30k users in one month with less than 500€

We made a mobile game. Here’s how we marketed it in the first month

Hi, here’s Pietro. I work at Belka, a design and development team for digital products.

Here we are. After months of development, our game has been published on the stores on November the 14th. I’ve been managing the project and I also took care of the marketing aspect.

If you are reading this article you already know that in the first month 30k nice guys downloaded our game from the App Store and the Play Store

There are two different aspects that are really interesting about this experience:

  1. The strategy that helped us achieving such a result: personal emails to videogame magazines.
  2. We paid just 0,15€ per install.

PR is the way

A lot of good articles says that PR are the best leverage for your brand new game. They are right.

How to do it? Who to contact? We had not a lot of connections in the gaming world.

So we decided to start by writing to local media. I thought it was a good idea since we are based in a little town with not much to say, so it might be easier to gain attention. I was wrong, or at least partially wrong.

Local newspapers are awesome

After retrieving a list of about 15 contacts from a journalist friend of mine, I sent a formal email to everyone of them. Attached to the mail there was the download link for a preview version of the game, some images and a press release. We had a response from only two of the about 15 people contacted. Both were newborn online newspaper. It was good since online news is powerful for sharing download link, but also bad since it isn’t able to reach a lot of people.

In the meanwhile we started growing a list of game-related media. We built it using our consumer experience and googling. A lot of googling.

We decided to focus on national gaming magazines and blogs plus some opinion leaders. As you can see in the image below, we wrote to about 30 magazines. The checked ones are those who wrote something about our game app.

The checked ones are those who wrote something about our game app.

Why we gained so much attention? Because magazines and blogs about gaming are more interested in gaming news, of course. But I’m sure that it worked for us because of how we communicated with them.

In fact the email I sent was informal, personal and filled with our (authentic) enthusiasm for what we did. Moreover it had the links to the stores since the app was already published. Here’s how it looked:

It’s in Italian but I bet you can understand a GIF

The rules I gave to myself after reading interesting things here and there were:

  • Create a catchy object
  • Use informal and personal tone
  • Tell a story (in my case I started the mail by telling how the idea was born)
  • Describe the game keeping it simple and short
  • Use GIF or images (this helps to get a fresh look and facilitate the reading)
  • Use a clear formatting (seems obvious but using paragraphs, bold, italics is mandatory if you want someone to read your email)
  • Insert links when useful (they add more depth to what you are saying)
  • Attach useful contents (we sent images to use in articles and a formal press release)

Bonus hint: be sure that you are writing to the right person of the organization you want to contact.

So, how it rolled out?

Some of the online magazines we contacted are more influential than others. The real turn occurred when one of the most important Italian magazines wrote an article and posted about it on Facebook.

It boosted the downloads and it also attracted the attention of other media that started talking about us.
This effect lasted about 20 days, then the downloads began to stabilize.

Ok organic is cool, but I WANT TO SPEND MY MONEY!

When we planned the game launch strategy we decided to bet on organic reach more than paid one. This doesn’t mean we haven’t done any advertising.

This was not the final ad, but I still love it

There are a lot of services out there to advertise your app. Since we published the game on the stores I’ve received at least ten emails from different kind of new promotion services. Some of them are video based, other PR based, other uses in-game advertising.
I decided to stick with the old fashion Facebook ads. I have also considered AdWords (and AdMob) but I gave a shot to Facebook mainly because it can be more efficient with small budgets than the Google system.

So, inside the Facebook Ads Manager I chose to use the App Install campaign. This allowed me to optimize the delivery for the app installations. Moreover it tracks the effective installation of the game
This is what I achieved with a budget under 300€

At this point you might say: “ok, he got 1600 installs out of 30k total installs, not that interesting”. That’s right, but what is really interesting here is that I managed to pay 0,15€ per install. And that’s pretty surprising. 
As you can see the Android campaign was more expensive (0,37€ still is a great result), so I decided to focus on the iOS one.

I managed to pay 0,15€ per install.

How did I reached that results?
The game itself helped me. If you didn’t click on the link at the beginning of this article this is the right time to do it. Briefly: our app is a digital replica of Tricky Traps, a game from the ’80s really famous in Italy and Europe.

So, since the beginning I knew that I was speaking to a very specific audience: a nostalgic guy born between 1975 and 1990.

I know, interest are in Italian, you can use google translate!

I set up the location, excluded those who already liked our videogame page and selected some interests (games and nostalgic pages). I also chose to deliver the ad only to mobile devices connected to Wi-Fi (the games is over 70mb) so people could download it instantly. I excluded older operating system versions (both for Android and iOS) too.

Everything pretty simple and smooth, but it worked well!

Another key factor are the contents of the ad.

The actual ads were in Italian but i decided to post the english version here (they were identical)

I tried with different images. It should be even better to a/b test also with different text contents, but with a limited budget it would have been too dispersive.
After reaching the first 1000/1500 people I’ve confronted the results of the two images and chosen the better performing one (think to know which one it was?).
The takeaway here is: use good quality content, try different solutions.

Hope you enjoyed some insights about what we have done to promote our game. I think it is an interesting case because we reached the Play Store and App Store trending ranks with almost no money.

How to get value from users making them play for a long time is another topic that maybe I will cover next time!

Need good advice? Want to develop a game? Ask us!