A game developer recently asked me for advice on how to optimize his free-to-play (F2P) Android game for monetization. The developer was ambitious and had the skills to create a top game but he was inexperienced and knew little about app marketing. Interestingly, before calling nativeX he tried various channels for promoting his app including press releases and Facebook Ads but was disappointed with the results. He claimed “Facebook’s desktop ads simply don’t perform and they’re expensive so don’t bother using them,” although mobile ads are performing significantly better. He also found out that press releases aren’t read in this space unless your game is highly anticipated or you’re launching something that will completely disrupt the mobile gaming industry. Game developers understand that it is important to do everything they can to supplement their user acquisition strategies with extra buzz, this article gives you insight on how to get your mobile game featured on Google Play – the most cost effective way to market your app. Though getting featured is not an exact science, the tips below will greatly improve your chances of getting featured.
Step One: Follow the Google Play Best Practices
Android gives you the freedom to include features and actions that simply aren’t allowed on other operating systems, i.e. iOS. With that being said, if you ever want to be featured on Google Play, it is wise to follow their best practices. Google does not require you to follow their best practices but your chances of getting featured dwindle every time you stray from their suggestions. IMPORTANT: check the Android Developer Best Practices often because Google makes changes frequently. It was once well known that if you remove the default Android menu button, you would not get featured on Google Play. As more and more devices roll out with Ice Cream Sandwich or newer versions of Android, developers are told to “say goodbye to the menu button” because of the ActionBar.
Step Two: Rigorously Test Your App
When testing, gather feedback from your expected target market, baby boomers, millennials, and user experience experts. You never know who will install your game once it’s out in the wild so it’s important to get feedback from multiple perspectives and age groups. Also, finding user experience experts is a must. They will provide insight well beyond what you will generate alone regarding the game’s performance, intuitiveness, artwork, and flow. Be sure to test the app discovery process, the install, and usage every time. Once you iron out the kinks and you’re certain the game works the way users expect, make sure you require as few permissions as possible. On top of that, let users know what permissions you require and ask them to opt-in when necessary. Anything that appears shady or potentially harmful to the user is not acceptable and will prevent you from ever getting featured by Google Play’s editors, and users.
Step Three: Make Sure the Experience is Consistent
Once the experience of your game is perfected, test it for usage on various Android devices. It’s important to test on as many different Android devices as possible because the Google Play team is never going to feature an app that isn’t technically sound. Since there are hundreds of different Android devices; each with unique specs, screen sizes, and performance capabilities, you couldn’t possibly purchase every single device without spending tens of thousands of dollars. Another easy solution is Manymo, a “browser-based Android emulator that enables developers and QA testers to run and debug their apps across the breadth of (most) Android device configurations.” The Google Android team also posts tips on their blog for taking on the monumental (and growing) list of devices. They also provide extensive documentation on their developer site.
Step Four: Localize your Game
Android owns 64% of the worldwide market share of smartphones and if you’re developing games or other apps that are relevant to people around the world, it would be silly to only cater to customers in your country that speak your language. In this day and age, the world is getting smaller and the tools to prepare your game for the world are not only available, many are free. Another reason you ought to localize your Android game with as many languages as possible is simply because Google loves it when developers do so. In fact, their site deliberately states “to reach the most users, your application should handle text, audio files, numbers, currency, and graphics in ways appropriate to the locales where your application will be used.” They also provide resources for supporting different languages so there is no excuse unless you’re targeting a very specific niche group of users. When launching on Google Play, don’t forget to customize your game’s description for different languages to improve discovery in Google Play. Localizing your game will greatly improve your chances of getting featured in Google Play, and it will give you access to users that would otherwise never have known your mobile game exists.
Resources for Localizing your Mobile Game:
Android Team: Supporting Different Languages
Google Team: Localize your apps and content more easily – new formats in Translator Toolkit
Step Five: Submit Your App to the Android Developer Advocates
Once you’re certain users understand the purpose of your game and how to use it post install, nominate it for the Friday Review. This gives you the chance to have your game reviewed by Android Developer Advocates. The advocates review apps during broadcasted Hangouts every Friday at 1pm PT. Apps that are considered the best are then passed on to the Google Play editorial team and considered for the “Staff Picks” list.
To sum things up, if you’re hoping to get featured on Google Play you should; follow the Android Developer Best Practices, perfect your apps’ user experience, make sure it is technically sound and optimized for the lineup of Android devices, localize your game, and then submit it to the Android Developer Advocates. If you have any other suggestions for our readers, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
If you’re looking for more ways to optimize your free-to-play game for increased engagement, retention, and monetization – let us know by emailing contact@nativeX.com!