Why Apple and Google are now reaching out to indie developers
Without the marketing and UA budgets of the bigger app studios, indie developers can have trouble spreading the word about their applications, being featured in the app stores, and gaining big user bases.
For years, indie developers have criticised the two biggest app stores, the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, for prioritizing big studio games over the independent developers who form the backbone of the app economy. Now, Apple and Google are beginning to unveil new features and programs designed to help and highlight indie developers.
Apple search ads
Apple introduced search ads earlier this year, and many speculated that this new App Store feature would only benefit the bigger app studios with the resources to spend on search ads. To combat this criticism, Apple has announced several key features of their search ads specifically to help small developers.
First, search ads will only be shown to users who don’t already have the app installed. This means that very popular games are less likely to be shown since most users will already have them installed, giving small developers a chance to pitch to similar audiences.
Secondly, ads will be displayed based on the user’s search keywords. So, you have a greater chance of new users finding your app when they use your keywords, especially if your app caters to a niche audience.
Lastly, Apple sets up search ads using existing information from your app’s page and metadata. This helps independent developers without the resources for a standalone marketing and content department to test keywords and copy.
Search ads will begin rolling out to the general public in the fall, so developers will be able to get a better idea of how the service will work for them.
Google's indie game showcase
Later this month, Google will be hosting its first ever Indie Games Festival in California. Developers (and studios with 15 people or less on staff) are invited to any apps that were published in 2016. Google hints that it will be placing a big focus on games that are innovative, and they are encouraging VR/AR app submissions as well.
This new festival is in addition to Google’s first-ever Google Play Awards hosted earlier this year at Google I/O in which Google showcased lesser-known mobile apps and indie developers. Along with new developer centers and online coding classes, the Indie Games Festival is the latest in a line of efforts by Google to reach out to independent developers.
While things probably won’t get easier for small developers anytime soon, it is a good sign that the two biggest app stores are starting to recognise the importance and innovative of small, independent apps and games. As these new programs roll out, it will be interesting to see if developers see results.