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17 Oct 2013

Tips to Getting Featured in Apple’s ‘New and Noteworthy’ Section

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The dream of any indie game developer that is releasing their game onto Apple’s iOS platform is to have their game featured in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section of the App Store. By being featured in this category, it is almost guaranteed that a wealth of new installs occur from all over the world, as every iOS user that opens the App Store on their iOS device is almost guaranteed to see your game for the amount of time it is featured. To say getting featured in this category is great news is an understatement: rather, it is enough to start jumping, kicking, shouting, and going out to the bar with your team and celebrating this achievement.

Great things can occur by being featured in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section – including people paying attention to your next games. Yet, how do you get there? Is there a formula you can follow to be featured by Apple? Not necessarily, yet there are several tips you can follow that will increase your chances significantly of being featured by Apple.


Create that stellar game

Whether you primarily root for the Android or iOS team, there is one aspect of the App Store that you cannot ignore: the very best apps in existence are 99.999% of the time on iOS. Apple prides itself on having stellar apps in their library, and if you want your game to be featured on the App Store’s ‘New and Noteworthy’ section, you need your game to be as polished and perfect as possible. Apple (most of the time, anyway) doesn’t promote apps that are just ‘okay’ or ‘pretty good.’ Instead, the ‘New and Noteworthy’ is supposed to feature the ‘cream of the crop’ of apps that have been released during the period of time they are featured.

Of course, creating a flawless, close-to-perfect game should be your goal anyway. Yet, use this goal to drive you to create an incredible game. Is the feature that is in your game failing to work as well as you thought it would? Then consider scrapping it. Does the UI in your game cause confusion? Consider reworking it. Are the controls a bit complicated? Consider streamlining them so anyone can play it. In short, demand perfection from your game, and you will be on the path to being featured by Apple.


Presentation is key

How many times have you been ‘turned off’ from purchasing or even downloading an app simply because the icon looked a little too ‘blah?’ Or perhaps the description was terrible – I know this has kept me from downloading a few apps in the past. I remember one time I was looking for a weather app, and I came across an app that had a decent icon, but when I clicked on it, the only thing the description said was, “this is a weather app.” No kidding, but what does it do? That’s the answer you have to give: what does your game do, what is it about, and what is so awesome about your game?

Also, create detailed screenshots of your game. Again, I have found myself unwilling to buy and/or download an app simply because the screenshots told me nothing about the app. Another quick story: I wanted to download a cooking app to find new recipes, yet when I looked at a certain app, all I saw was screenshots of tasty food. Sure, these screenshots looked delicious and made me hungry, but how is it going to teach me how to cook? Through videos? Through text, screenshots, how am I going to learn how to cook certain recipes? The app didn’t tell me, so I passed on it.

The page dedicated to your game has to be detailed, and the presentation needs to look top-notch. This means a beautiful icon is a must, beautiful, detailed screenshots that instantly show the players what the game is about is mandatory, and the description needs to leave no doubts regarding what the player is going to be experiencing once they download the game.

If you are confused as to what encompasses a great description and beautiful visuals on an app page, visit the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section of the App Store right now. Notice the amount of detail in each app’s page. Take a few notes, hire a designer to design an icon if you must, and make it a top priority to design the best page for your app. Once again, Apple only wants the best for their ‘New and Noteworthy’ section, so if your game’s page is not detailed or beautiful enough, you are not going to be featured.


Seek as much attention from the media as possible

When the folks over at Apple are considering featuring your game in their ‘New and Noteworthy’ section of the App Store, they are not going to do this without first doing a little homework of their own. They are going to plug your game’s name into Google, and are going to see what other people are saying about the game. If they spot some glowing reviews regarding your game, you have certainly won some points in your favor.

Thus, you need to seek out the attention from the media, pitch your game to them, and ask them to review the game and post it on their website. I detailed how to achieve exactly this a while back, and it isn’t something you can accomplish in an afternoon. Rather, you need to be in contact with the media months in advance, keeping them up-to-speed regarding how your game is coming along, willing to send pre-release copies of the game so they can preview the game to build up anticipation for your game, and so on.

And when your game is about to be released? Send review copies to those that have previewed your game in the past (and speak to other publications that haven’t covered your game previously) before the actual date so you can obtain a wealth of reviews for your game before you pitch your game to Apple for a spot in their ‘New and Noteworthy’ section. This is where a PR company comes into play, as they can do all of the hard work for you so you can focus on developing your game.

When the media covers your game, this accomplishes two things:

1.      Apple realizes your game is being covered by the media, meaning there will likely be more of a demand for your game since it is being covered – especially if the reviews are positive.

2.      If anyone is negatively speaking about your game in forums, this is going to be overshadowed by reviews for your game. The publications that review your game will outrank the small discussions regarding your game in various forums, meaning when an Apple employee searches for your game, they are first going to see the (hopefully) glowing reviews of the game, thus increasing your chances of being featured in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section of the App store. 


Last but not least: become friends with someone at Apple

I cannot stress this enough: who you know matters. When I have review AAA titles in the past, yet wanted to bypass the thousands of requests PR companies undoubtedly received for the games, I instead contacted a few personal contacts I have obtained over the years to request a copy, and you know what? I received my copy in a timely manner, reviewed the game, and had it live for readers to decide whether they wanted to buy the game on launch day, wait a while, or bypass the game altogether.

My point is this: become friends with someone at Apple, and contact them directly whenever you have a question or concern about getting placed in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section. Even if the individual does not work directly with the App Store, they can introduce you to someone that does, and from there  this will snowball into you being able to make contacts with multiple people that are responsible for maintaining the App Store.

Again, who you know goes a long way. Make friends with those behind the App Store, take them out to dinner if you must, but get to know them. By doing so, this could be the difference between your game getting featured in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section and not at all.

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