We were thrilled when we heard about and started digging into iOS 10’s new features for iMessage. As a company, we believe that rich messaging is a big part of the mobile industry’s future, and on personal level, I just love being able to send more than just words to my friends and family in iMessage.
The timing was lucky, as most of our employees were coming off of major projects and re-orienting for what’s next. In the intervening weeks, we were able to launch several experiments onto the iMessage store.
First, we got 3 sticker packs to the market as quickly as possible at different price points. Without a pre-existing market to look to, we wanted to see how users would respond to different pricing.
- Free: Puppo Pals - 12 stickers with adorably illustrated dogs that are perfectly suited for sending messages to your friends and loved ones
- $0.99: Planet Pals - More than 40 stickers of all the planets in the solar system, with expressions on their faces
- $1.99: Vaporwave Sticker Pack - a very special aesthetic sticker pack including 12 animated stickers, ideal for layering to create collages for your friends in iMessage
We were lucky enough to get a minor feature for Puppo Pals, which gave us some indication of the market size right off the bat. The other two packs fared less well, but it was hard to tell how much was due to the lack of visibility vs. a lack of willingness by users to spend money for stickers.
We wanted to quickly see how a free app without much promotion would do in a store that still had so few apps compared to the primary App Store. We shipped a smaller, free version of Planet Pals, and found that the answer was: “not great”.
It’s not really too much of a surprise that being a first mover in new market isn’t enough on its own to drive downloads, even with A+ quality. You still have to figure out how to generate visibility to make it viable.
At this point we decided to take a couple different tacks to garnering visibility in the iMessage store: (1) We’d partner with some ~celebs~ to make sticker packs for them and (2) we’d try our hand at developing games natively for the platform, in hopes of being featured (since there were still very few native games in the store).
Our first celebrity sticker pack couldn’t have gone better: Jack Wagner, Brandon Wardell and artist Somehoodlum collaborated with us to make the definitive sticker pack for millennials. Within a day, Stick Appointment had reached the #1 Grossing spot in the iMessage store, thanks to their promotions. We had even greater luck with the sticker pack we made for the one and only Tyra Banks.
Shortly after Stick Appointment, we launched Sticker Quest: a Daily Adventure [check out Veronica’s excellent blog on designing this!] and Dragon Treasure Tales. Both were featured, and we enjoyed watching as they climbed the download ranks. For both of these games, we were able to include an analytics package even on our short timeline, which really paid off in helping us understand what’s going on with users in the early days of iMessage.
Here’s the really big takeaway from those games: users haven’t quite figured out iMessage yet. Only about 50% of users who download one of our iMessage games ever open it. For users that do find and open the game, most forget about it by the next day - both games had remarkably similar D1 retention at 15%. The silver lining here is that it seems that users who do get it, stick with it. Both games have steady retention after the first day.
The iMessage conundrum is one of user education and a very young market. It’s just a matter of time before iMessage and other rich messaging in the west catches up with the likes of Line’s $270 million in sticker revenue. Lucky for us we have our feelers on the market already so when rich messaging does catch up in the west, we’ll be positioned perfectly!