Sneaky Little Thing To Do With Newsletters (How to Get Complaint Rate Down)

I’ve been using Aweber newsletter for some time now and one thing I’ve experienced with my Dead Wake game mailing list has been that several newsletter readers have complained (in way of “why am I getting this email”) – according to Aweber.

These guys have subscribed to the Dead Wake mailing list and have got informed that they will get emails about new versions. Still, for some reason some percentage (for example 0.45%) complained about emails they received.

For the latest email, I did one tiny change. Earlier I had sent emails from “juuso’s deadwakegame.com email address”. Now I changed the sender to “Dead Wake Newsletter”. After this tiny change, the complaint numbers dropped to 0%.

Okay, I admit that this one test doesn’t tell everything… but it’s still by far the lowest complaint rate I’ve got, which is a sign about something good. I’ll test it and see what happens in the upcoming newsletter emails.

I wonder if I should do the same for the Game Producer mailing list…

What Exactly Are the Main Duties of a Game Producer? (Frank Rogan From Real.com Answers)

I was checking out our Game Producer Forums when I saw a very good question about game producer duties. I exchanged couple of words with Frank Rogan (producer, Real Networks) and wanted to hear his opinion on this.

Here’s what Frank had to say:

Question: What exactly are the main duties of a game producer? What does a producer actually do?

Frank’s answer:

You’ll find that the “main duties” of a game producer will vary widely from company to company, from project to project, from genre to genre. In general, game producers are project or program managers, with lots of design, marketing and PR thrown in for good measure. You’re managing a team, setting production goals, tracking those goals, ensuring the team has the tools it needs to reach those goals, etc. A fun way to look at this question is to think about what goes into making a game that isn’t strictly designing a game mechanic, writing code and making art and audio assets, and realize that literally everything else is potentially a producer’s job.

I must add that I like to describe producers bit like ‘managers’ – to some point at least. Frank puts this very well.

What should an aspiring game producer focus on skill-wise?

Producers come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s no one track to follow. But there are common themes, such as project management skills, business skills, an understanding of QA and marketing/PR.

But being a good producer is not about having a set of skills. Just like being a good digital artist is not just about knowing Photoshop or 3DS Max. Good producers are about leadership skills, having a sense of mission, and being able to execute on large, complicated ideas by breaking them down into smaller, bite-sized chunks of work that can each be followed up on.

I recommend these two books:
Game Producer’s handbook

Game Production Handbook

(I’ve also read that Game Producer’s Handbook several times and also recommend it to any wannabe game producer)

Thanks Frank for this quick Q&A session.

GamersHell.com – You Gotta Appreciate What These Guys Do

Thanks to indie game press release service I’ve come to know GamersHell very well. I’ve followed these guys uploading tons of content to their site, and they’ve actually subscribed to my newsletters so that they get info fast. One recent piece of news was about my game’s new version that got online.

These guys are really fast at putting info at their site, and whenever I’ve told them to add some changes they’ve acted fast and covered the news (and always got back at me via email).

Gotta admire how they do this stuff.

(And gotta keep sending news stories to them…)

This Is Why I Love Writing My Blog

I can’t but imagine how witty and talented people there are out there (I’m most likely talking about you). Every now and then these individuals really make me smile.

Couple of days ago I wrote a blog post about how to more than double your productivity with just 3 mouse clicks. There I explained that you’d need to close three applications and do some actual work.

Now, Mr. dVyper commented and kindly reminded that:

“There’s no way you’d be able to do those 3 things in 3 clicks…One click would be used to focus the app and then more to close it…unless you use keyboard shortcuts too…”

That’s technically speaking so bloody true.

I just love to see comments like that. Good thing you guys keep your eyes open and don’t believe everything that’s being said by some random blogger.

Heh.

Remember Alawar? They Are Now In MySpace

MySpace and Alawar (the leading publisher of casual games in Eastern Europe), are launching an Alawar games section on MySpace Russia. I remember seeing loads of discussion about Alawar few years ago, but somehow they haven’t been under my radar. Now it looks like they are still doing well (and they are selling games for $6.98 by the way…)

Alawar works with more than 30 developers, providing a full range of services that includes producing, distributing and marketing games. Alawar also distributes its own releases via its broad network of websites. The company’s offerings can also be found on numerous download portals, including RealNetworks, Big Fish, Yahoo! Games, AOL, iWIN and others. In addition to distributing games online, Alawar works with CD publishers in more than 20 countries.

Like said, I haven’t heard about them for while but a quick search to forums got me bit suspicious:

Not sure how they are doing in year 2009, but they could be worth checking out if you want to get your game to Eastern side of the world. (But do your research first)

I’m Running Through a Long (Content) Pipe(line)

I’ve mentioned in my Leadwerks review that the tool is good, but the content pipeline might require a bit of work.

Well, couple of days ago I was trying to get .X files (not the movie but a file in .X format) to .GMF (the format that Leadwerks uses). There’s a “.B3D to .GMF” tool available in Leadwerks SDK. So, first I tried to export .X file to .B3D file and then to .GMF.

For some unknown reason this didn’t work (I think it was Fragmotion that resisted the export this time, since some other .X files have been easily exported). After trial and error I eventually tried first exporting .X to .MS3D (Milkshape format) and then opened the file in .MS3D and exported to .B3D which I then exported to .GMF.

This time it worked. This Leadwerks content pipeline (“the way to get art from tools to game”) is bit long (.X to .MS3D to .B3D to .GMF) but at least it works.

(Heh)

I think I’ve mention at some point that game development is bit like solving puzzles

P.S. After bringing out this issue, Josh – the guy behind Leadwerks – pointed out that there’s also a direct .X to .GMF exporter available. Now, that’s a relief…

How To More Than Double Your Productivity With Just 3 Mouse Clicks

1) Close the Email program you are currently running.
2) Close the Web browser (all of the screens if you happen to have many).
3) Close the Instant Messenger (or messengers if you happen to run several chat programs).

