Category Archives: Ask Game Producer

Do you have a game production related question you are not sure about? Feel free to contact me and ask your question. Sometimes questions can be answered within days, sometimes it might take more time.

How to Bring Players to Your Site?

The first issues indies tackle is the need to bring people on their site. Yesterday, I was asked:

Question:

We are begining the marketing campaign soon, but do not have too much money to invest. Are there any ideas you can give me on how to bring players to my site?

Answer:
As always, the most important thing that will bring your site visitors is to make sure your game has the quality it needs. Be sure to have excellent game, with excellent screenshots on your website. Make sure your website and your game are ready to attract players.

I have written several posts about this issue in the past, and here are some good starting points:
Very simple marketing plan for indies. This is a very simple and easy-to-use marketing plan for indies. It’ll help you to get people to play your game, and also to visit your site. For more detailed plan, see also the marketing plan for indie games. Software promotions is another way to promote your game. Be sure to check them out, if you haven’t done that already.

For more information, be sure to check out these categories:
- Practical marketing – fast, easy and (often) cheap ways to promote your business. Don’t just go through the posts and use none. Instead, check them out, bookmark or briefly dot down your own ideas. Make sure you put down all the efforts you plan to use in the future. Be sure to take at least some of the ideas, and put them use right after you’ve gone through the whole category.
- How to get more sales – posts dedicated to helping you to figure out how to get more sales. Some of the posts are very brief, some longer – but all of focus on one same thing: how to bring you more sales.

If you are interested in other ways to earn money – besides selling games – be sure to check also the new money category which points out nice ways to get some income. The posts in the money-category will give you information about how to fund your game, but also present good tactics on how to actually get any money from online business.

Be sure to remember that it takes time to build traffic – you cannot expect magic happen in one night. Some of the fastest ways (such as press releases) can bring you nice traffic in both short and long period, but best ways to get traffic is to combine efforts: from forum signatures, press releases, software submissions, blogs etc. and build from there.

Ask Producer – Casual Games Sales Curve

Question

Regarding casual games, it’s common to find ourselves lacking good sources about selling stats and the such. The best initiative so far is the ‘Sales Stats’ area on your website and for that I send you huge kudos as it is very useful.

However, I still lack any information about the sales curve of the typical casual / downloadable / try’n buy game. How long does a game sell? 2 years? And what curve would best describe the sales? Strong numbers at the beggining? Or a slow increasing rate until peak and then an equally slow decrease?

If you have any educated guesses on this matter, I’d be very glad to hear them. Hope you can address this sometime in the future.

Answer
Tough question. I don’t have enough data to say a solid opinion regarding this, but I do my best. “Average” is always difficult.

I will get some information for longer period of time and post them in the future. In the meantime, I believe some games keep selling year after year – even 10 or more years. Some see peak sales on “special” occasions such when your game gets featured on magazine, or gets in the frontpage of some major website etc.

Recently I posted some sales stats which you might find interesting. There’s also the game-sales-charts.com which might give you some information about weekly top selling games. Some of the games keep selling for weeks on top lists.

Ask Producer – Cost of Music in Games?

Question:

Just wondering if you had a rough idea of the costs of placing music into games? What sort of $/% on average does a games budget dedicate to music? I assume the costs vary depending on whether it is a commissioned work, a major label act or an independent act.

Answer:
I asked this same question years back and I cannot remember what game company was it, but their response was “in terms of (development) budget, it’s 10%”.

Could be good rule of thumb.

Ask Producer – Public Design

Question:

What do you think of giving your design document to the public? I mean, BEFORE the game is released.

I was thinking of this because we are starting to use a wiki to design our next game. I think it will be more simple to use a web-wiki than to exchange docs from one team member to another (time will tell). But I am facing a doubt: should I let other people reading it or should I use it as a private tool?

Obviously I will not give it to everyone, but can diffuse it only among developers/designers. Or to the ones you trust. But what if someone reaches the documents and spreads them? Or diffuse it among your best testers. Can it be a good idea, or your testers should only judge your game actual implementation?

Answer:
That’s up to you.

I sincerely believe that you can give the documents to all your team members and for the beta testers.

In my experience, documents won’t tell how fun or what kind of game you really are producing or developing. I have given design documents and all kind of instructions (verbal, textual, images) and even then sometimes developers don’t get what I mean them to do. How could people that are not part of your team could do any better?

