We produce App Preview Videos

How to Create the Best Mobile Game App Preview videos

We’ve been writing quite extensively about App Preview guidelines and best practices.

A LOT of games have a video on their iOS App Store listing, and it’s interesting to take a closer look at game App Previews specifically. One of the reasons is that it seems that’s where Apple gives the most flexibility to developers and publishers, who therefore experiment more.

AppTweak has been kind enough to share with us some data from their ASO tool, which allowed us to get some key numbers to analyze throughout this post. And as usual, you get several cool examples for inspiration.

State of game App Previews on the App Store

App Store Video vs No Video Top 200
Source: AppTweak

An impressive 73.5% of the top 200 free games has a video on the App Store. For the top 200 paid games, 62.4% of apps have a video (we are missing data for 6 paid games). This is almost counterintuitive, as you’d expect games for which you have to pay to provide a video to potential users so they have an even better sense of what they could be buying.

How Many Videos
Source: AppTweak

There are some major differences per game category, and for 9 out of 16 categories more than 50% of the games have at least a video.

If you are in these categories you should consider testing video on the iOS App Store. This is especially true if you have great gameplay animations that are hard to portray with just a screenshot.

What to consider when creating game App Previews?

Ok so most games have App Preview videos.

Storemaven considers that users who engage with video are up to 3X as likely to install your app. That’s one very good reason to make your video as good as possible!

So if you want to create a video for your game, what things should you consider?

What are the best practices when it comes to orientation, number of videos, length, content, etc.?

Below our thoughts and analysis.

These are general recommendations, and each app may differ. If you want our opinion and recommendations for your game, contact us to get a free proposal for your App Preview video.

App Preview guidelines from Apple

Let’s start with the not-so-fun stuff: the restrictions Apple puts on these videos when it comes to their content.

We have several resources on Apple guidelines and App Preview specifications, so we won’t detail everything here.

In short: your App Previews have to be between 15 and 30 seconds, are device-specific (different resolutions for the iPhones, iPhones X and iPad). They are also supposed to be mostly based on captured footage.

The keyword here is “supposed” (that’s from us, not Apple) because it seems that the rule of “footage only” has been more and more flexible, especially when it comes to App Preview videos for games.

As it turns out, a lot of game trailers on the App Store are leveraging game assets (think: characters, etc.) to create parts of their videos. This allows you to give more spirit to the video than “just” showing gameplay.

Combined with the use of copy (see further in this post), this can make for really powerful and dynamic App Previews that sometimes don’t have anything to envy to game trailers outside of the iOS App Store platform.

In case Apple decides to enforce their guidelines pretty strictly in the future, see it this way: the video you created can probably be used in other places.

Video orientation: landscape or portrait?

App Preview Video Orientation Stats
Source: AppTweak

Top free games have way more vertical App Previews than top paid games, at least in the top 200 US. However something to consider is that paid games seem to be mostly played horizontally. So it makes sense that there are more App Store listings with horizontal videos and screenshots.

A “trend” (or at least experiments) that we’ve been seeing on the App Store is also to have a different orientation for the video(s) than for the screenshots:

  • Landscape video(s) with portrait screenshots
  • Portrait video(s) with landscape screenshots

These create what has been called “Hybrid” listings.

We can see in the charts above and below that hybrid listings remain a minority of App Store listings: about 6% of listings with video for top 200 free games and about 5.5% of listings with video for top 200 paid games.

Video Screenshots Orientation App Store
Source: AppTweak

There might however be a hidden advantage for you in doing something that most aren’t, and this may explain why hybrid listings are used more in very competitive categories like Game Casino (18% of hybrid listings with video) and Game Adventure (17% of hybrid listings with video). Across all game categories, a vertical video with horizontal screenshots is very rare.

A landscape video for a portrait game means that you can have a very eye-grabbing asset in the search results, which is particularly interesting if you get a lot of organic traffic. And if you get your poster frame right, this could increase your click through rate to the product page.

Once on the product page, you then either rely just on your portrait screenshots (the landscape video is pushed in a section below the description called “A closer look”) or you can also have a portrait video displayed next to your screenshots.

