Life beyond the app stores?


Here’s the deal.  
(It’s the usual spiel.)  
You’ve coded a game to bring fortune and fame,
But App Store and Play don’t know of its name:  
Installs are low, you’re not in the chart,
There’s no way to grow, it’s breaking your heart.

What more should you do?
UA plans to pursue?
You have to try, it’s got to be done,
Hoping for installs from everyone.  
But it’s very hard and doesn’t come cheap;
It might leave you scarred and will cost you your sleep.

Where else can you go?
New places for dough?
Can apps exist without their store?  
Yes! Not just survive, but thrive to their core.  
“How so?”, you ask - your spirit aglow,
“Let’s achieve this task and end my woe!” 


Here are 3 ideas to start with:

1.         Find other stores to work with.  This is really only for Android builds as it’s pretty much impossible for iOS apps to be distributed to the public outside of the App Store.  Of course, there’s the Amazon Kindle App Store (which requires some minor modifications to Android builds so as to ‘Kindle-ize’ (my term, not Amazon’s) them.  Then there are a few OEM (original equipment manufacturer - the companies that make the mobile devices, like Samsung or LG) stores, although efforts to make them truly successful have diminished somewhat of late.  But some mobile carriers in some countries are doing some interesting things.  For example, Orange France launched a mobile game store some time ago.  You may need to integrate a few lines of code so as to plug into Orange’s billing system, but once you do that, users will be able to make in-app purchases, etc as usual, except that instead of the money going to Google Play, Orange will add those costs directly onto their cellphone bills and then split the revenue with developers, sometimes on better terms than the traditional 70/30 split.

2.         Think beyond native iOS and Android apps.  If you can create the same (or a very similar) experience in HTML5, then all you need is the phone’s mobile browser to run your game.  In theory the same code should work across both Android and iOS devices although in practice some light OS (or even device) specific optimization might be necessary.  But once this is done, your game is free from the confines of the app stores - you can promote it however you want, and you should no longer be competing against the huge number of games in the app stores.  This approach is especially powerful when it comes to markets in which the app stores aren’t as strong or in developing countries where people really use their phone accounts in place of banks and credit cards.  Some of the bigger games brands have begun to dip their toes into this water:  Bandai Namco recently announced a partnership with our parent company, Docomo Digital, which includes the creation of an HTML5 service to distribute some of their games outside of the app stores via Docomo Digital’s network of mobile carrier partners.

3.         A third approach to take is with the OEMs again.  This time though, instead of working through their app stores, the real prize is in persuading them to install your game directly onto their devices.  So everyone who buys a new device will see your game sitting there on the home screen.  The business terms around these deals tend to be license deals, where you would get paid for each device sold on which your game has been pre-loaded.  The amount you will get for each copy of your game will be low; probably very low - but think of the volumes!  The Galaxy S7 device sold 13.3 million units in the first 6 months of 2016.  If your game had been pre-installed on that device, then 13.3 million multiplied by pretty much anything is an attractive level of income to receive.  And all without your having to incur any marketing costs, or needing to worry about ongoing engagement necessary to generate continuing revenue.  (Though of course, as a game developer with pride, you’ll always be worrying about engagement in your game.)

These are just a few ideas.  Coincidentally - and yes, this is shameless-plug time - we at Thumbspire, either directly, or through Docomo Digital, can advise you and assess whether your game might be a good candidate for one or more of these approaches.  Get in touch and let’s discuss!