight downward turn when the over-engineered “ribbon” replaced proper menus, but it’s still a damn solid bit of software. If you have it, great. You’re sorted. But do you really need to pay for a word processor any more? The correct answer, is no. That said, for the right business, the online version does demand closer inspection.
    • Google Drive: We’re huge fans of working in the cloud, particularly when it comes to your livelihood. Your computer can explode and your house can burn down, but your files will be safe. Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) has evolved into a rock-solid word processor that rivals the best of them, and it’s free. If you’re expecting to be online 92 percent of the time (or more), this is the option for you. It even bundles in live collaboration, so your files will never be locked away on someone else’s computer.
    • LibreOffice: Another free alternative for those that don’t want to work with their head in the clouds. LibreOffice is built into most Linux distros these days, and for good reason. It’s almost a carbon copy of Microsoft Office, is entirely compatible with Office files, and it’s free and available for all platforms. There’s no reason you can’t use it in conjunction with Google Drive, so you can work offline in LibreOffice and sync with the cloud for when you're out and about.

  • 2 Skills

    Skills logo

    Moving on to the less tangible necessities, there are some essential skills you’ll need to refine, if not master, when it comes time to build your killer app store listing.

    We’ve whittled these down into three basic tenets of good marketing writing. Get to grips with these, and your descriptions will seduce.

    Copywriting

    Where the real skill of copywriting is found isn’t in putting together exhaustive, marketing-heavy descriptions, but in summarising your game’s uniqueness and excellence quickly and seductively. So if you really can’t do that yourself, or within your team, consider bringing in a professional copywriter.

    Prooofreading

    If you’ve put together your own text, remember this essential rule: The first draft must never be the last draft. Find other people - ideally ones who don’t know anything about your game - to proofread multiple times before uploading.

    (Did you notice our little testing mistake?)

    And here's another top tip: Before submitting your description to the App Store, read it out loud to yourself, or someone else. You'll be amazed at how different it sounds when spoken aloud to how it sounds when you read it silently. Mistakes, poor grammar and unclear information will leap off the page at you, ensuring your next rewrite will be significantly stronger.

    Localisation

    Ensuring that your description reads like a native wrote it in whatever territory your gamer is located is essential. English accounts for around 30 percent of the world (natively, and a lot more as a second language) but don’t overlook the importance of getting other languages spot on too.

    This probably means a reputable localisation company, but rest assured if you're looking to maximise your global reach, it’s money well spent.


  • 3 Structure

    Structure logo

    There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing an app store description. There’s no one format or structure that’s guaranteed to grab your audience by the eyeballs, and Apple, Google, Steam, Ouya and all the others don’t really care what you write (so long as you don’t swear or say anything vaguely critical of Apple).

    But there are certain practises, gleaned from web writing and traditional copywriting, that are more likely to yield fruit in this neverending orchard of CPA-addled digital consumers.

    Employing the tactics below betters your chances of people actually reading your listing, and not judging your game or app based on its title, or its proximity to another app that they actually searched for. Getting them to read your description is your first marketing offensive, and the beginnings of a beautiful and profitable friendship with the end user.

    Reveal your game to yourself

    Make a list of five aspects that are unique to your game. These are the parts of it you’re most proud of, and the aspects that really brought out your creativity during development.

    Even if your game is an Angry Birds clone, it still has something that’s individual, and it’s these points that are going to sell your game. Take a look at these different ways to get an opinion of what makes your game unique.

    The opening paragraph

    The iTunes App Store allows for 340 characters, including spaces, before the “More” cut off. Don’t assume anyone will ever click the “More” link, and aim to sell your game to them within that 340 character bottleneck. This is the single most important part of your description, so nail it. Don’t waste space on pointless announcements like “Retina graphics!” or “New Update!”.

    Elaborate, but not too much

    After the opening paragraph you do have some liberty to elaborate on the game. But still only three or four paragraphs at the most.

    Tell us, very concisely, about the story, the gameplay mechanics, and anything else that revealed itself in Step 01. Just keep the paragraphs short, and few, while avoiding cliched phrases like “easy to pick up, difficult to master.” Keep to talking about your game.

    Features list

    A bullet point list of features is a great way to compact information that wouldn’t fit into the rest of your description, and people find it very easy to absorb information from lists. Again, keep each point short, and don’t repeat yourself; if it’s already mentioned in previous steps, it doesn’t need a bullet point (or, potentially, if it works better as a bullet point, in which case remove it’s previous mention).


  • 4 Hints & Tips

    Hints & Tips logo

    • Remember that there are no text formatting options in the App Store, so if you want bullet points or to include section titles in your listing, you’ll need to make use of standard, font-based symbols and capital letters.
    • Apple’s and Google’s search engines are pretty damn good, so you don’t have to go crazy fitting keywords into every line or, necessarily, within the title. But one or two essential keywords within the body text certainly never hurts.
    • The iTunes App Store might not load within a web browser (other than individual page listings) but it’s still hosted online. This means search engines are indexing your description, even if people are only likely to read it within iTunes. So apply all your SEO and ASO skills to your copywriting.
    • Check out listings for similar games and apps - particular those that are in the top 100 - to see what they’re including. Don’t copy them, but do take inspiration from evidently successful listings.
    • Although you can’t make hyperlinks active, you can still include them in your description if you want to point people to your social channels, videos, press kits, official website or other online content. Just remember that they’ll likely have to type them out manually, so a customisable URL shortener that makes your links easy to read and remember (and therefore to type) help people to get where you want them to go. For example: http://tinyurl.com
    • Backup your description with a great, official website. Don't point people back to a poorly updated Facebook page or Twitter feed. Get yourself a relevant domain, and make the description, videos, screenshots, press kit and contact information easily available to the world.


Yes. Spanner's his real name. And, yes, he's heard that joke before.

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