Make It, And Some Idiot Will Buy It

I saw an astrology channel today. I recommended it to my brother too and watched the channel for 5 minutes or so. I must say that it was one of the most interesting experiences I had during this year.

There was some caller (old woman), and the astrology-woman explained how that old lady’s future looks like. I wasn’t exactly sure what they did… but apparently it looked like that the scam artist, I mean the astrologist looked some space map and explained how Jupiter’s transition suggested that there will be changes coming next year. According to Uranus and some moons, the lady’s career will bring something new (to which the lady said that she is retired).

It cost like 1,95 euros per minute, and in the very end of the call, the lady asked if they could also tell the future of her grandchildren. To this, the astrology woman pointed out that “they cannot predict the future of other people, only the people who call them”. That’s quite interesting statement, after taking into account that they just predicted to future career changes of this old retired lady… from positions and transitions of planets.

I don’t think this is the approach to take in game development. Especially indie game development where you have the chance to actually care about your customers.

But maybe this will make somebody to think a bit.

(At least you now have a backup plan: if your game isn’t selling, try astrology instead)

P.S. I’m not suggesting that adorable old lady would be an idiot. She sounded like a nice lady. Nothing against her. This blog post was made in more general sense.

Why Consoles Are Stuck In The Era of The Dinosaurs?

PC and consoles have one major difference: proper digital delivery.

For PC you have these fine options:

  • GOG – good old games to download in digital format for small price. PC rocks.
  • Tons of more places to get indie and AAA games: Direct2Drive, Steam, Gamersgate… and more. I don’t need physical copies for PC, I can buy them in digital format.

The point is… if for example I want pretty much any game (that was published to) PC, I can get it. Consoles don’t have proper digital delivery. Yes, PS3 offers some demos via playstation network and sells some minis and classics and whatnot, but their catalogue is lacking badly. Xbox live is doing a better job in live area but if I understood correctly, you cannot get for example Alan Wake as a digital download. You (most likely) need to get a physical copy. Same with Wii and others. (I didn’t bother to check but I’m sure somebody will correct me, that’s the beauty of the Internet: there’s people who are always ready to prove you wrong.)

Anyway.

Let’s take an example. If I’d want to hunt down old game called The Incredible Hulk for PS3, I can go through their network and different online shops to see that “it’s not manufactured anymore”. Then I can try ebay (or huuto.net, the Finnish alternative) and with some luck might find some seller. Maybe after some painful research and work, at some point I might eventually get the game delivered to my house. But since I don’t live in the US (where ebay is used much more than here), the odds are against me. In short: it will be tough to find that game to my PS3.

Now… I could switch to PC and check for example D2D and after 17 seconds of time, I’d find this. Downloadable version for about ten bucks. I’d be playing in minutes.

That’s the beauty of the beast. The PC beast. And that’s where PC rocks and consoles suck.

I hate playing disc version of games. They make loud noise, I need to switch discs (since I can have only one inside the machine, not two you know), they might not be available for purchase, package delivery takes time. I nowadays buy mainly digital downloads for my PC, and it feels like I’m forced to go to the stone age with consoles.

I do like playing NHL on my fancy PS3, but seriously… it’s 2010 for heavens sake. We might not have teleportation invented just yet, but could I at least get my console games in a digital format.

Please?

“200 New Features”

I’ve played the NHL ’11 demo a few times, and I had some mixed feelings about the whole game – and thought how “new versions are made in the big world”.

One major difference to indie world is that if NHL ’11 would be done by indies, it would have been published as a patch or as “an expansion pack” (or “paid upgrade”), and it wouldn’t be a new game that costs 50 euros (or whatever the new AAA games cost).

To me it looks like NHL ’11 is the greatest ice hockey game in the planet, and I’d give it 90+ points if I was to write a review…

…but I’m still not buying it.

Why?

  • As cool as the new hip tackle (and other tackles in the whole games) is and no matter how cool is to see broken ice hockey sticks, it still feels an upgrade to the previous version. I would have no problem paying 20ish euros for an upgrade, but since I’ve already got NHL ’10 I feel that I’m not getting this new version – I’m waiting to see NHL ’12
  • Plus: from game developer’s perspective I’m almost guessing they haven’t improved the online multiplayer version in certain ways that I’d want – but of course that’s left to see (since couldn’t test that in demo). I’m talking about making it impossible to take away goalie (since people can ruin the game by randomly taking it off), more balanced matchmaking (based on ranks or something), possibility to change position mid-game (for example, if somebody leaves the game, you could take his position), even balancing the game to favor the losing side (I’d make it so that the team who is losing would get bonus for goalie skills, or perhaps to losing side player skills would be somewhat improved). If technically possible, I would make it so that people could join the online game during the play, and also would make so that players could turn ON a “bot mode” for a moment (if they need to stop playing for a moment). I know some of these are big design decisions and something that won’t be easy to accept, but for example balanced gameplay wouldn’t perhaps be “realistic”, but I’m very certain that it would be more fun.

