Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Promo Codes Can’t Be Reviewed

Recently Apple changed things so that a redeemed Promo Code can’t be used to leave a review on the App Store. So if someone grabs your game for free, they can’t leave you a review. This makes it even more important to focus on giving these Codes to the Press who won’t be able to leave an App Store review, but CAN write reviews for their actual websites.

Expiration Date

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Promo Codes expire 4 weeks after you request them, so you know what’s NOT a smart idea? Requesting a ton of them on Day 1, which is what I did. :( By the time any Press started getting back to me, and by the time I had found different avenues to reach the Press and found new ways to use Promo Codes, the big chunk of the ones I requested on Day 1 were about to expire. So then I was stuck sending out Promo Codes that would probably expire before the person got a chance to check the game out. It was just a big mess all around.

Used And Abused?

The other unfortunate thing about Promo Codes is that you can’t tell which Codes have been used. If you give someone a Promo Code, you will never know if they used it or if it’s sitting there and still available.

Workarounds

I use AppFigures to keep track of my stats (it’s only $5/month, and the service is awesome and gives you all sorts of stats and graphs). One useful thing it keeps track of is that you can see on any given day how many purchases of your game were via Promo Codes. This is slightly useful because if you’ve only given out a few Promo Codes, going by any E-Mail responses you get and the “what countries were your sales in today” stat in AppFigures you can kind of narrow down which Promo Codes were used…it’s still a lot of guesswork, but it’s about the best you can do.

In thread posts on Touch Arcade, people tend to add “Please post which Promo Code you used” and people will do that, so the Developer can keep track of which Codes are still useable. I didn’t think of it at the time, but you could probably do this when you send the Codes to Reviewers. It’s still an annoying situation, though…if someone decides not to E-Mail you back to let you know they used the Promo Code and you send it to someone else thinking it’ll still work, now that big-name site you managed to get the attention of for a split second because the planets aligned just right, is going “eh, Promo Code didn’t work, next game!” It’s like going to job interviews not knowing if you’re going to have a suit on or be standing in your underwear until you walk through the door haha

Gifting

If you DO run out of Promo Codes, a super ghetto hail-mary solution could be to Gift the game to the Reviewer or whoever. The problem is you can only Gift to someone in your own country, so as a Canadian if an American site wanted a Promo Code and I was out, I’d have to get a friend in America to Gift the game to them. I haven’t done this yet, but hey, we’re thinkin’ outside the box here!

How To Get More?

I’m still on my first batch, but it looks like when you update your game you get another 50 Codes. So it might be worth just doing a minor update with a few bug fixes to get the Codes, but then you’re going through the whole Apple approval process again and it’s a hassle. It used to be that when you updated you basically lost all the reviews you had for your previous version, but just taking a glance at some Apps on the App Store it looks like that’s no longer the case…it’ll just say “(v1.3)” beside the reviews so people know it’s for a previous version.

Banner Ads

“Have business reasons and make business decisions.” That’s something my business coaches drilled into our class. It’s fine to do stuff that seems outside the norm or that other people warn you isn’t a good idea, as long as you have business reasons for doing it. Marketing is the fastest way to drain your money because you can throw it all away randomly picking areas to spend it on and not seeing any results.

Where To Find Ad Space?

Most sites will have an “Advertise With Us” link at the top or bottom of the site where they have some information on spaces and prices, or an E-Mail address you can shoot an E-Mail to requesting that information. I found that a lot of sites sell advertising space through BuySellAds.com…it’s a great service, you get stats and charts and everything. You can even filter the search to just Apple related sites.

Research

I use Alexa and SiteTrail to check the stats of sites, mainly looking for how much traffic they get, what part of the world it’s from, page-views per month, that kind of thing. I’ll also check out the site on both my desktop and iPhone to see where and how the ads are displayed, and I’ll look at what kind of site they are, what their demographic of users is, how often they update, etc. BuySellAds shows how many Impressions a site gets per month, and the Click-thru rates and stuff. Honestly, a lot of it is mumbo jumbo to me but I’ve learned a few things:

Impressions Does Not Equal Clicks

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Just because a site is listed as having 5,000,000 Impressions doesn’t mean your banner is going to get more than a few Clicks. If you have to choose between a site about furniture design with 5,000,000 Impressions a month or a site about iPhone games with 1,000 Impressions a month, go with the 1,000 one because those are the people who are actually going to buy your game. If you have to choose between a site with 5,000,000 Impressions but your banner is at the bottom in a rotating banner spot (so your ad is randomly chosen from a group of other ads to be shown in that spot) or a site with 1,000 Impressions but your banner is at the top of the page and doesn’t rotate, go with the 1,000 one. Impressions just means the number of times the banner is loaded, so while it’s being loaded in that bottom rotating banner spot, that doesn’t mean it’s being seen by the user.



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