Why My First Indie App will Target ONLY the Barnes & Noble Nook

As I’ve thought through my plans to go indie (part time), I’ve done a lot of research not only into what types of apps/games I want to build, but also, where I want to deploy them. See, my initial inkling was that I should deploy to as many app stores as possible in order to get the most reach and potential audience. Makes sense right? More eyes == more potential sales? And since I can code with ActionScript and deploy to multiple platforms using the Flash platform & AIR, this is a no brainer, right?

It turns out it wasn’t. As I put more thought into it, I decided I should start by targeting only 1 app store. And it’s not the app store you’re thinking of.

So why would I target one store instead of hitting them all right off the bat?

The biggest problem I’ve seen with indie developers is that they put in lots of time in building the app, but then when their app launches in the app store(s), they figure they just need to wait for the sales to start happening without getting the word out about their app. Unfortunately, there are just way too many apps out there for this to be an effective strategy. The app shows up briefly in the What’s New section, then quickly gets buried, never to be seen again. And that happens across multiple stores. So there just doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of strategy involved beyond just the dev stage.

Now I’m not saying I’m a brilliant marketer. In fact I have no marketing experience. But if I’m going to spend time building an app that I launch myself, I want to make sure I do my homework and give it the best shot of being successful that I can. So here is why my first indie app will target the Barnes & Noble Nook ONLY.

It’s in the news. You’ve probably heard that Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Tablet today, and it looks like a decent device. Especially when you consider the price point. The Tablet will sell for $249, while the Color, which has a slightly slower processor and less RAM, was just reduced to $199. Compare that with the iPad, which starts at $499. I know that it’s not exactly an Apples to apples comparison, but there obviously is a market out there for this type of tablet. Currently the Nook Color is the second best selling tablet on the market behind you-know-who. Being in the news is a good thing.

There are fewer apps in the Nook app store. Consider this…the Nook app store currently has under 2,000 apps vs. Apple’s app store which has over 500,000. So there is lots of room to build great apps and have them be discovered, not buried. Barnes & Noble also stated today in their press conference that they will NOT be opening up access to the full Android app store anytime soon. That’s HUGE in my mind. That means you’ll continue to see a relatively low number of apps for some time to come. So if you build something decent, you’ve got a good shot at making money.

Developers ARE making money. It has been openly stated on Twitter that devs making apps that work across app stores are comparatively making a lot more money in the Nook app store. Also, it doesn’t appear to be only the top 1% of apps that make money like some of the other stores.

Developer relations. Ted Patrick has done a bang up job of not only getting the word out to developers, but also being responsive via Twitter when it comes to answering questions about the platform. I attended one of his sessions at Adobe MAX (he did somewhere between 12-15 sessions), and you can see very quickly that he stands not only the platform, but developers, 100%. Hit him up if you’re thinking about getting into the Nook game and you’ll see what I mean.

Cross marketing. Barnes & Noble has a Nook counter in all of their roughly 700 stores across the US. They also have a promotion on right now where if you submit an app by Nov 25, 2011, you will get your app icon displayed on signage in each of those stores for one full month starting in the new year. They tout the fact that more than 5 million people walk through those stores each month, so that’s a lot of potential eyeballs.

Kindle Fire. OK, so why is a competing product on this list? A couple of reasons. First, the Kindle Fire does a very important thing…it validates the importance of a tablet in this space (cheaper, more specialized and content driven). These are not necessarily iPad competitors. However, a lot of people will buy them, and I think eventually, will take market share away from the iPad. Second, it will force Barnes & Noble to work very hard to keep their tablet competitive, whether that means continuing to build better hardware, or really getting behind their developers to build great apps.

Not sweating the fragmentation. At this point I don’t really want to deal with all of the screen resolution and hardware differences that go along with building for multiple platforms. It is something I am aware of and keep in mind as I build, but honestly, I just want to build something great. Focusing on one platform makes that a bit easier.

If it turns out the app gains some traction in the Nook app store, I will deploy to other stores. And if that is the case, maybe we can even create some anticipation for release in other markets. However, if it turns out to be a dud, I’ve saved myself some time in development and in applying to 10 different app stores.

I’ve found some compelling reasons to launch my first (and future) apps on this platform. I think Barnes & Noble has done a decent job to date and are obviously committed to keeping their product at the head of it’s class. I’ll let you know how it goes.

9 Responses to “Why My First Indie App will Target ONLY the Barnes & Noble Nook”

  1. Josh Tynjala November 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm # Reply

    I’m with you on this one. NOOK is the first platform I’m targeting from now on. I’m not ready to skip the other devices just yet, but since NOOK is my top earner for mobile app sales, it’s a no brainer to make it my #1 priority for new apps.

    • Phil Chung November 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm # Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Josh. Interesting to hear that from someone who is established in mobile game dev.

  2. Esteban November 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm # Reply

    Regards Phyl.

    I’ve been reading your posts on mobil development and I would like to thank you for sharing your experience with us. For many other, like me, who are thinking to go indie, this information it’s very valuable. I hope everything works out for you for the best.

    Good luck and keep up the good work.

    • Phil Chung November 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm # Reply

      Glad my experiences have been helpful for you. I too have been helped by others sharing what they’ve gone through, so I’m just trying to pass it on. Good luck with your endeavors.

  3. CurtisCLaugh November 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm # Reply

    I’m excited about the new NOOK tablet myself. For me, my app sales in the NOOK store make developing for it still interesting and worth while. Apple app store is still my top earner with NOOK being second. I’m keeping my eye on all of them though and wouldn’t limit myself to just one. I used AIR to build my app and performance is great for iOS and QNX (Blackberry Playbook), but not so much with Android (feedback from customers). To get better performance and feedback on the NOOK, I might have to recode for Android (w/o AIR). Unless there is a better idea out there.

    • Phil Chung November 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm # Reply

      I certainly won’t be limiting myself to just one platform, but this is a bit of an experiment, and will likely get pushed to other stores if it is somewhat successful.

      In terms of performance with AIR and Nook, I think there are certainly specific types of games that will work and others that won’t for performance reasons.

  4. john November 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm # Reply

    wrong choice. if you give 30% away you will die soon… :)

  5. shawn November 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm # Reply

    Interesting approach. I’m taking the complete opposite, shotgun approach on all devices, with the biggest marketing push I can muster.
    http://snowbomber.ca coming Nov 24th to everything :)

    I’ll let you know how it goes…

    • Phil Chung November 11, 2011 at 8:11 am # Reply

      @Shawn, I read your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences on the Android store. This first app is a bit of an experiment in some ways, so I’m tracking things very carefully and making some deliberate moves.

      Look forward to seeing how snowbomber does. Hope it’s successful. Can I ask what your marketing strategy involves?

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