If you are unsure, you could give partial document to the public, and keep some parts purely private. Public might not be so interested how you handle database connections, but I’m fairly sure public would be very interested to see some images and hear things about the gameplay, story details and so on.

Also, you might be interested in checking out this thread:
Pros and Cons of Opening Development to the Public.

Ask Producer – Browser based games sales stats?

I’m into browser based web development, do you have any sales statistics on browser based games, specifically RPGS? I’ve built quite a few games and am wondering what market I am looking at, going rates, sales and conversion rates.

No. I don’t have sales statistics on browser based games but I promise to put online any stats I can get. What I would like to add is that in my personal opinion, browser based games could profit quite well from advertising: selling ad slots that could be seen thousands of players each time they click icons would be a great place to advertise for some companies. The ones who would have free account would see all the ads. The ones that had premium accounts (which could cost them $$) would get access to ad-free site.

I have little experience with browser based games. If you want to suggest some games, let me know. I can ask sales stats from the sites you mention.

Update on 2009: Now we have sales stats available – proceed here for Domain of Heroes stats

List of Firms That Will Fund Game Development

Question:

I was wondering if there is a directory/list of firms that will fund game development. I have an original concept plus the application of existing technologies that have not been applied to the gaming industry. Thanks.

Answer:
The simple answer is: There isn’t one. (At least I don’t know any)

Usually indie game developers fund their game themselves, without the support of external options.

Some opportunities:

[1] JoWood

[2] 7 Witty Tactics for Funding Your Game Production

[3] Review Indie Marketing Plan, section 2 especially. Those firms might help you.

[4] How Do You Get Your Game to Market might also give you some hints.

[5] Investors. Check out your home town – there might be organisations that help out startup businesses to operate. One of their task is to find potential investors for your project.

This was a great question, thanks for the opportunity to answer.

Target Market Analysis for Adventure Games

Question:

I’m trying to develop my first project and am having trouble locating demographics information to do a market analysis to develop a game plan from. In a business course I took in college, it was stressed to do the analysis first, to determine who buys and what they would buy.

I am leaning toward the adventure genre, PC platform, 1st or 3rd person perspective, and a point-and-click interface, which leaves only theme and graphic style which are dependent on market analysis.

Do you have any ideas, can point out 3-5 successful games (with similar theme, style of art, etc), or provide a starting point to work from.

It will be much better for both of us, if you do the analysis – so I won’t point out successful games, but I can provide some kind of starting point for you to work from.

[1] The Adventure Games Company is a very good starting point for checking out what kind of games there are, and these games can give you insight on what kind of games could sell. Maybe you even might consider publishing your game through that company.

[2] The second place to go is JustAdventure.com, the site gets over million visitors monthly and has a great number of information about different adventure games – and even independent views on the issue. It also lists their ten top casual games where you can spot games such as Prime Suspects.

[3] I’ve written about the demographics in the past, so check out my previous post about: Sales, demographics and usage data. That might give you some information regarding your target market.

[4] Orange Brat kindly suggested several other places to go: Adventure Europe, GameBoomers, AdventureDevelopers and Adventure Gamers (another great place). Thanks for the great links O.B.!

After you have gone through all the sites, you still might want to consider prototyping the art: gather a number of people or post ‘feedback wanted’ threads in some forums. Give people some different theme pics to choose from, and let them help you. Bear in mind, that these boards are filled with game developers rather than pure players (so they might have different way of thinking compared to those who only play games). But still, they can and will help you choose the best theme.

Good luck with your game.

Stateless AI

Question:

Over the course of the last few years, I worked on several game projects, and a recurrent idea I have been pondering is a stateless AI for a turn-based strategy game. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about this. I am not even sure this is a viable possibility as I never did any prototype or work on it.

Answer:
Honestly, I’m not an AI expert (far from it) and that’s why I cannot tell what kind of AI suits best for different game types. But, from my experience: whether a game is good or not cannot be based only on AI. I don’t think there’s games that would be best selling or most awarded games only because they use superb AI.

Proper AI is only one part of the mix. It’s important part of course: bad AI shows, good AI is something players won’t even notice. It’s important, but I wouldn’t make quick judgements about how well it suits for a turn-based strategy game. Depending on game it might suit well – or very badly.

