London-based design studio ustwo created a heck of a game in Whale Trail, but it's failing as a commercial entity. It'll never hit the App Store top 10. The face of its bubbly and wide-eyed mascot, Willow, will never grace products like panties or fruit snacks. And at its current pace, it'll be awhile before it generates a decent profit.

The studio has huge expectations that aren't being met, and just based on trends, it's clear that Whale Trail will continue not meeting them. It's a failure in this life. But will it be one in its next? Again, ustwo is spending money on Whale Trail, giving it a second wind via creative mouth-to-mouth. It's retooling and redesigning the oddball flying game as a free-to-play title in a high-bandwidth effort to attract the casual audience that the original version failed to reach, but managed to brush.

The hope is that this model, alongside some fresh content, will finally put the game over the top and onto hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of phones and tablets across the world. It's a crazy plan. Crazy, however, is kinda its project lead's thing.

On Conversion, Failure, And Journeys

I've been speaking with ustwo co-founder Mills about the upcoming transformation. Mills is like a bizarro Clint Eastwood. In the face of adversity he has the same grit and air of determination, but instead of a cowboy hat and a killer squint Mills rocks a long, flowing red wig and eyeglasses with thick, black frames. When he talks to you, even via e-mail, you feel his warmth, energy, and passion. He's funny, too, and you see a lot of his brand of humor in his game. As we talk, he refuses to call the original Whale Trail a failure despite being able to produce evidence indicating as much. Instead, he calls it a "succailure" and the process of making it a F2P title a "journey."

"Whale Trail was our first proper game release," Mills tells TouchArcade. "Full heart, full passion. The launch was a success for our studio, showering loads of eyeballs on us but something didn't quite click. Although we were hitting 12,000 downloads a day at launch, it tailed off pretty quick."

In fact, Whale Trail has just hit over 188,000 total sales, and it shifts around 250 units a day across Android and iPhone and iPad. These kind of numbers would be enough for a lot of studios, but ustwo spent oodles of cash on the game. It needed Whale Trail to be up there with the Angry Birds and Fruit Ninjas and the Cut the Ropes of the world.

How those titles manage to stay up top is a matter of debate. Mills doesn't believe that featuring, reviews, or exposure brings in new downloads. He thinks that word of mouth is now driving sales. As evidence, he notes that the game's trailers still get around 500 new views a day and the music video for the theme used in the game drives interest, too. Riding on a wave of featuring, however, Whale Trail managed to light up the charts for a short period. Mills shot us the following handy chart, for those of you into the numbers:

Learning about why the game didn't keep selling at its initial, breakneck pace is an important component of its upcoming transformation. Mills is soaking up everything he can. He frequently frames this entire ordeal as a learning experience.

"We went back to the drawing board and dove deep into the blue waters to understand why Whale Trail wasn’t quite able to take off. We had made a wonderful experience but there wasn’t enough ‘replay’ value in the current game. The new challenge levels added in iteration release two and three helped, but we needed more. Much more," he adds.

The new version of the game is, indeed, functionally different. As you collect bubbles and travel, you'll collect an in-game currency called Krill. With Krill, you can buy new powers, "useable treats," costumes for Willow and its five new playable friends. If you want this stuff without the grind, you can buy Krill straight-up.

"The game is so much better. Players are now in full control of their destiny and each play rewards them. This was missing before," he says.

If you've already purchased Whale Trail, Mills says you'll receive a "BIG" bag of Krill when you update to the new version. Additionally, you'll receive a message designed to make you feel "special." Mills worries about how the current install base is going to react to this massive change, since the regular version will essentially die after this update. Perhaps that's why this message to fans will be "like finding a bag of money in your house that you can use to pimp it right up 50 style" or "like finding a bag of candy that is so sweet, yet so sticky."

When I bring up failure, Mills says I have a point, but he describes the experience so far as a "journey." His studio has had opportunities to sell off the IP or actually make money, but ustwo as a whole is more interested in learning at this point.

"You can look at it as a failure, but I see it as journey," Mills says. "Each iteration of Whale Trail has created a new buzz and has engaged the players more. It's been a big lesson for me especially in regards to releasing something I wanted and releasing something that the majority of players want. We were very successful at creating buzz, we were very open about the whole experience and the story of Whale Trail will now be told via Penguin," he tells us. He means the publishing company, not an actual penguin.

"We had two Whale Trail acquisition offers for the game as it currently stands now, but we were not interested in money. We were interested in better understanding what we could do to make the game better. I couldn't walk away from it now, knowing it was not the game we wanted it to be. The game we have since built and are testing now with players is the game we should have released back then but didn’t realize it at the time."

