The Way Home is an arcade casual game with a time traveling story on top developed by moWOW. The story is inspired by the Quantum Leap TV series. The game was released on December 18, 2013 for iOS(iPhone, iPad, iPod).
This is a “short” postmortem of the game's light launch. We set out to make the game in one month. Yeah, that never happened. But that is a different kind of post mortem and we are not there yet.
By “light” we mean not all the content and some features and effects were not yet integrated. What we did have was a finished and (to a certain level) polished game.
Right, the launch. We wanted to publish exactly before the Christmas freeze. Crazy right? Chances of gaining visibility close to zero for small indie devs with no budget for advertising. It’s the time when all the big publishers pump money in install campaigns to keep their ranks or even climb up the charts. CPI’s go from $1-2 to $6 or more. So why Christmas?
Well, we did not want to do a main marketing launch for the first version of the game. However, we did want people to install and play the game so that we found out what our players like, what works and what not. So we thought Christmas would be as good a time as any other.
1. What went right:
We got approved on time. We were actually lucky. We submitted in the first week of December. We did do a fair amount of testing but as we found out after launch, not enough. However, the game passed review and the game went live on the 18th Dec.
As you know, a new game gets into the new game lists, either the simple ones or the featured ones. We did not get into the main page featured lists, but we did make it on the category ones. Now, here’s the bonus. Since the Apple App Store was locked during 20-27 December, we stayed in those lists the whole week.
The Story and Theme. While the gameplay is fun, it is nothing that will keep you up at night (...yet :P). However, the theme and time traveling story gives us a lot of possibilities to extend the game and most importantly, gave us something to talk about with anyone interested. Also, it helps if the game is original and players don’t start describing or comparing your game as a clone of X or Y.
Good keywords and title? We focused on theme keywords versus game genre keywords. So, we’re not the first for casual/arcade/adventure, but we do show up pretty high on time travel and we are the first for Quantum Leap[link]. We’ll see how that will help with discoverability.
Lovely icon. Just look at it. Ain’t she a beauty? That is the first thing next to the title that players see. And we are happy with ours.
The game is free. Free to play actually. That removes the price barrier for players who want to download, and through IAPs players can have the full experience and bonus elements. In The Way Home, the first few levels are there for learning, retention and increasing engagement, not necessarily earning money.
TouchArcade Forums. We started talking relatively early about the game. However, the strongest and best response was from the TouchArcade forum members. Not only did we have a lot of people interested about the game, we also received suggestions and feedback. This also helped us get on the first page of the Hot Apps list on TouchArcade.com. We were also lucky to have a few senior members recommend and say nice things about the game.
Review contest on Touch Arcade Forums. We really wanted to know what players thought about the game but also get some reviews and ratings for the game in the US. Trust me when I say that any review is better than no review and it also adds to discoverability. In total, we got about 25 reviews. We asked for honest reviews and we were happy that we got them(some helped us spot out bugs or glitches).
AppHookup subreddit. Once the game was live, we mentioned it on AppHookup. We are pretty sure that helped with the downloads.
2. What went wrong:
Not thoroughly tested. We wanted to submit in time for the “frozen iTunes week”. So some tiny details did not get teste. Like, for example, the fact that Game Center using APIs for iOS 7 crashes on anything not iOS 7. Needless to say, a lot of people gave their ratings and reviews accordingly.
No splash image screenshot. It helps for the first screenshot to be sexy, fun, attractive. That is why most games now don’t show you a screenshot but a sort of... wallpaper. Well, we did not have time to make the wallpaper.
Theme not so helpful for marketing... yet. Me and Tudor loved to watch Quantum Leap and we thought that making a game with a similar time traveling story would give us a more accessible audience. Well, the niche is a lot smaller than we expected. However, we see a growing interest from people passionate about history and great moments and people from the past. We also saw this from the suggestions for stories received.
Players are not inviting their friends. We built the game with a “friendly to pay” concept in mind. What that means is that certain things in the game you can only obtain by inviting others. This was meant to compensate for us not having advertising + it was meant to ensure the game a longer life in terms of player base. However, the game is not generating enough interest and need to get the player to the point of inviting.
3. The results:
- We got listed under the selected categories in the free games list for one week
- We managed to get a little over 1400 downloads in the first 2 weeks after launch with no budget and in full Christmas Holiday craze. Probably would have been higher had we launched in any other week.
- We managed to get 25 reviews on the US Appstore.
- We were looking to find out what players liked and what not. We think we got our answer and we’ll know for sure when we roll out the next updates.
4. What next?
Right now, we have new content ready. However, few people have reached the last levels (12 out of 1425 downloads). Also, the power-ups don’t seem to be attractive enough and useful for the players. So we have our work cut out for us.
The initial plan was to have the light launch and if everything is up to our expectations, have the main launch with all the content and extra levels. However, the data changes things a bit. In short, no main launch for now.
We hope this information is useful or at least offers a bit of insight. Any questions and feedback is welcome and we invite you to try out the game and tell us what you think!
P.S. If you fancy time traveling, play the game.