1 big thing went wrong when launching our App – Dain Hedgpeth of Skater
1 big thing went wrong when launching our App – Dain Hedgpeth of Skater
In this podcast series we ask experienced Appreneurs for one success story and one fail. In this episode of the Mobile Engagement Podcast Dain Hedgpeth talks about the launch of Skater App – this App has these accolades:
- Nominee Best Mobile Game – 2015 IGN Black Beta Select Awards
- Nominee Best Sports Game – 2015 Pocket Gamer Awards
- “Skater’s innovative, creative controls are a diamond.” – 148Apps
- “Skater’s controls feel like they’re built from the ground up for touch, and are gratifyingly elegant.” – IGN
We score all out interview anecdotes based on 3 axes of: acquisition, UX and retention. Dain’s journey to launch, building a story around legendary skate locations in the game, getting an awesome video to support the launch and the challenges he faced when the App failed at launch all focus on Acquisition and User Experience.
Let us know on our Twitter account how you score it.
Dain experienced a fail of their App that launched that killed the sales momentum they could have built on. There is no real lesson here other than recognize there are many, many elements to a hard launch checklist. Many Apps mitigate this by soft launch but in gaming its “no guts, no glory”.
Other great tips from Dain:
- When launching look at the medias who are already invested in the sector your Action game is targeting.
- Go for the best connectors and influencers in that space.
- Great things in your App design “multiply” rather than “add” – you can beat competition if you combine enough great elements in early App experience
- The Skater App has skate locations that are legendary in the Skater community – this is all part of telling the story of your App
David: Gidday. It’s David from StreetHawk. And I’m here with Dain Hedgpeth. And Dain has had a game which is a Skater game. And basically, he’s been nominated for the 2015 IGN Black Beta Awards, 2015 Pocket Gamer Awards. And he’s done really well with it. So Dain, how are you?
Dain: I’m great. Thanks very much for having me on, David. And yeah, excited to be talking about this thing post-launch and post all the cool things that have happened.
David: [laughter] Because now, I’ve got something to talk about.
Dain: Yeah, yeah. There’s some real, tangible things that have happened. Some good, some bad, but, yeah, it’s great to bring people into a little bit of that journey, because I’ve kind of had my head down. I’ve been working in a cave for two years. It’s good to be out.
David: Very good. So okay, before we get into the cave with you, tell us a little bit about what it is at a user level?
Dain: So for users, basically, Skater is a skateboarding game. I’m sure that most of your audience probably were aware of things like the Tony Hawk Pro Skater Series and EA Skate. They were massive, massive franchises that did really well on consoles back in the day.
Dain: Those franchises haven’t ported well to mobile. And they’re also not things that are really in development. Like, there’s not a lot of focus on the mobile space for that type of property from the big developers because the economics are different. People have discovered a new type of game, new formulas that work a lot better in the mobile space. So the whole skill-based action sports thing is not an area of big focus for the big publishers. So yes, something that we spotted a while back. We thought there’s a big opportunity. We’ve got a bit of a background working with these sort of titles. And yeah, decided to make something that was mobile first, designed from the ground up for mobile, and really delivered everything that people like about skating, but is also accessible to a bit of a broader audience. So there’s a real strong cultural niche. It’s a very, very committed group of people, you know, kids that are into skating, sort of 13 to 17 year old. There’s kind of a whole culture that exists that represents that sport and that lifestyle.
Dain: So that’s what we’re building it for. We’re kind of two guys on the team, where we’re skaters when we were younger. And so it’s something that we’re very closely connected to.
David: Yeah. So you’re scratching your image, I guess, in that sense. Based on the culture, does that mean that you actually build for iPhone rather than iPhone and iPad?
Dain: Yeah, we started with iPhone. Being a small team with kind of limited resources, we really had decided to focus, I guess, which was iPhone first, and focusing on that core niche first as well. So we wanted to make something that really spoke to those people on the device that they’re mostly using.
David: Right. Okay. And you’re free-to-play, pay download, in-app purchases, ad-supported?