Even though the Whale Trail flopped, Mills notes some positives. It gave his studio new business opportunities, a higher-profile in the development community, and a lot of good will. These things, however, aren't going to make new Whale Trail sail. A balance of IAP and fun mechanics are the only thing that'll save it.

"I want to know more about free-to-play," Mills says. "We are not being aggressive with the monetization potential. Players need never spend, but the joy they feel should allow the game to be pretty viral. We get a small social virility through Twitter right now, but the potential at the higher numbers is unreal. I guess the plan is for Willow to find some real Whales!"

We'll have to see if the new version of Whale Trail hits the heights that Mills thinks it can reach. Regardless if it does or not, it's going to be hard to call this iteration a failure. To Mills, success is all about what you do as you try to succeed.

"We didn't set out to make something generic. Success is about crafting something you believe in and telling that story, granted it may never be a smash hit as the very concept of a little fat flying whale called Willow who lives in a psychedelic land is too far out for many to stomach, but we made something we are so proud of."

We'll have hands-on impressions in the near future.

  • bigrand1

    I'm sorry to hear this game isn't doing as well as they expected. Did my part and got it when it first came out! Love the one touch game play and cute graphics as well as the soothing unique music! It will stay on my device for a long time! As a half-assed game developer myself, I know how fickel the app store is. You can have the BEST game and still not get the sales if you don't market it smartly, do innovative tricks to spark interest, and getting and gaining momentum at the onset is key. Even then, you have to have the stars line up for you (luck). I feel ya, man, but a learning experience it IS! I like your game and it's two bigrand thumbs-up from me! Continued luck, my friends! 

  • Jason

    They should leave the first one alone and just release a part 2 with the new model. They're going to mess up a perfectly fine game and make a lot of pre-existing customers  upset. 

    • ethandude123

      Thats why they will give you a bunch of Dollar-Krills.

      • AaronJH

        Except they didn't.

        At least for me (on the iPad version), I started with no krill. There's a lot of grinding ahead of me to get the old gameplay back.

    • Matt F

      I'm backing up mine as I write just in case

  • oooooomonkey

    I bought this on day one but like most iOS games I haven't played it in quite a whale. And I am not upset at the change, whale trail is a fantastic game and deserves to do well. At least I'll get some in game cash to pimp my whale.
    The new version sounds pretty cool. Can't wait to play it again after the update hits the store.

    • BenchWarmers Clique

      did you mean to say 'whale' the first time? I lol'd.

  • Tiger_Moth

    It's hard to tell for sure, but it sounds like it's going from being a paid app to a free one loaded with IAPs.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • millsustwo

    Trust me - we've spent months agonising over the finite details of what it takes to make the game better. Our only role is to bring happiness and joy to players fingers.... It's better --- it's got more blubber now - you'll enjoy xx

  • Rocketcat Games

    Doesn't strike me as a particularly crazy plan. Proven strategy. Going free+IAP after initial paid sales were disappointing worked pretty damn well for Temple Run.

    • Ubisububi

      Absolutely right.

      Taking advantage of obsessive personalities and those with gambling disorders is definitely a sound business plan.

      If we can't sell it upfront, let's hook players first, then squeeze 'em.

  • Jacob007

    Oh look, another game thats going freemium to spam you with IAPs. Sounds fun.

    • B34$T

      Dis you even read the post or just comment based on the title?

  • Ph0lly

    If it wasn't about money they wouldn't be adding IAP. It's their game and they can do what they want but I've seen what free to play does to good games. I guess the overpriced level packs didn't sell so well.

  • jeffyg3

    Well I guess I better reinstall this game to get that big bag of krill. Thanks for the alert :/

  • geoff

    The game probably isn't successful because honestly, it's not that good.  It's a beautiful game for sure, and the sounds/music are fantastic.  But underneath it all, the game just isn't fun.  Maybe I suck at it, I don't know, but I gave up trying because it was too frustrating.

    • Saulo Benigno

       That's what i thought, simply doing the same and the same, nothing changes, there's no real challenge. No puzzle, just go to the right.

