Apple's efforts to promote indie devs via email could use an overhaul

Shane Schick

I don't get a lot of email from Apple, and I'm perfectly fine with that. On the other hand, I probably pay more attention to messages from the company behind iOS than the many other firms that somehow managed to acquire my address. That means Apple has the potential to influence my behavior as a consumer, so when it chooses to use that power to help independent developers, I pay particular attention.

Recently, for example, I found something with the subject line "Indie Games for the Weekend" sitting in my personal inbox. I'm not sure why I got it, and when I opened it up, I had many more questions. The message contains no real text, just a bunch of images that look sort of like ads, promoting seven different mobile games.

There was no context to why these particular games were selected. There was no real call to action--not even a "download now!" button. Other than the titles, nothing explained what these games are about, why they would be fun, or why Apple had chosen to send this particular message, a tactic that hasn't been repeated in the weeks since.

For a company that presumably has some of the brightest minds in tech--and I'm betting a lot of data around the particular mobile habits of particular users--this was a surprisingly inept bit of marketing. Especially since, at the moment, I am primarily an Android user with nary an iPhone in sight. I couldn't play these games even if I wanted to, so what was the point? 

Given the vast numbers of mobile games sitting in App Store purgatory, it's possible that at the message drove huge numbers of installs to the games that were featured. Apple has also been a die-hard proponent of the "less is more" approach to pretty much everything, so maybe just a handful of screen grabs is enough to incite consumer curiosity. 

On the other hand, research has shown that being called "indie" doesn't necessarily lead to App Store success. At a bare minimum, Apple might want to rethink the way it's labeling these kinds of mobile games when the powers at be in Cupertino decide to email the iOS user base. 

Despite all these points, I hesitate to critique Apple too much about this since indie developers can obviously use all the help they can get in terms of discoverability. It's just that this is a company that has proven time and again that it sets a new standard in the way it approaches mobile, and with all due respect, this is marketing circa 2005. The developers who benefit from an Apple email push must feel like they've experienced an unexpected miracle, but the iOS developer ecosystem as a whole may be left wanting a whole lot more. And unfortunately, that may be the kind of message Apple is not yet ready (or willing?) to receive.--Shane