So many good stories. What about the bad ones?

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by joelmejiaganan, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. joelmejiaganan

    Jul 24, 2008
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    Wedding Videographer and iPhone Developer
    Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
    We have heard about Trism, iShoot and iFart.

    It is great to be a success in the App Store and sell a lot of copies and get a lot of money from it. The reality is that they are uncommon cases and not everybody that makes a game is getting his money back.

    Can you share the info about those Apps and Devs who couldn't make it the right way? Those who made a good App but it got buried. What time did your App sell well? How much copies are you selling months away of the release day? What is the reality of those games that are not in the top 100?

    We can't think this is business in heaven, we have to know the reality about the majority of games in the App Store who are not in the top 100 !!!

    Thanks.
     
  2. Rocketman919

    Rocketman919 Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2008
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    Cali-forn-i-a
    im not the developer, but im gonna say that Smiles is a game with a bad story, terrible actually. It is so sad (and bad for the market) to see such an amazing game never go anywhere near the top ten, when in my opinion it is the best puzzle game out there.

    Thanks for making a great game PoV!

    Hopefully with this IGF stuff it can rocket up the charts and make you some dough!
     
  3. Tennisking1o1

    Tennisking1o1 Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2008
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    SPiN is also in this category. It's an amazing game and review sites have praised it, it's even gone on sale multiple times to attract sales (it's currently $1.99 compared to it's $4.99 price tag). It deserves so much more credit and purchases than it currently has, and I feel bad for Frand who made such a great game and had some great updates, only to see it not sell. I can only hope Zen Bound sells better...
     
  4. Rocketman919

    Rocketman919 Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2008
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    Cali-forn-i-a
    yeah me too. That game looks great.
     
  5. Frand

    Frand Well-Known Member

    #5 Frand, Feb 2, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2009
    I've mentioned this before in some other threads.
    SPiN has a 4.43 global written reviews average, mostly great web reviews (IGN Editors' Choice Award, 'Must Have' from Slide to Play...) and Best Puzzle Game of 2008 as noted by IGN Wireless.

    The sales have barely covered ~25% of its total development costs.

    The reasons have of been discussed as well, whether it's the name, the unfamiliar concept, piracy, the timing... all are factors of course. But it is an unfortunate example of (in our opinion) a high quality game not raising widespread interest despite positive web presence.

    Lite version didn't have much of an effect on sales.

    The one lesson to learn that I would like to share with all the indies is this:
    time your web visibility as close to your game release as possible.

    Website visibility creates one-day spikes in your sales, and if those spikes are spread too wide apart, your game is less likely to climb the App charts. Time them close together, and their cumulative effect may bring your app to a top position which then starts feeding itself with a positive feedback loop.

    With SPiN the pricing had a linear effect on the number of sales. Sales quadrupled when price was dropped to $0.99, but only for a few days, followed by a rapid falloff. Now, three months from release, daily sales are few.

    This brings again the problem... since it seems download numbers are directly influenced by the price of the application, it would suggest that launching any app at a price other than $0.99 would seriously risk its probability of success. Since position in the Top Apps charts is only determined by the number of downloads, the best chance to get up to Top 25, where the big paycheck is, is to price low. Naturally this would seriously hurt the perceived value of the application, and raising the price to, say, $5.99 after an 'introductory sale' will most likely kick your app out of the top charts as fast as it got there.

    Of course this only applies to games that don't have a brand attached to them. Big publishers rely on the value of their brands to price the games at $9.99 and people are willing to buy.
     
  6. coconutbowling

    coconutbowling Well-Known Member

    Dec 8, 2008
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    Student
    Pennsylvania
    That sucks. Hopefully Zen Bound will be able to recover you from SPiN (which imho is a really great game)
     
  7. Knight

    Knight Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2008
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    Did Apple ever feature SPiN on any of their 'special' lists? (Whats Hot, New, Staff Favs)

    I checked it out on the App Store. I like the graphics but I'm not a puzzle guy. I wonder if your problem is due to too many puzzle games. You seem to have everything else going for you though (awards, reviews, graphics, price).