  • Matt F

    Its still one of my favorites, but I dont play it much lately, so that new version sound incredible. A shop! Thank you Mills

  • any-mouse

    I don't think this game will ever be super successful. When you spend 400k+ on a project.. It has a very small room for profit.
    Usually something unique goes viral, like AB was unique on iOS, as was CTR. Whale trail is just another endless runner in a pile of a million. Jetpack joyride is just about as mainstream as an endless runner can get, and there's no room on the charts for 2 endless runners.
    Most men would be embarrassed to be seen playing an extremely flamboyant game with rainbows and squeals. Most endless runners are played in public waiting at the bus stop, etc and I bet 70% of men would be too ashamed to play it.
    And secondly, what does whale trail have the JJ doesn't have? The project is completely pointless. It brings absolutely nothing new to the genre. No innovation whatsoever, no creativity. Just a highly polished basic endless runner with your typical brightly colored theme. The one thing it does have is polish, but for 400k+ it better damn well be polished! I feel sorry for the sucker who actually let these bone spend 400k on an endless runner. But like they say "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me".
    They are going to spend even more budget on this flop, when they could put that money forward to develop an actual unique innovative modern day angry birds (no, not a clone, I mean a great new idea that could end up being the next AB) there's no way an endless runner will ever be that successful. Especially not one that lacks innovation and creativity. The worst part Is the dooche bag who always gets compared to creative people, like Clint Eastwood, solely because he made a video wearing a pink wig and hipster glasses like a tryhard dooche. Stop rewarding these no talent money hungry slimeballs with TA articles. Wait til they come up with an actual decent original idea instead of being sheepish followers making an endless runner clone with 400k! Jesus. Imagine all the awesome projects indie devs could be making with that 400k. And instead we got a stupid endless runner who is now turning into a money sucking freeminium. Why are the iOS gods so evil?
    I paid for a endless runner not a stupid bag of krill. Even though I removed the game from my device a long time ago it still slightly irritates me. Especially because they were trying to make out it wasn't about the money, then proceeded to be an iOS gold digger and offer a crappy bag of "krill" for compensation. Im Looking forward to it's 2nd failure. Getting the popcorn ready.

    • B34$T

      You wrote all if this over a $.99 app that will soon go free? Wow. Just wow.

      *Stupid TA App needs to make the like and reply button farther apart.

      • any-mouse

        What's the 99c got to do with it? You actually make no sense whatsoever. You think I'm mad because I spent 99c? If you actually read my rant you'd see I deleted this game a long time ago and couldn't give a crap what they do to it.I found it boring and uncreative. They can plaster it with pictures of goatsee for all I care. I wrote "all of that" over principle. Nothing about the 99c. I was trying to knock some reality into the developers mind because they are seriously delusional if they honestly think they can be the next angry birds..they're setting themselves up for failure. Angry birds and CTR took years of marketing and a huge PR budget, and most importantly, a solid unique gameplay idea that is fun and brings something new to the genre. Even if you have the money to market, you still can't just sell a pile of crap. Whale trail is the most sheepiest uninspired game ive probably ever seen in the appstore..not one thing is unique..theres thousands exactly like it with a different skin.and it bothers me because this company tries to market themselves as creative arty hipster geniuses who don't care about money, when really, there as snakey and money hungry as zynga. That's all.

      • Jared Nelson

        "I deleted this game a long time ago and couldn't give a crap what they do to it"

        Yeah I usually write 700 word diatribes about games that I don't give a crap about too.

      • Gagapokerface

        His "700-word diatribe" brought up a lot of good points. On the other hand, I'm not sure what the hell you're trying to say. I guess you think he actually does give a crap about the game? This article is ridiculous. I don't own Whale Trail, and I never will own Whale Trail. It doesn't interest me in any way shape or form. What I do find interesting is that a generic-looking game managed to bring in 188,000 downloads and is being called a failure. The failure lies in the hands of the people who spent way, way, way, WAY, too much money on an endless runner. 

        It's like spending 200,000 dollars teaching a labradoodle to do math and then calling him a failure for not maxing the SAT.

        Seriously, what the hell? The emperor is naked!

      • Jared Nelson

        Yes he did bring up some amazing points like "you're just a stupid wannabe try hard hipster douche" and "don't spend so much money on your game lol" and "Whale Trail is exactly the same as Jetpack Joyride make something different like the next Angry Birds". Great advice.

        Whatever valid points this fella might have had are null and void the moment he turns to personal attacks and vitriol. My point is that it's so much easier to just ignore a story about a game that doesn't interest you rather than spend time writing rambling incoherent hate-filled "advice" that nobody asked for.

      • Matt Langdon

        The point, any-mouse, is why would you waste so much time ranting and raving over an inexpensive game that you don't play. Are you giving good advice or do you just like the sound of your own voice?

    • NetscapePizza

      "Why are the iOS gods so evil?"

