Marketing Tips from an Indie Game Dev with over 3 Million Downloads

Imran Shafiq spends his days coding healthcare software and his evenings lighting up Windows Phone 8 devices as an indie dev. "Game Development is my creative outlet. It takes up a lot of my free time, but I'd love to make it my career some day." - Imran Shafiq, @DanglingNeuron. His brand, Dangling Neuron, has included some impressive success stories including an Air Soccer Fever app that just passed the 3 Million download mark, and a new hot title in Tank Arena that has already netted a cool 250K downloads in just a few months.We asked Imran if we could pick his brain about the topics that indie devs and moonlighters care about most. Thankfully, he obliged and gave us some great advice around marketing, monetization, user engagement, and even some tips using Unity. Here's what we learned:


Get Familiar with Unity!

Imran didn't hesitate in telling us that he loves Unity. Not only does it make it easy to port to multiple platforms, it has a bevy of templates, add-ons, tutorials, and other resources that help create an experience that his community is going to love. His favorite tips for developers: make use of the asset store!

Marketing Begins With the First Line of Code

Like a lot of things, good indie dev marketing is a mix of art and science. Imran attributes much of his success marketing his games to being open and transparent during the development process and building a community before, during, and after a game is released. On his blog, he documents his progress during the build of his games, solicits feedback from peers that he incorporates into his builds, and shares videos whenever he updates or makes improvements to a game that's already in market.

"I've learned a lot from the feedback I've had from other developers on my blog and through researching other developer blogs."

Creating a community doesn't end with sharing content on your own channels either.

"I have a list of review sites I've formed relationships with. When I am going to release a new game, I put together videos for the game and send them over."

In-App Purchases Aren't Just About Revenue

When Windows Phone 8 introduced an easy way to drive in-app purchases, Imran saw an opportunity to be strategic in how he engaged the users that love his game the most. In his latest game, Tank Arena, Imran introduced currency that lets users can exchange to upgrade their tanks, add armor, or fit their tank with more powerful weapons. Suddenly, there is a means to incentivizing certain behavior among the most loyal fans of the game:

"The problem is that most people that rate your game do so when they've had a bad experience. Being able to offer currency for people to rate the game or share with their friends through Facebook and Twitter was huge for driving downloads of Tank Arena."


Make Use of All The Tools and Resources You Can Get Your Hands On

When we asked Imran what tools, templates, and resources he's used it wasn't a short list. Here's three big ones that stuck out:

  • Built-in features for app monetization, leaderboards and advertising from Windows make a huge impact on driving downloads and engagement.
  • Participate in DVLUP and AppBuilder and trade in points for free advertising and merchandising in the store (Imran has seen spikes of around 60K downloads when he does this) 
  • Self educate using content from MVA and Channel 9

To keep up with Imran and his latest projects check out his blog, Dangling Neuron, and follow him on Twitter @DanglingNeuron

This post is part of an ongoing series presented by the AppBuilder "Every Dev has a Story" offer from Microsoft where we share stories about innovators, creators, and developers doing something unique. If you're harnessing technology in a new way or have built something great, tweet screenshots, video, or blogs of your story using the #iDevThis hashtag on Twitter.

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