Dain: Yes. So that’s an interesting thing. It’s a paid game. And what worked for this space is considered a premium price point, which is USD5, AUD6.50. It doesn’t sound like much, that’s like a sandwich. But yeah, in mobile, with so many things being free or a Dollar, or whatever, that’s very low barrier-to-entry. It’s something that, yeah, the more people I spoke to in gaming and sought advisers in both gaming and the skate industry through the process. Everyone’s just got this kind of default way of thinking which is, “Oh, everything’s free or a Dollar these days. What are you doing not charging that?” But I think that’s just the case of not really considering things fully and within context. For this space, making something for a niche audience, and post-launch even having some figures now and seeing how it played out, I think it was a really great way to enter the market. We were making something that we were quite confident in, that does pitch very strongly, and really is the only option for people that are committed to this niche upon that culture. And you know, that’s $5 worth of value. So what we’ve basically done is get the most committed advocates and fans of the game in first at that high price point, that high commitment point.
Dain: And we shipped a lot of options. We can move from there.
David: Okay. Alright. So you’re not saying no in-app purchases and things like that. You’re saying that, that will come in time?
Dain: I think, yeah. I think the ideal business model for just about anything that’s content is almost like ongoing payment for ongoing value, and almost like games-as-a-services or whatever. But for us, for the launch, the value of providing on launch, that kind of minimum, viable bundle of unique selling points and value, all wrapped up into one unit. That we thought was worth a certain price point. And that’s what we wanted to come to market with, especially give some of the other skating sort of games and titles in there. We wanted to position ourselves in that space in a specific way. But yeah, it’s definitely in future. It just needs to be done in the right way that doesn’t kind of get the existing customers offside that have paid for it. Maybe they get a free pass for all future content, or there’s a bunch of ways. I think you can be very respectful to your users that have come in under one payment model as you transition. There’s a bunch of options, I think.
David: Yeah. In fact, an earlier podcast episode I did with Graham Dawson who’s a utilities developer talks about exactly the issues he’s had with trying to introduce some of those things and burning some of his existing customers.
Dain: [laughs] Right, right.
David: Yeah, some pretty good lessons from him in that 30-minute interview. Alright, so where you’re at, at the moment, okay. How long have you been live?
Dain: Since, I think it was early November, late October-early November. Something like that. Yup.
David: And you-
David: And so you got released and you have competitors. But you’ve been able to actually get these award nominations?
Dain: Yeah. That’s right, I mean, it’s pretty amazing to, first of all, we got like really, really good press coverage on launch. It’s one of those things. You never know how you’re going to be picked up all the big gaming sites, and even IGN who don’t really cover that much mobile stuff, because we have this really great trailer. And we had this product, and did a bunch of things different. We had a premium price point. We’ve got a whole bunch of things that we approached differently. And I think that it’s kind of validating to see somebody, the press pick it up and say, “Here’s something that’s not just kind of doing what the default is. These guys actually have an idea.” And yes, so we got like front page feature on IGN. They went on to us, gave us the nomination for Mobile Game of the Year, it’s a 2015 award. We’ve just passed. And yes, some other sort of our pledge from Pocket Gamer, etc. So it’s pretty cool.
David: So with the launch, it sounds like where you said you didn’t think or you didn’t know what’s actually going to happen with press and stuff like that. How much did you actually engineer for your launch phase? You know, obviously, you’d thought about having a great video and so on? So exactly how much did you kind of think about the acquisition at launch time? I ask because podcasts that will precede you, the guy talks a lot about planning for launch. In an earlier podcast, we had the guy was talking about actually how he uses other stakeholders in the UK system to help support the actual growth of the app. And so I was just interested, did you kind of think of it from a developer perspective or did you think about it from a marketer’s perspective and say, “This is mission control. We’ve got to do a bunch of things in parallel to make sure that launching actually matters.”
Dain: Again, I think everything in its own context. There’s some particular types of game where they fall into this space and they fall into the audiences that they’re launching into and then transitioning to it as they mature. There’s different approaches. Or for any given app game, there are a couple of sweet spots as far as the different approaches that you could take in that kind of problem space. But for us, with the type of product that we were launching, we really wanted like launch velocity on day one.
Dain: Because some games that launch and they’re doing like a long period of beta-testing. They’ve grown their audience. They kind of, in the way that a scaling startup might do, they want to hit traction point, and then they want to grow from there.
