Friday, 1 January 2010

2010 - What's Going On Man?

Hey look - it's 2010! And also quite a while since my last post. Well things move fast in the world of iPhone gaming so let's see what has happened in the interim 2 weeks - again in brains spurts:

* Appvent Calendar Giveaway! So on 20th of December 2009 (soooo last year) I gave away MiniSquadron for FREE for one day only. I was originally approached to participate in the Appvent but had actually responded too late - but someone had dropped out at the last minute so I decided to give it a shot. A number of people have wondered how that works and so I thought I'd give out some STATS. In one day (less than 24 hours) MiniSquadron was downloaded a total of 77,000 times. Hey that's a massive number man! So that was pretty cool - and I guess really helped to spread the word of the game to a lot of people who just wouldn't have given it a go. Interestingly, the app was never in any Top 25 lists anywhere - so I presume a lot of people were actually watching the Appvent Website. So that's great for PR an' all - costing me exactly one day of sales, but what did it actually do for me AFTER I put the price back to £1.79/$2.99? Well...not much it would seem. There was a little bump (like 20 or so extra copies being sold than the average the following day) but then it continued to do the good ol' Logarithm Decline in sales.

The conclusion I came to was it was basically a very good way to get PR, and from what I can tell a lot of people enjoyed the game (well it WAS free), but they wouldn't have paid for it. Which actually brings me onto the second thing to talk about -

*) People who downloaded the game for free (and some who didn't) but "expected more". I think a lot of people are expecting too much for iPhone games and are either completely spoilt - or literally don't know how much it costs to produce a game. And the truth is they don't and shouldn't be expected to - this isn't common knowledge. Combine this with the fact that in order to realistically reach Top 100 you have to set a $0.99 price for any new iPhone game without a big fat publisher and the future for small companies look really difficult. The way I see it, the iPhone economy has now given us it's own idea of what games are to be expected and what is possible - cheap, short, "distractions"/small-scale games not costing a lot to develop, leaving the longer, fuller on games to be taken on by larger studios with fat marketing budgets to make sure it sells. If you like that kinda thing great - but if like me, you like quirky, fun and individual efforts that aren't just a single level or a 60 second diversion, and if you don't like the shit games that get peddled out with a big name license - it might be a lot harder for them to come by. But don't listen to me - have a look at the UK Top 25 Paid charts right now - 1/1/2010:

1) Doodle Jump $0.99
2) Where's Wally $2.99
3) Moto X Mayhem $0.99
4) Tetris $2.99
5) Bejeweled 2 $2.99
6) The Moron Test $0.99
7) Crash Bandicoot $2.99
8) Flight Control $0.99
9) iBeer Special $0.99
10) Who Wants to be a Millionaire $4.99
11) Scrabble $2.99
12) Talking Carl $0.99
13) Alarm Clock Pro $0.99
14) Flick Fishing $0.99
15) The Simpsons $4.99
16) Cartoon Wars-Gunner $0.99
17) The Sims 3 $LOTS
18) Ronnie Osullivan Snooker $0.99
19) Call of Duty: World At War $LOTS OF $$
20) Need for Speed
21) Fifa
22) Jelly Car 2 (Walt Disney)
23) 2XL ATV Offroad
24) Tom Clancy's Something or other
25) Pocket God

From this TINY SAMPLE you can see that all the indie/small games are at the cheapest price. If you look at the Top Grossing you can see mostly its the big companies with the muscle that can charge more money for a well established brand.

I guess it's just disheartening to see that what was once a great outlet for small indies trying their luck - it's now so much harder without lots of MONEY to PR their stuff, or they'll have to keep their ideas short and sweet. Looking at that chart now I dont think I would have bothered doing MiniSquadron to as full an extent as it is.

SO, with all that - what is happening next? Well I've cut back on a lot of things I was gonna put out for MiniSquadron as free updates, mainly because they take a fair bit of work, and the updates are FREE and bring me no income or any new sales, and ALSO because there are now a significant amount of pirated copies out in the wild and I sure as hell don't want to KEEP giving them free stuff. Do expect a few more bits - but I will be saving the best ideas for another day. There's enough ideas and tech that I want to build up for maybe a second game since so much of it requires big rewrites of the code anyway.

Away from MiniSquadron - Studio FungFung/ Mr. FungFung / Me is currently working on a couple of secret titles and some RnD into what the iPhone can do. There may be stuff coming out on other platforms too. For sure it'll be a busy year ahead!! I've also gone and booked myself a plane ticket to SanFrancisco for GDC to maybe hook up with some Giant Publishers, interesting to see what comes out of that. Interestingly I haven't actually booked the GDC pass OR accomodation - I think I'm probably making a lot of this up as I go along....