      Because the iOS customers are cheapskates and refuse to pay more than 69p for anything. You can't build a sustainable business on pennies without going for horrible freemium scam bollocks.

      • farnsworth_pro

         You absolutely can. If your studio is efficient, earning 100k on each game you release is more than enough to live by. Especially with cheap assed procedurally generated infinite games like whale trail. You can fully dev a game in a matter of months. If you have a staff of more than a small handfull, you're doing it wrong. If your operating costs are exceeding 100k for a game like this, you're doing it VERY wrong.

        Devs have to stop trying to be EA/Acti/Zynga and have to start being INDIE DEVS.

        When you're small, you have the power to invest less, and produce more. You can retool your entire business easily, where the massive corporate bloat of major studios makes it impossible for them.

      • Mark Müller

        100% behind this statement - now if any TA readers want to help fund a sequel to Asteroid 2012 3D on iOS - please feel free to help this indie one man band by buying the current version in the app store - otherwise its game over... 🙁

    • jamespr

      You probably could have said all of that without coming off like an abrasive, entitled prick.

    • o0oJAKEo0o

      What sort of title would you call creative? 400K... Most men are not, 400K..., chicken dung cowards, as you seem to be. 400K. I don't think anyone, male parts, or female parts (as you seem to have), deserves to be called "a man" if he is afraid to play a great game because there are rainbows in it. And 70%, you must have a lot of cowards for friends as well! Are you girls afraid someone would find out you lacking testicles. 400K. This game is/was great its little girls like you this world as a whole should be ashamed of! I feel sorry for, 400K, your mother. But, I guess it's her fault... 400K...

    • Wolf

      You're a special kind of sad person, aren't you?

  • Gemutlichkeit

    Wow this guy can't see the forrest through the trees. He built what he thought was the perfect game and was shocked when it didn't break world records.  What he fails to realize is that his idea of the perfect game has been done to death.  This is another endless runner, one of a billion on the apps store. It's not going to make a splash.  This is like someone creating a cutesy clone of Angry Birds and scratching their heads when it's not at the top of the charts for the next 2 years.  This dev has already shot himself in the foot with the initial design of the game, now he's loading the gun and aiming it at his healthy leg with this new freemeium hogwash.

    Best of luck guy, dont' say I didn't warn you when your Pong remake doesn't take off like you hoped it would.

  • thetrackt

    Completely disagree ^^ this game is ace and more people need to (and will) play it 🙂

  • Paradiso

    A good game, whether it's from a stale genre or not, is good for everyone.

    This is just telling a variation of the tale of thousands of ios developers though. One model doesn't work, so they try another; it's not entirely news worthy.

    Money will always be the backbone of endeavors with this much capital invested, however creative and dedicated the team is. It is refreshing that they think they can make more money pursuing it than selling it though, that's interesting to me.

    What I suggest they do is what they already did on a smaller scale, take a step back. I hope this does well, I hope it's fun and new and all that, but maybe the base concept just isn't cutting it and will never sell well enough to be as profitable as they'd like.

  • Shinsaku

    I feel ashamed that I missed this game in the mix. It sucks what they are going thru. I don't want a water-down version of the game so I just bought it right now. I am all for supporting developers for their hard work on these games for us. Here's hoping for the best in the future!

  • Thomas Slayton

    I have two kids with iPods and neither one is allowed to have any Freemium Krapware installed because when they do, all they do is beg for the in-game currency.

    There are two exceptions: Jetpack Joyride and Tiny Tower.

    That's it.

    • iGotIt

      So you're saying there is a chance.

  • millsustwo

    There was a decision to be made in terms of where we were going to spend our time next. I felt we had something special with whale trail but there was something missing.

    That something was the 'just one more go' factor.. It was also too easy for some players to fly and fly and fly... We've addressed these things now.

    When we launched back in October we only had the basic endless runner mode... It had so much joy but it wasn't enough. update 2 and 3 added the 'challenge levels' which gave players a chance to feel satisfied in tiny chunks... We probably should have launched with them in but I personally loved the purity of the endless runner mode.

    That's what I love about the app world. You can listen to feedback and change.. Thats the journey.

    The new update brings the spotlight and focus back to the endless runner. The focus was on 'how do we make it better, what was missing, what did people like, what didn't they like.

    The update enhances the gameplay, adds so much more reward, and importantly puts the the power of enhancement in the hand of the players. All we cared about was bringing more joy to more people.

    I am super proud of our creation - I'm super excited about seeing it in the hands of many many more.

