As a gaming startup, the biggest problem is no longer making a game but getting your game noticed. Most developers will spend any money they have on the product, leaving little to no money for marketing or as it’s known in the digital download days: user acquisition. They are often under the delusion that what they are making is so awesome and unique that people will tell all their friends and it will go viral and fame and fortune is just a launch away. That is the fairy tale, the harsh reality is that there are hundreds of games being released everyday all believing they are a precious little snowflake and most barely touch the ground before they are lost in the snow storm of apps. So the real challenge is getting people to download your game. One way is to follow the fads.
We make games and apps that star you and your friends. One of our games is a interactive toy called PuppetFace, where you can dress up your friends and slap them around or make them do silly dances. In the summer of 2012, there was this crazy Korean Pop Dance Craze taking over the world called Gangnam Style and we thought we could add it to our app so you can make your friends dance Gangnam Style with a push of the button. We spent a Saturday morning animating the dance, cutting a fair use snippet of the track and then updated the app, adding the subtitle Gangnam Style to it’s name, made some screen shots and submitted.
PuppetFace was released over a year ago and never was the hit we deludedly thought it would be. It had maybe 20,000 downloads in a year, most from the week when we went from a paid app to a free app. And we were now averaging 50 downloads a day. Then came Gangnam Style!
With the new Gangnam Style update, we immediately got 1700 downloads. We were the 2nd app in the search results for “Gangnam” or “Gangnam Style.” This eventually started dropping off but was still a steady 1000 downloads for the next two weeks. We were also prepping a new feature with the help of the awesome team at Kamcord that would allow users to record their playtime in the app and upload to youtube or any major social network. Surprisingly enough, we launched with Kamcord video sharing a week after the relaunch and saw no uptick in downloads. It wasn’t until nearly 2 weeks after adding Kamcord (and 4 weeks after the first Gangnam update) that we suddenly started getting more and more downloads.
We went from a new low of 600 daily downloads to a new high of 2800 daily downloads by that weekend. And there was no clear explanation why. We were not featured in the app store nor did Google searches turn up any features, reviews, or mentions. Perhaps Gangnam Style had finally reached a new international market and we just happened to get that spike. Or maybe Kamcord was finally paying off. Either way, things were looking good.
Then it happened. And by it I mean an official “Cease and Desist” by lawyers on behalf of PSY and his music label. After nearly 40,000 downloads, the jig was up. Sure we could argue fair use but we are a small start up, they are a large corporation. But we also realized this was a unique opportunity. We now had an “in” with PSY - so let’s get pitching. Our response to the C&D was a business proposal to let us handle the making of the official Gangnam Style app. We were making something that people obviously wanted and if we could get his blessing and support, we could really kill it.
To be continued….
Update 11-21-12: We updated PuppetFace: Gangnam Style to remove to song, but kept the title and dance and it was just approved by Apple and now available again. Download it now and try it out for your self!