Publishing Cube Orbit on App Stores – Expectations vs. Reality (incl. data on Apple Feature)

This article describes the first week after launching Cube Orbit on the Apple App Store and Cube Orbit on the Google Play Store. Check out the game and store page, it will give some context to the rest of the article.

This is a follow up to 4 Gamedev Concepts all Solo Mobile Gamedevs Should Know that I wrote on launch day, explaining my general approach to Cube Orbit.

Marketing

I had a very hard time producing good marketing materials. Since most of the aethetics of Cube Orbit lay in the feel, movement, and animations. Therefore, the screenshots feel very blend. The gameplay (even it play tested well) is very hard to describe. It always reads like something you have seen a lot of times before. Due to its abstract nature, there are also no narrative elements that help. Which makes it also hard to identify keywords for placement and ASO.

Anyhow, I went forward and did the usual “put it on all forums and write a lot of press”-thing. Tigsource, Made with Unity, Reddit, Itch.io, TouchArcade Forums. Wrote to 200 press outlets; front door like everybody else, since I have no contacts at all. Used social media to the best of my abilities. I ended up with

  • almost no traffic from social media and forums, besides a few 100 visits via reddit
  • only paid review offers (about 10) that I declined  and 3 simple listing. 3 reviews on very small/new outlets
  • sheer luck: Apple featured Cube Orbit as “New games we love” in the US store:

Numbers

What you are actually here for.

After getting a few hundred iOS installs from category list features around the globe (except US) nothing happened for a few days. No installs from the Apple store only a very few from the Google store. Mostly friends and family with a few rates+reviews. Totally sad. Marketing not really working, at all.

On Mar 16th the obligatory getting stolen by some Chinese app store with over about 1k installs over the next days. I have no control over this, but I guess this happens to almost all Android apps at some point. Luckily most of the ad request seem to penetrate the Great Firewall.

Then suddenly the feature by Apple in the US store. Here most of the iOS installs come from. Which is kinda great. Who am I to complain, a very small solo dev from somewhere, but this also made me wonder if I am passing on a great opportunity here. Should this feature do more? On Mar 17 it brought me about 3k users from 2,1m impressions (like the phone on my phone above). I had a impression to store page conversion of 3% and a store page to install conversion of about 5%. Based on this article these numbers are okay-ish, but certainly not good. My bad description and blend screenshots might be a reason.

To better optimize RVE later, I tracked some numbers with Google analytics about ads, shares, and rates. Unfortunately I fucked up with some of the numbers. The mediocre share and rate clicks are probably due to the fact that I offer share and rate buttons too late in the game. In an attempt to only offer these share/rate opportunity to “hooked” users, in oder to get good rates/reviews and favorable shares, I am only offering these to a fraction of the total users. Here, you also see the conversion for the optional reward ads. 5% is probably quit low. The only incentive to click ads is in game currency, boosts, and upgrades. Which (a) require the user to fully grasp these concepts, which is only true for the small percentage of “hooked” users. (b) the balance is off and players get enough money, boost, and upgrades through normal gameplay.

To counter the lack of shares, rates, and ad clicks, I made a new version with different balance and earlier and fixed rate/share offers. But unfortunately I am stuck in Apples review process for about three days now. How could you ever fine tune or even effectively A/B test when each update takes a couple of days? Is there a framework that allows you to change in-game variables remotely? I definitely need to use this or build such a thing.

Finally, whats up with Google Play? There is almost no organic traffic/installs on the Play store. Is this normal now? When I published “Rope the Frog” and “Gravity Racing Madness” a few years ago, we relatively quickly got to 100-300 installs a day in a similar szenario. In the end, the Apple store manages to give me 60 users playing at the very same time at any time, while Google does not even manage to give me 60 total installs. WTF Google?

Summary: My own efforts to marked Cube Orbit lead to almost nothing. Apples feature was great. But since the lack of my experience, I have the feeling I did a lot of mistakes and passed on a good opportunity.

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