Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
Once you have built your app or game and have published it into the Windows Phone Marketplace, you’re likely going to want to monitor the uptake of your app via download and (potentially) revenue statistics. You are also going to want to find ways to market your app to people who may not know about it. There are several ways of doing this, some more costly than others. One of the most effective ways of marketing your app is actually completely free – have the Windows Phone Marketplace showcase your app! It sounds easy but there are a few things you need to do to increase the chances of this happening and that is what this post focuses on.
One of the more effective ways of marketing your app is being chosen for promotion in the Windows Phone Marketplace. We’ve seen how being promoted in the Marketplace can materially affect the download numbers of you app in a positive way. The Windows Phone Marketplace offers a great number of different ways your apps can be promoted as well, which we will talk about, but first here is a graphic that shows the different ways you can be promoted and how each type of promotion increases your downloads (based on averages from apps that have been promoted on the Windows Phone Marketplace in similar ways in the past):
In essence, there are 3 types of promotion available on the Marketplace and the graphic above shows those ways. Each has value and being featured in any of those buckets can mean good things to the adoption of your app or game. Each type of promotion is unique and their values are described below:
As you can see, being featured is very much worth your while. While your app is featured (usually for a period that lasts anywhere from 3 to 5 days), you will likely see a noticeable uptick in your app downloads which you can then amplify through any other marketing methods you choose to use throughout your app’s lifecycle.
So you’re sold on the whole featured app thing and want in. How exactly do you get your app featured? While there is no specific steps that will guarantee your ability to be featured, the featured apps process is implicitly a fair one (the best, most popular apps will bubble up to the top). If you feel you have a great app or game, you should read the following sub-sections to get a better understanding of how the Marketplace team assesses quality apps.
A functional app is more than one that passes the Marketplace certification. Think of a functional app as a contract between yourself and the user. When a user downloads your app or game, they are likely doing so either from the description of your app on the Marketplace, it’s screenshots or by recommendation from friends or other users (including ratings). In any case, they expect your app to have an experience that is consistent with any of those inputs. If it’s not, then the app is likely to be less popular and as a result, be less likely to be promoted.
An app that shows utility is one that thoughtfully includes features that take advantage of the Windows Phone platform. Features like Live Tiles, Search Extras, multi-tasking and the like. It also refers to apps that differentiate themselves with amazing user interfaces that are both visually appealing as well as intuitive and productive. The Marketplace team also look at the stickiness of the app, which is another way of saying “is this an app that users will use often?”.
The final area of differentiation that the Marketplace team will look at in apps and games is how the app will delight users. This is where most featured apps really, really shine. If the app shows a “wow factor” (a decidedly unscientific term for sure, but you generally know it when you see it), if it is really unique and has something that no other app or game has, then that is a way that your creation will delight users.
A must for the delight factor is proper and effective use of Metro, the Windows Phone Design language. This is more than just square tiles and lots of text. To implement Metro properly, you need to take into account a number of principles of the Metro design language (see here and here). If your app follows these principles properly, your app will look amazing on Windows Phone and have a truly awesome experience on the platform.
As you can see, you need to think hard about the quality of your app if you hope for it to be featured. That said, the payoff of getting featured might very be worth the effort you put in.
I have just one last tip for you before this blog post series on Marketplace success strategies is finished: When looking at apps to build, sometimes being featured is a numbers/statistics game. If there are categories within the Marketplace that are currently underserved compared to other categories (for example, as of the publication date of this post, the Politics section is light in apps compared to other categories like Entertainment and Sports), then your chances of getting featured are that much greater. Just food for thought…
This post was the fifth and final post in a series of five posts on strategies for being successful on the Windows Phone Marketplace. The first post (publishing in the right geographies) is here. The second post (trial mode and the art of the upsell) is here. The third post (finding the pricing sweet spot) is here. The fourth post (the differentiation game) is here.
Simon Carpentier a student from École de Technologie Supérieure shares a few great resources and tools on storing data and barcode scanning he discovered while building his first Windows Phone App
Want more tips and tricks from students? Check here.
Could you briefly describe your application/game? Wine Cellar is a Windows Phone 7 app designed for Québec's wine enthusiasts. Scan the UPC code of your bottle or enter it manually and get information such as the price, origin and appellation. The app stores your wines so you get a nice database of your favourites. Right now it's pretty basic but I plan to update it so you can add additional information to a wine (tasting notes, how many bottles you have in your cellar, etc...)
Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both? It uses Silverlight only. It's not a game so there was no need for XNA. Maybe one day I'll add some animation to make thing prettier, but I think Silverlight is more suited for this kind of application.
