Free App Launch Strategies

Free App Launch Strategies

Last week I did a talk at Chad Mureta’s App Empire event.  I’m attempting to secure the video recording to put it up here for you guys, so look out for that soon!

During the Q&A section someone asked me about launch strategy and not only was it a great question, it’s also something I haven’t touched on very much here.

On this post, we’re going to dive in and check out the launch of my game Adventure Man:

Now, before we get started, let’s clear the air about this game.  It’s honestly not very good ;)  Luckily, the reception HAS been good which is probably due to the unique pixel art style.  That’s popular right now and the artist did a fantastic job.

The gameplay is simple because it was the first game we released with my in-house game builder, Project Zero.  If you haven’t heard of it, this is the quick story:

About 6 months ago I was curious if we could create software to build simple games.  We code named it Project Zero (for needing zero programmers).  It worked great and we’ve released many games with it.  People on my email list saw a sneak peek of our new software, Project Mayhem.  That’s basically the big brother of Project Zero.  If you aren’t on my list, sign up and you’ll see cool behind-the-scenes stuff we’re working on like this.

Since we used this game builder, we were able to create this thing for cheap.  About $350 for the art and $0 for the programming.  Not bad!

I figured this would be a great game to feature on Game Launch, because it was VERY realistic.  This was far from a runaway hit… the launch numbers were average but the ROI was really high since the development cost was low.

The launch did pretty well… over 2,000 downloads on Day 1:

As you can see on the graph, typically you are going to get a large spike of downloads on the launch if you do it right.   This post is going to show you the two most successful strategies we use.

Adventure Man got around 2,000 downloads the first day, then it dipped down pretty quick.  Actually, this one dropped HARDER than most of my games do.  Usually it will slowly go down, but for reasons unknown, this game did not.  Maybe it’s because the gameplay was not the best and we didn’t get much viral love.

Let’s check out the numbers, then I will show you which launch plan we used.

In this game we just use Chartboost and Revmob to monetize.  We use Revmob on the main menu screen and then Chartboost on game over:


Chartboost has less action than Revmob since people see it less, but it’s still darn pretty good.  The game has been out for 2.5 months (we released it at the very end of September) and so far has made $481.20 on Chartboost alone.


Revmob has been crushing it on main menu with a $15 eCPM and a total of $1515.28.   This game came out on September 26, 2012… so it’s been on the market 79 days from when I created this post.

That means the game is making an average of $19.18 per day.  If this trend continues for a year it’s $7,000.70 per year.

Not bad on a $450 investment!

So here’s how I did it:

This is going to be the easiest launch strategy in the history of mankind.  It’s also the one I used for Adventure Man.


Have your name start with the letter “A“.  I know, it’s totally rediculous.  Almost to the point of making you angry at Apple.

We have done this many times and it actually works really well.  As you can see, we did this with Adventure Man.

This works because of what I consider a HUGE design flaw in the App Store.  Instead of sorting new releases by the actual release TIME they sort it by NAME… in alphabetical order:

The picture above is the Action category of Games on my iPhone.  Notice that the paid and free games listed are all in alphabetical order.

This can make a big difference on launch numbers when you are releasing a game in a large category like Action or Adventure.  Considering how hard app discovery is on iOS, I’m shocked they haven’t fixed this extremely easy loophole by showing apps based on time approved instead.

So do we change all of our apps to start with the letter “A”?  Absolutely not.  If this was our biggest strategy, then honestly I would not post it here out of fear it it would get saturated.  Also I think it’s a pretty BAD strategy as it completely affects the branding of the game and your company.

We do this probably once out of every 12 games we release and typically it’s because we already liked an “A” name.

What we typically do instead is…

Going paid to free is a pretty old school technique.  For the newbies out here, I will give you the quick breakdown.

There are TONS of sites that look for “price drops” in the app store:

As you can see around 30,300,000 results are listed in Google.  When you drop the price of your app, then it will show up on these sites and get a lot of traffic.

Here’s how you can use this to your advantage:

1. Put Revmob or Chartboost in your app.

2. Turn the ads off (you can do this in Revmob/Chartboost)

3. Submit it as a Paid Game

4. When it gets approved, go free

5. Turn ads back on

Again, this is a basic strategy.  Let me show you my little spin on this… and it actually happened by accident.

One thing that always bugged me about this strategy was the fact SOMEONE out there is going to buy your game for .99 and then you go free and turn on ads.  This guy is now going to have to play your game with ads in it for the rest of his life.

Not real cool.

So what I did was raised my price to $6.99 on release knowing that I would get ZERO sales (most likely) before I went free.

This worked great and I’ve done it a ton of times.  EVERY once in a while someone will buy the game at the high price, but it is extremely rare.

I was happy this worked out, but something else happend that was even cooler…

I started noticing I got HIGHER placement on these “price drop” sites because of the BIG price drop.  It’s more exciting for someone to see a $6.99-to-Free game than a $.99-to-Free.

I started testing many price points.  I tried $15.99, $9.99, $2.99, etc…  I found if you went too high, then it didin’t work.  I guess at that point it looked like something fishy was going on.

So here’s how you do it:

Make your price point from $4.99 to $8.99.  When you see your app listed in App Shopper with the higher price, then it’s time to go free:

App Shopper is the biggest price drop site like this and lots of the smaller guys just copy whatever they do.  If you get listed in their featured price drop section with a big drop, then expect to get a decent launch promotion going for free.

Talk soon,




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