Do it now.

Now write some code, create some art, compose music or do the tasks what you really should be doing. And no excuses: you can very well use Notepad or something to write blog posts. No, you don’t really need to dig all that info from the web while coding. If people really have important information for you, they can use the phone. (And if that starts to bother, close your cellphone too)

That’s pretty much it.

When you have finished some of your actual work, you can go online again.

If can see this line of text, you are doing something wrong (since you should have closed the web browser already).

Leeroy Jenkins – The Legendary World of Warcraft Hero

These guys are planning on how to do an attack, talking who should use which spell, and what stats they have and who should go first and so on. Leeroy guy is taking a break (sitting as you can see) and then suddenly he decides to stop planning and start doing… see it yourself.

Check out Leeroy the Hero and see how they “plan” & attack the monsters.

This is an old video, but I hadn’t seen this before. I actually laughed so hard that I had tears coming out my eyes and nose.

Magic Stones Sales Stats: $27,500

Today we have a special treat here. I interviewed an indie developer Riva Celso (Winter Wolves) and he was kind enough to share sales stats for his game Magic Stones. He started making games at age of 20 in a small italian software house. After a long pause of 6-7 years he resumed making games around 2003-2004 in form of downloadables.

Here’s the sales stats for this role playing game Magic Stones, answered by the developer.

Game Title: Magic Stones
Developer: Winter Wolves
Release date: October 17, 2005
Development time:
About 5 months for initial release, then about another 3 months more for the various updates and expansion packs.

Promotion time: (after release)
Basically did a new PR everytime I released a free expansion pack or major update (so around 7-8 PR in about 3 years).

Platforms: Pc and Mac

Development Expenses:
Major expense was the 3d models to make the cards. I estimate I spent around $1k to buy all the models from Daz3.com. For music I used royalty free stock music so very low expense (under $50). No other major expense, except my own time of course.

Marketing Expenses:
Nothing at all, I just submitted new versions to major download sites and sent out PR on my own.

Total Expenses:
Everything considered (graphic, hosting, music), under $1,500.

Downloads & conversion rate:
Hard to count the total downloads, since nowadays many sites mirror your game like download.com or macgamefiles. I myself use several servers, so makes even harder to make a total count.

A very rough estimate is about 25.000-30.000 downloads for a CR variable between 3-5%. Of course I’m talking about direct sales. The game is also on portals, and while I can’t disclose the figures, both the total sales and the CR is lower by 10 times or more.

Version on sale in portals is a “crippled down” version, without the quest mode and magic shop.

Total Sales (units):
Around 1100 direct sales (up to 2008) for basically 3 years and 2 months
of “product lifetime”.

A vague idea of portal sales is less than 120 total for about 2 years.

Price: (USD)
In my own site the game is for sale at $24.95, and the magic shop add on for $4.99 extra. On most portals the game is on sale at $19.99.

Approximate total income: (USD)
Approximate income is $27500. I have to add that since I released Magic Shop, 99% of buyers buy the add on together with the game, so on top of that amount I need to add around 600 sales of magic Shop at $4.99, another $3000.

Comments on Marketing and Promotion:
Well the fact that I released several free quests every 4-5 months helped the game stay “popular”. However, after finding out that most people were completely fine to pay a small fee ($5) for add ons like the Magic Shop, I feel perhaps I should have made fewer updates, but with more content and charge for them.

A good thing about niche games like RPG is that nowadays almost nobody makes them anymore. Big software houses are all into MMORPG, and true classic single player CRPG aren’t produced anymore, so there’s a big market opportunity here. My game didn’t need much marketing at all to become popular between RPG lovers.

Other comments on the game sales? What tips you’d have for other other developers who want to increase their sales?
A thing I clearly noticed is that niche games perform very badly on portals. I really think people developing niche games should avoid portals completely, since it isn’t really worth the time spent. To increase sales is enough to produce many games of same niche, any one. Sports games, IF, Roleplay, strategy, wargames: there are so many niches completely unserved. A mistake is to think you can live with just 1 game. Each new game you make of same kind adds more customer to older games and increase your revenue exponentially: see Spiderweb for a very good example of this strategy.

Add-ons – and how to use them to increase sales?
When I made the Magic Shop, I made it mostly to make happy a small group of people posting in my forums – but I didn’t expect to sell so well at all! Basically now every Magic Stones sale gets the add-on included (by the customer) so every sale is like a $30 sale.

Developing quality add-on that add lots of new functionality/features to existing games can definitely increase the total income PER SALE of any niche product. It’s a bit like the free to play MMO model.

Thoughts about the future of indie development
I think niche games and MMO/Online games are the only resource left if you really want to stay independent. I’m not saying is the “best” thing to do, just that if you’re like me, and want to be able to produce games of any kind, this is the only option left.

With casual games prices falling to ridiculous amounts ($9.99 and lower) and at the same time new clones being produced at lighting speed, I personally think that as a single developer/team, you have way more chances to getting more money and long-term income by concentrating on niche/online/MMOs.

Of course a hit game in casual market is ALWAYS going to produce more income, but the chances that this will happen with your game are nowadays really really low (I’d say close to 0.01%), while the chances that you can make a decent income with a niche product are way higher.

So it’s all about a sort of “success percentage rate”. Also if you are your own boss, you’re safe from sudden drops in price/royalty percentages, which is always a good thing, if you want to plan your future without surprises…

Thanks for the sales stats and interviews!
Thank you.

For more information about Winter Wolves and their games:
Visit the developer website: WinterWolves.com.