I think EA has done a great game. I think they’ve made some great improvements. The physics change is a biggie for example and the game just feels (once again) more polished that it’s a no-brainer to get it (unless you already own NHL ’10).

They have put 200+ new features.

They’ve made the world’s best ice hockey game.

Yet, it feels like an “upgrade” to me.

I’m about 110% certain that EA will make tons of more money this way (selling it at 50ish eur price point instead of 20ish eur upgrade), but In the indie world things would be different.

Indies would give those 200 features for free (or as an add-on pack), and people would be amazed about this.

Not sure if that would be sensible for indies. This is just some food for thought.

What you think?

How PS3 Move Could Have Become Much Cooler Than It Currently Is

Sony PS3′s new fancy gadget is the Move motion controllers. Those funny looking sticks with ball of light in one end. Half of the hardcore gamers in the world are laughing at their appearance, half are silent about getting one (to ensure the other half won’t laugh at them).

This is how the Move controller looks like:

I was browsing for some more info about Move (since I’m planning to get the thing) and saw some old discussion about it. Some gamers were laughing at it’s appearance and said something that the marketers could have listened.

“Sony should have made them gloves.”

I think that’s a brilliant statement. A brilliant idea. Sony’s marketing team took Wii’s controller, improved the tech, and are now bringing a bit funny looking cone saying that “hardcore and casual gamers will all love it”.

Well, maybe. Sony probably has a bit more experience in marketing stuff than I do, but I must say that the current solution looks bit like “we are like Wii except better and try to cater for everybody”.

What if Sony would have made a bold move instead, and play from their strengths?

What if they would have decided to:

  • Make the motion controller a glove (or pair of gloves)?
  • What if they would have branded it to be the hardcore gamer’s motion controller?

Now they compete with Wii (who already has all those sports games) and Kinect (which has the extra coolness factor of “you don’t need a controller – you are the controller”).

I don’t know if it would sell more this way, but I think Sony could have made a bolder move in this thing – and differentiate them from others.

You know, they could have done something like this that was done 4 years ago (“Wii power glove mod”) – but of course in black…

Move is technically superior in accuracy (from what I’ve read), but I sure would buy a pair of motion gloves more happily (and pay extra) than a stick or two with light ball in one end.

Now, THIS Is Customer Service

Moment ago I downloaded Plain Sight game from Gamersgate summer sale, and few minutes later made a few tweets.

Check the below discussion (click the image)

Basically: I made a comment about corrupted download file (at 11:20). 11 minutes later (11:31) gamersgate replies to me that they want to help me get it working. And a minute later (11:32) they give me idea of redownloading the whole thing. Few minutes later (11:35) I got the thing working.

If customer service is about following people who talk about your game… you certainly are doing something very right.

Kudos Gamersgate.

Would You Get In To This “Spotify for Games” Indie Portal? (Players-Pay-Monthly-Model)

I’ve been discussing this with the Insiders and they are showing quite green light (as long as certain things are handled “the right way”), and I thought I’d post a poll in this blog as well.

Basically, I’ve been brainstorming this idea about an indie game portal where people could play any games in the portal for paying $9.99 per month. Gross sales (most of it, let’s say for example 70% to 80% of the Real Money) would be split among developers based on how much people play their games in each month.

Links to more detailed posts part 1, part 2 and part 3.

So, what’s your take in this? Would you submit your game to this indie only games portal?
[poll id=38]

You Know What to Except When Email Contains the Words: “Sorry if I disturbed you”

There’s not only one but several things that I really like how NOT to approach anyone when you want something from them. Here’s a sample email I just got, and I think this works as a great introduction to the topic “how not to do business”:

From: Jane ******************
To: press@polycountproductions.com
Subject: Link exchange request with gamerelease.net

Greetings,

My name is Jane ********, SEO Consultant. I’ve greatly enjoyed looking through your site gamerelease.net and I was wondering if you’d be interested in providing a link to the tarot’s website I represent. In exchange, I could offer you a link at:

http://www.**********.com/ with page rank 3

If you are interested, please send me the URL and TITLE in order to list your website. I’ll add your link as soon as possible, within the next 24 hours. When your link is ready, I’ll send you a confirmation email along with the information (TITLE and URL) of my website.

