Monthly Archives: May 2007

Why Vendor and Affiliate Accounts are Typically Separate on eCommerce Providers?

I really don’t know. I’ve seen this many times before: many eCommerce providers separate vendors and affiliates. There are those who sell their own games (vendors) and then there are those who sell other people’s games (affiliates).

I really don’t know why that is. There cannot be technical reason. There cannot be payment related reason. There cannot be marketing reason. Or… if there would be any technical, payment, marketing or other reason for this, it’s probably an excuse.

If you think about this. When you go to software sites such as Plimus or BMTMicro, you are forced to choose to create different accounts. Haven’t they ever thought that vendors might be interested in selling other people’s games as affiliates, and that it would be easier if you could use your vendor account to sell affiliate products?

I admit that it’s pretty easy to create 2 accounts, but I think the real question is: Why are they separate in the first place?

What’s Digg All About?

I’ve taken ‘digging’ for granted, so I didn’t realize that not everybody knows what digg is all about. That’s why I bring this issue up, explain what digg is about and why it can be beneficial for game developers.

Basically digging means ‘voting for good stories’ (that’s a quite rough description, but let’s keep things simple). The stories can be anywhere in the web, and you can simply submit any website to digg.com. Digg.com is a social site for stories and websites, where users tell what they like in the web. There are different categories and tags and all kind of stuff, but simply put: digging means that you ‘vote some website’.

For example, the yesterday’s post about Gish $121,000 sales already got several diggs. Readers were submitting the story to digg (You may see the Gish digg story here).

Benefits
There’s one major benefit from using digg: if properly executed, it can bring traffic to sites (especially for those stories that have been dugg hundreds or thousands of times). So, basically if you have a good story – some people might digg it, it might hit the digg.com frontpage and bring traffic to your website.

Readers naturally enjoy reading good stories, so digg.com is kind of like “alternative” way to browse news items and top stories in the Internet.

And for the record: there are other similar places such as reddit.com , del.icio.us and many others.

Sales Stats: Gish – $121,000 Sales

Now we have some great information regarding the Gish sales. I asked Josiah Pisciotta from Chronic Logic if he would wish to publish sales stats here, and I’ve also asked some additional questions regarding conversion rate, promotional efforts, retail deals and others. Check out the expanded version of sales stats for Gish.

Title: Gish (BuyDownload)
Developer: Chronic Logic
Released: May 2004
Development time: About 6 months with three developers.
Promotion time: (after release) Josiah: “It took quite a bit of effort for all the promotion, but I am not sure how much because it was an ongoing process that continues to this day. I would say at least 6 months worth of one person working full time.”

Platforms: Windows, OSX and Linux

Development Expenses:
Sounds and music: $3500
Of the $3500 only $500 was paid up front and the rest was a percent of royalties after Gish was released and selling.

Marketing Expenses:
Independent Games Festival (IGF) entry fees: $200.00
Rough estimate of Affiliate and other fees: $2000.00

Total Expenses: $5700.00

The time of the developers and the cost of office space, computers, etc. is not taken into account here.

Downloads & conversion rate: less than 1% (rough guess)
Josiah’s comments:

I don’t have the stats on the demo downloads because they demo gets hosted in a lot of different places online and they are impossible to track, that also makes it impossible to track the conversion rate, but I suspect it is not very good, less then 1% but that is just a guess.

Sales from chroniclogic.com per year:
2004: 2587
2005: 1335
2006: 449
2007: 140 (through April)
Misc others sales: 10

Total Sales: 4521

Price: $19.95 USD

SWREG (Credit card orders): $79543.98
PayPal: $1436.86
Manual orders (checks, cash, money orders): $195.48

Approximate net sales from chroniclogic.com: $81176.32

Total income from other sites: $6212.04
(Garage Games, Reflexive Arcade, Linspire, Totalgaming.net and Manifesto games)

IGF Prize winnings: $16000.00

Total Retail publishing: $17539.71
(Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Russian, Singapore and Malaysia)

Retail deal comments:

As for the retail publishing, they contacted us except for the Germany, Switzerland and Austrian company. We had already worked with them (Halycon Media) with our Bridge Building game and we were happy with their work publishing it so we went to them with Gish as well.

