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Ask HN: My game was just featured in the Windows 8 app store, what do I do next?
76 points by aschearer 410 days ago | comments
I'm a longtime lurker of these forums and after reading your stories for years I took the plunge and started a company to focus on making indie games. It's just me working my tail off and trying to create something original and fun. So far I’ve shipped two games and have a third one on the way.

The reality is I'm an engineer at heart and terrible at marketing. Just when I was starting to give up hope on my first game Adlib (http://spottedzebrasoftware.com/app/adlib) I found it was going to be featured in the Windows 8 app store! Now that it's happening I want to try to do everything I can to make hay while the sun is shining. I truly believe in this game and know from a previous version that its fans love it.

From those of you who have been down this road can you give me some tips on how I can best take advantage of this event? In particular, what advice do you have in order to reach new customers?

Thanks and looking forward to your feedback, Alex



far33d 410 days ago | link

If you want to make money in games and reach a large audience you absolutely, positively need to be on iOS, then Android before you are on Win8. According to your bio, you used to work @ MSFT so I understand the choice of platform but you want to keep making games, right?

I would take a close look at your retention rates and find where people are dropping out of the game and use that information to make the best iOS version possible.

It looks like a great game and will translate well to touch interfaces. Do it.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

iOS and Android may be the bigger platforms for now, but probably not for long. Windows is huge, around 90% of the PCs and laptops around the world runs it. I think there will be over a billion devices running Windows 8/RT in a few years.

Developing for Windows 8 now is really smart: there are only 43.000 apps at the moment, meaning that there is very little competition. If you start building a Windows 8 now, you are a huge leap ahead of the competition.

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hdivider 410 days ago | link

"there are only 43.000 apps at the moment, meaning that there is very little competition"

The numbers get even more interesting when you move into some specific subcategories: according to my version (UK) of the Windows Store, there are currently ~230 action games, ~550 arcade games, ~180 card games, ~80 shooter games and ~60 simulation games on it.

I doubt the numbers for the US and other versions of the store are very different, since basically nobody will restrict themselves to only the UK market if the game is already in English.

Now, I don't know any statistics on how strongly users depend on using subcategories to find games, but I know that's what I'd do if I wanted to find an interesting game.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

Let me get you the statistics for the US market:

Education 3811

Entertainment 3587

Photo 562

Music & Video 1012

Health & Fitness 867

Security 134

Tools 2387

Government 111

Shopping 179

Games 3657

Lifestyle 1292

Food & Dining 754

Business 708

Travel 1050

Social 523

Finance 360

Productivity 1154

Sports 816

News & Weather 1598

Books & Reference 3158

As you can see there are only 111 'government' apps for example. Since the list of 'top x apps' only contains 100 entries, you're pretty much guaranteed to be in the top 100 of government apps when you make one (it can be anything, an app for a political party, an app for polls, etc.). The same goes for 'shopping' and 'security' (and a little bit for finance, which has 360 apps).

Edit: here are the stats for the different 'games' subcategories:

Action 183

Adventure 72

Arcade 512

Card 167

Casino 73

Family 258

Kids 390

Music 27

Puzzle 1269

Racing 33

Role playing 48

Shooter 92

Simulation 54

Sports 71

Strategy 203

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hdivider 410 days ago | link

Very interesting, thanks. =)

I'm betting there will be a fairly sharp increase in the daily submission rate for games once Unity3D makes deployment to the Windows Store available for everyone. According to the Unity guys, they currently have 'no information' on when that will happen, but since some of their selected partners already have this option I'm guessing it'll be a matter of just a few months or so.

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Avalaxy you basically summed up my thoughts behind choosing Windows 8 to start. Of course I get strange looks whenever I tell other developers what I'm doing. If you are interested you can read my full thoughts complete with some numbers: http://spottedzebrasoftware.com/blog/ignore-windows-8-at-you...

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

It may not come as a surprise, but I am currently interning @ Microsoft (Netherlands), doing research into the Windows Store vs the competition (Play Store, Apple App Store) to find out where the opportunities for developers/marketeers/entrepreneur in the Windows Store lie. I've got some interesting numbers, there are more opportunities than one might think.

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wsc981 410 days ago | link

I agree Windows is an interesting target. Best thing is to target multiple platforms at the same time though. Many people might think this is a lot of work, but I don't think this is necessarily true.

I've recently began rewriting our framework to Mono / C# and so far it's been a good experience. From what I've read I should be able to have at least 50% shared code across platforms, but some type of apps can perform even better. Games written with MonoGame (open-source version of Microsoft's XNA framework) might be able to share over 90% of the code between iOS / Android / Windows Phone apps. Also the Ubuntu phone will be a possible target in the coming year.

So yeah, I agree Windows is an interesting target, but you don't want to miss out on the other markets. Mono is the best solution to have a performant app for most platforms while at the same time offering a native UI experience.