    Bottom line is the iOS market is ultra competitive - Whale Trail sits at 220 in the US games chart on iPhone (better on iPad) 6 months after release - it has an average or 4.5 stars and the reviews are littered with people who really enjoy it. I think that's pretty good actually!

    It would have been a lot easier to walk away from it and start something completely new but that would not have been right - we've planted a seed that many people do like.. We've watered it and its grown stronger. Now it's time to flower.

    Maybe I am crazy, but I choose to spend our time on creating things we enjoy making.

    We learn on the way and have lots of fun telling that story. It's about seeing things we made in the hands of others. It's about releasing something non mainstream to the mainstream!

    We don't have massive marketing budgets, we have passion and we have our story. We're transparent about the time we spent, the learnings we get and the difficulties we faced.

    The next round of fun is about to begin!!! So excited I can't sleep 🙂

  • Hans P. Köter

    Another TA front page feature about Whale Trail...? Yawn. I can think of a dozen apps who really deserve to be covered here...

    • o0oJAKEo0o


  • dijitak

    I read somewhere that the game cost $100,000 to make, with 188,000 downloads they ave made around $130,000 (after apples cut and before tax) so they have broken even at least and are now making $250-$300 profit from the game a day, hardly a flop in many peoples eyes. The mind boggles as to why this game cost so much to make.

    • matthew wood

      i often question how such sums are made up, but then i realize this game isn't made by one man. its a team who clearly pay themselves wages. a while ago i read an article detailing sword and sworcerys cost at $200,000 (iirc) while this seems silly they have easily recouped the cost of making it. saying this however i think if you gave me 155 grand i could make you  something that would reach the top 10.

      • dijitak

        I'm involved within the IOS games industry and $155k (£100k) is a ludicrous amount for whale trail, Ive worked on a good 3d racing game with on-line multi player made by a team of programmers and coders (I'm not allowed to say which). That game cost $75k (£48k) to make (and that was made in the UK like whale trail). Fruit ninja?, Angry birds?, Tiny wings? they probably cost less than $30k to make. So $150k on whale trail!?! it was destined to fail.

      • Jay

        I guess it's not hard to create an LLC that delivers more income than revenue.  And if the company doesn't make it then Oh Well, at least they were paid, right?  The payoff before liquidation was worth it, right?

      • matthew wood

        i'm also involved in the ios game industry, and i'd agree that 155k is a silly amount to spend. to date i've spent 5k on my own project, this isn't alot in the grand scheme of things but most indie developers work on nothing. my point was that if you gave someone who knows what there doing 155k and put it solely into the app you would see return, because they would build something with far greater substance than whale trail.

      • farnsworth_pro

         You have to remember, S&S is a fully fleshed out game with a story line and characters, objectives and a set path. It all took time to develop...

        Whale trail and its ilk are mostly procedurally generated, leaning on the machine to do most of the heavy lifting. There is no real plot or story line, they did not have to dev and playtest many levels, they just slotted in the GFX, set their variables to taste and released the game.

        The fact that it cost so much exposes a MASSIVE inefficiency in the company. They need to seriously look at how to efficiently create a game.

  • slamraman

    I liked this game but don't really like the idea of freemium. Jetpack Joyride only went free because of the bugs which wiped out your badges/medals I seem to remember. I don't really know but if I were you I'd make a new game and give it some love too, otherwise you're in danger of mollycoddling this one too much. I personally loved Whale Tail but noone else I knew liked the look of it. It's just how it is sometimes. Sea Stars probably copied you guys but now you're in danger of turning into that. Make a new game and let Whale Trail become your Classic first album.

  • Shizapp Interactive

    I have to agree with a lot of these comments. They spent way too much money developing this this thing. They do not realize that only a small percentage will actually buy IAP. I could have made 100 really great games with that money, my last one cost a meesly $2000. And I like to think it was polished. This is just another shining example of people who thought that they would make it to the top and are then surprised when it "flops". I'd kill for their numbers... You want to learn something from this? Learn not to spend so much money on development, and learn that your first game will likely not be a huge success and learn to move on. How many games did Rovio put out there before they had a hit? Something like 50 right? Divide your budget into 10 teams and develop 10 games. One of them might do great. Putting all your eggs in one basket will only make you and your investors go bankrupt. I thought my game was great, and still do. But It is not in the top of the stores but I am moving on... Maybe because they spent so much money they are hanging on to false hopes, and it is easier forbus to say just let it go because we haven't.. who knows... I would have loved a featured article from TA but didn't get it. Count yourself lucky for double exposure. It's sad that this game is getting a blog post like this because there are other games that are great that could benefit from this article space instead of wasting it on dillusional whining.

