There is no dispute on the importance of having good reviews on your game. Users are quick to judge and nothing brings forth more judgment than a fat stack of 2 star reviews. The sad truth is that good reviews on the app store may not lead to sales, but poor reviews can be the death of your game.
Like many enthusiasts, game development is done as a side project outside of our full time jobs. With no funding, we decided to make Disjoint without a marketing budget, but still wanted to make a strong marketing push prior to our release. So the question we asked was “Outside of the standard marketing tools (trailers, reviews from big websites, etc), what has the greatest positive impact on sales that's achievable for us?”
We came up with three items:
- Front page promotion on either app store
- Perfect 5 star review
- Huge online following prior to launch
We failed to achieve goals 1 and 3. For obvious reasons, we won't be talking about those.
We did, however, achieve 2 with great success. By understanding and connecting with our audience, we built an elegant mechanism to ask for good reviews.
Understanding the audience
We chose to be a paid experience with no ads or in app purchases. The audience who is willing to pay money for an app, and the mentality of the user is vastly different than those playing free games. There’s a larger commitment to the game, and they are willing to play it for longer. With this in mind, we were expecting that users would be willing to go farther in the game before dropping off, and have higher expectations of quality.
Connecting with the audience on an emotional level
Some users may not understand how much blood, sweat and tears we pour into our games. That’s not their job, they pay you money to enjoy an experience, not to empathize. However, if you can help them understand how important this game is to you, more users are willing to take the extra minute to help you succeed. Empathy is an extremely powerful tool if implemented correctly. We are emotional, social creatures, programmed to work together. There’s a reason we feel sad when our favorite character dies, or happy when they triumph. The best writers and actors (and game devs) make us feel connected to those characters.
Break the barrier between you and your player. Help them understand that you’re not a robot behind a screen, you have goals and dreams and aspirations. Invite them to be a part of the process.
If you can connect with your player, they’ll will WANT to help you. You just need to earn it from them.
Connecting through story
One of Disjoint’s biggest differentiators was our story - written entirely in rhyme and hand drawn in one, long continuous panel. This was an intentional (and grueling) decision to accommodate for the short play sessions that are common with mobile. Our initial play testing showed that very few people were willing to read any amount of text unless it was written in rhyme. After each world, players would be rewarded with a continuation of the comic, to help break up the pace of the game.
The story was a smash hit. Our play testing showed that nearly 75% of players were reading through the story, and 90% would slow down enough to view the pictures.
Asking for Reviews
We chose to add an “intermission” in the middle of our third chapter. Here is what players saw
There once was a team who dared to dream big,
And make a sweet game, about a small pig.
They were small, and part time! So free time was rare
But Disjoint was their love that they wanted to share.Have you liked it so far? We loved making this game
And if it does well we’ll do more of the same.But success of an app is based on reviews
And if you don’t get too many, it turns out you’re screwed.A five star review will give us a shot
It may not mean much, but to us it’s a lot.
Short, sweet, and to the point.
Results (After 6 months)
App Store Rating in Canada and US
Google Play Store
So people liked the game, but this isn't necessarily a reflection of a good review request system. The more interesting piece of data we gathered was the the percentage of users who decided to give us a review. We hooked in Google Analytics to measure how many people, when prompted, chose to review our game:
73.4% of our users chose to review the game, which nearly all of them gave us four or five stars. Of all the data, this was the one piece that really told us we were onto something. Just a little bit of upfront work goes a long way with the player and the results show.
But just remember, you'll never be able to please everyone :)
Note: We recently ported our game to Steam and found out that Steam does not allow you to solicit reviews in game.