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

I used MonoGame for Adlib and Petunk. For Windows 8 and Windows 7 the games share almost all of their code. I would estimate 90%. The only differences are persistence, sharing, that sort of thing. That said, it gets trickier when you want to create complex user interfaces or support different resolutions. In fact for my latest game I've switched to XAML completely due to those problems.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to follow the MVC or MVVM (my preference) pattern and keep all of your game logic in a portable class library. This will give you the flexibility to target new platforms relatively quickly in my experience.

I've made a number of solutions to common problems I ran into which run on Windows 8 and 7 (and potentially other platforms) available if you're interested. Check it out here:

https://bitbucket.org/spottedzebra/pasta

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underwater 410 days ago | link

Here's a freebie: fix sort by rating. Currently the Windows store does a simple average. This means all apps with a single self-awarded five star rating dominate the rankings.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

Sorry, my previous post may not be clear. I'm doing research into the store as in 'the available apps in the store, what kind of apps are popular, etc.', not the store itself :)

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underwater 409 days ago | link

This pretty much confirms my hypothesis that Microsoft employees just don't use and/or care about their own products.

The product is undeniably broken, and you work on that product? Aren't you at all concerned about having the problem fixed, even if it is not directly under your control?

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Avalaxy 408 days ago | link

Wait, what? That is one very strange conclusion. I didn't apply for a programming internship at Microsoft, it's a market research internship. I don't even have access to the team that developed the Windows Store... So no, I don't work on that product.

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lifeisstillgood 410 days ago | link

Interesting - can any statistician point to the "proper" way to weight such rankings?

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aaronharnly 410 days ago | link

This post describes an approach:

http://www.evanmiller.org/how-not-to-sort-by-average-rating....

and this little page demonstrates an adaptation to a 5-star rating system:

http://www.goproblems.com/test/wilson/wilson.php?v1=0&v2...

Randall Munroe gave a user-oriented explanation of the system here:

http://blog.reddit.com/2009/10/reddits-new-comment-sorting-s...

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synx508 410 days ago | link

These PCs and laptops are the very same machines that "apps" users are deciding they just don't need any more. Full desktop applications for Windows aren't going to go away, but as I see it they're not going to be ported to "So modern we can't agree a sensible consumer-facing name for it" rapidly, either.

I agree that it's a good place to be selling right now, as the competition is sparse and largely terrible. There are a lot of holes waiting to be filled. I don't think it's going to grow the way you seem to be predicting.

Computers are different now.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

Windows Store apps don't just run on PCs, they also run on tablets (and with a few small modifications on Windows Phones).

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JohnTHaller 410 days ago | link

Most of my developer friends have switched from iOS first to Android first due to its wider market share. This is for lower-priced apps and free-to-play apps as you get a wider audience on Android. For premium apps, they develop for iOS first as iOS users have a bit more disposable income on average.

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outside1234 410 days ago | link

iOS and Android are bigger right now but:

1. Its very hard to get any mindshare among 300k apps so it makes sense to launch on the platform in my mind where you can get the most traction, which seems like Window 8 right now (if f(eyeballs / apps) is a good model for this). 2. Windows is bigger than them both. I know that isn't a popular fact on HN but its pretty clear that like it or not the market is going to shift to Windows 8 slowly but surely.

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Thanks for the feedback far33d. It's always been my plan to reach other platforms. However since I am a one-person company with no marketing budget I aimed for Windows 8 to start as I thought it would be a relatively less crowded marketplace where I might benefit from publicity associated with its launch.

Right now I am wrapping up a third game (think multiplayer Adlib) also for Windows 8, but once that project is complete I will have to re-evaluate what platform to target. To date the stated advantages of Windows 8 have not worked in my favor. I'm still inclined to target emerging platforms (Occulus Rift, OUYA, etc.) but it's something I am quite torn on. Still this is helpful food for thought.

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csense 410 days ago | link

As a developer I avoid iOS because they are incredibly unfriendly.

For example, you have to pay lots of money for the SDK and app submission, they have incredibly restrictive terms on what is acceptable, and they have a reputation for randomly yanking apps with no explanation other than "you violated our policies" (and no refund of the application fee).

There's no recourse because non-jailbroken phones can't download from anywhere but the official app store.

ios users may be a good-sized market full of big spenders, but I personally find them unattractive due to the outright hostility of Apple toward developers.

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ig1 410 days ago | link

A lot of money ? - access to the iOS SDK and App Store is a $100 which is a trivial amount given that an average iOS contractors can bill $100/hour.

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twerquie 410 days ago | link

It costs roughly the same amount ($50 for an individual, $100 for a company) to purchase a developer license that can submit apps to the Windows 8 Store. Furthermore, the Windows Store also has restrictive terms on what is acceptable, and does not issue refunds for developer accounts when your apps don't make the cut.

You cannot install Windows 8 metro / modern UI apps from anywhere but the Windows Store without unlocking the device with a developer account.

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n9com 410 days ago | link

Featuring doesn't really have a big impact - take it from someone who has had two apps featured on the w8 store.

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drucken 410 days ago | link

That's a nice concept! Do you do languages other than English? Or is there some API non-English developers or linguists can add new languages or specific knowledge domains?

