6 min read
Featured Blog

Principles to adopt on the way to a Featured App

Delivering quality content that stands out from the crowd in the App Store or other similar platforms is quite a challenge. The creative process involved in getting from a “really cool idea” to the final release of the app has to be managed effectively.

When we founded Picnic Hippo and started to ambitiously work on our first title, Bucketz, we immediately noticed that even if you have the best people on the planet working with you, it’s not easy to achieve mainstream appeal if you don’t take the time to layout some ground rules. 

Here is a brief list of the principles we have committed to on our one and a half year journey leading up to the release of Bucketz - which went from being a totally unknown title, to an Apple-featured game around the world in App Store:

1. Listen to everyone, they are hilarious
When you first venture into App Store space, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people willing to dispense wisdom beyond their years. They’ll whip out a plethora of slightly relevant statistics at you faster than the speed of gossip. The thing is, what worked for them may not work for you.

If you are putting the finishing touches on a game about a daffodil eating dinosaurs for revenge then it may be a good idea to duck the avalanche of advice coming your way from a guy that makes accounting apps for a living.

Bottom line, don’t be led down the safe path of conformity.

2. Not all mobile games are played on a toilet seat
We’ve heard from our friends in the industry that you should design a mobile game for use in the John. For starters, it’s not healthy; your legs might feel like  they are someone else’s for a while after a long gaming session. If you are trying to dumb down your application because you think it will only be used in a bathroom, then it probably will be. 

Make your app’s content as rich as you like – but also consider making some of the gameplay or features optional. Do not sacrifice it all for the limited few who have betrayed age old customs and substituted handhelds for magazines. Today, mobile devices usually travel with their owners. They can be -and in fact are- used everywhere. 

3. Before starting, appear to be doing nothing for quite a long time
Think hard, brainstorm, dream or have nightmares about the application you want to create. Play it in your mind, sketch it, plan it but DO NOT kick off any other work process before you know exactly what you want your end product to be like. Always remember to visualize instead of making the creative team do it 200 times over. Archers in war movies “hold” so long not because they have limited arrows but a “literal” deadline rushing towards them and so do you… Make your shots count… 

4. Make sure your grandma can use your application
You may have reserved your top spot in Game Center with a million plus points but remember if you want widespread appeal, three generations in a single household may need to be able to play your game. 

Always test your app with children, soccer moms and grandma while she’s over your house for a 4 season True Blood marathon before proclaiming in your app description that “it’s easy to pick up but difficult to master.” 

Oh, and actually please don’t use this phrase ever in your description, the last quarter million that did may be cumulatively pissed. 

5. Listen to your heart but also to the piggy bank that holds your life savings
It may have started sounding hollow while you were taking your time creating your app. App creation is quite costly especially if you are going for a triple A production. You don’t need to put in all the features that your heart desires at once, in version 1.0. Like in roulette, if you don’t know when to stop adding more chips to the table, you may be surprised at your latent and perfectly serviceable hitchhiking skills on the way home…

6. Join the collective
Network the brain power and creativity of your entire team. Your skull may be having a hard time housing a bulging brain running havoc with overly creative ideas but do not presume you have all the best solutions. Always share them with colleagues working in vastly different areas for their input, chances are coughing at the screen may not be the best solution to activate an in game power-up.

7. Don’t play the same tune with different lyrics
Switching angry animals with heated boulders while keeping the CTRL+C & V’ed gameplay mechanics exactly as it is may sadly be the order of the day. However the App Store doesn’t put any restrictions on your creativity and neither should you.

Lois Lane was not riding on superman like he was a donkey on their first flight together, just barely touching his fingers. It’s ok to pay homage to other great games on the market with some gameplay elements while vastly improving upon the rest. Better yet if you can, depart altogether from main popular concepts and create your own. There are still so many unexplored areas in the mobile market and customers respect brand new concepts.  

8. Enjoy yourself
Creating a successful app is very similar to cracking a good joke. If you know it’s funny and love it yourself even before blurting it out to your friends then you’re on the right track to receiving quite a few genuine laughs. 

Make apps that you feel good about, stuff that you yourself keep getting pulled back into even after work hours, in your bathroom for example.  

Enjoy every moment of the process of creating apps and never get stressed about it. Think about all the people that are working in assembly lines in cramped factories around the world. You have a really cool and fun job. Don’t think about surf instructors, though, their job is way cooler than you can possibly imagine.

9. Treat bugs like pets
Accept it, they will never go away entirely. Like pets, bugs like to hide and come out to play at the most unfortunate moments. Remember that bugs are actually small segments of code that are actually trying to please you by doing exactly what you told them to do. 

Make a list of them rather than running to your programmers every time you spot one. Programmers are genetically bred to respond badly to bug reports thrown at them in short intervals and will do whatever is necessary to exact revenge on you when you least expect it.

10. Put make up on if you want to attract attention at the club scene

The club being the App Store with millions of potential customers. Figuratively speaking, the same shirt you wore for the last five months and a hairdo in wild disarray will not exactly cut it.

Perfect your graphic design, the code working in the background, the audiovisual elements, gameplay, everything before you step out. Settling for results that are  “good enough” or “satisficing” will ensure you get the placement and attention you deserve. Which is approximately between “None” and “Neglible.” 

In Picnic Hippo, these are the main principles we have settled for after countless debates on establishing our working guidelines. The biggest contender to these 10 pillars of conduct was a much more simpler one though:

“Let’s just shut up and make some awesome games!”

But we still went with these ten guidelines, and you should consider them too!

Latest Jobs


Playa Vista, California
Audio Engineer

Digital Extremes

London, Ontario, Canada
Communications Director

High Moon Studios

Carlsbad, California
Senior Producer

Build a Rocket Boy Games

Edinburgh, Scotland
Lead UI Programmer
More Jobs   


Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter


Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more