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Game Screenshots that sell on the Apple App Store
by Alexandru Bleau on 07/30/14 06:39:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

You’ve just uploaded the binary, created an awesome icon, added the description and then iTunes asks you for the screenshots.

Now, before talking about game screenshots that sell, let’s think from a user’s perspective what is the order of importance of those elements when it comes to discovering and choosing your game. This is more or less what happens:

  1. The user searches for something on the App Store (not a specific game name).  Usually from their mobile device.
  2. He/She look at the icons and focus on those that are good looking and high quality
  3. They eliminate those that usually have less than 4 stars. I would say 3, but would you be able to answer me if I asked what was your last 3 star game that you installed?
  4. At this point, they compare the first screenshot.  App information is now displayed in a card (icon, title, ratings/reviews, price and the first screenshot).
  5. They tap on those that seem at the same level. And they start reading the description, right? Well isn’t that cute… but it’s wrong! They go straight down to the screenshots.

So the order is in fact: icon -> rating -> screenshots -> (maybe) description. I say maybe because sometimes they get all their info from the reviews below the screenshots.

As Jen Gordon from Designboost wrote in a similar article:

“You tap into comparably priced and comparably reviewed apps to see which one looks the best”

Apps or games.

With screenshots being so important, we wanted to examine some tips and tricks for creating screenshots that will help sell your game.

The first screenshot 

In short, that baby needs to be so good players will be attracted to it like flies are attracted to lights.  That first image needs to convince them to tap on the game and find out more.

Splash image or in game visuals?  Depending on what your game is about, an in game screenshot might not do it justice, even with captions or text. That is why some games prefer to create an attractive wallpaper-ish image.

 

 

AppStore Screenshots that sell

Here are some games in which the in-game content sells and presents them better:

App Store screenshot

 

In the end you have to decide what will better present and sell your game (wallpaper versus in-game with or without caption/title).

If you decide to go for the “wallpaper” style for your first screenshot, note these tiny details they have in common:

  • All of them have the game’s name and/or logo. If someone is searching for your game, they should easily recognize it.
  • The company logo, if present, is very small. They are not here for your company. To be honest, they might never know anything about your company. They are there for the game. And they will see it anyway when they start the game, right?
  • The “fun” is looking at you and coming towards you. All I have to do is install and then I get the “fun”.
  • They use iconic elements from the game

The screenshots in general

So he tapped on your game, skipped the description (or read the only 4 lines initially visible from the description) and is now looking at the images to see if he wants to play it. Here’s some stuff we learned, sometimes the hard way:

  • Always put your best foot forward. Take the best scenes, images, moments that your game has to offer. This doesn’t mean you have to show him the last level or show him something that spoils the game. But do show him all he’s in for.
  • Always use all 5 slots and never use poor quality images.
  • You can do a bit of image retouching in Photoshop or other editors. By retouch I don’t mean take your infinite runner pictures and make them look like Diablo.
  • You probably have (or should have) a unique short selling proposition for your game and have also written a description. Make sure that the images complement them.
  • Use titles/captions if that will make the message or what is going on in the picture clearer for the reader.  Localize them if possible.

The titles/texts on the screenshots

The texts or titles usually help clarify or explain the game or what it is they are seeing.  Here’s what I’ve seen as common practice:

  • Keep it short. Most of them did not read the first four lines of the app description so don’t push your luck. Try to say what you have to say in 4-5 words max.
  • Talk about the experience, not so much about the list of features. In other words, “Play with your friends” is better than “Facebook and Game Center included“.
  • Start with verbs. A lot of games start their texts with verbs creating a feeling as if you can already do that(you just have to install the game): “Wage Epic Battles”, “Race As The Birds Or Pigs”, “Help Propeller Joe”, etc.

If it was not clear up to this point, these are not rules. There are top games that have done none of these for example. However, this is what me and Tudor have observed with most successful games (meaning top paid or top grossing).

I would love to find out about your experiences, tests and results with screenshots and add or improve what I have written above.

Here is our splash image from our game, The Way Home:

iphone5 splash banner

 

repost from moWOW blog.

image via orkugifs.com


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Comments


Josh Foreman
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Seems like common sense stuff. But in the heat of publishing these kinds of reminders can be invaluable. Thanks!

Alexandru Bleau
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@Josh There is this saying that common sense is usually the least used of senses. And I have played several good games that didn't even use all 5 screenshot slots :)

Demian Schanzel
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Well spoken,
I think as Game Designers/Programmers it's often all too easy to fall into the pitfall of thinking gameplay alone will sell a game. When in honesty what's generally needed is a tight focus on the visual aesthetics, and how they might be developed in such a manner that they're immediately compelling to your audience.

This isn't necessarily a message of placing visuals before gameplay,
Though when people are found browsing through dozens of downloadable games in mere moments through their respective devices, I suspect it's that original visual hook that can really be utilized to draw them in from all the other possibilities

Alexandru Bleau
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Hey Demian, glad you liked it. I think that too often we don't use common sense and forget that the world has literally no clue what our game is about or that it even exists. Most games have ton of assets and information and things that they could show but the marketing part gets left behind when that is what helps the game sell and the community grow (not before a good game though. A good game helps a lot more :P).

Kevin Racape
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- The “fun” is looking at you and coming towards you. All I have to do is install and then I get the “fun”.

Quite obvious from the given samples, yet not fully convinced by this best practice. What about a character from the back with a wide landscape, waving at you as an invite to join the adventure as you could dive into his world?

