Other discussions often hit on this issue, so I'm starting a new thread to discuss it. There have been similar threads before, but the market is always changing, so I thought I should start a fresh thread on the topic. It's probably worth revisiting now and then. Maybe between us we can find some ways to make a good game financially successful.
First a preface: Money isn't the only reason to develop games, or apps. Some of the best work is done by people who do it for the love of it. If you create for the fun of it, I applaud you, and hope you keep at it! But a lot of people would like their work to earn enough money to allow them to quit the day job, and develop games or apps full time. Many of those who create for the fun of it wouldn't mind earning at least some money for their creations.
Suppose you've developed a really fun game. Your friends tried it, and they can't stop playing it. You recruited some beta testers, and they love it. Things are looking great. To paraphrase the gnomes from South Park:
Phase 1: Make a great game.
Phase 3: Profit.
Phase 2 is a bit fuzzy.
In my experience (and I'm not claiming this is the same in every app store or in every country) I used to be able to publish a game, and people would find it while it was a new release. If I released a new fishing game, it would show up for a month in Games/Sports/New. There would be dozens or hundreds of games in the category released every month, but most were poorly designed, poorly executed amateur projects. A good game could rise to the top of that list in a few weeks. Before the month was over, it could be highly listed in the category for that type of game, and organic growth could continue. I no longer see a "new" listing or any other listing that includes all the games released recently in any category. There are still "new and recently updated" listings by category, but those contain only a handful of games, hand picked by editors of the app store.@oleg
, you described game development as a lottery. I think you're right, at least partly. A really good game might get picked by an app store to be featured, or they might miss it. If they pick it, millions of people will see it, and many thousands will try it. If not, it might be virtually invisible on the app store.
So a great app might be a big hit, or it might not, depending on the whim of a handful of editors, and that sure feels like a lottery. To win that lottery still requires that you have an excellent game, but under this system, having an excellent game is not enough to guarantee success.
If you have other ways to get your games noticed, then the question about how much attention the app stores will give your new game is less critical. I for one am counting on my email list and cross-promotion from my established apps to get my new ones some exposure. But not everyone has a mailing list or established apps. I gather that getting a social media influencer to promote or at least review your game may be the best route to success these days. I frankly have no clue how one would make that happen.
So hypothetically: Suppose you've created the game you've always dreamed of. Everybody who has tried it loves it. You hope to win that lottery by having an app store editor pick your app to be featured, but you know you can't count on it. So what do you do? What is within your control?
What's your Phase 2?