This article was originally posted on the Hogrocket blog here.
As a reader of the Hogrocket blog, you hopefully already know that we’ve recently released our first game: Tiny Invaders. It’s been on the App Store for about a month now, but was in production for roughly eight months before that. The game itself asks the player to take control of a band of microscopic space germs as they invade planet Earth, infecting various hosts on their way to take over the President! It’s an “action puzzle” game, and has 60 levels so far. It looks a bit like this:
On the run up to the game’s release we opted to take a semi-unusual marketing strategy. We would not announce the game, or show any screenshots, or release any media about it publicly. All of this stuff would hit all at once on launch day, when the game was available to purchase worldwide. Effectively we said “the first time people hear about Tiny Invaders, they’ll be able to buy it immediately”. The reason for this is because we believe the iOS market is impulsive; people rarely pre-order games, instead choosing to purchase games as and when they see them. Needless to say this strategy was at the expense of building pre-launch hype around the game, which is the normal plan in the AAA console world where we come from.
Despite not announcing the game or doing any PR publicly, we were still pushing the game very hard at this time. Behind the scenes we operated a large private beta test, during the latter stages of which we chose to invite select press and community members. This served two purposes; it allowed us to fully test the game with an experienced set of people, but also to start the PR ball rolling too. We sent pre-release codes to as many journalists as we could (hundreds in the end), distributed a press pack and trailer, and even built some additional assets for any other promotional opportunity which might come up. We politely asked everybody who received a code to keep it quiet until launch, and explained the strategy to most of them. I’m pleased to say that nobody leaked the game and we were able to stick to the plan exactly.
We also built a large slide deck which outlined our projected activities in the months following launch. This was sent to several key businesses, including potential technology and distribution partners, as well as platform holders. We also snuck in a little bit of information about the game, as I think it’s important to introduce the game properly before banging on about marketing. Again if you’re interested you can see the (previously confidential) slide deck here:
On the back of this excellent keynote coverage we made a bold move – we chose to make the game free for three days as a celebration of the feature. We were forced to make a quick decision, as we had no prior indication from Apple that they were going to feature the game. Unfortunately we were in a bad position to go free – we had no way of making money at all if we decided to give the game away. In other words, we had no advertising and no in-app purchases. If we were to give the game away it was going to be a real gift to the community… we would have no financial benefit from the promotion at all. Some might say what we did was stupid, and perhaps it was, but we made the call to try and build a tidal wave of PR even if it wouldn’t really help our bank account.
To announce the free promotion we drafted a press release and distributed it through the channels we had built up. We consistently posted reminders on Twitter and Facebook for people to pick it up for free, and we encouraged all of our press and community partners to do the same. This was a limited offer after all!
The promotion was an absolute success. The game was featured in many many outlets online, and we ended up with almost 100,000 downloads over the three days. Our App Store review count went up an awful lot, with the majority of the ratings at 4 or 5 stars. Despite making absolutely no money from the offer at all, we’re still pretty happy with how it turned out. Of course now that those users have the game, they’ll hopefully be interested in our future work. At least some of them will become fans of Hogrocket, and that’s really what matters at the end of the day.
Right now we’re still working on Tiny Invaders. The iPad version of the game is almost complete – that will launch as a universal binary in the next few weeks. We’re also building a level pack, but taking a slightly unusual approach to doing so. More details on that in a future blog post.
I hope you found this post interesting? Feel free to post any questions in the comments if you have them.