Dain: Ours, our game has a little bit of that. But we have more confidence, I think, in the upfront value. We want a big launch. We wanted that velocity. We wanted the feedback loop in the app store of good traction, generating chart rankings. And you know, momentum can be a very self-perpetuating thing. So yeah, we did a whole bunch of preparation for launch.
David: Give me three things that you kind of engineered deliberately for that day.
Dain: One of the things was ends—and I think about in six months in advance, I had like a VA offshore checking up on periodic intervals and myself. We were kind of scouring the landscape, making sure that we’re aware of every journalist in gaming or like metro press, all that kind of stuff anywhere in the world. Anyone that’s written about action sports video games or skating games, or had written in the past about Tony Hawk Pro Skater, or had written about—there are a few that have written about why is there this void in skating games?
Dain: There’s mobile phones and there’s new platforms and new consoles out. So yeah, keeping track of the press and whose beat of writing that our product might align with. That was in preparation for launch, leading into launch. Very glad that I’ve reached out to a small PR firm in skate industry, and also a freelancer with a long track record in gaming over in San Francisco as well, and just kind of retain their services for basically just making that initial contact. Getting through their PR lists. I think it was completely invaluable the fact that people opened their e-mails, picked up the phone when they ring. That’s worth a few grand for sure.
David: Yeah, so that’s a really interesting insight. So it’s not about just going out there and actually generating the PR. You actually found PR people who were specialists in skating and specialists in gaming.
David: Two different people, using the union of those two to play as you actually have a really strong touch point with a lot of interested parties.
Dain: Yeah, exactly. And look, if we were more of a longer life cycle, if we were a startup that was looking to be in the market and grow over a few years, those might be relationships we want to build ourselves. Because in the long term, that might be more valuable. But we were just doing initial launch. That’s really the only bit of press that we have. So it’s, in context that made more sense to just acquire the services of someone that could help out for that single event versus building up a whole bunch of relationships over time.
David: Alright, very good. So what was the third thing then?
Dain: Third thing, this is something that kind of in a few, previous things I’ve done, doesn’t fit with every product, but was making a really great trailer. There were actually three different concepts that I tried to execute on. And two of them just failed because I tried to get licenses over in LA. And we wanted to film actual teams of skaters with some of the partner brands. And so we had to coordinate like eight skateboarders which is really hard. [laughter] It’s like 30 guys.
David: Worse than programmers? [laughter]
Dain: Yeah. You know, they were all doing different stuff and they’ve got different commitments. But they’re also kind of just having fun in doing different things as well. And then you got to do things like you’ve got to have like an onsite police officer that you’ve got arranged. You’ve got to have insurance and permits. And so, it was kind of off with the challenge. We did manage to pull everything off, and ended up on this third concept which was like the fallback. But in retrospect, I’m actually like I think it actually came off better than any of the other ideas. But it’s basically to get an interview. So we had someone that was in the skate industry arrange an interview with one of the founding dudes in street skating. And even that one, we had someone that knew the guy really well. The guy rebooked the shooting seven times.
Dain: At first, he was going to shoot down in Mexico while they were on tour. And then, he’s back in LA. And then, he’s over on the East Coast. And every time, it was like, it seemed like—genuine he’s like, “Oh, you know, something’s come up.” Or “I’m hungover or whatever.” But yeah, it took a while to get that. But I had a proper crew set up, we had lighting. Everyone was marked up, two camera angles, good footage. And so, we shot this interview about one of the real spots, because they were all real locations that are in the game. So there’s a famous set of stairs at Hollywood High School which—it’s one of the cool things about skating is that 21 else. That’s the set of stairs that goes up into the janitor’s room at the back of the meeting hall.
Dain: But to skateboarders, that’s like the mavericks or the jewels, or it’s such a huge part of their culture, the Hollywood High 16. And there’s so much, like lore about that place, and stories of what’s going down. And there’ve been videos shot there for 20-30 years. So yeah, that’s the cool thing. And because it’s public space, we can include that in the game and then we went and got the rights to all this footage, like archival stuff going back to like early ‘90s or something. So we’ve got this guy Andrew Reynolds, he’s talking through the history. And while that’s happening, we’re cutting to the archival footage to the first time someone did a back 360 down the 16. And then, we’ll show that in the game. We’ll show the person doing it in real life, this famous skater.
