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How Car Jack Streets' guerilla online marketing helped make an App Store hit

From virtual street teams to Facebook advertising

How Car Jack Streets' guerilla online marketing helped make an App Store hit

“50% of success on the App Store is marketing. 50% is making a great game.” That was the conclusion of Tag Games' CEO Paul Farley, talking on a BAFTA panel about self-publishing at the Game Horizon conference in Newcastle, in North East England.

Drawing on his experience with Tag’s iPhone hit Car Jack Streets, he focused on the various and diverse marketing strategies the company had experimented with both prior to and after the game’s release.

One of the most interesting was the deployment of an official virtual street team of 10 online enthusiasts who worked the internet forums, dishing out exclusive content fed to them by Tag, and generally getting people excited about Car Jack Streets.

It’s a concept well known in the music industry, which engages fans to promote bands prior to live shows in their home cities.

“It was great for us, and they were labelled as being part of Tag Games, so they loved it too," Farley said.

The subject was further investigated during a discussion about ‘astroturfing’, where developers post anonymously on forums to big up their games and - sometimes - slam the competition. (It’s called astroturfing because the green roots are fake, apparently.)

”I have a moral issue with that,” Farley said. “And anyway, people want to engage with the people who create the games they like. Having a direct link with your fans is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and you’d be a fool not to take advantage of it.”

Other tricks that Tag used which worked well included: advertising on Facebook - “Great for encouraging sales in some smaller territories”; Twitter - “Twitter worked really well for us”; and engaging with the press - “We had 30 reviews up within a week of release.”

Of course, a great relationship with Apple is required for App Store promotion, and the proof was that came as Car Jack Streets was featured on the main games splash page.

However, even with this support - which took the game to the top spot in the racing category in both the US and UK App Stores - when sales began to trail off, price reduction was the final lever of control.

“When it comes to maintaining a long tail, pricing works best,” Farley said. The price was cut by $1, which reignited sales. “And because we’re trying to build a franchise with Car Jack Streets, those sales are also future opportunities to upsell to new customers in terms of sequels.”

As for the end result?

“We were profitable inside four weeks on this project,” Farley said, although it should be pointed out that the bulk of Car Jack Streets development cost were sunk in its previous mobile incarnation.