Giving Thanks: How SketchParty TV Did This Year at Thanksgiving
This year’s Thanksgiving was the best SketchParty TV has had since its debut in 2012. Thank you!
I make a family-friendly party game for Apple TV and iPhone/iPad (if you’re not familiar, you can read about the history of SketchParty TV here), and the time that it gets the most activity is naturally centered around holidays. As this is the first major family-focused holiday since the debut of the 4th generation Apple TV, I now have some insight into what I might expect for this season of the year.
An early screenshot of the Apple TV App Store. This is scrolled to approximately position 37. SketchParty TV didn’t last that high for long, and fluctuates wildly compared with other titles that have been on the Store since launch.
First, I want to acknowledge a notion that surfaced after the debut of the Apple TV App Store: discovery is an issue. If you don’t have a means of being discovered from outside the Store, you’re relying on search, or on Apple’s good graces to give you a spotlight. As of this writing, I’ve not been given a spotlight on the Apple TV App Store, so I’m in the same boat as any other indie developer on the Store. I was a fairly early adopter of AirPlay Mirroring technology, having released the first version of SketchParty three years ago, and I was motivated to write a completely new system under-the-hood to support the latest Apple TV. There was admittedly some disappointment to not being given even a modest sliver of the TV App Store’s home screen.
(I should note that I have been fortunate to have SketchParty TV recently included by Apple in a collection of “Greatest Party Games” in more than 20 countries; this hasn’t had a measurable impact on sales, but it’s nice to be recognized).
Thank you to the Apple App Store Editorial team for creating this category ahead of Thanksgiving this year.
So if the Apple TV App Store is even more difficult to stand out in than the iOS App Store has become, what’s an indie dev to do?
In my case, I decided to do the same thing I’ve been doing since I launched version one three years back: make the best Apple TV party game I can and regularly improve it with new features. That and hoping others will notice and help me get the word out. I’m also not shy in telling others about it, particularly the press; however, I try to be very respectful about the time and attention of journalists, and I only pitch the product and its story when it’s relevant and I feel there’s something interesting to write about.
Developing a rapport with a member of the press takes timing, consistency, and consideration.
Knowing when to write is important; you want your message to be relevant. In my case I needed to be able to anticipate relevance, and to have a story of ancillary relevance to the Apple TV.
You also need to be consistent, and be in a position to respond quickly to an opportunity to either be written about or to lend insight to a larger story being developed. Consistent in your ability to respond to inquiry and to keeping abreast of developments in your domain. For me, that means staying on top of what’s happening in the app development and particularly the Apple TV space.
Accordingly, you should be considerate. Journalists are trying to get a job done, same as you, and their time is valuable. I had a tendency early on to write emails that were probably too long. Be concise. Avoid saying everything you want to say in a wall-of-text email. Providing links to more info is helpful, and if a journalist wants to read more about what you’re alluding to in your succinctly written message, she will.
Special thanks to Jason Cipriani at CNET for writing this how-to article on a way to entertain family with the Apple TV this holiday season. Great popcorn drawing, too!
On Thanksgiving day I was suitably thankful for the thoughtfulness of Jason Cipriani at CNET in writing up a how-to article on playing SketchParty TV with family over the holidays. The CNET Twitter account has over 1 million followers, and so my app was at least seen by a sizable number of people. And just ahead of Thanksgiving, Rene Ritchie of iMore was gracious enough to recommend SketchParty TV on the TWiT show MacBreak Weekly. That had the effect of putting SketchParty TV at number 5 in its category on the iPad, number 12 in its category on the iPhone, and at number 12 paid overall on the Apple TV App Store. I now have some insight into what other apps at that position might be making. It’d basically make for a nice salary… were it to be consistent. For my app, it won’t be; mine is too seasonal. But the temporary boost is certainly more than welcome.
The spike at the end is for Thanksgiving. It made for a nice boost, even if it is temporary.
All this to say: thank you! Thank you to the journalists who have been so kind (on Thanksgiving morning I sent notes to each person who has written about or podcasted about SketchParty TV in the last three years). And thank you to everyone who has purchased and played the game with their families and friends. Making a product isn’t enough, and the quality of an app is irrelevant if no one knows about it. So again, thank you all.
Designing and developing apps is sort of hard, but it’s really only one part of a larger whole when it comes to being on the App Store. The game of developing apps has changed greatly since I started playing seven years ago, and I sometimes wonder if the echoes of the early days are still being heard by starry-eyed young developers. To stand out now I believe it’s best to have a team, and to include a marketing person on that team.
As for me, I like wearing a lot of different hats. I’m a decent designer, I love writing code, and I’ve always had a great interest in marketing. I have said that if my products were to take off I’d love to get others involved. Right now I keep SketchParty TV and MASH close for reasons I mentioned in a talk I gave recently; at some point I may write about that.
This evening I’ll be a guest on a podcast called Tech Webcast, and it’s likely I’ll be talking a bit more about this stuff on there. I’ll include a link to that here when that episode posts. (*Update: The episode is now available. You can listen to my interview segment here: *https://overcast.fm/+FkhmVzS24/42:17)
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