Dain: And then, we show a pair of hands doing it in the game. It really links in the story of it, the history, that whole aspirational thing, like literally kind of stepping into the shoes of skaters you look up to, and yeah, tie it all together and it just, I think leading with that bit of content, just kind of helps break through and makes people much more comfortable to give you maybe a front page feature on a publication or to talk you up a little bit before they’ve had a chance to play the game. It just makes it feel much more credible.
David: And I think that when it comes to surfing videos and skating videos as well too, people always sit down and watch that particular stuff if they have an interest in it. And even if you’re not that interested, you’ll watch it just because of the pure entertainment value of the things that happen. So it was naturally going to be a viral thing right from the start then, by the sounds of it.
Dain: Yeah. I mean, you kind of put all the ingredients in your cannon. And I think having done that a few times now, like there definitely are these multipliers that just help you give a little bit more traction. But everything’s like—it’s not just adding things up, it’s kind of multiplying, like the editing’s good and there’s a good narrative. And you have people that are recognizable and you distribute it to the right channels. And all of these things kind of stack on top of each other. So it’s not, I mean, it’s not like it’s going as big as Gangnam Style-
Dain: -but I think we got like a hundred and something thousand views on that, which is more than enough to kickstart the game and get good traction in the first month, and yeah.
David: So with this, I mean, you’ve just said or once you’ve done it a couple of times, do you come from that background? I mean, we’ve just spent a fair amount of time talking about something that has nothing to do with mobile, but has everything to do with the mobile business. So do you come from a production background yourself as well?
Dain: No, not at all. It’s just something that has come up in a few different projects which is kind of leading with video content. I mean, there was a novelty app a couple of years back. And we had like this amazing trailer put together that we shot on a red cinema cam, back when those were like less common. So we had like-
David: The high resolution.
Dain: Yeah, you know, Lord of the Rings was shot on a Red EPIC.
David: Right, okay.
Dain: So beautiful quality, we had—we really fleshed out the narrative, and to have this really tight bit of content that was professionally produced. So again, it’s not something that you’re going to say, “Hey, you need a great trailer.” But that fits with a few other things that I kind of have in my tool kit as like a combo of things that can give a certain category or a certain profile of products, early tractions. So yeah, this is sort of things you pick up along the way. And yeah, I do like that it’s kind of reaching outside of mobile. I think people get quite stuck in just thinking about the common distribution channels or the common techniques in their space.
Dain: And just right off everything else, it’s been like too expensive or just not the damn thing—yeah, not appropriate for that channel. Like everything is fair game.
David: So with this particular thing, I mean it did not—I mean, even if the guy didn’t reschedule seven times, what was your budget for doing that sort of version of the video? You don’t have to tell me exactly, but are we looking at $50,000 or something like that/
Dain: No. Shoestring, like comfortably under $10,000 I’m pretty sure.
David: Okay, alright.
Dain: Yeah, and that’s including—you know, some of these things don’t cost us much as you might think. I mean, I did compensate, the guy fixed his time. But because I went through a lifelong friend of his, it wasn’t like he was billing, like he would an agency. It was just like his buddy came to him and was like, “Hey, I’m working with these dudes. Can we sling you a few hundred bucks and kind of just sit down.” It’s more of a courtesy, just saying thank you, as opposed to—and then, yeah, video production, everything. I think it’s just a few thousand. Something like that.
David: Alright, so because this is a great lesson. So basically, for under $10,000, you’re able to actually produce something by using those high-quality effects or high-quality components. That as you said, instead of being additive, they were multiplicative—I can’t even say that, “multiplicative.” [laughter]—and ultimately it’s giving you something that gave you huge tractions. So where do people go and actually have a look at this to see what’s the chief around the $10,000?
Dain: Yeah, if you type in “Skater,”—just spell it the normal way—“Skater, iOS, trailer”. It should be the first hit that comes up.
David: Excellent. Alright, great. Alright, so I could classify that as a win. But let’s go into the format of one win and one fail.
David: And tell us a little bit about something that you might have been struggling with and then ultimately, you cracked it from a win perspective.