Finally - thank you to everyone who reads this blog, enjoys MiniSquadron and believes in the possibility that the little guy can still take on the big guy with great ideas and a bit of heart. It is because of your support for this that gives people like me a reason to keep making games as opposed to working for a bank.

Bring on 2010 - lets risk some more and take no prisoners!

EDIT: I have to make clear one thing - MiniSquadron did well in terms of Sales for what it is, and also did very well critically in terms of being an actually fun and full on game. In a recent TouchGen Games of 2009 MiniSquadron was nominated as Best Arcade game losing out to Space Invaders and Pac Man. I can tell you it feels GREAT to go up against giants like that!


  1. Hey Man,

    Nice post. I understand your predicament. I got the game for free and surely loved it. But hey, got my bro to pay for it! I am willing to pay for another update or downloads from within the game. I hope you will still release all the things you had in mind.

  2. Unfortunately youre right with your post, we all know that, but what can i say?! I didnt know about minisquadron until i saw on appventcalendar!!! But, i would really pay for more levels, like fieldrunners! Thats a way i think you could do more money with this amazing game! Thanks for your work man!!! Ive added you on twitter!!!

  3. Hey, I second what Powerbacon said. I love this game. It was the best one from the appvent calendar website by far. Thanks for your hard work. I have played it more than any other game. I'd also be willing to buy extra levels. Thanks again.

  4. I love Minisquadron a lot. And to hear you say you're not going to work as hard on it is a real cop out. The developers of Doodle Jump aren't a huge studio and they sell their app for 99 cents, but yet they still come out with free updates all the time. If they can do it, you can do it. So don't give us this crap about how you won't make as much money and about how you're going to hold out on free updates. It only makes you look like an arrogant ass hole. Once again, I love the game, man. I am pretty dissapointed to read this post. It was a huge slap in the face to all of your supporters.

  5. I've also booked the flight to SF but not the hotel or conference. Want to go halves on a cardboard box?

  6. Free cardboard box sounds like a good idea!

    I can hold out on free updates because I feel like it. Doodle Jump are a small studio but they are excellent and are making a lot of revenue. I am not.

    This is what I mean. You paid X money for a game. Then you have already got some FREE updates for NO MONEY. And then you get angry because I don't keep giving you free stuff.

    Please explain to me why I *should* or *must* KEEP GIVING YOU MORE FREE STUFF?

  7. Remember I AM going to release a few more bits and bobs for it - proper UFO controls (so you can hover) and also more planes is coming soooooon! ^___^

  8. "I can hold out on free updates because I feel like it."

    Exactly what I mean. Thanks for slapping your supporters in the face.

  9. How is it 'supportive' to demand that he works for nothing?

  10. What about the rest of the reply? What about the free updates YOU ALREADY HAVE? Why is not giving you more FREE stuff a slap in the face? Why is doing what I feel like a bad thing? I don't understand your logic?! AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHH

  11. Love mini squadron! Agree with your post, indie myself so I can understand. Some people expect too much, you can't please them all :)

    I've pumped thousands into my first iPhone game over the past 15 months, so I'm a little worried about doing a big game when all these cheap 1 minute apps are doing so well. Luckily it's port friendly for mac/pc, the platforms I know.

    Keep up the great work, be waiting for a follow up!

  12. Make DLC that costs money. make a free update that includes an in game store. then just put the other stuff that would normally come out in updates into the store and charge money for it. i would buy the updates.

  13. thanks for this insightful post.

    have you read that: ?

  14. To Anonymous (if it's the same Anonymous as before) - thank you for that comment - see now *that* is real support! ^__^

    Don't worry - I haven't jumped off a cliff (yet), and there'll be more MiniSquadron stuff - but I like doing AMBITIOUS things, things that'll WOW you, so I just need a bit of time to put it all together.

  15. @martin re: the post about the App Store A/B.

    I have just read it - and I agree! I think I came to a similar conclusion. Admittedly - I have to say that MiniSquadron did good, critically it was a success and sales wise it did well - but *generally* speaking you can see the App Store market working itself now to a basic polarisation of the market. Rich get richer and the poor fight for less and less of a share. Hey it's just like the real world!!


