Harbor Master HD - #1 Free iPad Game Sales Numbers

It's been an exciting couple of days. Harbor Master HD for iPad was approved on Wednesday. And on Thursday, when the iPad section of iTunes was enabled, we were amazed to see it as the #1 Free Game:

So what does it take to be the #1 Free iPad Game, two days before the iPad even launches to the public?

3,204 copies of Harbor Master HD were downloaded yesterday. That's right, two days before the public even gets the iPad. On Wednesday, before the iPad section of iTunes went live, only 13 copies were downloaded.

The US brought in the bulk of the purchases. The interesting thing is that although the iPad store is not even enabled in other countries, people downloaded quite a few copies anyway, mostly in Germany and the UK.

The reason these numbers are interesting is that people are downloading apps in huge numbers before they can even use them. The #1 free iPhone game generally gets 100,000-300,000 downloads a day. Our numbers are about 1% of that amount, which corresponds with the estimates that the iPad marketplace is currently at about 1% of the iPhone marketplace. However, the public does not even have their devices yet, and we are already seeing such a high number of downloads. I predict that the numbers will only go higher as people actually get their devices in hand. Make no mistake, this marketplace is going to be huge.

Gifting Apps - a New Promotional Tool for Developers?

About a week ago, Apple enabled gifting for apps. This got a lot of developers thinking about how gifting can be used for marketing purposes. We weren't the first ones to try it, but we decided to try it on a mass scale.

Our plan was to give away 1,000 copies of our game Harbor Master for iPhone to the first 1,000 subscribers to our newsletter. We coordinated this with promoting the upcoming Harbor Master HD for iPad.

We were lucky that TouchArcade picked up the story. We had our 1,000 subscribers within the first 10 hours, most within the first few hours.

The promotion elicited a heated reaction from the developer community. Some suggested this was a scam and feared for what could happen to the App Store if gifting affected rank and any developer could buy at Top 100 spot for a few hundred dollars. However, in our minds, this was similar to using a massive ad campaign to reach the top, which many larger companies already do. The only difference is that this method would actually be affordable for small developers like us.

Our opinion is that every entrepreneur needs to know how the market works. You learn how your market works by learning from the experiences of others, and by experimenting yourself. Gifting was a brand new technique, nobody had tried it, and we had a new game to promote. Our hunch was that gifting was not going to affect rank. But even so, it would be an exciting way to launch Harbor Master HD. We had spent lots of money in the past experimenting with different forms of advertising, and we saw this promotion as no different.


We began gifting on Friday morning. There were lots of rumors circulating around that gifting so many apps is impossible. While it's not impossible, it is difficult. All told, it took me 2 days to send 1000 gifts. Why did it take so long?

  • You're limited to 1000 characters in the address field, so we had to gift in about 20 batches.
  • iTunes would temporarily lock out our account for an hour every 1-2 batches. I'm guessing that they rate limit your purchases it to prevent fraudulent activity.
  • Visa locked our credit card twice because spending $100 on iTunes every hour looked a bit suspicious.
Over the course of Friday and Saturday, we sent out all the gifts. 54% were redeemed on the same day.

As we can see below, there was almost no effect on rank. The small visible bump can be entirely accounted for by actual increase in regular sales. If the 500 daily gifts counted as purchases, we would guess that we would at least be in the Top 25 of Strategy/Adventure, and in the Top 100 of All Games.

Image courtesy of MajicRank.

The App Store apocalypse so feared by other developers did not come to pass - a developer cannot influence their rank through mass giveaways. Since gifting has been available for music for a long time, my guess is that Apple learned this lesson a long time ago and discounted gifting from the ranking algorithm.

Overall, this was a great promotion strategy for us. We got over 1,000 interested mailing list subscribers, great media attention for Harbor Master HD, and a lot of good will from the community. People value a gift much more than a free app. While people tend to rate free apps much lower than paid apps because a free app has lower perceived value, the recipients of our gifts have been nothing but grateful.

While I'm not sure we'll do such a large giveaway again in the near future, simply because of the time required to do the actual gifting, it's another great option for developers to use in their marketing arsenal. If nothing else, it will be very helpful not to be limited to 50 promo codes when trying to share an app with media and the rest of the community.

Hippo High Dive FREE for a limited time

Hippo High Dive is now FREE for a limited time. So get it fast before we change our minds! Wheee! Splash.

Hippo High Dive is Out!

iTunes link Price: $0.99

Hippo is a death-defying high-diving artist extraordinaire. Help him leap off taller and taller dives, navigate through flaming hoops, and land in the ridiculously tiny pool below.

Are you still reading this? Get it now! Just 99 cents. No excuses. Hippo is waiting!

Hippo High Dive - One Night of Magic

At the 360iDev Conference in Denver in October, Noel Llopis of SnappyTouch had a brilliant idea: what if we get a whole bunch of game developers together of the conference, and each team write a brand new game?

Even though Keith and I were giving the keynote at 9am the next morning, we couldn't resist. And so after a long night of magic (sleep deprivation), Hippo High Dive was born.

Three weeks later, Hippo High Dive is ready to swan-dive into the App Store.

Hippo is a high diving trapeze artist extraordinaire. Help him leap off taller and taller dives, navigate through flaming rings, and land in the tiny pool below.

How high does your hippo fly?


Check. It. Out.

We're very lucky to be collaborating with David Whatley of Critical Thought Games, the developer of the amazing geoDefense and geoDefense Swarm.

Also, don't miss David talking about geoSpark (and driving his racecar with a rifle... don't ask) on the TouchArcade podcast.

EDIT: Oh! And I almost forgot - I was the guest developer on the FIRST ever TouchArcade podcast! Oh, and since everyone asks - no, I was NOT eating potato chips at the beginning! But I may have been recording while flying my chopper.

Harbor Master Multiplayer

Harbor Master multiplayer is out! Finally, you can beat your friends and family in a competitive Harbor Master survival onslaught.

In each multiplayer match, two players compete for the title of "Harbor Master" on any of the 6 included maps. When a player sends an unloaded ship off the screen, it appears on the other player's screen, at the same spot, fully loaded. That way, a player can use different strategies to try to overwhelm their opponent, such as timing waves of ships to send over all at once. The player who crashes first loses.

Here's a shot of it in action. The little people symbols with the 2 on them signify an incoming ship from your opponent. Also notice the stress meter at the top, which shows you how overwhelmed your opponent is.