Ring Fling – Developer Diary 7 – Road To Launch

The day I announced Ring Fling was incredible. The weekend before, I had just gotten engaged and I received a ton of awesome messages, emails, and mentions on twitter. I’d never experienced such an onslaught of positivity before. When I announced Ring Fling, there was really only one motivation. I wanted to put something on the internet to link to from emails to press. I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I just wanted to put something out there. The reception, though, was unbelievable. It was like the previous weekend all over again. Retweet after retweet. Congrats after congrats.

I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about Ring Fling and about solo development in general. I feel like I’ve worked on some incredible projects with incredible people. Whenever I’ve taken on a solo project, it’s become unbelievably clear what a small role I played on those massive projects and how limited my personal skill set was. It always made me feel a bit like a fraud. So on one hand, I was extremely happy with Ring Fling and how it had turned out, but on the other, it was a definite step down from LittleBigPlanet or even MonstrosCity. So the outpouring of support when it was announced was absolutely amazing.

Since the whole point of putting the announcement out there was to start contacting press, I started doing so. I had been given a short list of email addresses to contact from a friend and started sending emails. Something didn’t feel right, though. I was such a small fry. Who was going to care that I was announcing my game? I started a theme that stands at the core of the entire development and promotion of Ring Fling. I asked twitter. The resounding response was that I shouldn’t contact press until the app has been approved and promo codes are available.

I stopped writing emails and started compiling a list. Once again, I went to twitter for help. A super nice guy, Carson Whitsett, pointed me in the right direction. He sent me to a list of review sites, sent me the email he had sent to press, and included a bunch of other advice about the process he was currently going through. I’d never met him before or interacted with him on twitter. He just volunteered all of this help to me. To be honest, I was kind of blown away by it, but I’ve come to learn that it’s just the way the indie iOS scene works.

The next order of business was submitting a build to Apple. I thought I was basically there. I just wanted to spend a few more days testing before I submitted. I ended up submitting 4 days later on May 11th. It was the same day that I was submitting an app for work, which was kind of crazy. I went from having never submitted an app before to submitting 2 within 24 hours.

After that, it was a really awkward quiet period. I wasn’t going to contact press because I didn’t have promo codes and I wanted to get user feedback before I did any major iterations on the game so I had no code to write. The quiet didn’t last long, though, as Apple only took a week to approve the app. I had read that you should give sites at least 2 weeks to do reviews so that you can get a launch day review for your app and set the release date for May 31st. Now the real work was about to start.

Someone gave some advice that I thought made a lot of sense. I can’t remember who it was, but they said to send emails with promo codes to the top 10 sites and then send emails to the rest saying that promo codes were available if they were interested. Some of them were just email addresses and some of them were forms. I also included promo codes for all the forms that requested them. I ended up sending a total of 60 emails and 30 promo codes.

This was a very difficult process for me for many reasons. Firstly, I’m just a very awkward person. I’ve always been a very awkward person and it’s taken me loads of time and effort to become a socially functional person. The technique I’ve developed for interacting with people, though, is very adaptive. I spend a lot of time reading the other person and making tons of minor adjustments along the way. Me being social is a very manual process. Nothing comes naturally to me. Because of this, I’m terrible at conversations in groups because I can’t track everyone’s reactions at once and even if I could, I wouldn’t know how to respond appropriately to all those different reactions. So writing an email to somebody I know nothing about is a bit of a nightmare for me. Firstly, I have absolutely no information and don’t know how even to get started. Secondly, I’m not getting any feedback at any point so who knows what I’m going to drift into.

The second thing is authenticity. For each of the sites, I tried to read any recommendations they had for developers or tried to read enough of the site to get what their angle was or tried to gain some insight into who I was talking to. It just felt cold and wrong of me to just have a single email that I simply sent to everyone. However, after 8 or 9 emails, each customized version was less coherent than the original one that I had written. It really pained me that in the end, the majority of the emails were simple cut and paste jobs. I wish I knew who was receiving the emails and that I knew them better. I wish I had a decent gauge on if they’d care at all.

It was quickly approaching launch day and I hadn’t hadn’t got much of a response. I got emails from all the pay-to-review sites to see if I wanted to buy a review. I think I got a total of one promo code request from the 30 emails where I didn’t include one. Of all the sites I did include promo codes for, none of them sent back any sort of response. It’s a bit of an awkward situation. I know it’s impossible for these sites to respond to every single inbound email. Also, opening the communication channels can be dangerous sometimes, especially if you have something negative to say. If a site responded to me and said they weren’t going to review my app, I’d understand. However, I can imagine that some developers wouldn’t and would try to start an argument on why they deserve to be reviewed. The difficult thing for developer, though, is that I have no idea if they saw my email and thought it wasn’t good enough or if they just missed it in the flood of emails.

According to iTunes Connect, as of the morning of launch day, 3 of the 30 promo codes had been redeemed. At the time, I was kind of sad about it. I don’t think I was expecting a much bigger response, but part of me was hoping for one. I started thinking about what I did wrong and how I could do better next time. I regretted pushing the game back two weeks for launch day reviews since it was clear there wouldn’t be any. It was a good reality check, though. I was still very excited about having a game out on the app store, but I had accepted it was just going to be a game that I was proud of that nobody had ever heard of. Then launch day happened.