Monthly Archives: August 2009

Why Am I Doing This? (Why Are You Doing That?)

Just read comment from one of you readers:

hi, im new here, this is my first post to this blog, i just ask to this blog owner, what is your target to build this famous blog with million traffic? does it including for making money? can you reply my question to my mail? thanks very much for your apreciation, i pursiate that if you want to reply my answer,

While I won’t be answering via email, I thought that the question was so interesting that I just had to write the answer here, in a specific blog post.

So… why do I do this stuff? (stuff here meaning writing this blog)

Here’s some things that have happened to me after I started writing this blog:

  • I’ve got some pretty cool contacts ranging from producers from top notch companies such as EA, Sony, Relic, and many more
  • Even cooler: I’ve come to know many, many more indie developers than I did earlier
  • Almost million unique visitors have been here on this blog (that’s pretty cool)
  • I’ve got job offers from some nice places (even from here in Finland, and we don’t have many companies here)
  • I’ve got to work with various really interesting companies and I’ve been able to help people out
  • There’s people saying that they like the site content (that’s like the best thing to hear)
  • I’ve got some decent deals and got some decent income from various places
  • I’ve managed to share some pics of our dogs
  • I’ve learned a lot

But… none of these is the main reason why I like to (do gaming stuff and) update this blog. The “thanks” part is of course really nice (and can’t blame for any $$$), and even though there’s like million people who have came here, the main reason why I do this stuff is:

  • Because I like doing this stuff.

It’s just simple as that.

I like writing this stuff. It really didn’t matter to me whether there was 1 or 1000 or 1 million people reading this stuff. I… just like doing this and now have been doing this for like 4 years or so. When the site traffic went up, I continued writing. When it got down, I continued writing. When it got back up again, I continued writing.

I guess this is no different from you guys who read this blog: you also like doing indie stuff and will be doing that even if you were the last person on earth. (Hey, that’s a good definition for indie I’d say)

We just like doing this stuff and keep on doing as long as it’s fun. Right?

Free Is The New Future (Is It?)

Remember the blog post I made about how all games could be free (and how you guys started giving some good ideas)? Well, Mr. refaktor pointed me to a good video about new economics and free. I found the video quite interesting. It’s not suggesting that “all should be free” but there is stuff about “freemium” as the business model.

Some points from that video:

  • Instead of “play 30 days and then stop” (trial-buy model) one should go for “play as long as you want, but look – here’s a shiny new thing you might wanna” (free-premium model, or “freemium” as it was put). (I suppose this works well in multiplayer games but doesn’t necessarily sound a good model for 2-hour casual game…)
  • We are in the middle of going into way different economic model (digital distribution vs physical goodies). Everybody in the gaming industry is probably saying “yeh, I know” – but I think it’s still worth highlighting: it’s worth thinking about how to proceed from here.
  • Interesting point about piracy. Chris Anderson (in the video) was quoting Bill Gates about piracy in China: (saying something along lines) “I’m not too worried about piracy. At least we want to make sure that they pirate our products. Maybe at some point they’ll buy something from us (when they have spent loads of time to get familiar with our products)”. While it’s not equivalent to indie game developer’s situation, I think it’s still pretty interesting point-of-view.

There was some other stuff in the video, so in case you are interested about “free” (or “freemium”) and the new pricing models, you might want to check it out:

Man I Hate Fever

It sucks to be ill. Especially when you’ve promised to deliver something yesterday. I promised to get Dead Wake community version out this weekend (aimed for yesterday, but said that I’d do it “on Sunday”). Well, guess what – now I got this fraking fever and a sore throat.

I feel faint and bad due being ill, but I feel much worse for not being able to do what I promised.

This sucks.

Sales Statistics: Domain of Heroes

Aaron Murray from Tandem Games approached me and wanted to share the sales statistics of their game Domain of Heroes. The game is a free browser-based massively-multiplayer web RPG/PBBG with different factions, classes, skills and much more.

Here are the stats:

Game Title: Domain of Heroes
Developer: Tandem Games
Release date: October 26, 2008
Development time: 8 months from conception to release. About 10-15 updates per month ongoing since launch.

