Choosing iOS game categories… just roll the dice?

So you’ve made a great iOS game, prepared your launch and are ready to submit.

Now how to pick your App store sub/categories?  

Ranking within these subcategories after all is a critical part of picking up organic users, which is important for a successful game launch.

"Easy!"  you say… “Just pick what your gut tells you perfectly fits your game, you dummy!” 

Fair enough, but what if your game fits into multiple subcategories, then how to decide?

Like in our case with our first game.

Hmm let’s see…

  • We’re a 3d fashion game that young girls would like, so put it in Kids
  • But then moms and entire families can enjoy it, so maybe put it in Family?
  • But it’s a role playing game (you’re an aspiring stylist) so put it in RPG
  • But it’s mechanic is a fashion puzzler, so really it belongs in Puzzles 
  • Or maybe Strategy?  Coz there is planning to what to buy and wear…
  • Hang on, it’s really a Simulation of a fashion career come to think of it…
  • But then again it has a mini game which is definitely very Arcade.. 

Ugh….where the heck should it go?!

Having found no obvious choice, my inner engineer was itching for a number based approach to decide.  

Searching around uncovered some great sources including this by Casey Fleser, which I then stripped down to the possible categories and honing in on iPhone.

So let’s look at the % of top free iPhone games in the target subcategories:

Arcade 26.75%
Simulation 18.50%
Family 14.25%
Kids 13.50%
Puzzle 13.00%
Strategy 11.00%
Role Playing 8.50%

According to this the clear loser is RPG and clear winner is Arcade - that must be the one with the most demand and therefore the biggest demand, so just choose that one right?

But hang on, whilst there are a lot of players in that category, competition must be strong right, even for a unique game?

And does biggest demand mean biggest profits?

So let’s look at another way to slice it, by % breakdown of top grossing games:

Simulation 24.25%
Role Playing 20.75%
Arcade 20.00%
Strategy 17.25%
Family 10.50%
Puzzle 9.75%
Kids 5.00%

Hmm, the picture changes significantly. Arcade isn’t on top now.  It isn’t even #2nd…

So let’s take another way to slice it, this time by ratio of top grossing to top free ranking. ie- which subcategories were over or underperforming relative to their competition / volume.

Role Playing 244.12%
Strategy 156.82%
Simulation 131.08%
Puzzle 75.00%
Arcade 74.77%
Family 73.68%
Kids 37.04%

That seemed better.

Now we had the top subcategories that had the best “bang for buck”… and what we ended up running with:


The game ended up hitting the Top 10 free RPG game in over 15 countries.  We also hit Top #10 in our secondary subcategory, Strategy, in a bunch of countries. Given it was a first launch and we had and still have a lot to learn, we were happy at how it turned out.

Lessons learned

  • In the absence of an “only sensible choice” a methodical approach to choosing your app categories is a good idea
  • Consider market demand, monetization and competition when deciding
  • A racing game won’t find all the racing fans who are searching in that part of the app store.  At the end of the day, the choice should “make sense” *  
  • Secondary subcategory also plays (a surprisingly) important part, don’t just focus on the primary subcategory

Caveats and notes

  • This is just one approach, there are plenty of others to go about deciding. Would love to hear any other others people are using out there..
  • In the absence of a proper A/B test there is no way to isolate how much impact the subcategory choice.  Certainly there were other factors for the launch that played their part too (more in a future post).
  • Apart from pure numbers, there are plenty of other marketing considerations.  For example for us we didn’t want to get labelled as just a “kids” game, given half our audience is adult
  • Although I haven’t done it myself, I’m assuming this type of approach would work to other app categories apart from games

* Although it would be interesting to explore the impact of a “novelty” choice that sticks out of a “wrong” category. Perhaps an interesting future blog topic…

  1. iteratingfun posted this