Staying in the rarified Top 25 ranking on Apple's App Store is a bit of mad science for companies like Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds.
Apple has its own, closely guarded algorithm for determining where an application lands. There are, or course, other forces at work that push apps into popularity--such as news stories about the apps, or the good fortune of an app being featured by Apple. But with a combination of luck, timing, marketing, and savvy development, small companies like Rovio have created their own tool kits for staying on top.
Of course, it helps if you have an addictive game such as Angry Birds, with a nice movie tie-in like the recently released animated film "Rio." But fun, bird-based projectile games aside, there are tricks and strategies for making it onto Apple's list and staying there, such as formulating a constant stream of updates, adjusting the price tag, and giving users a way to spread the word about the app.
"You have to think about these things from the inception of the game," said Phil Larsen, marketing director for Halfbrick Studios. "You need to say 'we're going to make this game, and it's got to have these particular features and longevity.'"
Halfbrick's hit game, Fruit Ninja, which was released a little more than a year ago, vaulted the company into fame, with the game holding its place at, or very near, the top of Apple's charts in multiple countries since its release. So far its 99 cent iPhone versions have brought in more than 6 million downloads from Apple, and big volumes from other platforms like Android and Windows Phone. Halfbrick is currently cooking up a quick-play version for Facebook that's likely to further augment sales on those other platforms, as it has done for developers such as Zynga and PopCap Games.
Fruit Ninja has users swiping their finger across the screen to cut incoming fruit, all the while avoiding bombs that get thrown into the mix. Along with the version for the iPhone, the company also makes an HD version for iPad users, which also sits near the top of Apple's charts.
Larsen, who joined the company to direct its marketing efforts when it started publishing its own titles, says that a big part of the game's success is that it was designed to be easy to pick up and play, and would keep people coming back to it because of that. "Its almost reminiscent of old card games," Larsen said. "It's addictive and people like playing, yet the core gameplay is satisfying." … Read more