Improve mobile rank by reducing file size, Part 1

4 min read

For this first part of a two post series, I will explain how file size has a direct effect on your mobile app store rank. It may be rarely emphasized by App Store Optimization experts, but putting some thought into how much disk space your game takes may be a key factor to your success.

How does file size effect rank?

It boils down to downloads, and more importantly uninstalls.

Downloads

If you have a large file size, you’re imposing an extra “cost to entry” for a player to download your game.

If your game is more than 50MBs, or if the user is trying to save on their data plan, they will have to get access to WiFi. The player must have enough room on their device as well. For large games, this is easily a deal breaker.

For whatever reason, let’s say the user cannot download your app at that moment. You’ve just lost a customer. Even if they think to themselves “I’ll get it later”, the majority will likely forget and never come back.

Uninstalls

Your device’s memory is full, what’s the first thing you do?

Apps and games windows phone screenshot.

I know from my own experience, and many other mobile device users out there, I go to my app list, sort by size, and delete the largest one.

Even if it is my favorite game and I play it all the time, if it is huge, eventually I’m going to uninstall it. The new game is always going to be more interesting to a consumer than the old.

A lot of developers just try to get under the cellular download limit, and don’t care after that. The larger the game is, however, the more likely it’ll float to the top of that list, especially if it grows in size after installing.

Why are uninstalls bad for your rank?

Every uninstall will harm your business in some way, either directly or indirectly.

The exact formulas for App store rank are unknown, by design. Regardless of which store, downloads are certainly not the only metric to look at. Downloads are important, but those downloads are no good if people uninstall your game. For example, “Active installs” is the number of people who currently have your game on their device at any given time. Active installs may or may not be more important than downloads, but it is a safe bet that it is a significant part of the formula.

If you have in app purchases or ads within the game, your revenue from that player stops the moment they stop playing your game.

Even if you have created a premium pay-in-advance experience, if people uninstall your game you will have a lot less virality. People are more likely to recommend a game to a friend if they keep playing it themselves. Less active players means less recommendations, less rates and reviews, and less likely users will be interested in the next game a developer releases.

What should my file size be?

The smaller your file size, the better. For mobile platforms you should make your best effort to fit the cellular download limit if possible.

Depending on the persons carrier, plan, and where they are downloading from, that is somewhere around 50MBs. That might not sound like much, but I assure you there are many complex apps with long-lasting meaningful content smaller than that.

Keep an eye out for the next part of this series, where I will offer a few suggestions to reduce the file size of your game!

About the author

Right after graduating college in 2009, Tobiah Marks started his own independent game development company called “Yobonja” with a couple of friends. They made dozens of games, their most popular of which is a physics based puzzle game called “Blast Monkeys”. The game was the #1 App on the Android Marketplace for over six months. Tobiah stopped tracking downloads in 2012 after the game passed 12 million, and people still play it and its sequel today. In 2013, Tobiah decided to go from full-time to part-time indie as he got an opportunity to join Microsoft as a Game Evangelist. His job now is to talk to developers, teach them how to develop better games, and help their companies be more successful.

You can follow him on twitter @TobiahMarks , read his blog at http://www.tobiahmarks.com/, or listen to his podcast Be Indie Now where he interviews other independent game developers.

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