Post-mortem: Wonderful Word Games Week

Post-mortem: Wonderful Word Games Week
Late last month, six independent iPhone developers launched a joint marketing campaign called Wonderful Word Games Week.

It ran for a week from 22nd-31st May, and involved an official website promoting the games, whose prices all dropped to $0.99 for the week, complete with special icons identifying them in the App Store.

Taking part (with games in brackets) were Blue Ox (Moxie), Cerebral Gardens (Wordology), Imangi Studios (Imangi, Imangi Word Squares), Nimblebit (Textropolis), Semi Secret Software (Wurdle) and Syed Jafri (Stitch'Em Words).

So how did it go? We talked to organiser Christopher York of Blue Ox to find out. How did it go – did the participating developers see an upswing in sales, and if so, how big? Are you pleased with the way it worked?

Christopher York: We went into this promotion not really knowing what to expect, and before the promotion began the participating applications were widely spread throughout the top 100 word games on the App Store.

Interestingly everybody's results followed the same basic pattern. The promotion ran through two weekends for a total of ten days. All of us dropped the price of our games to $0.99.

We all saw a nice spike in unit sales for the first weekend, then unit sales drifted downward. There was a smaller spike in unit sales during the second weekend.

On the revenue side we all pretty much had the same basic results. Total revenues were the same or lower than the weeks leading into the promotion.

Since the promotion has ended, unit sales of our game (Moxie) have started to drift down again, but revenues are still higher right now than they were during the promotion!

This is an interesting phenomenon to me because it goes contrary to the conventional notion that apps should automatically be priced at $0.99 to maximise profits. That may be true in many cases, but it's definitely not true in all cases.

Was it important to have a strong theme – word games – rather than just 'here's some games from a group of independent developers…'

That's an interesting question and it's very tough to answer without any empirical evidence.

However the reasoning that went into the decision was based on two ideas: (1) people who enjoy one word game will probably enjoy other word games, and (2) we could get the most mileage from of our icon "badges" if all the Apps appeared on the same page in iTunes.

What now – are you planning to run this kind of promotion again? How might it evolve / expand?

We don't currently have any plans to run another special promotion like this, but that doesn't mean that we won't continue to search for creative ways to market our applications.

For instance Imangi Studios, who participated in the Wonderful Word Games promotion, has formed a more permanent cross-promotional alliance with another group of developers called App Treasures. They just launched their website last week.

More generally, is it getting harder for indie developers to cut through the clutter on the App Store? Do you think we'll see more smart attempts at cost-effective marketing to ensure it's not just the big guys?

Absolutely. When the App Store launched last year, many developers were able to find success with what I call the 'Field of Dreams' marketing strategy… you know, 'If you build it, they will come.'

With 50,000+ apps on the App Store today that just does not work any more and never will again.

The wise independent developers will recognize what the big guys have known all along, that the App Store is a distribution channel, not a marketing plan. The developers, large or small, that figure out how to reach the masses of iPhone users with their message will ultimately be successful.

However, I don't believe that a small marketing budget precludes success. It does necessitate ingenuity, though.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)


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