Dain: Yeah, definitely. There was definitely a really big failure point in the launch of Skater. And so much, this is—it’s so illustrative. It’s so like ironic, almost so much at the preparation leading up to launch was just hedging, hedging, hedging. Trying to think what could go wrong here, even with the press. We didn’t just focus on app store distribution, we focused on press as well. We didn’t just focus on press. It was gaming and skate press. And we didn’t stop there. We partnered up with 17 different skate brands, had access to all their distribution channels, you know, Instagram, Facebook, all these communities that they promote their lifestyle brands with by producing content. So to have thought so broadly and worked on so many different things, and with the game, it’s stealth, you know. What possibly is going to fail with the risk we’re taking with game design, this and that, and then get to launch day. And what actually happened was we tried to launch earlier. But we ended up launching the week that the iPhone 6, that it came out, which wasn’t—we didn’t think was great because it’s the most competitive time anytime a new device comes out. That still gets flooded. Everyone submits updates and new games because they want to get featured because it spiked.
David: Sort of competitive on the app store review process.
Dain: Very competitive. And again, app review times go up from like three or four days average to 11 days. And so basically, we wanted to avoid that. We ended up not being able to avoid it. We got word that Apple might kind of be keen about featuring us which was really kind of mind-blowing and awesome.
David: Yeah, totally.
Dain: So we had it ready to go. We put it up. Made it to go live on Thursday, which is like the day that features of app happens. And yeah, and the game went live after the big crunch to get the bundle together. And then Friday came, the game’s live. We’re waiting to push our fingers on the button for all the press or the marketing. It’s like 6AM in the US and we start getting these reports and stuff coming back indicating that the game is like completely not working for a whole bunch of people.
David: Oh no.
Dain: Maybe up to like almost 50% of people that downloaded. They couldn’t—you press the button, it opens and crashes instantly.
David: Oh, even worse, that first user experience.
Dain: Yeah. And under that kind of pressure, you’re not thinking straight. You’re ready. We’ve been up all night because the trailer—I won’t go into that story—but getting that trailer finished was absolutely down to the wire as well.
Dain: I had to transfer 30GB of data from the US over like a torrent connection. And yeah, it was crazy. So we got to that point the game’s crashing. I’m absolutely like this sinking feeling in my stomach. And well, what do we do? And we got to just not panic. Let’s not take an action because we haven’t launched the press. We haven’t—it’s only a few hundred people that have it so far. So let’s just think about it. Let’s do some investigating. And then, three or four hours later, we’re like, we can’t see what the problem is. We decided to actually leave it up because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to pull it yet.
Dain: And then, like 12 hours went and passed, we pulled press. So we cancelled all the marketing. So basically, it’s just like drift feeding through the app store with no distribution.
David: So Apple hasn’t featured you at this stage?
Dain: At this point, no. Basically, it gets to like transitioning into the next day, US time. We could see on the app store, we weren’t featured. We haven’t fixed the problem. It’s an absolute mystery. This could take a long time to fix. Because it only happened in the live version as well. There’s no way to debug it. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack blindfolded. And yes, so we ended up. We’ve pulled it from the store and ended up being like two and a half weeks of absolute, the most stressful thing I’ve ever gone through. And about four days later, I was speaking to my mom on the phone, and she’s like, “I got your game.” And I asked her something about like how she found it. And she’s like, “Oh, I just opened the app store and I clicked on it.”
Dain: And I’m like, “Hang on, you’ve skipped a step there, mom. You go to the app store, then you did at least three other things, and then you clicked on it.” What were those three things? She’s like, “Well, no. Let me walk through it now. Look, I opened the app store, app store’s opened, there’s Skater, click on it.”
Dain: I’m like, “Hang on-“
David: This is not the app store, this is the Skater store.
Dain: Oh no. I’m like, “Mom, could you just screenshot your screen and send me the image?” And she’s like shot it through. And it was like front page, best new games, poll position. And I’m like, I already experienced the biggest sinking sensation ever earlier in the week. And that was absolutely like, that was just brutal. Like seeing that and then we went to the analytics tool, had a look, and there was something about the propagation just took a while, because it took like 24 hours or something for this feature to propagate everywhere. Like we just, we thought on being featured, but 92 countries, we were on the app store homepage with the launch of the iPhone 6.
