How we got our indie game featured on the App Store
Another data point in a notoriously opaque process
This is the story of how my brother and I got Inklings (our very first game) featured on the App Store. In case it’s not obvious, we are definitely not experts in this domain.
First things first
Before we contacted Apple, we made sure everything was ready to go; we uploaded our final build, a trailer video, screenshots, localized App Store descriptions, everything (check out the final product here). We decided on a Thursday launch date because Apple updates the App Store on that day.
Three weeks before we were set to launch, we sent an email with our pitch deck to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Many of these bullets are boilerplate requirements, but a few are carefully crafted for Apple, for example:
- We tweaked our standard marketing lines to focus on the artistic aspects rather than the gameplay (for comparison, here’s our Steam page).
- We emphasized the fact that we only support iOS for mobile and neglect to mention our support for PC and Linux.
- We mentioned that we have media ready for the release (in other words, we’ll make you money Apple).
In addition to the text, we also attached a pitch deck that was created just for this occasion. Again, we focused on the visuals of the game:
Then we waited… and heard nothing.
A week before launch we decided to ping them again:
Again we waited… and heard nothing. At this point we figured we weren’t going to be featured, at least not for our initial launch.
Thursday morning arrives and we’re dealing with a flurry of activity — users wanting features, reviewers (and scammers) wanting keys, twitter, email, it’s busy!
Then, 2 days later…
We get a text from our brother-in-law saying that he sees Inklings featured in the App Store. What?!?! And sure enough, there it is! In the “New Games We Love” section on the homepage. I guess that explains why we had 20 million impressions… did I mention we’re pretty new at this?
Yet still no email from Apple. And yes, I checked my spam.
Side note: We’re planning on writing up another article on our launch numbers including App Store and Steam impressions, click through rates, sales, everything. So stay tuned!
So that’s what happened. If I had to speculate on what part of the pitch worked, I’d say:
- We did the basic stuff right. Nice screenshots, a solid preview video, localized into multiple languages, etc.
- We carefully crafted our pitch to our audience. Apple wants to know why your game is unique and why it makes the platform look good.
- We made a beautiful game — I can say that because we handpicked art from some of the greatest artists of all time (it’s kind of cheating).
The programmer in me wishes there was a way to make this all more objective, so that we could see definitively what worked and what didn’t. But that’s not the nature of this business, sometimes you just have to make some educated guesses and hope for the best. I hope it works out for you too.