Press cutting added by Ste Pickford on Thu, 20 Oct 2011
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint
Last week Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint won the AppMadness.net September Tournament, a competition between 32 apps, over 5 rounds, with apps paired-up randomly and voted for by the public, with the winner of each vote going through to the next round.
Any regular visitor to this website will no doubt be completely and utterly sick of hearing about this flippin' tournament, so I promise this is the last time I'm going to bang on about it!
We're actually dead chuffed, as it's a nice accolade for the game, to add to the growing little pile (Tap! Magazine 100 Greatest Apps, PocketGamer Gold Award, Zzap Sizzler, etc.), and it's a pay-off for the stupid amount of time and effort we put into what is only a minor contest in the grand scheme of things.
We were invited to enter the tournament by email, for a fee of $9.99. Now, from the moment we released Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint on the App Store, we've been inundated by random emails offering various schemes and services to promote our App, or increase our App Store rankings, for usually quite significant sums of money, and often in quite shady looking ways.
It's all been very eye-opening, and depressing, particularly those offers for paid-for reviews and ratings, but even the straight offers of advertising space are a bit bewildering and scary. We're not against the idea of paying to advertise our game, but a combination of not having much money, not having much advertising expertise, and not knowing where best to advertise (or rather, knowing full well that it's very easy to waste lots of money advertising in the wrong place) has meant that we've stuck firmly to trying to promote our game without spending any money so far.
But, $9.99 was just about low enough not to break the bank, and I saw that the excellent To-Fu game was entered in the previous Tournament. I like the guys who made that game, and they seem to be doing pretty well, so we thought we'd give it a go.
We figured we'd get a bit of awareness from the AppMadness website, and it would give us something to post about on the twitter / facebook feeds, while we work on the update. We knew we wouldn't win it as we were drawn in a group that would meet the excellent Reckless Getaway in the next round, and there's no way we'd get more votes than that game.
We also switched the game from paid to free, for as long as we were in the tournament, so that strangers visiting the site could try our game without paying, which we figured would boost our downloads a bit and also give us a better chance of getting votes as people would have actually tried our game. We knew we'd go out after round 2, so the game would only be free for about 10 days, and if we went further, well, all the mega publicity would translate to mega free downloads, right?
Not really. We actually had our highest downloads ever the couple of days after we went free, but then they dropped off pretty quickly, so we weren't actually getting many strangers from the AppMadness site downloading our game to try it out.
The reason for this, which became clear after the first round, was that it wasn't really a competition based on strangers judging between two games at all, but a competition to see who could round up the most friends, family or fans to come and vote for their game.
Hmmm... So what we need to do is pester everyone we know to come and vote for our game? Once a day? Okay, let's go for it!
We started telling everyone we knew about the tournament, and asking them to come and vote, via websites and social media. It was fun at first, and we won the first couple of rounds. Almost immediately the accusations of cheating started flying our way. Amazingly Reckless Getaway was knocked out, while we kept on going. We kept on pestering too, and it sort of became a bit of a joke, then it probably became a bit annoying for everyone.
We checked the other games in the tournament, and only one seemed to be doing the same as us - Johnny Unlucky, a hangman game with amusing animations - and it looked like we were going to meet up in the final. They had accusations of cheating flying their way during the earlier rounds as well, but they seemed to be doing a good job (maybe even a better job than us?) of rounding up all their friends and fans to come and vote for them.
By the time of the final we were taking the tournament far, far too seriously. It suddenly felt really important that we win. Not necessarily for the PR value for the game, but because we couldn't allow our carefully designed original video game to lose out to hangman. Hangman! We'd convinced ourselves we were fighting a vitally important battle for the honour of original game design, and the future of the App Store itself!
We turned the pester power up to 11. Loads of grumpy old game developers on Facebook and elsewhere were roped in to vote every day, and followers of our twitter feed were being reminded almost hourly to come and vote for us. One friend complained that he'd started dreaming about the AppMadness tournament, we'd been going on about it so much!
The votes were rolling in, but no matter what we did each day in UK time, Johnny Unlucky would match us overnight during US time, and we'd wake up to find that we were losing again.
It wasn't a game anymore. We had to win. Finally, with two days to go, we pulled ahead and overnight Johnny Unlucky failed to catch up. The grumpy developers cheered us on. Had we done it? It was too early to tell, so keep voting. The last day of the tournament came with no surprise overnight switch, and the polls closed. We'd won! Yaaayyy!
We'd made such a big deal about the tournament that everyone wanted to know what the big prize was. What have we all been voting for they asked, what do you win? Erm, I think they're going to put out a press release announcing the winner. And I think we get a discount if we want to advertise on their website in the future.
Is that it? Oh well, back to work on the update.
We had a lot of fun rounding up the votes, and I hope we weren't too annoying. I don't think the AppMadness tournament itself raised much awareness of the game (I suspect that we actually we drove more traffic their way instead), but the tournament was a handy justification for us to bang on about our game through existing channels, so it probably helped us raise a bit more awareness ourselves, and particularly through friends and fans retweeting and sharing our posts (cheers anyone who did this).
We're grateful to everyone who joined in and voted, or shared our posts, or just put up with the pestering for a month. It was actually quite heart-warming seeing so many people rally round and try to raise extra votes for us.
Thanks folks, it was very much appreciated.
» Look, we won!