Dain: And we didn’t reap a dime from it. Absolutely zero. I probably lost a small apartment worth of-
David: [laughter] Depends on what city you’re in.
Dain: [laughter] Yeah, touché. So yeah. So definitely, look, I love to have a big, learning for those listening, but I think that’s more just, this is just a reality of being in a space where someone controls the supply chain. So absolutely is that you’ve got an error. You’ve got to go back and fix it, you’ve just got so little control over the process. And yeah, I honestly don’t know what I’d do different if we went back. You know, obviously, I don’t even know, like we couldn’t test for the bug. It was caused by the app being live. It was a very subtle thing.
Dain: It was an error on our part. But it’s just not something that we would ever have thought of or thought to be able to block against.
David: That’s pretty poetic. So I’m just curious about the feature thing. How did you get wind of that you might get featured? How does that kind of work because usually Apple’s so uptight about these things?
Dain: Yeah. We actually, now we’re still getting in touch with them. The PR person—I mean, we’ve had meetings with them in Australia in the past. They have reps in an office here that deals with regional marketing. They do have people in the States. They do grant meetings to people in the States and they do let people, certain select people feed new titles to them as suggested up-and-comers.
David: Right, I see.
Dain: So through the PR agent we worked with in the States, through some of their connections, we were able to not have a two-way dialogue, but to pass on the feature requests and some info about the app. And apparently, it was quite unusual, we actually got an e-mail back saying, “Hey, by the way, features are changing on Thursday this week instead of the usual Wednesday or whatever, because of the iPhone 6. You might want to have this ready.” And that’s the way Apple talk when they think they might do something. They’ll never tell you they’re going to do anything. I’ve heard about the founder of Firemonkey, when he was on stage for the Apple Keynote with the launch of the iPhone 5. He was in Cupertino, got invited to present Real Racing 3. And the day that he was there, he was backstage waiting to get up during the iPhone 5 keynote and did his 10-minute talk. And there were like three or four others. He goes back there rehearsing as well because Apple hadn’t quite decided on the day that would fit this yet.
Dain: And only one of them was going to get up and talk. So yeah, it’s very fickle and you just got to kind of take it as it is.
David: Yeah, right. Okay. Very good. Alright, so that’s a great fail. Well, it wasn’t for you obviously. [laughter] I guess you’re saying, okay, it’s really difficult to take it away other than to try and figure out what your app is going to perform like when it’s actually live.
Dain: Yeah. Exactly.
David: It’s probably worse actually getting like a really seasoned developer to come in and give you a bit of a sanity check in terms of what they’ve experienced as well too.
Dain: Yeah. I think just being a little more thorough with our kind of systems design, and just keeping track of things. I think the problem ultimately at its roots stem from not chopping off as much as we could as far as the scope of the game. There were things that we included that we thought were part of the minimum version of the game. We could have chopped them. We could’ve had a bit more breathing room but didn’t do that.
David: Sounds like a classic startup worse in any way. [laughter] Less is always more.
David: Okay, so did you have another win you wanted to share just through your learnings?
Dain: Yeah, sure. I think leading on from that, one of the big justifications as a business case for working on this game apart from something we’re passionate about was we’ve done a few things in kind of the action space before on the app store. And in watching our competitors as well, we saw that things had a really long lifespan in that space, particularly compared to the average app. There’s a lot of pressure for visibility on the app store. It’s like the biggest discussion point in the independent gaming space. You know, it’s hard to get visibility. If you do, if you get an Apple feature, you get some press or whatever, it’s on launch, you get a spike, and then the app basically dies within a month or two. With the thing in action sports, because they have built-in audiences, they represent something that’s more than just the game.
David: There’s a preexisting community that’s really quite highly engaged with the actual subject matter itself.
