I think there’s a formula to making an iOS app that’s successful. I’ll tell you just what I’m convinced that formula is.
1) Make the app GOOD. Nothing else can compare in effectiveness. A good app gets good ratings, and how “Good” an app is can usually be defined in terms of how useful it is, or in the case of a game, how fun it is.
2) Keep the price low. There’s a reason why there are so many 99-cent apps on the App Store… more than any other price point. That said, if you have a really big, awesome app, you can probably get away with $1.99 or higher.
3) Have a limited free version or “lite” version. Apps with demos tend to sell better. Also be sure to make screenshots, video, etc, of the app available online.
4) Market your app intensively immediately after it appears on the App Store. This will help you break through the clutter of other iOS apps crowding the market… and hopefully propel you in a “Top” list in some category.
5) Sequels or established brands or concepts sell well because people already know what to expect going in. There are indie apps that hit it big out of nowhere, but there are also an awful lot of ports of board, card, and PC games. I’m guessing you don’t own a “Brand” but there’s no reason, once you’ve created a hit, that you can’t follow it up with sequel apps.
6) Timing. If you’re too late to the App Store, and the app market has started to decline – which may soon be the case – you won’t sell as many copies. If you’re starting development now, it makes sense to seriously ask what platform offers the best venue for your idea… and whether it’s better to aim for whatever emerging platform you think will be the next technology “Gold Rush”.
Now, obviously, with my first app, Isola: Prologue, (http://www.isolaiphone.com) I’m aiming for something along the lines of the old-school point-and-click adventure games… that may or may not be a good call, but I’m trying to run with all six above rules with it – and I can pretty much guarantee some margin of success in advance.
There are others who’ve missed these steps and done everything wrong; I’ve seen reasonably good quality yet overpriced games with no demo and no ad campaign… and guess what? They’re buried layers and layers deep in the App Store. If you take the time to make an app – I’ve spent hundreds of hours, if not thousands, on mine – why screw up all that work with such obvious last-minute mistakes?
I hope that in reading this and considering this advice, you won’t be one of the people who “snatches defeat from the jaws of victory”.