    • Shizapp Interactive

      I'm sorry if that came across as insensative. I wish you the best of luck.

    • Anonymous

      And just where would you find all that developer talent.

      Do you have any idea how much these people cost to hire?

  • James Poole

    Our little company made three games, Hello Copter, InnerSpin and Time Sliders. We spent nothing like that amount to make all three games, it seems an incredible risk to invest into a market when players are so used to getting stuff for free. As gamers, we wanted to avoid the freemium world, we wanted players to own the game and not have to spend anything more for features they should have had anyway. We responded to reviewers by adding a new mode to InnerSpin (endless mode in the 99c one) and we also made Hello Copter free. Just free...not freemium. I just wish more people played them 🙂

    • farnsworth_pro

       I am downloading it now 🙂 thanks

  • Donny Keizer

    Whale Trail is an exciting 'trippy' game, one that is worth way more than 99 cents. That's just my 2 cents.

  • Pete_pete_pete

    While Trail is awesome and I can't wait for the new release to come out. There are a lot of cynical comments on here but the facts remain that soon you will be able to own a great game for free which has taken hours of love, time and money to produce. Sounds like a bargain to me!

  • Jay

    Is this entire article just clever marketing, or is it a real interview?  I can't tell.

    It was an interesting story, though - I read the whole thing.

  • nicolinux

    I think that $155k isn't such a big sum. We are two guys working on our upcoming game and when we count our time that we have spent on the game, we are already over $200k. But there is an important difference. First - if you work on a game out of passion, time doesn't count and flies by as if it was nothing. And second we had a stable game after 2-3 months already. Polishing and tweaking is what takes crazy amounts of time. I bet that neither Angry Birds nor Tiny Wings could ever be made under $30k (like dijitak suggested).
    If I had to guess, Whale Trail didn't succeed because of their too childish gfx and the gameplay that gets boring after a short while. On the other hand, I didn't find Angry Birds interesting at all (neiter Flight Control or Doodle Jump), but I love Tiny Wings, League of Evil and 8-Bit Ninja...

  • Tim Lord Gek Jordan

    My simple question here, how much of this krill bought gear is permanent and how much will be of the Bejeweled Blitz model of power-ups that need to be repurchased each play?  What happens all too often in Freemium games is a blatant push toward getting some IAP currency if you ever want to see any of the game's fun power-ups otherwise you'll need to be content grinding for 20 games to see 1 power-up for 1 run and then need to start all over from scratch.

  • millsustwo

    It going to be fun to collect Krill and buy upgrades and treats - right now the game is liked by some (can see a lot of hate in here) but you only get the satisfaction of a score and then start a fresh - now that end score will be exchanged for krill to spend in the krill shop - making your willow stronger - each play now gets better for the player, you are in complete control of your progression - you see willow grow - you can purchase treats (instant frenzy etc) with krill but we also let you win treats from the end of level goodies... It's a nice update - a game changer!

  • Tondog

    It's really disappointing this game hasn't done very well because it is one of the better games on the app store as far as polish is concerned. I really hope these guys find success ongoing f2p and I will be supporting them the whole way through.

    What's also really disappointing is the amount of haters in the comments here. I've never really heard any negative comments towards Whale Trail in the past. It only seems that the haters are truly coming out now because it's going free to play and the developer has been outspoken and passionate about the game. Yes, it is an endless flyer, but the art style, the music, and whimsical atmosphere really make it stand out amongst all the others out there.

    So in summary, calm the hell down before you blindly spout ignorance.

  • Stefan Rijkse

    I bet investers love to hear things like: "we could have sold the game but we don't care about money", and: "we don't care bout making money, we only care about bringing joy to the people".

    and if this developer isn't funded by outside investors, but by their own money. then it seems kind of weird that they claim the sales performance for whale trail is a succes as well of a failure because it's "a great journey" and the're are lessons learned. 

    what you do is make journey's like that and learn lessons like that WITHOUT losing buckets of money. same lessons, same journey, except no money down the drain.

    I for one am not buying the succaile story, it sounds to me like a monetary fail.

  • HiRez

    I don't see any reason why Tiny Wings could not be made for under $30K, really even for under $10K, because it's ONE GUY who made it. What do you really need? A laptop, maybe Adobe CS or Creative Cloud subscription, possibly some 3D software, a few inexpensive utilities like Texture Packer, Glyph Designer, etc., maybe Logic and a few bits of audio hardware. Some services like github and Dropbox. Then some test devices like various iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches. And most of these costs can be spread out over multiple apps so it's not really all on the budget of that one app.