Wouldn't it be an interesting attraction to download? :)

Alexandru Bleau
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Hey Kevin,

It is not a best practice. I think it would take several months, if not a year to get enough data to consider something a best practice or best use considering how the App Store landscape changes so quickly. And even then, every game is different (except the clash of clans and flappy clones :)) ).

Your idea sounds great. Do you have any examples to share with us? In this article I was trying to sum up what the top earners do in general because they are most likely A/B testing the copy/visuals on a regular basis.

I am currently looking at 150 screenshots from the USA's top grossing and top paid and will post the results in a follow-up article.

Thanks for your input!

Aaron Oostdijk
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We often retouch our screenshots to specifically add information that is not visible on a static image. A lot of our games are pretty hectic and there's a lot of motion, so sometimes we add little trails to things or a slight blur to give it the sense of motion you get when you play, but can't see in a screenshot. So, even though the screenshot is not a direct representation of the game, it is a direct representation of the experience.

Alexandru Bleau
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Thanks for mentioning this. I like how you tweaked the images until you felt that the screenshots reflected and properly represented the experience that your game offered.

We didn't need to retouch so far, but I think this is ok and actually good for action games. Most of the times when making screenshots you miss that fraction of a second when the smoke trails or blood splatters look amazing.

Jennis Kartens
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Outstanding visual brading is very important, not only for Apples storefront.

Something I'd recommend: Use an *immediate* eyecatcher. That means use something directly out of the ordinary, that immediatly strikes the readers mind within nanoseconds. That is something you cannot necessarily predict, and may have to react in a very limited time frame. Though you can also work with that in a positive way. If you know you may come out in a week of competition, you can come out on top when going in an unexpected direction.

These things don't necessarily have to be the image as such, but the text/naming itself too.

I've noticed latetly how awesome quite a few Japanese/Asian games names are (not always, but a lot more as "western" games). I always stop with both mind and eyes when reading another title popping up (at Steam usually). I am always disappointed, since I disklike the games in general, but never the less: The naming alone had an impact since it isn't what western people are used to.

That is something to be considered next, the naming. To some extend, people do read - wether they want to or not, it comes naturally.

So if you name your game something, comparable unexpected, you may already get more attention.

Something else is the actual space: You have often very limited space (initially). So its minimal. So maybe a good way is to go minimalistic. Get a message/promotion out there with 2 colors. You may have more success as using every color and a "good picture" that won't be recognized because of the many factors that especially are true to mobile devices (limited screen size, also you don't know *when* people may check the store)


All in all it should be *BAM* - no matter your game. I personally love it, if the *BAM* fits to the game actually, but I am not mad if it's not the case and I was positivly impressed when I actually "felt" for the trick and went to the store page. That balance of course is another topic and up to the devs.


I took the liberty of making a picture of todays Steam storefront with my personal care-o-meter. This isn't the best week in good exploration and explanation of it, but I tried anyways.

http://s7.directupload.net/images/140801/9fvv2pud.jpg

/quick and dirty post btw. with of course influences of my personal impressions, but it's friday and summer. Excuse that please :)

Alexandru Bleau
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Hey Jennis,

I chuckled at Care-o-meter, but very good way of giving a good example. Players are bombarded with so much attention grabbing media (not only games related) that if we don't do anything and everything to stand out (in a good way, mind you), it might as well be the next Minecraft... won't matter.

Ron Dippold
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I always find it surprising when one of the first few screenshots is a menu screen. Which usually looks like every Angry Birds / F2P menu screen ever. Or a help screen. Don't waste my time with that! If you want to get through that your game has certain features, even if people don't read the app text, then add banners to fun looking screens. Which it looks like Way Home did for all your screenshots (and you call them titles in the writeup, fair enough).

Alexandru Bleau
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Hey Ron,

Honestly I would just put a gameplay video instead of the first screenshot, or a vine or an instagram video.

If our game would be covered in a funny let's play video by a major channel (or even a small one, doesn't matter), I would put that as the first thing players see: someone they relate to having fun with my game. But we can't... just yet.

As far as the ribbons go, yeah, I called them titles for now. IF you guys have a better name, I'm listening. CTA's didn't sound right.

Ryan Christensen
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Screenshots and icons, the new box art. Both very important for window shoppers. The icon can literally be the reason why someone keeps it on their device for a while or not, sexy icons.

Alexandru Bleau
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I think the icon is even more important than that first screenshot, especially when searching on iTunes (where you do not have the first image displayed).

There's always so many factors to consider: what color, what framing, what to place in it, what edges, do it similar to what is trending or different because people are getting tired of it and the list goes on.

But yes, icon, title, how many reviews and if visible, the first screenshot. That is what influences the player to stop and click or tap on our apps and games these days.

Greg Quinn
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Interesting points, thanks for sharing.

Alexandru Bleau
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My pleasure. I hope they are helpful :)

Darius Drake
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I saw a comment about common sense. A lot of this marketing stuff can be figured out by intuition. What just SEEMS like it would be great? But there are some things I read that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. Thanks for the article.

Darius Drake
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Also, I have some feedback on your The Way Home image. It doesn't "grab" me as it should, and part of that is because of the color and contrast. The hue is too "pastel." In particular, I'm referring to the character in the center of the screen. Also, that center character should be striking. He's the first thing I focused on, and in a way, he represents what the game stands for.


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