Approximate total income: $121,000 USD

Marketing and Promotion:
Josiah Pisciotta:

For promotion and marketing we did press releases on our web site and tried to get them to as many news sites as possible. We did a pad file and submitted to as many shareware sites as we could find although I don’t think they had a large effect over all. We also did advertising in a local print magazine which I don’t think had much of an effect either. Keeping other products and news coming out helped keep people coming to chroniclogic.com and finding Gish. We also did a number of patches which made improvements to the game. Each patch was accompanied by a press release. Winning the Grand Prize and Innovation in Game Design at the 2005 IGF gave us a huge boost in traffic to our website but we could not take full advantage of it as the demo downloads slowed our web server to a crawl. In a single day after winning at IGF our web server served 110 GB of the Gish demo which was much more then it could handle. It was after this that I moved all our demo hosting to other servers so if we hit a traffic spike the demo downloads might be slow, but at least the website will still work correctly. It also seemed a lot of people already knew about Gish before it’s triumph at the 2005 IGF.

Gish won Game Tunnels Game of the Year and Adventure Game of the Year awards in 2004 which added a nice boost in sales. We also sent out review copies to whatever web pages and print magazines we could find. Gish scored very well in almost all reviews and even got mentioned in the New York Times. We also did a number of interviews and Q&As with magazines, websites and local news papers.

I think the single biggest factor in Gish sales was word of mouth. It is such a unique and fun game that people want to talk about it and they want to tell people about it. Individuals telling friends, posting on forums, talking about Gish to other games all made a huge contribution getting Gish out to the public.

As you can see Gish did not sell well in retail or on other sites and the majority of income generated from Gish (%67) was from direct sales through chroniclogic.com. Gish also missed out on a number of opportunities that could generate a lot more income such as North American retail and console distribution because of a lack of a shared vision among the developers.

Here are some of the reviews Gish received:

Game Tunnel GOTY awards 2004 (and here)

Game Tunnel 100%

Game Chronicles Magazine 95%

gotoandplay.it 93%

GameZone.com 88%

Gaming Nexus 87%

Home of the Underdogs Top Dog

PC Gamer UK Magazine 85%

Overview

Gish is the 2nd best overall selling game for Chronic Logic. Bridge Construction Set remains the best selling game overall and is currently selling better then any other other games despite being almost five years old.

Big thanks to Josiah for giving this detailed information about the Gish sales. Good luck with your new game Kingdom Elemental!

Edoiki Sneak Peek


Sample shot, although this perspective won’t probably be seen in the final game

Our Edoiki online multiplayer game is about to get first animations. We are anxiously waiting for animator to get everything finished. Meanwhile we are working on a simple level editor and starting to put things together for a tech demo.

The first demo will show briefly what the game will look like and little bit of content. There will be very simple game play (which will be completely different in the ‘real’ release), something to test about the technology. And… I’ve learned from the past that at this point I won’t be promising it next week. Anybody who wishes to hear “when it’s available” will simply hear my saying “before the next ice age”.

Putting things together takes time
As the project is progressing, I’ve come to really see how integrating everything together takes time. There are so many moving parts in the project (sounds, music, animations, textures, environment, characters, level editor, code, network code – you name it) and at some point they all must be put together.

Here are couple of practical tips I’ve learned about making integration as smooth as possible:

  • Plan it: This is important. Don’t assume that everything will just magically work with everything else. Plan how you will stick level editor together with the rest of the game. Plan how textures will be dealt. Plan everything.
  • Naming conventions: this is important. I haven’t been strict enough with naming conventions, and this might cause minor delays or problems. I had put some documentation regarding this, but it wasn’t until some days when I had a conversation with one of the artist explaining how all the art files need to be delivered. For example, the assassin character will need to be “assassin.3ds” and the corresponding texture must be “assassin.png”. Not “Assassin mesh.3DS”, not “uv.jpg”. If you need to make changes and get files again, then it’s a pain if you need to rename stuff.

Now I’m continuing with the level editor and hopefully get soon to start putting the tech demo assets together.

Cancel Canceling…

There’s a nice ‘feature’ in one of the old email softwares. One particular had a feature that would notify when user is about to cancel a new email. Here’s what the program says:

Program: Press Ctrl+C to cancel

User presses Ctrl+C

Program: Are you sure you want to cancel a new message? Canceling message will remove any changes made. Press Ctrl+C to cancel, C to confirm and N to not cancel.

