How Your Casino App Icon Can Stand out From the Crowd

Insights & Best Practices

March 2, 2016


min read

The social casino industry isn?t for the faint of heart. The sector is stuffed with heavyweight casino companies, yet the effective size of the casino category pales in comparison to other fiercely competitive categories. It goes without saying that it?s difficult for mobile casino developers to stand out from the crowd.An app icon and physical product packaging share many parallels, including their purpose of attraction. Sometimes a developer?s app icon only has one shot at attracting a user?s attention?and, to put it simply, devs better make it count.?For [mobile game] browsers, all you have to sell them on your game is your icon and your name," says Justin Neustadter of casino game studio Product Madness (the outfit behind top titles such as Heart of Vegas and FaFaFa Slots).


Most successful app icons tend to look the same with similar styles, colors and images because, according to experts, we all relate to images in similar ways. For mobile casino games, the icons are often of slot machine reels and the names include words like "slots," "spin" or "roll," Neustadter says.While this discovery is certainly a good place to start, the most successful casino games have more than a relevant image and keyword?they tell a story. Below, Neustadter and Justin Cooper, chief creative officer at Rocket Games, explain how they've created app icons that stand out from the crowd.

Lean App Icon: Design, Measure, Learn

Testing your app icon seems to be a recipe for success. Google Play has made this a bit easier by offering an A/B testing tool, while Apple's App Store still lacks a built-in testing feature. Either way, whether devs test icons manually or automatically, it's critical to success.Cooper admits that he's not always right when it comes to choosing icon imagery. To prove himself wrong, he tests icons often. Cooper is a veteran designer who feels like he's got an idea for what people like and what they want, yet he's lucky to get it right 25 percent of the time.?It was shocking how testing shows you might be wrong," he says. ?You cannot rely on instinct alone."

It was shocking how testing shows you might be wrong. You cannot rely on instinct alone.

Product Madness, on the other hand, takes testing to the extreme, cross referencing their results with other data. "We rely heavily on Google Play A/B testing measurement, but also combine that data with install rate, store visits and conversion data," Neustadter says.If a game's install rate and number of sessions decrease when the icon changes, or less people become paying users, the Product Madness team has informative data to help them decide if they should change the icon back, or pursue more testing.Neustadter's team spends about a week and a half on A/B testing to determine which icons trigger more downloads than others. Changing the icon often can also help new players find the game because, as studies show, humans are hard-wired to respond to novel imagery.Cooper agrees, adding that devs won't lose any players by changing an app icon a little bit, but they might gain new users if they show an icon that appeals to new people for whom the previous icon didn't resonate.

Create Context and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Players unsurprisingly relate to app icon imagery with faces. While casino games don?t typically benefit as well from a face-laded app icon, when applicable, a face offers a way for a game to attract attention away from the abundance of casino app icons. According to Cooper, when using faces within the composition of a casino icon, a mid-sized, more readable face looking directly at the viewers performs better than huge faces or smaller figures. Think of the small canvas as a story, he adds, where players can almost tell what's going on outside the tiny window of the app icon.Cooper's team put its theory to the test with its Riches of Zeus Slots game. Rocket Games discovered that the app icon with the largest facial image (as well as the one without the trident prop) didn't test as well as the image of Zeus facing the viewer and holding a trident. ?He's just an old man if you can't see his awesome bod and staff," Cooper says.


Cooper also found that images with implied motion or drama perform well: ?A lion is good; a snarling lion is better,? he says. ?A wolf is good, but a howling wolf is even better."Interestingly, the advanced 3D graphics that Neustadter's team has tested don?t perform as well as the flat, vector-like images. Zynga's Hit It Rich! is a great example of a flat style with an unmistakable character: the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.?The casino demographic tends to skew older, and they're not as enticed by shiny graphics," Neustadter says.