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Thanks drucken! Right now the game is only available in English. For my next game (think Adlib with multiplayer) I plan to support others. Localizing the app is a challenge of course, and finding dictionaries is also a problem, but the most difficult part will be dealing with the occurrence of words in a given language. Given the game finds and collects the words automatically another language could throw off the balance.

I really like the idea of crowdsourcing some of the localization via an API or even a simple WIKI. Just one more thing to add to the never ending list...

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meaty 410 days ago | link

You might be lucky enough to break even if you charge for your app. Don't expect miracles from the win 8 app store.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

He is looking for advice, not for trolls.

My advice: make sure you have compelling logos (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh84629...), screenshots and a short description. Also have a trial of the app.

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meaty 410 days ago | link

This is advice. We sold 9 apps at £2.49 each.

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Hi meaty, I take your point. So far my experiences have lead me to believe that going freemium is the way to go for the Windows 8 Store, so I hear what you're saying. That being said, I made Adlib for-pay (with a trial) because it was simplest and I wanted to KISS. For my next project I will be going freemium.

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

Just to share the other side of the coin: a dutch guy I know built a sudoku game for Windows 8. It's a free app and has only 1 ad. He makes more than €100/day with it. Not bad imho :)

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lifeisstillgood 410 days ago | link

I like the idea that windows app store is the only virgin territory left and you can get in early and win. Unfortunately I suspect this is not true. Even if win8 takes off, how long before AngryBirds-win8 appears?

I would recommend avoiding the serial-games, single sales model if at all possible and try and get a recurring revenue stream and frequent releases 1. Games are hard, and the 800lb gorillas harder still

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

In fact, Angry Birds is already on the Windows 8 Store! You're correct insofar as Microsoft has worked hard to get some of the major titles onto the platform. I also appreciate your advice to move off of what you call the "serial-games" model. Ultimately I would like to reach a point with my game(s) where I can offer it as a service to my players, but first I have to find a market fit...

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useful 410 days ago | link

I like the concept. Combining tetris and word finding is a neat gameplay mechanic.

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Thanks useful. If I may say, I think it's a really unique and fun word game!

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sycren 410 days ago | link

Interesting games, what did you make them with?

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

I made the games using MonoGame and XNA. Overall it was a very pleasant experience and let me make the games available for Windows 7 (and older) as well basically for free.

You can hear me blab about some of my process on Channel 9: http://channel9.msdn.com/posts/From-XNA-game-to-Windows-8

You can download the source code for a project running on Windows 7 & 8 from GitHub: https://github.com/aschearer/LudumDare24

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orangethirty 410 days ago | link

How much are you charging for it?

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joelhaasnoot 410 days ago | link

This is a good question that remains unanswered on your website till I click through to actually buy it. Pleases list prices!

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

That's a fair point, because prices vary per platform I chose not to list them on the site directly. I would like to say I will A/B test to find the optimal setup, but the reality is I get very little traffic to my site... so barring data what does your intuition tell you? Show different prices for each platform or hide prices?

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Avalaxy 410 days ago | link

His app costs €1,19 / $1.50

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wilfra 410 days ago | link

I'd spend some time learning how to hack the press and try to get some free publicity.

This is a good place to start:

http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/80121/How-To-Get-Media-...

You want to give them a pre-packaged story and from a quick look around your site, you appear to have one (ex-MSFT guy who moved to Amsterdam, built an awesome game and it's now featured in the app store - that's a story).

You might consider reaching out to the Microsoft PR department. They want as much good publicity for the app store as they can get - so they might be willing to put some PR muscle behind you and your game.

My background is in marketing (and I lived in Amsterdam for a year haha) feel free to shoot me an email if you run out of ideas. Good luck!

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aschearer 410 days ago | link

Thanks for the advice, Wilfra. I'm still reading through the link but I'm sure it will prove helpful. Figuring out how to pitch the correct story is a good point. I think one problem I suffer from is sharing my story and recognizing it might be of interest to others. I mean I live my life everyday, hardly newsworthy!

Will definitely try to reach out to Microsoft too, great idea.

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alexanderRohde 410 days ago | link

I feel this particular post (as a lot of HN) follows a pattern of the "humblebrag." Are people whose games are featured in windows 8 store really the ones who need advice, or is this just basically a way to post an HN that says "My Game was featured, here's a link" with some facade relevance?

Other example titles of shameless self promotion guised as useful information migth be "What not do with your first million" or "What life is REALLY like once your startup makes it" or anything else which trades a worthless anecdote for attention.

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hluska 410 days ago | link

I'd argue that anyone with the technical ability to get a game featured, yet without the experience to capitalize on that exposure needs a whole lot of advice. And frankly, I'm glad that HN is here because this 'worthless anecdote' taught me:

- there are only 43,000 apps in the Windows 8 store. Of those, only ~ 3,600 are games. Despite these numbers, one particular developer only sold nine apps for a total of about twenty pounds.

- how not to advocate for a platform. Or, how to genuinely annoy people while trying to persuade them to do what you want.

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