Back in December, I bought my first game off of Apptopia.com—not just the source code but also the entire icon guessing game.
One reason I bought the game was to give away licenses as an incentive to the first 25 people who bought the Total Appiness package of my Appiness marketing guide for iOS developers.
While my developer was updating the code for iOS 7, he ran into some problems: the dude who sold the game to me had intentionally removed essential functions and other pieces of the code.
[Insert colorful imprecations here.]
He had made it impossible for me to use the icon guessing game code that I had bought to create new apps, and his dishonesty made it necessary for me to put significantly more time and money into updating the code than I had originally planned.
The App Store is the Wild, Wild West, and unfortunately, I had crossed paths with one of the outlaws.
But the silver lining is that I was able to use the raw materials of the code and original icon illustrations to create a game much better than the original.
The new game is called Iconic, and I’d like to tell you why I think Iconic and reskins of the source code will be successful.
The Secret to Making a Successful Game
It’s easy to buy into a business model and ignore the people who actually use your products—so-called “end users.”
We developers tend to obsess over in-game currencies, in-app purchases, and ad placements. We treat our new apps like children and compare keyword options the way parents compare private schools. We agonize over user interface design, theme choices, and character names.
“Who will appeal more to your target demographic, Sydney the Sycophantic Wallaby or Englebert the Egregious Egret?”
Choices, choices! We fuss and fidget. We often miss the forest for the trees: games should be fun to play.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Duh!” But a lot of game developers miss this obvious consideration.
- Entertaining (or helpful, in the case of utility and reference apps)
To be successful, a game must be all three, yet I’ve seen a lot of mediocre reskins show up in the App Store in the last year and a half. Their gameplay may be proven, but the user experience suffers due to a relentless barrage of ads. Their artwork looks cheap and has no cohesive branding. Nothing about them is memorable.
Sound familiar? I hope not.
But supposing you do own a C- game and want to turn it into an A- game, you’ll need to focus on these three things (like I did for Iconic).
What can you do to fix a forgettable game?
1) Uniqueness – How do you make a one-of-a-kind app, especially if you’re working from a pre-existing source code? You focus on the minor details. Write funny local notifications. Replace annoying ads with new, more valuable in-app purchases. Use funky colors. Pick a better name and more popular theme. Be more generous by giving away stuff inside the game—e.g., free daily tokens for opening the game. Study the popular games that you love, figure out why you love them, and borrow the best ideas for your game. Surprise and delight players any way you can.
Uniqueness drives user retention, and user retention drives profitability. In fact, approximately 44% of your potential in-app purchases will be made after 10 or more sessions. If players aren’t returning to your game, then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
2) Beauty (that is, top-quality graphics) – Back in early January, I took my team through several strategic planning sessions. One decision we made was to not skimp on design in 2014.
Now we only work with designers who charge $50 or more. Why? In years past we have wasted a lot of time and money trying to save money on cheap designers. But we ended up earning every penny we saved because inexpensive designers tend to be less professional than those who charge a higher hourly rate.
In other words, you get what you pay for. I paid top dollar for a world-class design team, and they redesigned Iconic from top to bottom. You can take a look at Iconic – The Impossible Icon Guessing Game and see for yourself.
3) Entertaining – Is your game addictive like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga? Is it easy to learn but difficult to master like Flappy Bird and Temple Run?
Does playing your game require smart strategy the same as playing Clash of Clans? Does it give people bragging rights like Words with Friends? Does it put a funny spin on negative emotions like Office Jerk or have a whimsical storyline like Dumb Ways to Die?
By giving users ways to express themselves, compete with their friends, and achieve multiple levels of mastery, you will keep them entertained. They won’t be able to resist coming back for more.
What I Like about Iconic – The Addictive Pop Culture Guessing Game
Iconic is addictive. My wife and I were playing before bed one night, and because knowing about pop culture and celebrities is a point of pride for her, she got totally sucked in.
We stayed up an hour later than we meant to because she wanted to beat the game!
She eventually gave up not for lack of interest but because we had to get up early with our baby girl!
Rebuilding the code gave me the opportunity to improve the code base and add some of my favorite marketing and monetization features:
- Universal code with iPad, iPhone, and iPod support
- Native Objective-C code base
- iAd banners integration
- Playhaven interstitials
- Playhaven More Apps widget
- Chartboost interstitials
- 9 in-app purchases
- Automatic popup for getting more ratings/review
- Share app to Facebook
- Two kinds of clues (Reveal and Remove)
- Local notifications
- Pushwoosh push notifications
- Cool animation with rotating icons on the home screen
- Reusable icon/logo illustrations
- Settings screen with sound control, credits, reset button, and how to play info
- Beautiful design