Platforms: Web. No plugins required. Javascript only.
Firefox, IE, Safari, Opera, Flock. iPhone, Wii, and PS3 browsers work as well.

Development Expenses:
First 6 months was sweat equity from two developers. Next 4 months was one lonely developer.
Once the revenues started coming in, the paid team has been growing about 1 person every 2-3 months since the start of 2009.

Marketing Expenses:
$300 per week in online ads. $2000 for a couple of magazine ads. $500 in t-shirt giveaways. $10,000 to take the team to a couple of conferences/events.

Other Expenses:
Servers: ($2k each)
Hosting/bandwidth: Hundreds per month

Total Expenses:
Approximately $150k in costs as of July 2009.

Downloads & conversion rate:
36,000 registered players.
Lifetime conversion rate from free player to paying player: 3.4%
4356 transactions from 983 paying players

Price: (USD)
Pricepoints range from $0.99 to $500 (all pricepoints have at least 5 sales)

Approximate total income: (USD)
$86,700 in PayPal sales
$5,800 sponsored sales (TrialPay, Gambit, etc)
$4,000 in ad revenue
$96,500 Total revenue

Comments on Marketing and Promotion:
Aaron:

“The game is very different from anything else out there right now, so there aren’t many direct competitors. It feels like an old MUD mixed with features from the new MMOs. Largely word of mouth, with some cheap banner ads purchased on low-volume sites.”

Other comments on the game sales? What tips you’d have for other other developers who want to increase their sales?

“Create something unique. Offer most of your game for free so that players can tell their friends. Allow the “free” players to have access to everything somehow (spending time, trading with others).

This will allow them to enjoy the game as much as the paying players, and they will spread the word.”

Thoughts about the future of indie development:

“Indie game development is tough to break into the big portals and have a large impact. Running an MMO is very challenging and far more demanding that I’ve ever imagined.
It is also very rewarding to foster the creation of an amazing community. Indies can connect with people in ways that big corporations can’t. The human touch – the ability to play with the creator of a game is something that players really enjoy.”

Thanks for the sales stats, this has been excellent information

“You’re quite welcome. I hope it helps other developers by giving them some financial insight into a successful, indie-run game.”

For more information about Tandem Games and their games:
Visit the developer website: TandemGames.com

To get notified when new sales stats are available (among other goodies), subscribe to the gameproducer.net mailing list.

Motivation – Strange Beast It Is

Motivation is a strange beast. On Tuesday I had for some unknown reason very little motivation to program Dead Wake zombie game. On that day – for some reason – I had to force myself to do stuff (eventually things went pretty well though). I don’t know why that was, but those type of days just sometimes occur (luckily just rarely). On Wednesday I had a great day – I felt totally motivated and got tons of things done. In fact, I think I got strangely much done. I suppose these kinds of days also occur every now and then…

Motivation. It’s a strange beast indeed.

Adrian Crook On Casual Games

I had this brief chat with Adrian (Relic’s formed producer, independent professional today) this morning (or last night depending where you live). Adrian was in the Casual Connect (roundtable session) and here’s some points from our discussion and about what Adrian commented (I’ve copy pasted these lines from our chat):

  • “Way more online and social games devs now than 2 years ago”
  • “Trial to purchase casual seems dead by comparison (it seems trial to purchase peeps are all trying to migrate to free-to-play (f2p) models, microtrans, subs, ads, etc. There’s obvious barriers though: demographic for trial to purchase is different… player expectations are different too)”
  • “Lot of price pressure in trial to purchase casual… bundling, discounts, etc”
  • “Margins being squeezed”
  • “Just really sucks for those game devvs”

I asked “what’s the best model” in Adrian’s opinion. His reply.

  • “For me, microtrans and subs are best models… I am interested in CPA (cost per action), but not sold on it. “
  • “Ads are way down on the list”

What else:

  • “Conference is bigger now… more floorspace”
  • “New floor space is all for online tech (flash game devs, payment processing companies, etc) – not trial to purchase casual game devs or pubs (i.e. spintop, popcap, big fish, etc)”
  • “And the online flash game portals seem more and more like king-makers. They are super important now – drive a lot of usership”

Was a really nice chat, I was especially surprised about “online” & “social” after hearing negative words about multiplayer only games.