    Even Angry Birds, there's really not that much to it. I'm not saying they didn't spend a lot of time crafting it or it could be thrown together in a weekend, but there's nothing fancy there, just 2D artwork and a fairly basic physics engine, which is available for free, off the shelf. It just seems insane to me that you need to spend 100 grand (or much more) to create a good, polished game. Now something like Infinity Blade, yes, you are going to need a bigger team and a lot more assets there, but for simple 2D games you really don't need much except a good idea, some skills, and a passion for your game.

    Let's say you can't do the artwork yourself and you really want something good, so you hire out an artist, let's say she or he works 500 hours (a lot) and you pay them a pretty nice $75 per hour. Even that's only $37,500. And you want some good music so you hire someone for 100 hours at $75 per hour = $7,500. We're still way under 100 grand.

    Is the rest going to PR firms and lawyers or what?

    • Stefan Rijkse

      good point. (btw cudo's for toucharcade for an interesting post behind the scenes of app development).

    • Anonymous

      They had a team of 20-ish people working for a year on only self initiated iOS projects (not just whale trail) in an office based in an expensive part of central London. Whale train didn't take all year but you can easily see where the money went.

      Hats off to them for trying though, it just wasn't a fun game, almost like they took robot unicorn attack/tiny wings/jet pack joyride but sucked all the challenge and risk out of them.

      Unfortunately the iOS market just isn't sustainable for teams bigger than 4. 69p is just too little to make any money with.

  • Slamraman

    Thinking about this why don't you just leave Whale Trail the way it is and release the F2P one separately. That way you can see if the F2P one works without p*ssing off all the people who've bought it before by changing the dynamics. Even take the original off the App Store if you give us enough time and notice to back it up.
    That way when you do release the game after Whale Trail and, fingers crossed, it's a stone cold classic, all the old original Whale Trail people will have the original now limited edition.
    I do think Whale Trail lacks the mass appeal of Jetpack Joyride by being too cute over fun. I'm may be the wrong person here as I've been playing games for too long on old speccies and c64s but I couldn't wait when i was younger to see Minter's next game, or Matthew Smith's, or Tony Crowther, or Eugene Jarvis. We all wanted to see what they did next not what the did before again with the hope of making it a success. Success breeds success. Good luck though but I still quite fancy keeping my old Whale Trail.

  • any-mouse

    Quoted from us two in the link TA provided in the above article/interview with the devs of whale trail:

    The freemium model doesn't lend itself to our approach of making nuggets of quality perfection, with one wrapper between you and the sweet taste of the juice. We don't want to hide the really good elements of what we've created behind a series of gated doors. We want to give the user the complete and best experience from the very first touch.

    Call it a private members club if you will, as a user you need to do your research, and pay the money to be part of it. Pay to play.

    We are not interested in casting out a net to people who may or may not like our game. We only want people who understand that premium is about studios spending their time crafting the experience and not the psychological touch points that create an addiction where money must be spent to satisfy it.

    After all, we created a studio that allows us to concentrate on bringing premium triple-E titles (engagement, excitement and energy) to the users and simply want them to just pay to play!

    /end quote.

    Ustwo should feel ashamed. That's why people are annoyed. ustwo acted like they were some sort of Jesus in the AppStore, standing up against freemiums, then they went and sold their souls. Bet they'd have 1/4 of the hate if they just kept their big mouths shut about promises they couldn't keep.
    Feel sorry for the investors who are getting their money pissed away by these two fools. Their probably potheads and LSD heads if they seriously think whale trail showed their master creativity. /facepalm

    • o0oJAKEo0o

      You are a coward... "Men don't want to be seen playing games like this." You will never be considered a man. Just a coward looking for acceptance, so you can ask for your balls back!

  • WildFactor

    Several points:

    They announced how much they will spend on the game and at that time
    EVERY app developper said that they will loose money...

    they announced that they had loose money. I'm sorry for them, but
    that's not a big suprise!

    They say they have a creative team, but the game they produced is

    if it's a good one, it's only a good endless runner clone .

    1st possible explanation:

    creative team looks creative and coo, but they only look creative and
    cool 🙂

    look like to be from the advertising industry instead of being from
    the game industry)

    need good and talented guys that live in a dark room and be afraid of
    the light 🙂 Talent don't always look talented (sometimes yes, but
    most of the time not).