    Oh well, when games like iCopter are still in the top 25 for months and months, it might be that games like SPiN aren't what the market is looking for.
     
  8. Knight

    Knight Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2008
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    Game Developer
    7 Cities came out a day after SimCity, a day before Puzzle Quest, and 2 days before Rolando. That burned us good!!! But a month later, we got featured by Apple on Whats Hot and got some good numbers then. So far we are happy with it. And it makes us want to do updates and make other games.

    But I really want Apple to change the App Store layout and help those devs who put in the extra effort.
     
  9. Frand

    Frand Well-Known Member

    Yes, Apple guys are great, and we got all the visibility from them that we could hope for. SPiN was featured as a top banner game in most regions, then listed in "What's New" and I believe it may still be present in some regions' "What's Hot" or "What We're Playing" sections.

    I don't know if SPiN is a puzzle game, to be honest. For me it's an arcade game. The line is blurred of course, but for me Tetris isn't a puzzle game either... when you play it at level 10 or so, the pace of the game is so fast and the gameplay so reaction-driven that calling it a puzzle game does give the wrong image. Guitar Hero is an arcade game and not a puzzle, right?

    SPiN is similar in that at the higher difficulties it challenges anyone to the peak of their reaction speeds. I don't think puzzle games do that, unless there's a genre for "Arcade Puzzle".
     
  10. Knight

    Knight Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2008
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    I apologize. I saw 'Best Puzzle Game of 2008' as the first review in the product description on the App Store page and I concluded its a puzzle game.

    That is interesting that even though you got the best feature (top banner? wow), that you still only made 25% of your investment? I find it hard to believe given our own experience, but maybe I am just not seeing the bigger picture since I haven't played your game.
     
  11. Frand

    Frand Well-Known Member

    No, as far as marketing and all that goes, I agree that the general consensus is that SPiN is a puzzle game (indeed, we call it a Super Shape Puzzle ourselves).

    What I mean is that puzzle games are generally considered to be casual games, and most people that think of a puzzle game are probably going to associate the term with something close to Sudoku or Bejeweled, a game where there is no real time pressure to complete the tasks.

    In fact, the difference between a puzzle game and an arcade game may very well be simply the pace of the game in many situations.

    So just as far as my personal opinion goes, I think of SPiN as an "Arcade Puzzle" or simply "Arcade" game, as opposed to a "casual puzzler".

    Back to the subject of iTunes visibility, the top banner is actually less effective than placement in "What's New", since the top banner is not mirrored in the iPhone's version of the App Store. But when you're on the first page of "What's New" that also puts you on the first page on the device.

    Also, while we had top banner placement, you'll notice that the top banners cross-fade between two or three selected apps per banner. The order of the banners is always the same, and each banner seems to be visible for about 10 seconds or more. Not many people stick around on the front page of the App Store on the desktop long enough to ever see the 2nd or 3rd banners, I think. We weren't the first app in the banner sequence, so I believe the amount of visibility to end users is much less than the one which always loads up first.

    This again underlines that being featured in the What's New section is the best promotion you can have in the App Store (outside of a Top 10 position in the Top Apps list, of course).

    As for development effort vs. sales, SPiN has involved work of many different people over roughly 4-5 calendar months of work in total. Two people were almost constantly occupied with the project, with others used for assets, QA etc. in shorter bursts. The project has a longer history attached to it that I won't go through here, but the overall effort estimate is reasonably accurate for any budget estimations.

    Sales peaked at ~400 copies sold on the day we dropped the price to $0.99, and as earlier mentioned, price and number of sales had a nearly linear correlation.

    Sounds like you've had good success with 7 Cities :)
     
  12. Knight

    Knight Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2008
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    I agree with you about the placement for banner. They don't quite work well on the iPhone.