I know there are many gameproducer.net readers who have actually written articles about AI. If they have something to add, feel free to comment to the thread.

For more information about AI coding, I suggest the following resources:
- Roguelikedevelopment.org
- GameAI.com

Hopefully those links can give you information that you find valuable.

GameProducer.net Sales Statistics

I got a very interesting question from one of the gameproducer.net readers:

Question:

A funny tought just occured to me and it seems like a potentially interesting question for your web-site. What are the sales statistics made only trough gameproducer.net ?

May be silly, but might be interesting as well as we know what kind of population is among the readers.

Answer:
I asked this from the authors of OceanDive, and their response was:

I did not notice anything like a sales spike. In fact, as of now we received a just little above 100 visits from people clicking on the links in your article and your site’s front page, so even if your typical audience followed the 1.4% conversion rate rule, the one copy we would sell this way statistically would not be very visible.

As for publisher requests, maybe it revived one discussion with a partner in Russia, but on the other hand we already talked to that company a few weeks ago, so it’s hard to tell whether it was a coincidence or whether they just reconsidered. In any case, I am glad I gave you the data, every little bit of publicity is good thing for both us and your site. It’s a very interesting strategy anyway to give this sort of PR boost via the gameproducer blog to your other development activity.

Week later I asked the same question again, and their response was:

For the month of June, I see about 110 hits in the Apache log that would originate from gameproducer site. With this amount of hits, it’s really hard to see any change in the sales pattern. The daily sales fluctuate quite a bit, one day you get 5 sales and the other 20 sales, etc. all year round. I certainly have not noticed anything resembling a sales spike.

What they can expect:

[1] So basically, while gameproducer.net receives hundreds of visitors each day, not every visitor will click the link. Some of them will, this gives them some traffic.

[2] GameProducer.net rss feed is syndicated in several places, thus making them get clicks from other sites as well, not just from gameproducer.net

[3] If they get 100 clicks, and 1 or 2 people buy the game, that definitely is not going to make a peek in sales (if they get 5 to 20 sales each day all year round).

[4] What they will get though for sure: is page rank (gameproducer.net has quite good google rankings thus giving better ranking to sites that get linked)

[5] Possible media interest from publishers or other contacts (such that might have happened in this case, but as he said: it could been just a coincidence)

[6] Developer interest: sales stats are very interesting reading among developers and this might lead to some kind of developer contacts.

Ask Game Producer: Dilemma… Using Word ‘Blood’ in Company Name

I previously wrote about how to name your game and some days ago I received an email about a problem with a company name. The suggestion contained name ‘bloody’ in it and I’ve changed the other part of the name to ‘Creature’. I bring this question up, because using word ‘Blood’ comes up now and then.

I have a little problem about choosing my company name. Do you think __ Bloody Creature __ is a good name for a casual game company? We put a lot of effort finding a different good name, but we always turned back to the first one.

Pros:
+ Bloody Creature sounds very good
+ Actual logo is nice and a lot of people like it
+ it fits the theme of our last game
+ bloodycreature.com is available
+ we can change the logo with something that reminds a tropical cocktail
+ we are used to use it
+ I strongly want a creature-related name

Cons:
- we plan to release a more casual-oriented game; so a name containing the word blood… not for all audience… less customer coming to our site?
- too long?

My first impression was that I wouldn’t use word ‘bloody’ in a company name, and especially not in a casual game. But… after thinking it bit more I’m not sure if that’s such a bad idea after all.

I don’t think portals are keen to have blood and gore in their casual games, but there are games such as Crimsonland which use blood & violence and do (seemingly) okay.

If you are planning to use ‘family friendly’ portals such as BigFishGames then using blood in game (or in company name) might not be such a good idea. On the other hand, if you think you have found your own niche (bloody games?) in casual game space – then why not? I’m sure there are casual gamers who want their games bloody.

In my opinion:
- Check out how to name your game for hints, maybe you find yourself other Creature than ‘bloody’…
- Think where you aim: do you want to aim for typical casual portals? Then using blood might not be the best idea (but this is purely my opinion – I’m not deciding what kind of games get accepted)
- But if you want to aim in not-so-typical portals, and want to use blood & gore – then the company name is more than okay.