Splitmetrics shared with us that for best performance, the video orientation should be the same as your screenshots orientation. They say that landscape video + portrait screenshots is a risky combination and may affect conversion badly.

“we’ve noticed that videos from “A Closer Look” are almost never watched” – Anton Tatarinovich, Marketing Manager @Splitmetrics

It might still be an interesting experiment to consider, because as seen above videos and screenshots do not display the same way in the search results and on the product page. But as much as possible, test it before going live!

There are also several “landscape games” that went with portrait assets. Here is an example below (the developer also chose to have branding very present in the video):

This seems to be true especially in the Casino category (e.g. Double Win Casino, Scatter Slots, Heart of Vegas, Infinity Slots, etc.).

How many App Preview videos for your game?

Unfortunately there is no one answer to this question. But let’s start by looking at how many games in the top 100 have more than one App Preview video:

How Many App Previews
Source: US App Store (as of January 28, 2019)

Although we can assume most top games have tested video vs. no video, it is unlikely that they’ve all tested results with one, two or three videos.

Here too Splitmetrics shared their impressions: 1 video is ideal. The 2nd video is generally watched less, and the 3rd video is almost never watched.

If you do choose to have several videos, make sure they offer different content. Super Mario Run is a rather good example:

Consistency between video and screenshots

This is probably less crucial for games than it is for apps but keep in mind that your App Store listing should feel like one thing. It should not be all over the place design-wise.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider using the same kind of copy style or assets in your video and your screenshots like in the Tropicats video below that we produced:

This comes in particularly handy when choosing your App Preview poster frame.

App Preview video structure and content

The right App Preview Poster Frame

The poster frame is the name that Apple gave to the video thumbnail that is displayed before the video autoplays.

It is also displayed for people that turned off autoplay in their settings, or when a video above or below is playing in the search results.

Why are we putting this inside the structure and content section? Because this poster frame has to be a part of the video itself (one of the video frames), so you need to plan for it when creating the video.

It should therefore not be overlooked, especially since once you add your video, it replaces (if only for a fraction of a second) what would have been a screenshot.

For your portrait poster frame (for a portrait video), you want to make sure it goes well with your first two screenshots since they are displayed together.

Bricks n Balls Video Thumbnail

For landscape videos, you want your poster frame to convey as much as possible.

An interesting trend is to separate the poster frame in 3 sections, just like if it was 3 screenshots (see example below).

You can see many more examples of good poster frames (and some fails) as well as App Preview poster frames best practices here.

Video duration

So how long should your App Preview video be?

Let’s start by looking at video duration amongst the top 200 free games and top 200 paid games that have at least one video.

App Preview Duration
Source: AppTweak

It’s interesting to note the difference of duration between free and paid games. Hard to know what this is due to for sure, but we can imagine that developers of paid games want to show as much as possible of the app in their video.

So why doesn’t everybody take advantage of the full 30 seconds that Apple allows to have for an App Preview?

This is because App Store visitors usually do not watch the full video.

We unfortunately do not have official data from the App Store (there are no video metrics available) but the A/B testing tools do.

Splitmetrics indicates (from tests on their platforms) that the average view time for the first App Preview is 10-12 seconds and that short videos performs best.

Storemaven says (also from analyzing sessions on their testing platform) that the average watch time among all app categories (so not game specific) is only 4-6.5 seconds.

Of course this counts people that only barely watch the video at all, so you should not neglect anything in your video.

But because of these stats, we recommend to keep your game’s App Preview video as close as possible to 15-20 seconds.

However we know this is REALLY hard to do.

If you can’t get yourself to have a video that short for your App Store presence, then keep in mind that everything after 10 seconds will probably not be seen by many.

You should at least make sure that your video starts strong and everything essential is said during the first 3 seconds.

The first 3 video seconds

We know we’re repeating ourselves, but just like for an ad the first couple of seconds of your video are crucial.

They are not only the first impression, they determine if visitors keep watching your video and engage with your App Store listing (or download the app for decisive users).

That’s why unless you have a very strong brand, you should not show a logo or app icon at the start of your video. And even if you do have a strong brand, this might be better done with the App Preview poster frame anyway.

