Technorati’s Byron Gordon added, “Give plenty of time to review your app before it goes live, at minimum a month.”
Gordon added, “Promote the idea as opposed to the app. How is your app standing out from the rest? What larger trends is your app capitalizing on? What do you know about your audience? Are they hardcore, midcore, what other specific criteria can you specify? Will they finish the actual story to your game or will they quit half way through because they become bored or frustrated? How do you keep them engaged?”
I just came back from the recent AppsWorld held at Moscone Center West in San Francisco. I played judge on a big Indie Pitch panel. Developers came up one by one and had three minutes to pitch their latest mobile app. Some came very prepared with a polished product. Others were entirely ill-prepared and came with nothing but the best of intentions. One of the winners our panel of judges selected was Revel, a social networking picture game app that integrates photos taken from your mobile phone. Instantly, every judge got the concept. It’s social, uses your mobile camera, and facilitates socializing between groups of people in any number of urban environments, like bars or clubs. Everyone loved it and quickly understood the branding and marketing opportunities for this game.
The judges listened carefully to each developer wanting to appreciate their hard work. But the final product must answer important questions. Does your app capitalize on a new idea? Is it traveling down a road less traveled? Is there anything groundbreaking about it? Is the artwork original? Does it captivate? Does it have that “fun” factor making you want to share it with others? Does it have a story worth telling? Does it feel like it’s not just a complete waste of your time?
It’s 2014 and fresh out of the mobile app gate is (was) Flappy Bird
Candy Crush took the mobile world by storm in 2013. Its got the fun factor; it’s social; it provides a comfortable escape from your nauseating reality, and it carefully lures you into wanting to purchase more In-app extensions. Now, in 2014, pushing the mobile game envelope even further, we get (got)…Flappy Bird; a Nintendo-era looking piece of mobile graphic garbage that has surpassed anything its creator could have imagined. Flappy Bird was downloaded more than 50 million times from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. It received more than 600,000 reviews, helping it pile up four out of five star ratings. But questions were raised about the authenticity of some of those rankings due to bot activity.
Grinning all the way to the bank was Flappy Bird’s creator, Dong Nguyen, who in an interview let it be known he was hauling in a cool 50K a day from In-app ads. My goodness. I tell all of these mobile app developers that they need to focus on a mesmerizing or clever idea, something that captures the imagination, is fun, thoughtful, social, and what did Dong create? A game depicting a bird that can only fly if you keep tapping on your mobile phone constantly as you guide it through a maze of pipes.
I tried playing it for about two minutes. I couldn’t take it. I wanted to toss my iPhone into the garbage. Everything I told these dream-filled developers came back with the image of Dong laughing at my face. Flappy Bird is no more, however. Dong took the game down less than 24 hours ago.
Walk the fine line of game development
When it comes to mobile game virality, what did Dong’s success teach us? You don’t need great artwork. You don’t need a great idea. All you need is to know how to walk that fine line between being horribly obnoxious and addictive at the same time.
You see, Dong, I was both disgusted and in awe with what you created. Flappy Bird was a simple but difficult mobile game that unfortunately catered to the mundanity of everyday life. You made bank (while the game was still publicly available) and you threw back the droplets of insight shared with all those mobile app developers and their dreams of glory at AppsWorld.
Were you content with your preliminary success? Your final tweets (before you took Flappy Bird off the market) suggested otherwise.
I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.
I’m here to say you got lucky, Dong. You definitely proved there are always exceptions. The mobile millionaire might remain a myth but you are/were an example of reality. What did Flappy Bird’s success prove? It proves that you can never underestimate the desire for simplicity. And you can never underestimate the low barrier for entertainment mobile apps provide. Better yet, the rules for viral mobile gaming success may have just been forever changed because with Flappy Bird, who needed graphics? All you needed was annoying repetition.
Or maybe it’s all one big exercise in futility because there was no pattern here to replicate. If I were to go back and speak to every one of those mobile game app developers at AppsWorld, I would let them know that they should never give up on their dreams. If what matters to you is success at all costs than by all means keep pushing yourself to that finish line. If your game’s secret sauce is dependent on simplicity and poor quality graphics, then by all means continue.
You earned your success, Dong. Nothing to be ashamed about. You could not have known just how widely popular Flappy would become. I just hope no other developer tries a repeat performance. Games that set the bar for mobile gaming entertainment as low as you did do not deserve to be emulated.