User presses Ctrl+C

Program: Canceled cancel

Canceled cancel?

To make it usable, the program could have asked: “Do you want to proceed?” (or something like that) instead of “Do you want to cancel?” and then giving option to proceed by asking “Yes” or “No”. Canceling command “cancel” doesn’t add much value in this situation.

This was a tiny issue, but these things add up. The more usability issues your product has, the more tiny annoyances your product has the less user friendly it becomes. And the less usable your product, the less users you’ll see.

Win a Brand New TV

Twintale Entertainment has launched a free contest on their Twintale Game Store site to win a Sony TV. Everyone signing up for their newsletter is automatically registered for the contest. Participants in the contest can improve their chances of winning by referring friends to the game store.

What a great and practical marketing tactic: arrange a contest with a nice a prize, send a press release regarding the contest, use viral aspects (referrals) to get word-of-mouth going.

To participate in the contest, proceed here

Why Aren’t You Letting Your Customers Give You Money?

The convince me to buy game contest got me thinking: how come so many games have so difficult payment systems? There were some room for some improvements in letting people buy the game. Here’s some things I noticed while I was browsing different game websites:

Put your buy button visible so that I can buy your product.
For some games, the buy button was missing. This actually happened to one of the winners as well. For some reason there was no buy button, or it was buried somewhere in a really hidden place. Hint for anybody selling any product: make sure your potential customer can see the buy button in some very visible place.

Please, provide accurate prices
In some cases, the price information was missing or was not accurate. This was not such a bad thing, but it’s bit stinky when the game price is not seen… or it’s not what was promised! Kudos game for example was said to cost $22.95, but I ended up paying $28.00 (after sales tax was added). I mean… I’m kind of “used” to this, and know that sales tax is added, but I still feel that eCommerce systems could do a better job providing prices. Amazon must be one of the worst examples: you have to give all your customer information and even credit card details before you can see the final price.

I wonder if anybody making those payment software ever considered customer in the process? (Okay, that was a bit exaggerated, there are places that show prices correctly – places like play.com). Until we get better eCommerce systems, there’s unfortunately much we can do. But if you can: please, provide as accurate prices as possible.

Provide the kind of payment solutions that your customers can use.
The last thing I noticed: in some occasions there was no chance to pay using your favorite payment system. Some systems offered only credit card options or phone orders but no PayPal (or wire transfer) for example. If you want customer to give you money, you gotta play by their rules: you have to provide them a way to purchase your game, even if it means squirrel skins.

The bottom line is: if you don’t give customer chance to give you money, he will be taking it somewhere else.

One of the Most Powerful Leadership Lesson That’s So Easy to Forget

I’ve been reading a book called First, break all the rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The following is a quote from the book:

One of the most powerful things you can do after reading this book is to go back and “rehire” your best people – that is, go back and tell them why they are so good. Tell them why they are on of the cornerstones of the team’s success. Choose a style that fits you, and don’t allow the conversation to slip into promises about promotion in the future – that’s a different conversation, for a different time. Simply tell them why their contribution is so valued today. Don’t assume your best know.

I’ve basically “known” this piece of advice before, but I kind of hadn’t realize how important that last sentence is: Don’t assume your best know. I think I’ve assumed that my team members know how they important are, so I suppose it’s time to go tell each of them how important they really are. Basically – the project wouldn’t be going anywhere without them.

I’d like to add that it’s important to tell each individually. I don’t mean this as a “management technique”, I simply say this based on my own experience: whenever I’ve got “praise” from my bosses in the past, I’ve felt better when they’ve talked directly to me. When they were talking only with me, and telling me “you’ve done a good job” it has felt good. It had much more meaning to me compared to situations when they’ve spoke to the whole team saying something like “all of you guys in the team made a good job”.

It’s easy to notice when people use praise as a “technique” compared to when somebody is really taking time to speak with you individually, and telling his honest opinion. It’s important to remind your team members how important they are.

When was the last time you said your team members how important they are?

Contest Winners – Was Convinced to Buy 3 Games

The convince me to buy your game contest has now officially ended. I decided to buy 3 games (plus making one small donation).

