David Galindo from Vertigo Games shares the story about the development of one his games: Spirits of Metropolis. The game was developed during college. This post is written by David.
Game Title: Spirits of Metropolis
Developer: Vertigo Games
David: I had made about ten free games prior to Spirits of Metropolis. The first commercial game I made, ShellBlast, did relatively good. I decided to set my sights on the casual games market with an original take on the match-3 gem genre. My goal was to get it on casual portals and perhaps help fund my other games. While the game got great reviews and a lot of people seem to like it, I didn’t really come close to achieving what I wanted to do sales/traffic wise. But this is only my second commercial game, and I’m optimistic about the future.
The game took about nine months to complete, on and off during college. In actual dev time it probably took about three-four full months.
December 22nd, 2008
Total sales (units):
31 sales in total (including distribution sites like D2D, GamersGate, etc.). Nine sales were made in the first two months of release, with about two to three sales a month so far. About $430 made in total.
Originally priced at $20, the game is now $12.95. The new price hasn’t really affected sales at all.
Placed on Game Giveaway of the Day in July for a $300 compensation sum. While this was a nice amount of money to get as I was/am a bit low on funds, the piracy rate spiked immediately after the game was made available on the site due to the lack of DRM. I knew that risk before going into the deal, and while it does make me a bit mad, I don’t blame sales/profit from here on out on piracy at all. It happens.
I paid about $250 in total art/music costs. There were other expenses made for a previous commercial game, called ShellBlast, which I was able to use for Spirits.
The game has been downloaded around 850 times, not counting the times downloaded on other sites like YoYo Games (8,300+) which aren’t very good places to advertise premium games, as it’s a primarily free game/young gamer site. So you could look at it as either a 3.6% or 0.3% conversion rate. The game is also featured on other distribution sites like Direct2Drive and GamersGate, but has no demo/trial to download on those pages.
I think I really failed here. The first step was to try and get it on as many casual portals as possible, and out of the forty plus I emailed, only two replied. GamersGate was on board as I already had a game with them on the site, and Direct2Drive was interested and picked up the game as well. RealArcade didn’t want it, but actually responded to me in just a few days after the email with some tips and pointers on what I can do to maybe get picked up by them in the future. It made a huge impression on me, and I can’t praise RealArcade enough despite the rejection. They have some really fine people over there!
So once I realized that the casual portal plan wasn’t going to work…I didn’t have much of a backup plan. I had made a lot of games previous to this one that was definitely an indie/somewhat casual type vibe that had a good audience, but this game was made (now that I think about it) with no intended audience. It was a bit too complex for casual gamers and out of their sight with no casual portal deals, and was too casual/puzzle for the audience I already had. I was left with literally no audience to sell the game to.
The game did make its way around the indie websites, with a post from IndieGames.com, a few good reviews from puzzlelicious.com, and the demo going out to a few sites for download. A debut trailer was put up on GameTrailers.com with about 7,800 views, but again I mis-marketed the game and replaced the relaxed-vibe music with a more rock/alternative music track in the trailer to market to the non-casual GameTrailers crowd (it didn’t work too well going by the comments on the video page).
I also had an official website from the game, but I do regret doing that now- it is too far detached from my main website. Looking back, I would have rather integrated it more with my main website to get more exposure for my site as a whole…only 3,000+ viewed the main Spirits of Metropolis site since it launched eight months ago, which is only 3% of what my main site gets for the same amount of time.
Another big push was done by Direct2Drive for an $8 day sale, with a video/ad on the front indie games page. That resulted in three extra sales, much to the surprise of the guys at D2D. It’s a game that doesn’t really sell itself very well unless you play it, another one of my mistakes.
What I have been doing since then is releasing content DLC level packs for free on my blog. I have done four so far and plan to do six more before calling it a day, and if anything its showing people who haven’t bought the game and aren’t interested in it that I support all of my games as much as possible, which can hopefully lead to a bigger fanbase for future games.
Nowadays I’m gearing up with another person to launch an Xbox Indie Game in a few days, as well as a small indie game releasing for $2-4 soon, and that’s a lot more in my comfort zone. Tackling a casual game with limited experience and few resources wasn’t one of my smartest moves, not to mention that I could be doing a lot more to give the game more exposure. But, it is a huge learning experience.
David Galindo, Vertigo Games
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