In our search to understand and learn from successful apps, current word game hit Word Hack is definitely setting the right example. Reaching the top 10 charts for word games in over 15 countries (including US, Canada and Brazil), this massive hit can teach us many good lessons on development, launch and marketing.
So, we sat down with Jordan Gurrieri, Founder of Blue Label Labs, an NYC based app development lab that created Word Hack, and IdeaToAppster, a resource for news, articles and tips for mobile app design and development. Here’s what he told us about the road to success
How did you come up with Word Hack? What inspired you?
As app developers we get pitched app ideas all the time. The original gameplay idea for Word Hack was pitched to us by one of our IdeaToAppster writers. This one really stuck. We love word games and wanted to make the simple gameplay of Hangman and Wheel of Fortune more visual and exciting. With Word Hack, users match the colors of the letters with the colors on the game board. Bobby, my co-founder, and I really liked the idea, and within a week I programmed a one page screen mock of the idea into a working iPhone prototype for the team to play. It was simple to pick up for its familiarity and a lot of fun to play with the unique visual twists; we knew we had something here.
How long did development take?
The prototype took less than a week. But, the Word Hack you see in the App Store today took nearly eight months to get right. I programmed the app and UX and got help from teammate Adam Sherbell with the design. After months of painstakingly tweaking the gameplay mechanics, physics based animations, color palette, puzzle lists, and other secondary experiences of the app we were ready for a soft launch.
Tell us a bit about the launch
We choose to soft launch in Canada to get a broader audience to test the app. We wanted to work out any issues, fine tune the gameplay mechanics and make sure we had the right balance of difficulty, progression and reward for players to keep the app fun and interesting. We instrumented a ton of metrics using Flurry analytics to help us with this. It took nearly 3 months in Canada before we felt like we had figured out the right balance for the gameplay. We aren’t done tweaking yet.
Monetization –are you planning to use advertising as well as In-App-Purchase in the future?
IAPs are the only monetization in the game at the moment, but we have a number of other monetization plans including sponsorships, premium content, gameplay variations and, perhaps, advertising.
What about an Android version, is it in the pipeline?
This is on the radar now that the iPhone popularity is soaring.
What did your marketing efforts consists of (ad campaigns/social media/it just went viral really quick etc)?
The soft launch in Canada was also to test our marketing ideas. We used a number of various tactics including social media, blogger and app review site outreach, as well as paid advertising with Facebook Ads and other ad networks. At the end of the day though, we got some awesome organic reviews from app and word game sites, that started a snowball effect of other bigger named news outlets to pick up on the game which launched us to the top 10 charts on the App Store literally overnight last week.
To sum it up: Less than a year to develop a fun game that trains the mind in a very fun way. Clearly a proof that awesomeness and addictiveness can wear many shapes and are not visual-dependent. Add a good and diverse marketing plan and constant use of analytics, and you’ve got a winner.
Do you want to present your app at the Appnext Developers’ Stage or to recommend other great apps we should tell about? Shoot us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.