It’s hard to imagine where the App Store would be without enthusiast sites like TouchArcade. We’ve been covering iOS gaming before the App Store even launched, years before the term “iOS" was even coined by Apple. While the “mainstream" games media often looks down on mobile games, we’ve been evangelizing the platform for seven years now- discovering amazing new titles and bringing incredible indie studios to the spotlight who might have otherwise been totally lost between the cracks of the App Store. Additionally, in the process we’ve fostered the absolute best community for discussing iOS games online, which has turned into an invaluable resource for both up and coming iOS developers as well as every type of iOS gamer imaginable. Unfortunately, despite all this, our very existence is in jeopardy. If you like what we do, please consider supporting our Patreon or consider advertising with us. If you’d like to know what led to this, read on- I’m going to lay all of our cards on the table.
TouchArcade launched in 2008, with the very basic business plan of creating the best place on the internet for anyone into iOS gaming to come discover new and cool things to download from the App Store. We covered our costs by offering a fantastic platform for iOS developers who were looking to promote their games via highly relevant, unobtrusive, banner advertisements. For a long time, it worked great, as the iOS industry modeled itself after the traditional games industry, and most mid-sized studios fueled TouchArcade and many other similar enthusiast sites. We grew along side the iOS gaming market, hiring additional writers and investing in things like the site redesign and The TouchArcade App (Free), then everything slowly started to change.
As the App Store became more crowded, the developers who got squeezed the hardest were those very same mid-sized studios. iOS gaming has since been pushed to two extremes: The giant, multi-million dollar studios of the world, and supremely tiny indie developers hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a surprise viral hit they built in their spare time. The mobile gaming megacorps are operating on a financial level that’s hard to even fully comprehend, quite literally advertising during the Super Bowl, while the one-man indie studios typically can’t even afford an artist to help them with a better app icon. From an outside perspective, it seems like this wouldn’t be much of a problem for us, as there’s an incredible amount of money in mobile gaming, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The absolute most important thing for developers on the App Store in 2015 is chart positioning. There is nothing more valuable than being near the top of the charts, and with quite literally billions of dollars on the line across the iOS gaming industry, developers will do anything to climb the charts and stay there. This has given birth to an entirely new method of performance-based marketing known as user acquisition. In 2015’s App Store, games typically aren’t promoted through advertising on sites like TouchArcade and growing brand awareness in a traditional sense. Instead, developers pay countless different in-app advertising networks to just buy users and drive downloads directly.
The continued shift to user acquisition as the main method of promoting a title has had a dramatic impact on the iOS gaming ecosystem. Aside from mid-sized developers being squeezed out, with advertising revenues reaching non-existent levels, iOS enthusiast sites have been forced to make difficult decisions. Without financial support from developers buying advertising, some sites have closed. The few that remain have significantly downsized, drastically reduced their content output, shifted to writing about more general topics in hopes of attracting more search traffic, and/or changed focus to becoming an events companies. TouchArcade, being the largest site, is the farthest up the proverbial river, but the drought has reached us too and even our continued existence is in question.
From here, we have a few potential roads we can take: We’ve got great traffic numbers, arguably better than they’ve ever been, so we could load the site up with the same obnoxious advertising you see on most other sites these days. We could start doing sponsored posts, as we’re always being asked to publish those. Or we could do a number of other really nasty things which have become “normal" for sites trying to survive. The problem with all these possibilities is that they all come with the significant drawback of making TouchArcade worse for our readers. We put an amazing amount of time and effort into making TouchArcade as awesome as it can be, and value our community far too much to start muddying the waters of what is a real recommendation for a rad game you should check out and who just paid us money to do that.
We immensely value our readers and our community, and that seems to be a two way street with the many people who visit TouchArcade every day valuing our existence, so we figured we’d try doing a Patreon. Since TouchArcade really has been all about the community of iOS gamers since day one, with the help of the community and developers, we will be keep doing what we’re doing for a very long time. We’ve structured our Patreon with a ton of cosmetic rewards which will signify amongst our community just how much you value the site, which will only grow more prominent as we finish building out some new features on our forums. We’ve got levels of support on our Patreon that fits all budgets, from just fans of the site who want to toss a buck our way to giant developers looking to make their presence known.
Are you a developer looking to promote your game? Even though we can’t specifically track installs, we do offer a platform that is not only read daily by gamers, but also by industry influencers. People from every level of Apple follow TouchArcade, and as you know, getting your game in front of their eyes can be incredibly important. If you’re interested in advertising with us, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve got options ranging from full site skins like the one that’s running for Death Race ($0.99) currently to less expensive packages like rotating ads in the sidebar. Also, our podcast, which is downloaded over 63,000 times a week, is available for sponsorship as well.
I realize this is a really weird post as I hate mixing editorial and, well, business. It’s something I never thought I’d have to write, but I truly believe it’s important for niche enthusiast sites like TouchArcade to exist- Particularly now that the App Store’s games section is moving to being fully editorially powered. If you don’t get featured, aren’t charting, and TouchArcade doesn’t exist anymore… How will anyone ever know about your game? From a gamer’s perspective, sometimes the most interesting stuff on the App Store are games that are totally under the radar. Either way, if you can’t afford supporting us via Patreon or you’re a developer and you’re not interested in advertising with us, please at least do us a solid and help spread the word that the iOS enthusiast media ecosystem is in very bad shape.
From the bottom of our hearts from everyone here at TouchArcade, thank you.
Direct Link: Support TouchArcade on Patreon