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9 strategies for early-stage mobile games to acquire their first 1000+ players

$138 billion on mobile games. This is the amount the global gaming community can spend on mobile games by 2025. Among dozens of different genres and demographics, more than 40% of modern gamers play 5+ times a week, averaging 3 games a month. 

Casual gamers download and delete games with a speed of light and don’t forget to leave their money at it. The biggest question remains open: How can you acquire the first 1000+ players despite competition? 

Today I’ll introduce you to 9 bulletproof strategies that can make your game go viral before you know it. 

Preparing your marketing plan for user acquisition stage

In the past 5 years, I’ve seen more entrepreneurs build an amazing product but fail to gain early traction than I want to admit. 

Before you pull the trigger and start burning thousands from your marketing budget on user acquisition, make sure you answer these 3 questions:

Who are my early adopters? 

Simply knowing your buyer personas is not enough. Think critically which segment of your target market is most likely to convert at the earliest stage of your business. Is it a professional gamer who does livestreams on YouTube? A casual 35-year old player killing time in a subway on his way to work? Or a high-school student glued to his mobile phone 12 hours a day? Once you have the answer, spend the next month aggressively targeting this ONE segment. Test your hypothesis and double-down on it if it’s working or ditch it and adjust the strategic direction fast. 

Where are they located?

Location says more about the user than where they live. Knowing the key target regions where your early adopters are can help you narrow down the language, type of mobile device (iOS/Android) they have, their average spending power, and cultural specialties that can come in handy when developing creatives. 

How can I reach them?

You know who your potential players are and where they are located. Amazing. Now, it’s time to figure out where they hang out. Do they spend time on Instagram? Do they hate TikTok? Are they leaving gaming questions on Reddits? Do they follow industry PR? At this stage, your main goal is to identify 3-4 channels you’ll pursue to grab the attention of your target audience. 

How to get your first 1000 players

If you’re still reading, I assume you’re dead serious about getting those first 1000 players in. Good news is that there are proven tactics to help you scale. 

The best results come when you combine paid and organic marketing. Paid marketing will drive traffic to your app while organic marketing will boost brand awareness and build recognition in the market to help you lower the Cost of Customer Acquisition (CCA) moving forward. 

Paid user acquisition

  1. Digital ads. Ads is my number one choice for driving the first traffic to your web. The downside? They can be expensive and difficult to set up if you’re going through this journey on your own. My best advice: don’t put all eggs in one basket. Experiment with the formats you’re using: play with video ads, in-game ads, paid Facebook ads, and playable ads. See which format gives you the lowest Cost per install (CPI) and increase your budgets for it. 
  2. Influencers. KOLs can attract a tonne of traffic to the website. They are trusted, credible, and well-known. What more do you need? An original idea to break through the noise. For example, invite a gamer KOL to play one of your games for the first time and stream 30 minutes of their experience to YouTube/Instagram/TikTok/Twitch or reach out to the KOL’s with gamers background to review the game on YouTube and promote it to their online community.
  3. PR. The era of press-releases is over. Go viral by releasing news features in multiple formats: interview, use-case article, editorial, or educational piece. Touch on a big pain point of the gamers and make them resonate with your story.

Organic user acquisition 

  1. ASO. Did you know that over 65% of app downloads come organically, and ASO is responsible for it. ASO is the Search Engine Optimization of mobile apps. Just like you can make your website rank in the first page of Google – you can make your app appear in the top search results in the App Store. To make ASO work for you, continuously update your keyword analysis, assign your app in general store or by category to minimize competition, include a keyword in the app title, and update the icon to make it simple, unique, and memorable. Last but not least, invest in high-quality screenshots and videos to introduce the app.
  2. Partnerships. There is no better way to grow your organic user base than leveraging the audience of other projects. Depending on the game type, you can explore partnership opportunities with Metaverse worlds, P2Es, P2Ls, traditional mobile games, traditional desktop games, etc. The more creative your idea for partnership is – the more communication buzz you’ll create. Sponsor an event together, organize a scavenger hunt, or create a gaming hackathon.
  3. Social media. Social media still remains one of the key pillars of the public image. When marketing mobile games, I recommend focusing on video marketing over traditional text-based social media like Instagram or Meta. Shoot behind-the-scenes, record cheat sheets, and walkthroughs to immerse the player in the gaming atmosphere. 

Shaping your product roadmap for the next 6 months 

Marketing can only go that far. Your product roadmap must be adjusted to target early-stage players for a minimum of 6 months. 

Here are additional tips to attract your first 1000+ players: 

Referral programs

Referral programs help you grow the number of downloads by encouraging existing users to invite their friends and family. One idea to make referral programs more fun is to conduct a give-away competition. You’ll select a random winner out of participants who followed you on social media and referred the game to a friend through an app. 

Add community-based features

Community-based features are a must for keeping engagement up! If you haven’t done so already, make sure that your app has a convenient chat feature. Take it one step further by introducing anonymous forums where all gamers can chat without fear. If you go this road, don’t ignore the need for a moderator to take care of the spam messages. Depending on the game type, you can also connect people by noble houses, missions, quests, and age to foster a feeling of belonging.

Update the app often to be featured in the “New & Updated Games” 

Another idea to cheat the ASO algorithm is frequently releasing app updates. By introducing new app features that address the users’ needs, you can appear in the “New & updated games” section and trend every other week.

Summary

Mobile games are here to stay. If you want yours to join the top of the App Store, keep experimenting with mobile app marketing. First, prepare your marketing plan and clearly answer who, where, how. Second, mix paid (Digital ads, KOLs, and PR) and organic user acquisition channels (ASO, Partnerships, Social media). And, last but not least, shape your product roadmap to attract early adopters by introducing referral programs, adding community-based features, and frequently updating the app.

Have an app you’d like to scale? Reach out to the LKI Consulting team.

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