What was your banging your head against a wall moment? I have a web development background so I'm used to having full control over my database from the server side. I had trouble with data services when came the time to add tables between updates. The app crashed because the database schema wasn't the same from one version of the app to another. I thought I would need to maintain separate schemas and migrate the data from one to another manually.
Did you ever solve that issue? After a little search, I found there's a built-in DatabaseSchemaUpdater class made exactly for this scenario in the WP7 SDK. It's also very well documented on MSDN
If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently? I think my app is ugly. Starting from scratch, I would take my time to learn WPF and XAML correctly with Microsoft Expression or ask a designer friend to "prettify" (© Susan) my app. The best I could do was to buy a 10$ graphic and use it as an icon.
Any nice suprises? Besides the SDK being really easy to install, I never really expected the Isolated Storage and Data Binding to work at first try. Well it did and I was shocked on how simple it was.
Did you leverage the mobile platform? The app uses the camera and Windows Phone 7 Silverlight ZXing Barcode Scanning Library to scan barcodes of bottles right from the phone. That's something a PC wouldn't do and I don't usually drink my wine around PCs.
Did you leverage the touch screen? No, not really since it's not a game. I respect the metro design principles though so my app reacts the way a user would expect.
Did you have a favourite feature? The Model-View-ViewModel project template of the WP7 SDK helped me get right into developing. I easily learned my way through the development stack.
What is one thing you think you did really well in this application? The navigation between the pages using query strings. I pass the ID of the wine right in the Query String when I call the wine details page. With the OnNavigatedTo event, I load the data so there's no need for tombstoning or keeping application state.
Are you publishing your application/game? Of course! It's available right now here
Where can I learn more about your app/game? The source code is available at Codeplex.
Who developed this application? I did, it took about 2 days to build from scratch with no prior WP7 knowledge. I'm graduating in IT Engineering this semester from ÉTS. I also have a personal website where I showcase my other projects and ramble about technology on my blog.
March 8th, we have a full day of free webinars just for you. A great opportunity to learn about Web, mobile, design, cloud computing and more…
Here is the amazing schedule we put together for you:
Oh and don’t wait to register: the first 100 people to register for a seminar AND to attend WebCamps on March 8 will get our latest Web Not War gear! It's super secret.... but super awesome! You'll definitely want to get one. Just sayin'.
For more details about the sessions keep reading!
11:00 – 11:45am - Designing Mobile Apps that Don’t Suck - Paul Laberge
Over the past 3-4 years, mobile apps have moved from a niche market for a select few developers and designers to a massive new economy across multiple platforms. Gone are the days where a mobile application is seen as an afterthought; it’s simply not enough for a mobile platform to be “good at email”. While this is true and there are apps that cover almost every imaginable task, its arguable that the majority of those apps are poorly designed and could use significant improvement to their user experience. In this session, we’ll show you what you as a mobile app developer/designer should be thinking about when building your app, regardless of the mobile platform you are targeting. We will go through a great number of topics including how to standardize the look and feel of your app to the platform, creating an effective and appealing user interface, implementing your idea for the mobile form factor and more.
Click here to register.
12:00 – 12:45pm - Take the red pill and enter the Matrix - Frédéric Harper
Don't fear the Agents anymore. In this presentation, we'll show you how it's easy to build a Website with the right tools. Including a Web server, a database, a SEO reporting tool and much more, WebMatrix, a free IDE, give you anything you need to be as fast as Neo. Coding in PHP or HTML5 has never been so easy. You work with Wordpress, DotNetNuke, Joomla or Umbraco? Don't worries, you'll be up and running with these (and more!) in less than five minutes. If you don't want to control the Matrix, you can always take the blue pill...
1:00 – 1:45pm - Winning on Mobile Marketplaces: Strategies for your Mobile Apps to Gain Traction - Paul Laberge
If you are a modern mobile developer then you already likely already know that it’s tough to gain traction in a crowded, central Marketplace. In this session, we go through strategies for distributing your app and game both publicly and privately. You can use these strategies to help market your app or game and give you some ideas for addressing how you can convince users not only to download your app, but also to keep opening it and using it over your competition.
2:00 – 2:45pm - Responsive Web Design: The View of the World Depends on the Glasses I Wear - Thomas Lewis
There is no mobile Web, there is no desktop Web, and there is no tablet Web. We view the same Web just in different ways. So how do we do it? By getting rid of our fixed-width, device-specific approaches and use Responsive Web Design techniques. This session will focus on what is Responsive Web Design and how you can use its 3-pronged approach on your current apps today which will also adapt for new devices in the future.