I hope you have a nice day and thank you for your time.

Regards,

Jane **********
Web Marketing Consultant
jane.*******@*******.***

Disclaimer:

PD: I really wouldn’t like this email to be considered as spam, since I’ll try not to contact you again with the same request, but in case you feel annoyed by this kind of requests and want to make sure neither me or anyone from my team contacts you again with a similar petition, you can just register at http://********* That way we’ll add you to our email filters. Thanks for the attention (and sorry if I disturbed you).

I’ll bite:

  1. The first thing annoys me is that this is very much a mass sent email to their spam list. If I want to have success in contacting some companies, I really need to craft them a personalized email to get a response.
  2. The second thing that annoys me is that they are using press@ in their email, not my personal email. They’ve found it from some website, and put it in their people-to-spam list.
  3. Third thing that I think is pretty useless way to approach others is that this is useless. They suggest me link exchange with some Tarot site. I have an indie game press release site. They have a tarot site. Let me repeat: indie press. Tarot site. Like… that’s not going to cut it. (And I don’t do link exchanges there so they are missing the point big time). Bonus point for trying though.
  4. Fourth thing is that they put some crap about “URL” – hey you suggested the url already. You are wasting my most precious asset I’ll ever have in my life: my time. But what do you care.
  5. Almost last point: “I really wouldn’t like this email to be considered as spam.” I mean for heaven’s sake. It’s not about how you feel. If you plan to suggest something to me then think what I feel. Thinking other people when doing stuff is like a pretty good business practise.
  6. Not yet last point: “register at” to “get filtered away”? Like (censored) (censored) you (censored) piece of (censored)!! I don’t “register” any of your spam lists to get away. I shouldn’t be there in the first place. And I don’t want “filter”, I want my freaking email as far as possible from your spam list you spammy spammers. You should kindly ask me if I ever want to be in touch with you. I’m in charge. Not you, you puny spammerers
  7. Very last point: “(and sorry if I disturbed you)”. Now, whadda (censored) you mean by “IF”?! If I wasn’t a nice guy, I’d say something that would get censored right now. You know you are spamming me, don’t try to play nice. (It’s much more okay if you really mean it, but if you think you might be disturbing somebody – don’t contact them in the first place, okay?)

Something good turned out from this spam email though. Pretty good business lessons.

Every spam has a silver lining.

Well. Not every spam.

But at least some.

Sometimes.

Sort of Crazy Idea: One Brand to Rule Them (=Indies) All?

I got quite interesting idea presented to me about franchise indie world. I don’t know exactly how this chap was planning to go forward, but I started pondering the following:

What if hundred or thousand (or hundred thousand) indies would combine their forces in creating a world that would act as the base for games?
There would be background stories, art, sounds, music, but not gameplay. The theme, art and dozens of characters and so on would be built.

And then… indies could leverage this brand by adding their own gameplay. For example, let’s suppose we’d all agree (after a bunch of fistfights) that we’ll have this steam punk world. Year is 1888, although there’s some technological innovations ranging from limited time manipulation (with non-organic objects) and heavy politics and brink of war between nations. And 1000 other things.

Art would be there, background setting for story would be there. Characters would be there as well.

Now we’d get to the sweet spot. Now indies could jump in and use whatever assets there is and create their own games. The game concept could possibly need some high-level acceptance to ensure that the game is still (at least somewhat) loyal to the world and the stuff would work logically. (For example, there couldn’t suddenly be green zombie monsters from outerspace)

If (when) more art or assets would be needed, the studios could create them by themselves (based on guidelines from existing work) and add to the repository, making it even bigger.

One indie could go and create match-3 game for iPhone – where time manipulation would be done. Another indie would do RTS about the war. Somebody would try hidden object game, and one would create an RPG about politics.

The games could be published and expand the brand, making each game familiar and more popular than what they perhaps could be if done solo.

Could work, don’t you agree?

What Payment Processor Are You Using?

I’ve been so accustomed to using Plimus & Paypal that I’ve almost forgot that there’s other alternatives available.

I just saw UltimatePay/Playspan which is a system for purchasing digital stuff. Saw EA and other companies there. There wasn’t too much information available on their site. Anyone familiar with their system? (I’m just pondering if indies could use it)

What ecommerce providers you use for payment processing? Why? Planned any alternatives?