On a Budget? 4 Tips for Successful App Promo Videos
Video previews have become indispensable in mobile. On the app stores, the video is now front and center. Online marketing is now done through short video clips. And ads, too, perform best in video formats.
But not all indies know the fundamentals of video production. The required budget is often a shock: even “cheap” video editors can charge over $1,000 for a short video. And while a 30 second promo sounds simple, it’s just as creative a process as creating the game — and deserves just as much attention.
Here’s a short guide for indies who want a great result, without breaking the bank.
Be smart about outsourcing
Full service video agencies work with developers to develop script ideas and assets. Top studio Apptamin, for example, writes a detailed script including specific gameplay footage to use and music. That’s great — if you can afford it. Smaller indies, however, are often on the hunt for budget rate production.
In this case, the responsibilities flip. If your agency or freelancer is accepting a low rate, they probably need to minimize time spent. So it’s up to you to make sure the end product is great by developing the script and providing assets. Music and voiceover are particularly important: locating the perfect background song can suck up hours of time, so you may be able to negotiate a lower rate by agreeing to handle those assets.
When writing a script, multiple methods can work. A storyboard is a standard method, showing what’s in the video, scene by scene. A bullet point list may work just as well. In either case, the directions should be precise and include all video footage required to put together the video.
As for how developers with little experience in video can create a script, the pros have a secret method: studying the competition. Whether you’re new to app promotion or an old hand, it pays to look at games on the app stores from well established companies. Videos for successful games have been tested and proven to work, and can serve as your inspiration.
Come out guns blazing
A common mistake made by video newbies is a slow buildup. Developers proud of their work often start their video with a gradual fade-in of a logo, or story text. But unless you have an amazing logo or well known brand, the viewer has likely already clicked away. In mobile app promotion, slow doesn’t work.
It’s usually best to dive straight into the action by showing gameplay footage. This is especially important because with the App Store’s autoplay feature: a browsing user is watching the screen, expecting something to happen immediately.
As for which footage to use, take your cue from successful video ad design. Choose clips that show action from advanced and exciting stages in the game. The tutorial or the first few levels of the game are often too slow. Uscreen, a streaming platform, recommends choosing clips that achieve two things at once, like excitement and lore, as in the trailer for Ludia’s Dragons: Rise of Berk.
Use text for context, but keep it short
The world of online video is often silent. On Facebook, for example, 8 billion videos are uploaded daily, but only 15% of those are watched with the sound on. The rate is similarly low on the app stores. In the iOS App Store autoplay is mute by default.
So a few choice phrases can go a long way to explain the action on screen. Maximize impact by animating your text, if possible, and choosing powerful phrases to elicit strong emotions. Short usually works best: the trailer Plants vs Zombies 2 uses “You won!” and “Level Up” in bold, eye-catching colors. Real Steel World Robot Boxing uses potent adjectives liberally, like “epic” and “mighty”.
Last but not least, remember to translate the text for alternate versions of the video if you’re targeting a major non-English market like Russia or China.
Anticipate for experimenting
The largest companies test multiple videos and, once they’ve found one that works, variations of that video. An indie isn’t likely to have the bandwidth, or budget, for such extensive testing. However, you can still ask for some basic variations on your video. If you’re creating a standard 30-second video, for example, make sure to get a punchier 15 second cut, which may be useful for ads.
One of the more worrying possibilities is your video being rejected by one of the app stores. To protect against this risk, Apptamin also recommends having at least one video that sticks to all of the app store guidelines. Be sure to review the guidelines with an eye out for potential problems.
Marketing is the Achilles Heel of many indies. But with a relatively small amount of preparation, even developers on a limited budget can produce great videos.