3:00 – 3:45pm - What’s That “Cloud” Thing? – Jonathan Rozenblit
The Cloud is like the new “HD”. Everywhere you go these days, there’s something about the Cloud or someone is talking about it. So what’s hype all about? Why do your applications need it? Tune in to find out. You’ll see how your existing apps can go to a whole new level and how your new apps, whether they’re on the web, on the desktop, or on devices roaming the world, can go from being awesome to being epic.
Click here to register.
There are extremely few popular device apps that do not connect to some kind of web-based or cloud service. Today’s apps are connected experiences and derive a great deal of value through the content they consume from services. See, through an end-to-end development experience, how connecting your Windows Phone, iOS, and/or Android device apps to the Cloud opens up a world of interesting possibilities.
5:00 – 5:45pm - Introduction to Drawing with HTML5's - Thomas Lewis
Three students from Ryerson University: Kowsheek, Anthony, and Alexey (akaThree Red Cubes) build their second Windows Phone Game and share what they learned along the way.
Check out more tips and tricks from students here
Could you briefly describe your application/game?
Flipper is a simple and addictive puzzle game where you flip triangles to complete squares. As you progress through the game you should watch for the special squares that can help you. Gain points, compete with players around the world, but watch the clock!
Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?
In Flipper we chose XNA over Silverlight. The reason we chose XNA is because it gives more flexibility in certain aspects. For example, customized screen navigation logic because most of the times it differs between games. Also it allows you to use the same technology across the entire game unlike in a XNA-Silverlight mix application. Developers using XNA know that it’s a beautiful framework to work with. It gives developers a great amount of raw power over the platform so that they can create awesome games.
What was your banging your head against a wall moment?
There was a moment when the game was lagging while scrolling up. We tried profiling it, we tried decrease the resolution of our assets, we tried banging our heads. Nothing helped. Then we realized the scrolling was too fast and due to the OS limitation of 30Hz, the movement seemed to be lagging.
The bottom line is you have to always remember that you are developing to a mobile device which has some limitations. That means that sometimes you have to do your homework before writing code.
Did you ever solve that issue?
The solution to that problem was limiting the top speed for the scrolling, which actually worked out nicely. The final result was a nice range of speeds for the scrolling effect. You can experience this in the game by dragging vertically across the screen.
If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?
Some of the reviews we got from Windows Phone users included a great number of ideas to improve the game and its experience. We would take this knowledge and build it in the game from the get-go providing for a better experience for the gamers. However, some of the changes can be pushed with an update and that is why the feedback is always useful. In fact we have created an application called metrX for the phone with the intention of helping users and developers communicate.
Any nice surprises?
In the new version that is currently available on the Marketplace, we've implemented system color as the part of game's theme. Discovering the ability to have access to some of the phone resources from XNA was a bit of a surprise and it was quite easy to implement.
We were also surprised and pleased that people enjoy the concept of the game and find it rather addictive. We received 25 reviews to-date and the average rating is hovering around 4.5 stars. We were trying to build a simple and addictive game and we think that we've succeeded.
Did you leverage the mobile platform?
Since Flipper is a quite simple game, it did not leverage any of the phone sensors unlike some of the applications that we've published previously.
Did you leverage the touch screen?
Yes we took the full advantage of the touch interface with both tap and drag gestures built into the XNA Framework. The API that XNA exposes for the touch interface is quite easy to work with and it can be used to provide a nice experience in games.
Did you have a favourite feature?
We have taken an advantage on our own API for a platform called Lead. It's an online cloud-based leaderboard that we have developed with ASP.Net MVC framework. We use this API in our game and it's been a great success. You can find out more about it here. We've talked about it and its technologies on the Canadian Developer Connection blog.
What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?
The game idea. We were able to build a great experience with Flipper and it is something we are quite proud of. Something in those chain reactions accompanied by flipping sounds, the endless game-play and the simplicity of it makes the game addictive and enjoyable to play.
Are you publishing your application/game?
Yes we published and updated the game over the last few weeks, it's available for download and we're pushing updates every so often to keep improving the game and its aesthetics.
Where can I learn more about your app/game?
We have a Facebook page where we post about updates and our Youtube channel has videos of Flipper and some of our other applications.
Who developed this application?
Our team members are from Ryerson University and we run a company called Three Red Cubes Inc. We have been developing applications and games for the Windows Phone since its release. Sudoku3D was the first game we released as a team and we're looking forward to building many more quality games and apps that Windows Phone users can enjoy.
You can find us on Twitter and Facebook.
Picture: Kowsheek (left), Anthony (centre), Alexey (right)
Ever wondered what life is like for an independent game developer? Microsoft Student Partner Jessica Pellow interviews Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky about their film “Indie Game: the movie” a film selected for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival that follows the stories of four game developers.