    2nd possible explanation:

    creative team had too much money pressure. And when money is
    involved, every creation become mainstream (less risk). This pressure
    is not always created by investors. Every creator wants to
    be successful for many different reasons. And sometime this pressure
    is self inflict and make them censor innovative ideas.

    this big investement, Your team just didn't have the possibility to
    failed. They have to choose only safe bet (endless runner) instead of
    risky ideas.

    so much Haters in some comments ?

    probably. Because I must admit that I'm jealous myself 🙂

    wish to have your communication skill. 

    You succeed to convice an investor to put 400k$ on an
    iphone/android game on your first try when most dev struggle to have
    more than 10K of budget and must have another job to be able to
    create their game.

    You succeed to have 2 times the front page of touch arcade.

    You succeed to have more than 10 000 sale in one day!

    You said that your maketing budget is not big, but 99%
    developper dream to have enough time or money to make the trailer
    you've made.

    I envy you. I could be happy of your failure but I can't. I can't
    because you've not really failed. Your name is remember, you
    have a user base and a fanbase. You have made many contact like touch


    wish that this half/success don't prevent you to take game design
    risk next times.

    advice: move on or you will continue loosing money.

    advice: Your first game is never a success. Don't be too hard on

    advice: Don't spend more than 100k$ on one game. This is still a
    market of 99c game. The volume of sales to make a profit must be
    enormous if you invest more. Only few game every years succeed in it.

    you should listen to advices. Continue dreaming, but make some
    decision based on fact instead of dream or conviction.

    bird cost 100K $ to make. 

    wing creator invest probably not much money, but his talented are not

    if you value his time at its right level, the game probably cost more
    than 100k$

  • thetrackt

    Also, when is this update supposed to ship?

  • Grumpy Bastard

    If this game is supposedly all about the polish, then why have they STILL not fixed the music bug from the very first release of the game?!
    I turn the (annoying) music off by tapping the music-off button, but keep the sound effects on when I play a game, quit the game, re-launch the game, and now the music button is switched on again and the (very annoying) music is playing again!!

  • LN3000

    Congrats to all the assholes here for being successful assholes.
    I can't wait to see your game do so much better since you guys seem to be iPhone game experts.

  • Vic Viper

    Thanks for the kindly warning Touch Arcade. I'll be sure to re-download the game now, so I'll have a version of Whale Trail that isn't loaded with IAPs.

  • arturitu

    While developers are so far to understand that a increasingly part of their business is marketing are doomed to frustration.

  • Bryan Bennett

    If nothing else, the comments on this post prove the almighty truth of the Internet...those that can't do, troll.

  • Erik Matson

    Spending anything over $200 k is crazy for an iOS game unless its a super title like NOVA or infinity blade

  • Chris Lesage

    I have a feeling that if there was a sense of traveling, exploring the world, getting somewhere, climbing higher, etc. it would feel more compelling. I would play Mega Jump even if it was just jumping on coins with no enemies or obstacles because the feeling of climbing higher into a new world is what drives me.

  • Doug Davies

    There are lots of games that have deserved to do well but didn't.  Pizza v.s. Skeletons kind of tanked after all the hype.  I've found some real gems in the appstore that are just as polished and just as deserving as Whale Trail (for example Hot Donut).  I think sometimes developers have a sense of entitlement.  I know as an iOS developer sometimes I question why I don't get as much recognition as I think I deserve.  Then I realize I didn't spend the extra time initially to completely polish the game.  I lost my audience right away.  A bit of laziness on my behalf.

    I commend them for shifting to phase 2 and fixing things, but just like movies, if you don't make the money in the first week you are done.  Only every few years is there a Titanic or Star Wars that has longevity.  To think just because you spent money and time on something it deserves to be #1 isn't good enough.  It's really luck and word of mouth.  I could pick 100 movies that are better than Titanic that didn't do well, but for some reason people wanted drippy boring dialog, just as they want questionable physics in a game like AB.

  • Gerald Joseph Tierney

    Oops, didn't you make quite a mess of this?

  • Wolf

    This is the first and only game I ever spent any money on. And not because I couldn't earn it or get it through watching ads, but because I love the game. I mainly play it on my iPad, but is recently downloaded the free to play version on my google phone and plan to spend the money on the original as well. It deserves to do well, and though it might not be big and popular like angry birds, I'm kind of glad for that. Because when they made a freaking angry birds show, it's clearly gone to far, and I don't want Willow to end up with the same fate. I just want him to do well and his creators to get their dues.
    I'd like to point out that the other game by the same company, monument valley, is also amazing.