In some ways, there’s never been a better time to be a mobile game developer. As a leading game engine, the Unity game creation software suite offers an unparalleled level of features, support and platform-independence. Its asset store accommodates development teams of all sizes to iterate quickly and incorporate high-quality assets into their titles while the ample documentation of Unity and its sub-systems makes it easy for even novice game developers to get their apps on the app store. But even with these advantages, there are serious challenges facing mobile game developers today.
Chief among these challenges is the ability to be discovered organically within the storefronts where the mobile game is available for download. Even a cursory search for “puzzle games” or “RTS games” in either the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store will offer up thousands of results. Even a game with stellar graphics and unparalleled gameplay can easily be buried under games with lesser gameplay and underwhelming user interfaces if it lacks the downloads, reviews and exposure more established apps possess.
This major challenge can be limited through conventional marketing strategies. Pay-per-click ads, video ads bought on platforms like YouTube, press releases, and influencer collaborations are all ways that mobile games can receive exposure and garner downloads. These traditional approaches to marketing, while offering modest returns, also suffer from several drawbacks.
First, they can be extremely expensive depending on how competitive the area game developers are targeting. For example, RTS games are extremely competitive because these titles rely on a consistent stream of user acquisitions in order to generate revenue. Another downside is that these external marketing measures don’t help users organically find your app on the platform they’re searching in.
So how can mobile app developers, who have invested a lot of time and effort into their projects, ensure their games get a fair shot at organic exposure on their apps’ respective storefronts? They need to make ASO, or App Store Optimization, a core part of their marketing strategy for their product.
How ASO Helps
For the uninitiated, ASO is a strategy that helps developers position their app within a digital marketplace by analyzing search trends and integrating those findings into an app’s listing. Optimizing the listing helps an app reach users organically through the search interface of an app store like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. At the core of ASO is the notion of making it easier for prospective users to find and engage with your software.
It’s easy to put on blinders and focus on just the content of your game, especially for game developers. Game devs are forever tweaking interface changes, adjusting enemy behavior, and polishing art assets for their games. And with post-launch patches, development on a game arguably never ends.
While this is great for perfectionists, sometimes this never-ending development can obscure the more important elements of a project, like branding and ASO. It’s important for Unity game developers to look beyond the immediate development needs of their games and focus on the big picture. ASO is a critical part of a mobile game’s success.
So for developers who are now considering making ASO part of their marketing efforts for their game, what should they know? First, a one-size-fits-all ASO strategy just isn’t enough anymore. Because of the competitive nature of the mobile game landscape, game developers should adopt platform-specific strategies. In other words, the keywords, descriptions, screenshots, and videos you’re using on Google Play are not necessarily the best fit for the Apple App store. You need to tailor your ASO approach based on the storefront you’re trying to garner users from. This is similar to how game developers will choose an engine that best suits their game’s conceptual and technical requirements.
The other important thing to know about ASO is that you don’t have to go it alone. You can read hundreds of articles, watch hours of video content about ASO and not even scratch the surface of everything you need to know about the subject. But don’t let that deter you from implementing ASO for your title. Companies like Gummicube have done all that legwork for you. They offer software and services that can help your mobile game get found easily by the very people who are the most likely to engage with it. More engaged users mean more word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews, which in turn can help cement your game in the app store search hierarchy.
If there’s only one thing to take away from this article, it’s that successful games don’t become successful because of their gameplay and graphics alone. Always consider the big picture: the context of your game within the online landscape. Make ASO a core part of launching your game and you are increasing your chances of connecting with your target players.
Author Bio Jonathan Lynch is the Digital Content Editor at Zco Corporation, a software developer that specializes in mobile software. Jon writes about mobile technology, games, and industry trends. He hosts the video series TechBabble that discusses how technology shapes the world.