We recommend that you avoid beginning your Video with a splash screen, countdown, or even App Icon – StoreMaven

Even people that are searching for a specific kind of game on the App Store (or a competitor of yours) and have intent are going to be scrolling pretty fast on the search results. You therefore want to start with the best part of your game, what’s the most visually compelling and/or what makes it different.

Between your App Preview poster frame and these first 3 seconds, people should be able to describe what your game is.

Should you use copy?

iOS App Store videos autoplay in mute.

Again, no official data from the App Store on how many people unmute the video.

Our guesstimate? 98% of people never hear the sound of your video.

In fact, in two advanced metrics analysis we’ve seen from Storemaven, the one for the app had an unmute rate below 0.3% and the one for the casual game was at 0%!

So in short: do not rely on sound to get your point across.

We still always add a music to the videos we produce, and hearing the gameplay (or added) SFX is a nice to have. But for that specific use (on the iOS App Store), it really doesn’t matter that much.

This is where using text can be very interesting: people won’t miss it.

App Preview Video Text vs No Text
Source: US App Store (as of January 28, 2019)

A lot of games do not use any copy in their videos, and these are mostly simple casual games. Sometimes these games already have some text within the gameplay, like Polysphere for example.

We’re not advocating to have tons of text either: you need to keep it ultra short (a couple of words each time) and not always present.

This can be done by overlaying text on your gameplay, the same way you would on your screenshots.

Or this can be done using text interstitials (screens with text), which are also a way to bring some dynamism to your videos (and some custom designs and animations that reflect your game’s atmosphere).

Gameplay vs. animations

This brings us to the actual content of your video.

What should you show from your game in that limited time? Cinematic sequences, game menu, gameplay?

What we recommend here is to keep your App Preview video mostly focused on showing gameplay, as it’s Apple’s intention with videos to let developers give an overview of the actual app experience.

At this point in the user journey you also don’t want to deceive players (ever really, but even more so once on the App Store vs. in ads). So it’s good to show what your game is made off.

But because you’re showing mostly gameplay doesn’t mean you can’t make it exciting.

First, you want to show quick cuts of the best possible gameplay. It’s good to go “gradually” on people so do not only show complicated levels from your game: give them enough time to understand what this looks like when they start playing (check out Run Sausage Run on the App Store).

You can also use zooms (reasonably) to focus the viewer’s eye to a specific part or remove distractions. This can be effective especially when the video is shown in small in the search results.

And as we’ve seen you can add copy or text interstitials. On these text screens, you can have a different background or add character assets that show the game’s atmosphere.

Kung Fu Panda Video Text Screen

Text screen of an App Preview we produced for Kung Fu Panda

If characters are an important part of your game, you can create a short scene with several characters over a specific background.

Battlelands characters

If maps and building is an essential part of your game, you can show something close to a timelapse with things being added quickly.

Keep in mind that technically, Apple wants App Preview videos to show the actual true experience. So these enhancements are a grey area, and it’s good to have a backup plan and still mostly show gameplay.

What about video loopability?

Your app trailers on the iOS App Store are played in loop:

  • On the product page;
  • In the search results as long as there is not an app below yours that also have a video, in which case the video of that app starts playing at the end of yours.

Given the number of games with a video, the latter can happen a lot (example below).

With average view time estimated between 4.5 and 12 seconds, it does not seem really interesting to put in place clever ways to make your video loopable so that there is continuity between its end and its start.

You’re better off putting your efforts elsewhere. Unless what you want to do is for example a loop of 5 seconds of video.

Localizing your video

Should you localize your game’s App Preview video(s)?

It depends on your game, its category/niche and your users.

If you’ve already localized your App Store listing, including your screenshots, then once you validate that your App Preview videos help conversion in one language (e.g. English) you should localize the video in the main languages.

If you haven’t yet localized your App Store listing, then consider the following stat: Storemaven’s data show that the CVR lift gained from localizing app store assets reaches up to 26%.

How to choose the right countries? Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Check where your users are from – start with your own iTunes stats. Do you see a language/country after your main one that stands out, from a download perspective or even better and engagement/monetization perspective?
  2. Check where users from similar games are – to do this you can use an ASO or Intelligence data tool. With some of them you can even get a sense of revenue per country;
  3. Check the localized App Store listings of the apps that you identifies (Storemaven ASO toolbox’s Chrome Extension is perfect for that, and the AppTweak ASO Chrome Extension also lets you change countries easily).

