At the end of 2015 we sat together with the idea of creating an app. We – and of course you too – had heard the miracle about the guy who developed the original Flappy Bird -> Dong Ngyuen. Rumors said, he needed about a weekend for the development, got viral and made 50k$ a day out of it (read the story about him here).

Sounds easy –doesn’t it? We came together as a party of four. Two developers with enterprise development know how, one project lead and one creative guy with basic development and design skills. Should be sufficient.
Some of us had created small games (MS-DOS, Adobe Flash) before as student or even earlier.

At first, we discussed the idea. Business apps, utility apps or maybe a game? After a while a game sounded awesome.
A couple of talks later, a puzzle game based on insect characters was born. But how to implement a game as mobile app? Which frameworks to use, which game engine to integrate, how to test on iOS or Android devices and of course how to publish to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store?

We blocked us a full, long weekend to become rich and famous as app gold diggers.
As the weekend continued the questions increased and the tasks claimed a significant amount.
By the end of the first three days, nothing was ready. We were far away from the release of our first app and just light-years away from earning a cent.
It took us over three months (besides our regular jobs) to finally create our first app. During this development time some things we learned:

  • The Apple app publishing process is not easy to understand.
  • You need an Apple hardware to publish an app to the Apple App Store.
  • Performance is always an issue. It was – and it will be – and it’s important for all mobile devices.
  • There are dozens of gaming frameworks (engines, physics) on the market. You have to go deep into detail to find the right one (for our purposes it is Phaser at the moment).
  • Creating and designing assets (sprites, animation, sounds, music, menus…) is important and takes time, and should be on a professional level.
  • You need some tools (sprite tools, screen capture tools, source code repositories, communication tools,…) to move faster.
  • The setup of a whole development process is necessary.

Our game got live and we waited for the millions of downloads, social reactions, reviews and happy players.
(You can try it here: Apple | Android  – and yes 😉 we would do it completely different the next time…)

The important part while developing apps

Unhappy us – we had to learn some more aspects and lessons beside the implementation, the real important ones.
Finding a good game mode or app idea is one thing, implementation the next, but the really hard part is to find an audience for your app.
It’s like founding a rock band. There are millions of others and they dream the same dream of getting into the charts with at least a one hit wonder.
Almost impossible to get any reaction. Almost impossible to be found within the stores.
Of course we asked our friends and relatives to download, test and share. But even not all of them were reached by our social calls. We tried to find more ways to market our game:

  • Searched relevant keywords and created more app descriptions and screenshots of our app – took hours of work without any relevant outcome.
  • Created a website – didn’t work without SEO and an existing community.
  • Created profiles on all major social networks (and had to learn how to use them) – hard to gain followers.
  • Tried to reach bloggers, youtubers and other online media – they all wanted to get paid for their help, the outcome or positive effect was uncertain.
  • Did some Facebook advertising – we had some like – but almost no downloads.
  • Created competitions to win T-Shirts – didn’t get enough reactions either.
  • Printed our logo on shirts and run marathons – nice personal experience, but no more downloads.
  • And many things more…

At the end? We were not successful in the way of earning real money or gain a huge number of downloads with our first game. We didn’t become app millionaires.
To be honest we earned about 10$ through some in app advertising. Nothing compared to the hardware, developer licenses and the other money we spent.
But this wasn’t so important to us anymore as our view and understanding changed. We were fascinated about the whole processes behind the app industry. Success for us transformed to understand the mechanisms and to find ways and ideas to improve them. We started to implement our own tools and scripts to automate our build processes (Release Notes Translate).

Our tips and conclusion how to start – and how we should have started


In our next developer life, we try it differently:

  • Start with something small. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
    We started to ambitious. This made it hard to handle and the progress was frustratingly slow.
  • Start to build your communication platform
    Our team started to work together, but as the project took more and more time, we started to work remote. We set up a ticket system, a repository and Slack for communication, storage and documentation. This made it much easier to communicate and to track our tasks.
  • Build up a small website and attach social channels
    App publishing goes with a website and all the social channels attached. Set up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a minimum and publish your content in all channels. Learn the specialties of each channel, hashtags, no hashtags and so on…
    Try to automate the publishing to save some time but keep the differences of each platform in mind.
  • Be active in corresponding forums and platforms
    Gaming forums for example are a good start to grow your community. Participate, help and ask for feedback for your game. The best place to find other enthusiasts.
  • Try continually grow your community and followers
    Provide updates about your app project. Follow and actively ask others to follow you. Create small competitions with some giveaways or promo codes, show early versions, pictures of your work.
  • Create a press kit with a good description and nice pictures
    Send your press kit to press, media and blogs. Make them downloadable on your website or provide a Dropbox or similar.
  • Don’t underestimate the effort
    Significant effort is necessary for implementation but especially for the marketing of an app idea.
    Include the marketing time (ASO, SEO) in your calculations. It requires almost the same time than the development. In a later phase it’s all about your app marketing.
  • Do your App Store Optimization (ASO)
    Create good texts, include your keywords, do a proper keyword research. Cut ingame videos and create good screenshots. The best approach is, if you do this for all languages to address the widest audience. Localize your store descriptions (try our service) and your game.

The ideas above are in our opinion some of the most important ones, of course there are a lot of good checklists and guidelines around to give you some more ideas what to do.
Give it a try! Much success and let us know about your app project.

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