Dain: Exactly. And so, as mobile spread throughout the world, every week, there’s more people with phones. There’s people with existing phones to every now and then going and saying, “Hey, I wonder if there’s anything cool in skateboarding or any surfing apps, or anything like that.” So you’ve got this kind of baseline of buzz that just carries the thing. And also, you’ve got all these distribution channels and good will that you can leverage as well. That whole concept that they’re being a baseline in a very long tail. That kind of relies on this one very important thing. And it’s the one thing we kind of focused on least. Again, I think due to the amount of pressure on launch, we just let one of the many people that were in the air drop to the ground. And that was key—so basically on the app store, things are found through searches. People type in a few words that’s related to keywords. It’s not the same as the web, it’s much more simple. It doesn’t search through the body text of the description of the app. You’re allocated a keyword character space, I think like a hundred-something characters. But you get like 12 or 13 words. There’s a lot of things you can do to refine those words, to reset those words. There’s tools that crawl the app store and figure out important properties of each word, you know, how competitive they are, how much volume traffic they drive. And so picking those keywords is really important. And it’s something we barely focus at all for launch. So we have this amazing traction on launch, and we got all this press. And we got—you know, marketing went well. But then, it fell off. And it started dropping. And it kept dropping for like six weeks. And we’re like, “Wow, we’re the baseline on this thing?” This is skateboarding. It’s the biggest action sport. It should be bigger than the other things we’ve worked on, and realized that the big part of that was just terrible keyword selection.
Dain: We had redundancy in there. We had things that we’d never—we’re going to rank. That was something, we went back around Christmastime, and did a whole bunch of keyword research, really kicked off a lot of that low-hanging fruit, and found some really great pools as well to help at that process and tracking a lot better. So we’ve got like the baseline now just off the back at keywords is multiples of what it was, yeah, which is cool. [laughter] And I think there’s a lot more we can do.
David: So there’s quite varied opinions in terms of the benefits of ASO itself. So you’ve found that there are some tools out there that do that, and even though ASO seems to be kind of changing all the time?
Dain: Yeah, and this again, it’s within the context of the category of product that we’re making. I can imagine and I thought about some other apps. And there’ve been apps that we’ve worked on as well, where organic traffic just isn’t going to happen. People aren’t looking for that thing. They need to be told about it.
Dain: It’s solving a new problem, or it’s in a space where there’s just no unique keyword that represents that single function. It’s just crowded with a whole bunch of stuff for—yeah, so it’s, for our particular space, skateboarding obviously, the main things on the app store are either games or content, aggregators or the mobile apps for like Thrasher Magazine or something. Or it’s like a Skatespot finder. There’s not many things that skating can be really to do with. And anyone that’s looking for skating is probably going to be interested in a game.
David: Yeah. Okay. So it was really, once you tied it up your own act, it was becoming self-fulfilling prophecy that people would find you?
Dain: Yes. Once there was a way for us to be found, then we started getting that baseline, that flow of daily traffic.
David: Okay, so any particular tools you would recommend there on the keywords?
Dain: Yeah, definitely. Sensor Tower is really fantastic, even just the free features of that, worth checking out. MobileDevHQ, similar overlap with feature set as Sensor Tower, but the really cool thing MobileDevHQ does is if you’re looking at competitors, you can actually see what keywords they included and got rid off in prior versions of the app. So you can see what experiments they’re running. What was the value when they chose the keywords, so that’s kind of cool. [laughter]
Dain: And obviously, stuff like App Annie, which I’m sure everyone in apps has used. It’s good for basic research as well.
David: Yup. Okay, very good. Alright, that’s great. Thank you so much for your time. What should we be looking at for in the future from you?
Dain: I think if you’re into skateboarding, we’re going to be supporting Skater for the next 6 to 12 months.
David: [laughter] Possibly with in-app purchases? Possibly with continuous content?
Dain: Yes, and tightening up some of the things that we intended it to be that just didn’t quite get there in the initial products. Yeah, as far as the next thing on the horizon, nothing really to promote at the moment. Just really happy to have Skater out there and to keep working on it for now.
David: Alright, very good. Alright, Dain. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. It was a really great story. And sorry to hear about that fail upfront. [laughter] But it made a good story.
Dain: Yeah. I’ll always be that guy at the end of the bar, like we got featured with an iPhone 6.
David: [laughter] That could have had a small apartment.
Dain: [laughter] Yeah. Could have had more pillows. Cool.
David: [laughter] Okay.
Dain: David, absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me. And yeah, speak to you soon.
David: Yeah, really appreciate it. Cheers for now.