    For 7 Cities, we tried everything possible in terms of marketting (sale price, Whats Hot, Lite version, promo code giveaway). Our results agree with yours. The best one was being featured by Apple on one of its list, in this case we were on Whats Hot. We were a bit down on it though so people still had to scroll down on the iPhone to see it. But anyway, it gave us a good sale boost to get into the top 100.

    From your reviews though I would expect your game to be in the top 25 at least. But this is the App Store where its bizzare-o-world, and everything is opposite. Oh well, next time ;)
     
  13. Knight

    Knight Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2008
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    Just saw the video on SPiN. Looks pretty cool actually. Nice!
     
  14. Frand

    Frand Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you can't compete against flatulence with quality. You lose. :)
     
  15. Tennisking1o1

    Tennisking1o1 Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2008
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    There's plenty of pressure in this game :)

    I hate on the levels in the 60s. It just keeps shaking and I'm trying my best to match 'em up! :p
     
  16. PoV

    PoV Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2008
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    London, Ontario, Canada
    #16 PoV, Feb 2, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2009
    Yeah, Smiles could have done much better. I've never had a zero sale day, but the sales are still nothing to brag about. IGF and the Free version were good shots in the arm, and not a minute too late.

    In retrospect, it's a game that really relies on Apple taking notice. Broadly accessible with special effort put in to making it so, yet still lots to grow in to and to keep skilled gamers interested. All the extras you'd want in a top tier title (achievements, scores, multiple themes, 14 game modes, good sound design, tactical use of accelerometer), but I'm sure there must be some criteria I missed. ;)

    Visually and genre wise, the exact opposite ways to get noticed in a gaming community. After all, how could there still be an original matching games to be made? Yes, it has been an uphill battle. :)

    I'm hopeful of the IGF buzz and Free version turn in to some "hey, what's this iPhone game I've never heard of" press.

    But yeah, this is Smiles round 3, but I'll fight all night. :cool:
     
  17. Diablohead

    Diablohead Well-Known Member

    Jan 19, 2009
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    Freelancer, PC game developer
    It sucks when months of effort doesn't sell like it should or as you expect and it can harm cash flow, but it's always worth trying again instead of bailing out instantly.. though that might not be easy depending on publishers or how much the first time cost you out of pocket.

    In the next 3 months I'll be spending up to £1000, if all fails you will know about it :p
     
  18. lithiastudios

    lithiastudios Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2009
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    I'd be curious as well to hear about the worst case scenarios for a decent app that just never seems to get visibility. Even if something never hits the top 100, never gets featured, etc., do you end up with 0.. 5.. 10.. 50 sales a day?

    Also curious about the "long tail" as well.. does it get to the point after a month or two where you are getting zero sales a day? Or is it a case where even months later, there's still a small trickle of sales still coming in?

    With all the stories of people making it big off the app store, I'd like to get a bit grounded and realize, okay, in a worst case scenario you may only get $5, $20, $100, $500, etc.

    -Kevin
    Lithia Studios
     
  19. PoV

    PoV Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2008
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    London, Ontario, Canada
    #19 PoV, Feb 2, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2009
    Yup. That's not to say I'm failing, just I'm not one of those run away success stories.

    You wont get rid of me that easily. :D

    I wont say what I'm making, but I will say a few reasonably priced projects completely outside the top 100's can make a living. But you always have to be sure someone is talking about you. You can use Smiles as a gauge. Keep that level of quality up, and you can still thrive with the market working against you.


    The time for little games is over. Some will still find success, but if you're not bringing your A game, you'll be eaten alive by the shear volume of apps.

    Oh, and I'd suggest against matching games, unless you enjoy the whole "walked uphill both ways" paradox. ;)
     
  20. mehware

    mehware Well-Known Member

    Nov 22, 2008
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    I did not sell near as many copies as I would have liked for my first two games. Still have yet to see a check from apple but I am over the $250 hump in the US market. When I got my first sale I was so happy just to have my name on something.

    My third game "Vase Craze" should come out tomorrow, hopefully this title will do a lot better. Its kind of like a root-beer tapper/match 2 game.
     

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