Breaking into the mobile gaming market is fearsomely competitive, but startups, including mine, continue to do it. Juicebox racked up over 4 million downloads for our first game HonorBound, which has been out for just 11 months. We have gone head-to-head with the big dogs in releasing a CCG RPG and broke through. Here are 4 things startups can do to emerge from the crowd:
Have A Clear Vision
We pitched 3 main bullet points for a game in April 2013. Ten months later, HonorBound launched and stayed true to those points. A clear vision and executing against that vision is incredibly important. That articulated vision helps unite the team and keeps everyone marching towards the same goal.
Build A Better Game
Players have so many options in the App Store and you have a limited amount of time to grab their attention. First, they have to see it in the App store; pause long enough on our app icon; then decide to download it; play it; and decide to come back the next day and play again. There are no tricks or gimmicks to building a great game and developing a great audience. The only way to cut through the noise is to be better and offer something unique.
When we were building HonorBound, we were laser focused on building the best game possible. We were meticulous about button tap interactions and UI consistency. The players note the smallest things in a game and every touch and sound adds up to the ultimate experience. You want your game to reek of quality.
Let Your Product Grow
All the market research in the world can’t predict what will happen when a game hits the App Store. Give the game the opportunity to grow. Players are the best sources of information on what works and what doesn’t; and where to invest your precious resources.
Like all free-to-play games, we knowingly released HonorBound as an unfinished game with the full knowledge that it would continue to grow. We make updates every two weeks, which enables us to respond to our players and keep them engaged.
While I was at Zynga, the company grew from 150 to over 4,000 employees. Part of the reason we founded HonorBound was because we wanted to make games with a small team again. The common goal of building a great game unites the team. Everyone on your team needs to share the same level of dedication and commitment to the product you are building, and be able to communicate and collaborate effectively.
There is no “secret sauce” to breaking through a crowded market. It boils down to being passionate about your product and committed to helping it grow. Don’t let competition deter you, because when you do break through, the victory is all the more sweet.