(Sales stats coming tomorrow… or maybe day after that. Stay tuned.)

Is “Multiplayer-Only” a Kiss of Death? (For Indie PC Games)

I’ve been working my butt off to get Dead Wake game in releasable shape (target: next Saturday if everything goes well). I took a small break now to write this blog post. I started browsing indiegamer forums and googled a bit about sales of multiplayer only games (out of curiosity, Dead Wake won’t have the multiplayer mode) where the message was that multiplayer is not a good route. Interestingly, there’s a growing number of board game makers that think that designing physical board games is not done for the money (since there ain’t money to get). These guys think that doing board games in the video game industry could be good (Reiner Knizia, one of the world’s most known board game designer, also pointed out this same in one interview – unfortunately I don’t have link at hand right now). And physical board games are multiplayer games…

Anyway.

To me this sounds like a mixed message: common answer at the indiegamer forums at it pretty much can’t be done. Tribal Trouble sold $60,000 in one year (several fulltime and part time developers), which doesn’t sound too much indeed (and they have single player option too).

My zombie-friend Nexic has been working on his free zombie MMO – which I think is a really cool concept (and even though the game is free, I recommend you buy stuff or donate to this guy, since any zombie game maker deserves the money, right?). In one Indiegamer thread, Nexic pointed out that it’s a load of work to make a zombie MMO, but that the money is decent. I don’t know how much Nexic makes money but I suppose the interesting concept and the fact that the game is free are helping him to build an audience. There aren’t any zombie MMOs in the world, so Nexic has a small monopoly right now (which is good in any business) – and it can help him.

With all these posts and comments, I’m pondering that making an online-multiplayer game only (PC by indie) is risky, but it could also potentially wield a big success if pulled right. Battlefield 1942 (non-indie game by still) was said that it will “never work”, but after the launch… it started like a new genre in the field of gaming. (And is continuing even more). Could same happen in the indie field?

I guess a multiplayer-only (indie) game could require:

  • Free (but selling stuff inside game, ranging from visual aids to perhaps some attributes or new expansion packs or similar)
  • Community building right from the start (how this is done is not the topic of this blog post…)

There’s not many competitors, but attaining the critical mass can be really tricky… but a free fun game. Made for the community. Maybe it could work?

Has it worked?

Your thoughts?

Here’s One Question You Should Avoid Asking (Or Answering)

I just asked myself a question: “how much time I’ve spent on different game development forums?” (A lot)

That’s not the scary question.

The scary question is: “has that been worthy use of my time?” That’s the tricky one.

First I’m almost getting scared of just thinking how much time I spent for example at the Blitzcoder forums (those were the times, the good old times…), Dexterity boards, Indiegamer… and many others. I think that in the last 9 years I’ve spent quite a bit of time there. Quite a long bit of time actually.

It almost scares me to think that some of the time has been “wasted”, but luckily that’s not the way I should think. Even though I’ve perhaps written many forum posts that carry little or no meaning in terms of my progression in the gaming industry, all those posts and time spent has helped me in many ways. I’ve seen what eager wannabe game developers wanted (I can just “list my posts” to get the idea by the way). I’ve been part of communities that have then evolved. I’ve actually progressed in the gaming industry bit by bit. I’ve seen all kinds of stuff happening.

All things cannot put into numbers.

I’ve made friends. I’ve had good time there.

Would I be making games today if there hadn’t been any forums like those? Quite unlikely – or at least in the scale I do today (through my own company, actually earning $$$ for making this stuff I really enjoy doing).

Even game developers are social creatures, no matter how much they sit in front of their computers and are afraid to talk to girls in real-life.

That’s why online communities are good. It’s not waste of my time to participate in relevant communities.

As long as I’m not procrastinating due the communities I’m sure I’m doing just fine.

Oh, this reminds me. I gotta zombie game to code now…