Refocusing a post launch title paid off for Binary Dawn, an independent game studio in St John's, Newfoundland.
WordUs2 was released initially as a word puzzle game for the iOS in November 2010 to some initial interest, then sales dropped into obscurity on the iTunes charts. Some ingenuity in repositioning the title reversed their fortunes, with the now family title receiving an honorable mention on the best app ever awards 2010 word game category, and accolades from parents and linguists alike.
I sat down recently with one of Binary Dawn's founders' Roddie Kieley and their Marketing representative Amy Martin to talk about how they reversed WordUs2's trajectory.
Amy: "We [originally] started out with a mass awareness campaign. [We contacted] Touch Arcade, 148 Apps, and other major game review sites, and these guys are swamped with press releases - it's just the way that it is. Our philosophy behind this [strategy] was that a reviewer/feature on one of these sites can really move the needle in terms of sales and peak the interest of Apple at the same time.
We didn't see a lot of success with that. [So when] we launched and we saw some strong sales the first two or three days on the App Store, then we nosed dived off the radar. [Not becoming dishearten] we continued away, building a media list of sites [to contact] - but for us it was a conundrum from the beginning. We quickly found that out the people that are writing reviews were more often male, college students, or more hardcore gamers in their early twenties, and they're weren't really the audience for this product. Even the game review sites, which are written by passionate gamers - which is cool, but again our title doesn't really speak to them."
Roddie: "WordUs1, the palm pilot game which our title is based on, was basically a 75% female audience in the 35 to 55 age segment. We weren't reaching them."
Amy: "So after our mass awareness push, when then tried to figure out how to reach out to our target audience. We wanted to reach this literary set, and I came across a list on twitter actually, of the people who were the grammar/language focused people. These were university professors, New York Times writers, dictionary editors. I sent them all free demo codes, asking them to try this game out on their own phone, not asking for a review, just here's an app, play it for the weekend, let us know if you like it or whatever. I think with GrammarGirl, I think we hit at the right time. She said 'oh thanks, I'll use this as a give away for a National Grammar Day promotion which I have coming up in a few weeks'. So I wrote her back, thanked her, and gave her a few more copies. The best part was that she began playing it about a week before, and she started talking it up. That was great, she tweeted out to her 130,000+ followers about our game. Some of her followers in turn tweeted or blogged about WordUs2, and things spiraled up from there. I think that this was a different slant on promotion of an iOS app, a little outside the normal channel, but for a niche title, and a niche audience for WordUs2 it really got the word out."
Changing the App Store categorization of the game, and re-targeting their media awareness campaign wasn't the only front they addressed. Some modifications to the game were pushed out as updates as well during this refocusing phase.
Roddie: "We knew from our early feedback and reviews that WordUs2 had some intrinsic educational value beyond just entertainment".
He then began to tell me about some of the revisions they began making to WordUs2. For example, adding three and four letter word dictionary support in order to make the game more friendly to younger players. These changes brought more positive reviews from home education practitioners and parents.
Roddie: "The move from being a puzzle game to a family game was a very conscious move, and I feel it really worked out for the better".