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You never know what will be a success, or Philippines

We recently uploaded our first game to the Apple App Store. It’s called “Who Am I ???” and makes it easy to play the popular game of writing down famous people names on post-its and sticking them to others foreheads. The current player has to then ask yes-no questions to others, trying to figure out who he is. “Who Am I ???” makes it simple and fun to play, no pen and post-it necessary, just your iPhone or iPod touch.

Being it our first game, first mobile app, and first experience with the Apple App Store, we learned a lot, sometimes the hard way.

Our first mishap was missing the Christmas shipping deadline. We originally planned to release our app before the Boxing Day, when people unwrap their new iDevices and storm the App Store. But we started developing too late, and submitted our app just 3 days before the App Store closing for the holidays. First lesson learned – deliver your app for review at least 2 weeks before the popular dates, because everyone else will try to do it too, and Apple reviewers will have many many extra work. We kind of already knew that, but now we really know that there is no way around it.

The second mishap was to upload the app with not a fully tested In-App Purchases (IAP) module. We assumed it’s not working because Apple cache servers were not propagating changes we made. Reading the developer forums only reinforced that assumption. And, of course, App Store reviewers rejected “Who Am I ???” because of hanging during the IAP. Going back to the drawing board we learned that it in fact was our mistake, and Apple’s servers & cache works just fine. Another lesson learned – no matter how great you think you are, the problem is probably on your side, not Apple’s.

We really wanted to ship the app to start testing everything, and we were getting impatient. Even before the mishaps we decided not to spend too much time making the design crazy perfect, or code a lot of features. We picked core functionalities and nothing more.

After the mishaps we decided to drop IAP for now and just get “Who Am I ???” into the App Store. The lesson here is that you never know for sure what will be a success. And it was a good call to push the app as fast as we could, after a week of development, and without the IAP. We got accepted, and we started learning even more.

We begun experimenting with Apple’s sales and downloads reports, checking it every morning for new data. For the first week it was slow, between 100-200 downloads a day. But then all of a sudden it exploded to 500, 1K, 2K, and peaked at 3K. For the next week downloads were oscillating between 2,000 and 3,000 per day. It was amazing.

Turns out, we were a hit on the Philippines. We reached #2 in the Top Free Apps. All because of a legendary TV show that was running there for more than 30 years, featuring a variation of the post-it game called Pinoy Henyo. We got our first 5-star reviews. It was totally unexpected.

After such a reaction, we started working on some improvements and the IAP. We rolled them out into the App Store only after the whole hype fell down and we returned to the regular 100-200 downloads. Turns out not that many people update their apps. In our case, less than 20% got the new version so far. Another interesting fact is that despite the Philippine success, it’s the USA market that is generating the IAP sales. Final mishap we encountered is that the App Store hid our 5-star reviews after we uploaded the new version. So far we didn’t find a way to access them, they are just gone…

Overall, we are happy with the outcome. We didn’t promote “Who Am I ???” at all, and we never expected so much downloads so fast. We learned a lot during the process, and we became familiar with the App Store ecosystem and iOS development without using much time and resources. It’s often really good to release your product ASAP, before you put too much into it but not test in the real world. It will save you a lot of disappointment if your effort doesn’t pay back. You could call it an agile approach, a very popular method these days. On the other hand, the app success can be achieved with the “WOW effect”, so there’s really no general rule here.

If you would like to download and try “Who Am I ???”, get it for free on the App Store.

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Article highlights

  • "Who Am I ???" reached #2 Top Free Apps in Philippines without any promotion
  • Only 20% of users updated to the new version
  • USA drive the majority of In-App Purchases, despite many times lower download figures

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