As soon as we realized that we didn’t really know how to make this game to appeal to casual players, especially after the frustrating first launch. We quickly decided to tailor the game to meet more hardcore puzzle players’ needs. Actually it was quite simple to do: simply adapt to the feedback from these players and continue to polish the game to the level where it provides the best Picross puzzle-solving experience among its competitors on iPad.
A few big changes were quickly applied to the game. Firstly, we double checked every puzzle and fixed every one we found that has multiple solutions. Secondly, we optimized the UI responding speed to achieve a smoother and more comfortable touch control. Lastly, we implemented the “free mode” in expert (20×20) and maniac (25×25) levels to ensure that player won’t be punished and auto-corrected when a mistake was made. This feature was among the most requested ones from player.
But we still kept the time punishment and auto-correction in easier difficulty levels (15×15 or less). We believe this is more accessible to beginner, while experienced player usually makes less mistake in these difficulty levels and won’t bother to complain. We call that “arcade mode”.
After we finished all of the above improvements and released a few updates, gradually iPACROSS began to regained player’s confidence in its quality. We finally settled down our hearts and even started to believe that we might have already achieved our goal: crafting the best puzzle solving experience among all the picross games in the App Store. At this point, we all agreed that it’s time for marketing.
We sent self-promotion emails to many bloggers and mobile game sites, even directly enclosed the promo code for review. A few reviews appeared on some minor reviewing sites. It might help a bit, but not as much as we wished. We also tried to put the game on sale for couple times at different price tags. The most successful sale was the $0.99 sale, reduced from $4.99 regular price. The sale quickly went up and managed to get into Top 100 in game category. The sale also caught the attention of certain Japanese blogger and soon discovered by many Japanese players. The sale peaked the next day in Japan and became No.1 puzzle game in Japanese region. But it didn’t last long, we dropped out the Top list after a few days. From this sale, we were able to drew the conclusion that the price cut did help to build the game’s visibility, but it didn’t make the game more profitable.
Our explanation to this conclusion is that we quickly shifted our focus from casual gamer who is more sensitive to the pricing to hardcore puzzle gamer who is more inclined to buy a game with higher price tag, as long as it provides abundant content, quality gaming experience and/or proper challenges. Of course the sale dropped after we restored the price, but it managed to stay at higher and a quite stable level till this day.
Hello – thank you for the story. I wonder if you have any spare time to help me with a project that includes a simple picross puzzle I am working on? I have had 100 levels made (a mix of 5×5, 10×10, 15×15 grids) – but some of them are not working properly (i.e. you can solve in more than one way – and you end up with a ‘wrong’ picture). I want someone familiar with picross to check them and fix the ones that are are not working as they should. I am not very good at puzzles or I’d do it myself! I can pay, but not much (sorry). Please let me know if you are interested. Nick.