Title: OceanDive (download :: purchase)
Developer: SCS Software
Description: Combination of a 3D scuba diving screensaver and exploration game
Released: March 3, 2005
Team: 4 full time + 4 part time (2 programmers and 2 artists in the core team, with occasional submissions from a further 2 artists, and occasional support from 2 other programmers.)
Development Time: 4+1 calendar months (4 months main production, extra month for technical post production)
Development platforms & tools: Windows & Linux, Visual studio 2003, GCC, Alias Maya, Adobe Photoshop.
- Create a unique, good-looking, high-tech, non-violent exploration game with complementary screensaver (well, the end result happens to be the other way around). Make a solid niche product, not necessarily a title with appeal for the masses. Do not worry about relatively high hardware requirements – we need enough horse power for flashy 3D effects, this is our unique selling point. OceanDive was our first foray into advanced shader effects, also serving as a learning experience for the art team.
Sales to date:
- Price: US $19.99
- Direct Online sales: over 4,000 copies
- Net Revenue: about US $60,000
- Downloads: 280,000 (from Download.com, but way over half those people were driven to download.com from our own site)
- Website: We attract 30,000-40,000 unique visitors per month to www.oceandive.com.
- Retail distribution: a couple of smaller deals in Europe below $10,000
per deal, still waiting for the right offer for US retail distribution.
We have refused several very persistent offers to bundle OceanDive with adware, even though promises of huge profits were waved in front of us. We simply do not want to be associated with anything like that, but the adware industry is, seen from a distance, huge.
As OceanDive emphasizes the screensaver element over the game aspect, many online game portals unfortunately refuse to accept it into their games catalogues.Sales from online portals so far represent under 10% of total sales. The only game portal-network currently hosting OceanDive, is Trymedia’s Trygames.
Marketing in brief:
- Google AdWords
- Shareware Promotion agency
- Press releases
- PAD sites
- Featured at MSN.com
Marketing in Detail:
- The bulk of our promotional strategy so far relies on Google AdWords. The vast majority of sales have been from visitors of our own dedicated OceanDive website – from visitors we have attracted or acquired ourselves.
- We specifically wanted the title to be partly screensaver because we thought people would keep it installed on their computer for weeks or months, and OceanDive would so spread through word-of-mouth – something which appears to be borne out by our steady sales, and declining promotional costs.
- We tried to work with a generic shareware promotion agency, but were quite unhappy with the results, the price/performance ratio was just unacceptable.
- For the press release when an updated version of OceanDive was launched, we used a skilled professional copywriter service claiming hundreds of magazine and newspaper editors on their list. The results were very disappointing, we only received 3 press inquiries and a couple of tiny mentions in two publications. There was no noticeable effect our website visitor-statistics.
- OceanDive is listed on over a hundred small shareware (PAD) sites. However these sites typically list thousands or tens of thousands various shareware products and demos, often hiding in cluttered pages full of ads, so your product can easily get lost there. Still, it gives us about a hundred extra downloads a day, and extra PageRank benefits from inbound links.
- Do not underestimate proper market research, identify your target audience and think of distribution strategies soon enough. The territory for aquatic screensavers is very very crowded, full of “free” offerings loaded with adware. With OceanDive, we wanted to create the Rolls Royce of underwater screensavers, something very tough to beat for anyone without a great 3D engine and content pipeline, but marketing the title is tough. It’s hard to communicate that you are unique when there are so many competing offers, it’s difficult to convey that OceanDive is actually “more than just a screensaver” – that there is a game there as well.
- When you rely on yourself for distribution and promotion, you can keep a significantly higher percentage from the end user price than when going through portals. However, setting it all up costs lots of time and effort when you are on your own, and lots of money for paying for ads. If you can, it is a better idea to arrange deals with portals and let
them do the heavy lifting for your title. This way more of your time will be left for the creative side of business.
- We did manage to break even on development costs by now. Any sales beyond this point are pure profit requiring little effort, and we hope for a few good years of continuing sales.
- Lucky moment mention – by sheer luck, shortly after release, OceanDive was featured on front page of MSN.com portal for 1 day. We did not even know how it made it there, obviously the editor of the site bumped into the product and felt it worth recommending in a small one-line blurb. This event alone generated tens of thousands of downloads and hundreds of sales within the next 72 hours.
- It feels great owning your own IP, compared to just being a 3rd party contractor with no control over the destiny of your creation. We’ll do it again.
GameProducer.net: Big thanks to Pavel & others for sharing these numbers & lessons!