Featured by Apple vs. Featured by Microsoft

A-Z Word Search

In April we published A-Z Word Search as a native app in the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Microsoft Windows Store.  We also published to the Amazon App Store a month later.  It is a classic word search puzzle game that lets you solve themed boards (categorized A-Z) against a timer.  The game is free to download and includes expansion packs for purchase, with each expansion pack containing 50 new boards.


Our intent for writing and publishing the game was to have a reference application, showcasing our ability to write native apps across all platforms and our ability to navigate all of the relevant app stores.  Because this was our intent, and because we were new to the app store business, we did not take any steps towards making the game discoverable.

We simply published the game and expected only a handful of downloads.

Apple App Store

On the first day we were in the stores, I logged into our Azure cloud service to look at diagnostics.  A-Z Word Search sends us anonymous diagnostic information when a user first opens our app, and when they complete a board.  The only information we store about the user is the kind of device they are using and, if applicable, the board that was completed.

Much to our surprise, our logs showed that iOS users were downloading the game every 10 seconds or so.  I was completely baffled since, again, we took ZERO steps toward discoverability.  But obviously people were finding our app.  Curious (and excited), I picked up my iPad and searched “Word Search”.

Bingo!   We came up on the first screen.  I also fired up iTunes on my laptop and browsed to the “Word Games” category.  Bingo again. We were listed among the first few games in the top row of New Releases.  This visibility remained solid for the first 3 days.  During that time, we averaged 1,500 downloads a day.

On the second day, we received an email from an app promotion company noting our position on the App Store rankings.  I did some digging around and came across a site called toppappcharts.com.  According to the site, our iPad version was ranked 38th in the Word category.  Our Apple visibility then started to recede after 3 days, as did our downloads.  


Microsoft Windows Store

In terms of our performance on the Windows Store, we initially were doing what I expected we’d be doing all along: not much.  We had a couple dozen downloads during the first 2 days.

Then, on the 3rd day, we quite unexpectedly got about 150 downloads (up from 8 downloads the day before).  Again curious (and again excited), I opened up our Windows Surface tablet and went to the Store app.  And right there in the New Releases category was A-Z Word Search.  Also, we showed up as the second app when searching for “word search”.  After 2 days, we began a similar descent in visibility and downloads to our App Store placement.

While we moved out of the New Releases section, we remained (and remain) on the first screen when searching for “word search”.  This placement, however, does very little for our downloads.  We average about 10 Windows downloads a day.



The obvious takeaway, as documented on many other blogs, is that getting featured by Apple is a boon to downloads.  What did we do to get featured?  Our understanding is that you typically get featured by Apple by taking advantage of new device features, to help Apple showcase the latest and greatest.  We did not do that.  Our only theory is that A-Z Word Search is very clean on iOS, particularly the iPad, and that it does exactly what you’d want a word search game to do, but no more.  Having no ads probably helps a lot in that area.

What we find interesting is that we were featured in almost the same way on both the App Store and the Windows Store, yet we got about 10 times more iOS downloads than Windows downloads.  And A-Z Word Search is available for download on ALL Windows 8 machines, not just the tablets.  Laptop and desktop users are able to play the game as well as tablet users.

This indicates to us that the Windows 8 traction really is as low as perceived, and/or people are just not using Windows 8 machines for gaming so much.

Footnotes on Google Play and Amazon App Store

On Google Play, it was (and is) nearly impossible to find A-Z Word Search.  Initially, we came up on the 15th screen when you searched for “free word search”.  I did some rudimentary research into app SEO on Google, and many articles pointed to the importance of paying attention to the description you enter for your app.  Our description on Google was pretty basic and lacked some of the crucial keywords and phrases that we needed.

I rewrote the description, filling it out with much more text and necessary keywords.  This had a dramatic effect, but only pushed us up to the 7th search screen.  Still not enough to push the downloads.

Our performance on Amazon has essentially mirrored our performance on Google Play.  It ran slightly ahead of Google in its first week (about 20 downloads per day).  But it is running behind Google on an ongoing basis (about 2 downloads a day).

We have a couple of new app/games in the works right now.  With the launch of iOS7 this Fall, we’ve decided to focus exclusively on that platform.  Our strategy is to take advantage of the many changes coming with iOS7 to better our chances of getting featured by Apple.  Stay tuned.