Editor’s note: This article (and report) was written by the clever clogs at Home Games. You can read the original here.
The game goes through many phases of idea to run and test during the publish cycle. However, publishing a game and making it available in the app stores is only the first step in making it available to the broadest possible audience. For game developers, the app stores are the main point of contact with users and the place where users decide whether or not it is worth downloading a game. So to do everything in your favor, you need to make sure that your game is presented in the best possible way, that key features are displayed, and that the images and wording are fully tweaked. This is where App Store Optimization (ASO) comes into play.
Every element of the app store page has the power to encourage downloads of a game. Some time ago, the focus of App Store optimization was on copywriting – names and descriptions included keywords and were fully optimized to showcase the app’s attributes while getting first in search results. While this is still the case, there has been a lot of focus recently on optimizing the visual aspect of the app store page, and now items like icons and screenshots are prioritized when trying to get downloads on a game support financially. And that’s what we’ll deal with in this article.
Welcome to the app stores
Before we dive into the keys of image optimization for the app stores, let’s go through the four main elements and the assets needed:
- Icon: In addition to the app name, the icon is one of the first things a user sees when entering the app store and is essential for a good first impression. Make sure that the game’s icon is simple and recognizable, not only visually appealing, but also a strong reflection of what the game is about.
- Feature Graphics: This image appears everywhere the game is featured on the Google Play Store, so it should synthesize the entire gaming experience. If you have a video, that picture will also be used as a cover.
- Screenshots: They are also meant to convey the user experience. Screenshots offer the opportunity to present the user interface of an app and to convey its functions, capabilities and appearance. In gaming apps, they also offer the ability to view the game history. The first three screenshots are critical as the user is not allowed to scroll through the bottom of the pile.
- Video preview: Videos are not mandatory in Google’s app stores or Apple apps, but they are a very convincing way to present an app. The video preview of a game should clearly show the gameplay and follow the five second rule: the main message should be clearly worded in the first few seconds and the user should easily understand the content of the game in that time frame.
So when it comes to images, how do we deal with ASO for games? The first step is to have attractive, good quality visual assets, but when it comes to the App Store it is also important to take a very data-centric approach and measure the performance of the assets in detail. For this reason, it is important to create a good A / B testing plan before the games are released so that you have the assets ready and not lose momentum after launch.
The creation of an A / B test plan includes on the one hand a good knowledge of the product and its marketability and on the other hand a research process to know benchmarks and current app store trends and best practices. Both of these elements will primarily influence the design of the various images, ensuring that they highlight the game’s most iconic visual aspects and convey its main message in the most effective way.
An ASO research process involves benchmarking games of similar genres and themes, analyzing their visual style, and the way they present their narrative. For example, by looking at the icons, you can see visual patterns such as the most commonly used colors or the type of elements used (main characters, environments, logos, etc.). After you’ve drawn some conclusions, there are two possible paths: following trends or taking a differentiation approach. And this is where testing comes in handy. The research will provide ideas and directions for how to design the assets, but everything should be tested to know what actually works in the app stores.
Testing for victory
All of the above visual elements have the potential to improve app store performance and influence a game’s marketing success. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll go over some A / B testing experiments that were done for the Investment Run game for icons and screenshots.
In the first experiment, various symbols were tested to evaluate their performance compared to the original, more general symbol that was used at startup. In contrast, all of the variations contained characters and all did better than the original listing. Of them, the first and third variations focus on gameplay, one showing a successful path and the other an obstacle. Both did remarkably better than the first option.
The second experiment uses the possibility of arranging screenshots in different order, which leads to different narrative possibilities. In this case, three sequences were tested that focused on different aspects of the gameplay.
The first variation shows the character between the goals, which represent different investment opportunities, and emphasizes the possibility of making decisions that will affect the outcome of the game. In most of them, the character is at the same level of wealth that his skin shows.
The second variant shows the obstacles the character faces on his investment path. This variation focuses on the challenges and difficulties and turned out to be the least successful of all.
The third variation highlights progress by showing an improvement in the character situation, which can be seen in his growing pile of money and better clothing. This was the winning bet showing that decisions are an appealing element of the game when linked to character development.
These are just a few examples of the many items that can be tested in the app stores. For example, the screenshots shown above show different environments and show variety. Another test could isolate this visual component and test the same gameplay, but in different environments or with different skins. It comes down to running the tests and making decisions based on them.
The App Store Optimization is a mixture of research and testing. At Homa we have a dedicated creative department that actively works with product, user acquisition and data analysis teams to improve the game stores’ visibility and KPIs. An ASO specialist regularly monitors and analyzes a game’s in-store performance and provides an overview of the performance of similar games to be aware of the latest market trends and benchmarks. If you have a creative profile, don’t hesitate to contact our open positions in the creative department.