First I bought Duck Tiles. The Pony comment got my attention :)

You should buy one of my games, specifically Bulldozer, Duck Tilesr, or The Puzzle Pack. And you should buy one for three reasons. First off, you’ll have a great game for only $9.95. Second, all game-buyers get ads shut off on The Daily Puzzles. Third, if you enter the coupon-code “GAMEPRODERDOTNET”, you get 25% off, so that’s even cheaper.

Oh, and also because I have a cool blog. And I personally know David Michael. And I’ll give you a pony.

Okay, not a pony.

I will buy The Witch’s Yarn – BUT, I couldn’t make payment since there was no paypal option (and the inner game buy system didn’t look secure for me. I’ve heard about Kagi, but I didn’t like the payment system, so I didn’t make the payment). Anyway, I’ll wait for guys at Mousechief to get back to me so I can finish the order. The game looked interesting, and they had such arguments that left no option but to get this game:

After all the hype and hypertension from playing smups, urps, zurps, and other ‘lean forward’ games:

1. Have a nice read, with The Witch’s Yarn.
2. Chuckle along with the first, interactive sit-com.
3. Delight at the quality illustrations, the real instrument jazz music, and the outlandish characters.
4. In-game purchase system keeps the game flowing (after the ‘please purchase’ message).
5. First two chapters are free. :-)

The last game I bought was Kudos. Cliff Harris had such a bold start, that I couldn’t resist his offer. He started by saying: “Can I enter twice?”.

Lastly, I sent my two cents (plus couple of dollars) to funpcgame, since he asked :)

I would have bought PlayDetective, but BUY button was not available yet.

Hamumu had quite solid arguments favoring their game Loonyland 2: “you’ll buy it, and I win.”… but I skipped their offer. At least for now.

I would have bought pyabo’s game, but didn’t know what his game was, since he only said: “Buy my game or the kitten gets it!” :)

Roman’s suggestion was extremely convincing (“Juuso, buy one of my games so I’ll buy Edoiki when it’s out”), and I had checked Runes of Avalon earlier… but skipped it this time. :)

I must add that there were lots of great suggestions (such as Sheeplings – wonderful name!) and I needed to ‘flip coins’ to find those 3 games. There were simply so many good suggestions, that it was really tough to decide. Maybe in some other day, I would have picked some completely different 3 games, but this time here are the results.

Here’s the full list of suggested games:
360shooters
Play Detective
Bonbon Quest
Fairy Forest and others
Bound Around
DROD – KDD
Addictive Football
Wildsnake Games
Easter Bonus
Ovogames
Cute Knight
Loonyland 2
The Witch’s Yarn
Play With Fire
Sheeplings
Dismount (not sure how I can buy this though)
Gibbage
Tapazapa
Looseleafgames
GalCon
Shlongg
Sky Puppy
Kudos
Democracy
Fun PC games
Magic Pearls
Ancient Soft’s Games
Anawiki games
Forgotten Element
Tennis Elbow Manager
The Code Zone games
Magic Stones
Fantasy Sceensaver
Online pool game
Boxed In
Derbill games
Exocubes
Bulldozer Soccer
3Sider MMORPG
If I accidentally forgot somebody, please let me know and I’ll put it on the list

That’s it, thanks everybody. Hopefully you enjoyed the contest, I sure had fun reading the comments and picking the games.

Now, people – start going through that list, buy those games, and support indie game development. These guys know what they do, and deserve to get some bucks. And you deserve to get to play fine games. For a full list with developer comments, please check out the original contest blog entry and scroll down to read how people tried convince me to buy their games.

Update: John Hattan just sent me this… image that is :)

Challenge #12: Your Top 3 Video Game Characters?

Alright people, let’s bring some famous game characters here. What have been your favorite characters in games, and why? It’s actually quite hard to think about top three, since there’s lots of fine characters that you could choose. I simply took the three first that came to my mind, so here’s my top 3 list:

#3 – Pacman
Hungry chap. I never get bored seeing how Pacman keeps eating those thingies. He might be simple, but he got on my top 3 list..

#2 – Hulk
It’s green, and can smash things. I suppose breaking things in video games can give you some weird pleasure, but it sure is nice to break everything, and who could do it better than Hulk?

#1 – Guybrush Threepwood
The greatest pirate ever, what more can you wish?

Now, tell me your top 3 video game characters – and explain how they got in your list.

Update: Seems like several other people have already started mentioning their top 3 characters on their blogs. Check out: The Red Bull Diary, Man Bytes Blog, Kartones