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  17. Great post. Mini Squadron is a great little game. I had been playing Jet Car Stunts almost exclusively for a while and the game that finally dislodged me was Mini Squadron. As a developer myself I keep seeing little things that are just very nice touches that I know took time and effort on your part.

    Regarding the iPhone app market... your points are all valid. I think, though, what it is doing to us indies is REALLY forcing us to get creative, because we just don't have the budget to do whatever we want. I'm working really hard on my game to keep costs absolutely minimal. That is hard, but it is important to pick a game design that doesn't rely on expensive resources. This can be disheartening sometimes, but that is where the creativity comes in.

  18. I completely agree with you Patrick. I think my post says the same thing - for smaller indies you have to budget tighter and indeed to by successful means to compete in other areas - like creativity.

    My point was - it was slightly easier to increase the Quantity scale if you will, or the "scope" of games indies could develop - before the 99c price crash bullshit, since the monetary returns were higher. And that means it was easier to execute some ideas which by their nature require a bigger budget to develop - eg an RPG, MMO etc. They, too, can be creative - its just that the limits of creativity are bounded to a certain size (budget).

    I'm a big dreamer sometimes and I have lots of ideas but some of them are just too big for me (FOR NOW MWUAHAHAHAH)

  19. I bought your game a few days before the appvent calendar, and I don't regret it. I think it is awesome, and I hope you do continue to develop the game, On a side note, if there could be an option to flip the controls so you can fly with the right and shoot with the left that would be cool, and hopefully not too technically difficult. Thanks!

  20. I got the game free becuase of the the Appvent site otherwise I would not have heard of it.

    In regards to updates I would expect a few freebies but why not release a 2.0 Upgrade version?

    I'd buy that for a dollar

  21. Hey, I don't think you get it, I'm one of the 77k people that got it for free and loved it. If you came out with a v2.0, I would gladly pay for it and a good amount of those 77k people would as well.

    In any case, loved the game, good work.

  22. I'm sorry that the giveaway wasn't more helpful for you as a sales boost. I have to wonder if the massive influx of games from the Appvent promo didn't crowd yours out. Who has time to thoroughly enjoy twenty different games?

    For what it's worth, I've been playing Mini Squadron like a crack addict since I first tried it out (only 8 planes left to unlock!) and have told everyone I know about it. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't gotten it through the Appvent calendar -- but that's because I wouldn't have TRIED it. (I'm not a big gamer) The calendar promo made me aware of the game.

    So would I line up for Mini Squadron 2? You bet!

  23. Great work on the game. After reading this post I decided I had to buy it to support your endeavor. If you need any art sometime let me know.

  24. I've found Minisquadron in the App Store today (I think it was the Genius function that came up with it), downloaded the LITE version, played the demo level and go to buy it for 2,39 Euro now.

    I usually don't play much, but this game is absolutely great! Worth every single cent I'd say. Keep the good work up! :-)

  25. To be honest I found the game using AppMiner. It found it when you dropped the price to $0.00. Im sorry to hear about the giveaway not producing your desired result. But at least it got the word out and possibly a new base for V2?

    I got 2 of my friends to purchase the app so far. It is a great game and for the price you cannot beat it!

    I hope to see a version 2 out soon! I will be waiting in line to purchase :)

  26. The one benefit you got from the Appvent promotion is 77,000 potential customers for your next game. Obviously not all of them still have your game on their device, but a large percentage likely do.

    I kind of wish I had put Charmed into the Appvent Calendar when I had the chance. I would love to have those people to promote through.

  27. So I bought this magazine for $4 the other day and now I've finished reading it. I contacted the publisher to ask them for more content, and they told me I couldn't have it for free.

    Can you believe those *ssholes? I supported them by purchasing one issue and now they want me to KEEP PAYING THEM for future issues! It's a slap in the face to supporters like me I tell you!

    For my $4 I should be entitled to receive everything they publish for free for the rest of my life!

  28. Thanks for kind words and support everybody! @Ken C - yeah it was a lot of luck being in the Appvent because the other guy unfortunately had to drop out. Also- it was on a SUNDAY, and only a few websites had updated to show it was free, Never fear - always plan ahead! Fun dates to hit are Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Xmas, Halloween etc. And they come round every year so good ideas will out - if you believe in them :o)

  29. Just wanted to say that I would totally pay for an in-app purchase update! I've finished the game (although I still haven't been able to unlock the octopus) and I keep playing the old levels over and over, wishing there was more... This is a great game and I hope it will update for years to come. I'll be paying for updates all the way!