Meanwhile, even it it no longer applies because Dong has taken down Flappy Bird from the iTunes store, this remains a favorite Flappy Birds hack of mine on YouTube.
Guess what? It’s the year of mobile. Yes, you thought it was the year of mobile back in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, but no, this time it’s really the year in mobile. In-App mobile spending reached 3.5 billion in 2013 and according to Juniper Research, In-App ad spend will reach almost 17 billion USD by 2018, up from 3.5 billion USD. Trumpeting the good news was this year’s San Francisco Mobile Media SummitKeynote speaker, Sean Muzzy, CEO, Neo@Ogilvy.
For Muzzy, mobile usage is skyrocketing so the question remains: when will mobile ad budgets catch up? Facebook is killing it with mobile advertising, now accounting for nearly half of its revenues. What can we learn from Facebook’s vaunted charge into mobile glory?
Publishers are adopting more of a feed or streaming style to their content
Twitter, LinkedIn, Buzzfeed, are all excellent examples
Desktop webpage to begin drifting away
Publishers creating more ad units native to their devices
Other pivotal mobile issues in 2014:
Privacy – Making sure opt-in protocols are in place
Location-based targeting: “We’re at the tip of the iceberg,” according to Muzzy. Technology such as Apple’s iBeacon will continue to push forward retailers ability to connect and communicate with their customers
Mobile banner ads – Predicts they won’t go extinct (just yet)
Add-ons are still where the money is
Biggest trends? More advertising is shifting from paid investments to investments that drive more impressions. Money will come from better targeting by spending less in broader channels, and be more targeted.
How to achieve mobile app enlightenment?
How can a brand add value to an existing customer experience without having to build a new app? The answer depends on whom you talk to. According to Erin Simino, SVP Director of Mobility, SMG, brands think they need to build a new mobile app when it just might be completely unnecessary. Why build an app that people may not use? 99% of the time another app already exists with a solid user base. Brands should consider how they can integrate into it. Reasons not to build a new mobile app?
Need to work hard at getting people to download it
Cost of customer acquisition becomes too expensive
Build a great app but then lack the resources to support it. Who cares?
Biggest mistake? Brands aren’t focused enough on the consumer experience. What is the utility of your mobile app? Great example: SitorSquat: Restroom finder, produced by Charmin, a Procter & Gamble brand. With this app, Charmin is helping the user find a public restroom. The brand is helping you solve a problem and not sending you ads. Banners are lazy advertising, according to Peter Dille, Tapjoy.
Stuart Meyler – Principal, Beeby Clark+Meyler emphasized the value proposition that any app should provide the user. Case in point: Post from Japan
In post 2011 earthquake Japan, this app was built for tourists allowing them to connect via mobile to the government network, and post their photos to Facebook. Every like received from their friends provided 3 extra minutes of free Internet, helping one to get around the crazy streets of Tokyo, for example.
TV data closing the loop
Anyone remember the Cuecat USB? Built back in 1998 by the now defunct Digital Convergence Corporation, VCs poured 185 million into it. The Cuecat was shipped to every subscriber of WIRED magazine. Designed to plug into your computer, it was a barcode reader that enabled a user to open a link to specific website by scanning a barcode. It bombed. Why? It was designed to solve a marketing problem, not a consumer problem. At the time, it was seen as the unholy marriage of digital and print. And print was scared shitless (rightly so) that digital was going to kill it.
How can marketers not replicate the Cuecat failure when mixing mobile and TV?
Understanding consumer behavior comes first before marketing, according to Rebecca Hawkins, Director of Mobile Strategy, 4D. Mobile spend is on the rise but still makes up only 1% of the total media pie. But mobile and TV have come together. Mobile video is sticky, and vendors like Netflix have taken advantage of it to boost its subscriber base by 11 million in 2013. Twitter has integrated with Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company. Drew Breunig, VP of Strategy, PlaceIQ, mentioned his agency has partnered with RenTrak, a media measurement and analytic service enabling users to measure TV viewership and study behavior models.
Mobile is targeted, interactive, becoming omnipresent and personal. Television still has massive reach, is immersive, event-based, and communal. If you have a solution that can connect mobile and TV, the only way to demonstrate business value is through insights and measurement. Understanding the user’s experience and their journey will assist marketers in determining the correct course of action.