Sunstorm Games' Tracie Schurr: The 'Tween Whisperer

Developer Stories

March 1, 2015


min read

This is the third in our Game Changers series, which spotlights the real heroes of the mobile gaming community ? indie developers. Read on for tips and insights from small studios who are scoring big mobile game wins.Once upon a time, "playing house" meant throwing imaginary tea parties and using EZ Bake Ovens, but girls today are just as likely to whip up virtual desserts or throw weddings on their smartphone or tablet using one of Las Vegas-based Sunstorm Games? top-rated apps. Director of Marketing Tracie Schurr-DiPietro is in charge of growing the company's 100+ mobile games' 1 million strong daily active player base, but faces a particularly knotty challenge: How do you market mobile games to preteens and tweens? We asked her how she catches and keeps young gamers' attention, the biggest challenge she faces at her job and what she loves most about working at Sunstorm.Tell us what makes Sunstorm Games? mobile games special:Well, the majority of our games are focused on the kids market. We have mobile games aimed at younger children (like Fair Food Maker, where you make carnival foods) and we also have mobile games targeted towards older children (11-13) where you role play as a teenager. You talk to boys, go on dates, get invited to dances, become prom queen...things like that.So your users aren't likely to be the ones making buying decisions. Is that tough?Yes, a lot of of the kids playing our mobile games don?t even know the password to iTunes, let alone can they download app updates or make an app purchase. The other big challenge we have is that we can?t buy advertising to specifically target children. Our ad buys have to be much more broadly appealing than those of a developer who is going after a 35-year-old gamer.And what have you found resonates well with younger gamers? I?m a big believer that character-based art is attractive. Our mobile ads typically have characters with eyes and emotions. Kids make a connection with that content in an instant. Also, kids can have a hard time reading, right? So we don?t use a lot of copy on our mobile ads. I like to top it out at about three words. We try to use very basic verbs like ?make,? ?play,? "cut? and ?wash.? We [also] use a lot of primary colors.What has surprised you the most about working in mobile games?What I find most interesting about mobile gaming is how cooperative everybody is with each other. When it comes to games for younger players, my biggest competitors are also my biggest partners. I think it?s very compelling that everybody?s working towards one thing, and everyone is very willing to share knowledge and learning and experiences.And why do you think that is? I think a lot of people in this industry are young and willing to experiment and they don?t have the same types of strict boundaries that older people have in older types of businesses. All of our insights and data are technology based, so it makes sense to share. We?re all competing for that slot in the app store, of course, but most of us don?t have much control over that.What do you love the most about your job?When you work on something in the morning, you?ll know how it?s performing by the afternoon. It?s amazing that you can impact the marketplace so quickly. Once you're working at this pace, everything else seems boring.And what keeps you up at night?Conversion and trying to get installs ? that?s my daily battle. There are more players and apps entering the marketplace every day, but the price of installs only goes up. Everyone?s share of the market is getting smaller.Quick Facts About TracieThe first video game I ever played was Mario Brothers.The game I?m secretly addicted to right now is Trivia Crack. Me and the rest of the world.My mobile device of choice is my iPhone because I can?t live without it.My professional idol is Jeff Bezos from Amazon.If I had an actual superpower, I would choose mind control because then I could make people do anything I want.