This is what we do for our prospects and clients to identify localization opportunities for their App Store assets.

A low proficiency in English for a language where potential seems big is another indicator.

English proficiency
A few examples of countries with moderate proficiency

You can also of course when step further and “culturalize” your App Store assets, from screenshots to video. People in different countries (e.g. US vs. Japan vs. India) indeed react differently and are used to different things. Here is an interesting post on the topic.

How to A/B test your App Preview video?

You’ve produced the App Preview for your game.

Now you want to analyze its impact, and ideally to also figure out ways to optimize the video (and poster frame) itself in the future.

There is no perfect solution, but below are a couple of options.

Pre-post iTunes Connect analysis

Apple does not allow you (yet?) to A/B test creatives on the App Store.

So to analyze the impact of your video, you have to look at different metrics in iTunes Analytics and compare them before vs. after adding the video.

Check out the post above for a detailed guide but in short you want to compare:

  • “Click-Through-Rate”: Impressions -> Product Page views
  • Conversion Rate:
    • Impressions -> App Units
    • Product Page views -> App Units

Unfortunately, there are no advanced video metrics in iTunes Analytics either so you’re pretty much left to your own conclusions when it comes to improving your video.

Apple Search Ads Creative Sets

By using Creatives Sets in Apple Search Ads, you can get data from Apple for different videos (if you have several App Previews on your listing, depending on their orientation).

A/B testing platforms

App Store A/B testing platforms “recreate” a mobile web page that simulates your App Store listing.

You then run paid traffic (usually Facebook Ads) to that page, so you can analyze potential users’ behavior.

Here is more information about how to A/B test with Splitmetrics.

Splitmetrics vs. Storemaven

We’re not going to tell you our preference, as we’ve heard great things about both platforms.

Both offer a free demo, so you should see them by yourself and find the best fit for your game and budget.

What to test

What’s awesome about these tools is that they can give you not only conversion rate data, but also exploration data (e.g. exploration data like page scroll, gallery scroll, video views, etc.).

They also offer advanced video metrics, including video engagement metrics so you can now where people drop off in your video.

This can be a bit overwhelming, so you should go step by step:

  • Video vs. no video – see if adding your App Preview video to your App Store listing increases conversion;
  • Video content – your video leads to a similar or improved conversion rate? You should figure out what makes viewers convert by leveraging advanced video metrics so you can test new variations. If video does not improve conversion, look at the metrics to see what could be improved as well. This can also help you figure out which parts of the video you should keep when trying to make it short (close to 15-20 seconds);
  • Video poster frame – once you have your video figured out, try A/B testing the video poster frame;
  • Video orientation – you can also try a video orientation that is different from your game or screenshots’ orientation, and see how this impacts conversion. Keep the video content as similar as possible (you’ll have to change your App Preview poster frame to some extent);
  • Video quantity – you can test adding other videos to your listing (up to 3 videos).

Another thing you can try is having 2 or 3 videos (App Preview #1 and App Preview #2) that have a different orientation, since their placements are going to be different like in the Coin Dozer video (cf. example in the “Video orientation” section).

What you can’t know sadly is how video(s) impact your new user’s engagement with your game. However unless the video is deceiving it is likely that seeing your game in action “educates” players on its value added and improves the on-boarding experience and therefore retention.

Conclusion

We went through the current practices from top games when it comes to video, and most of them have a video.

If you decide to create a video there are several things that you should consider from Apple’s guidelines to your video orientation and of course the video content itself. Looking at how top developers approach these is useful and we also give you pointers, trends and things to keep in mind.

To go further, we recommend you to get started and test your video’s impact.

Did we forget any considerations for someone that is creating an App Preview for a game? Let us know in the comments!

Sylvain Gauchet

Hi there, I'm Sylvain and I'm one of the co-founders of Apptamin. Apptamin is a creative agency specialized in app videos (video ads, app store videos, etc.) where we find engaging ways to present mobile apps and games so our clients can either increase their conversion rates or improve their user acquisition.

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