Bruce Mau, a Canadian designer, said “To invent something you have to be removed from the world. In order to have liberty to imagine something better, you need to step outside for a while.” This seems to be fit the premise of the new documentary film Indie Game: The Movie, a film which at its core is a story about imagination and perseverance. Indie Game follows four developers at the various stages in their projects and captures the trials, tribulations, and the human element behind game development.
Indie Game: The Movie is the creation of Canadian filmmaking duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. In addition to the initial idea, they are behind the producing, directing, cinematography, editing, and writing that went into this film. For over a year they have gathered the stories that make the film what it is and were kind enough to answer a few questions about their film, the world of gaming, and what makes them passionate.
To start with, do either of you play video games?
LISANNE: James has been a lifelong gamer. I got into games through this project. I wasn’t much of gamer before.
JAMES: I grew up on games. All events were plotted and personally valued in terms of their proximity to Arcade machines. A trip to the Grand Canyon was considered a waste of time ... unless it had a Double Dragon machine in the gift shop lobby. In which case: Best. Trip. Ever. This went on for a long time ... until it didn’t. Something odd happened. The magic kinda stopped for me. It could’ve been growing older, drifting away from childhood things. It wasn’t until I was introduced to independent gaming that the magic came back to games for me. There was that sense of childhood discovery returned in indie games.
From what I understand, this project was sparked because the province of Manitoba reached out to you to do a documentary of a game developer. What was it about working on that initial project that attracted you to the gaming community?
LISANNE: We were commissioned to do a series of documentaries on people in new media in Manitoba. One of the docs was on a programmer/designer Alec Holowka, who made Aquaria, with designer/artist Derek Yu.The story was about the making of their game and their eventual-winning of the Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival.
In talking to Alec, we learnt about his creative process and how his personal experience of making it basically shaped the feel/tone of the game. That was really compelling to us.
What was your impression of the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco? In some of your interviews in the past you've drawn parallels between game development and film making as both being forms of storytelling. Do you feel that filmmakers and game developers have a similar sense of community?
JAMES: After the short doc on Alec, we ended up at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. There we found the Independent Game Summit, and we just saw this whole room of similar people with similar stories of making games.
The games were interesting, looked amazing and they were reaching millions of people online. It felt like there was this sort of thing happening. There was this energy in the room. Everybody was sharing. When they were sharing, they were sharing about their games but really they were sharing about themselves. That whole idea of the game as an extension of personal expression was something that was interesting to us and something that we hadn’t really thought about. That’s sort of what kicked it off.
LISANNE: I think that we identified with feeling of working on your own, on your own thing. It was the DIY spirit that attracted us to it. We hadn’t met any other creators like this. We just hadn’t in the film worlds we were exposed to. We thought what theses people are doing is really interesting and inspiring to us - even though we don’t make games.
Being so fully immersed now in the gaming community, do you feel that this prolonged exposure has changed anything about you as individuals and/or filmmakers?
LISANNE: I think, seeing all the examples of hard work and perseverance in the indie game world helped give us confidence and propelled us to finish our big project.
It was life-changing to watch the developers in the film, go through what they went through, and come out of it.
In the film you see the developers, go through a wide range of emotions. They go through challenging situations. It’s tough to make something on your own. But, I think there’s value in seeing people go through that. It’s motivating, because, “if they can do it, I can at least try”.
What impact do you feel your film will have on gaming development, whether it be indie game development or more mainstream?
LISANNE: We hope it will have impact with all gamers, but also people that don’t necessary identify as gamers. We tried to make the film satisfying for people in the gaming community, but also accessible enough that your friends that don’t understand, yet, will get it. It was a tough balance, but we think, we hope, we achieved that.
Now that you've fully dived into the world of gaming, have you stayed part of the community? Do you feel the release of this movie has guaranteed you a place among the gamers of today?
LISANNE: We talk game community every day. We get lots of e-mails and tweets. We try to respond to everything. We get such a thrill out of reading e-mails from kids (they are really kids) who were inspired to start making games, in part, because all the clips we released. That’s an amazing feeling.
You've had the opportunity to be exposed to some very talented and passionate game developers now. Have you considered or tried making a game or app yourselves? If you did make a game, what would your game be about?
LISANNE: Nope! Mainly because we were so consumed with making the film the past year and a half. When the dust settles, if would be great to try to stretch our brains around an idea. But, really the talent for that stuff lies with the guys in the film.
What suggestions or advice do you have for students interested in developing games?
LISANNE: All the developers from the film would say - just start making stuff. The more you create, the better you get. And, that’s experience as well.
Indie Game: The Movie is an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival. Visit www.indiegamethemovie.com to see trailers and learn more about the film.