Thursday, November 20, 2014

Over protection and misunderstandings

Hi,

Well well, my last post on gamasutra sparked the rage on some people, curious how a post can be misjudged so easy.
 My idea of the post about how much the mobile market sucks comes from this theory, Tragedy_of_the_commons ,my goal was to state the current situation of the market, nothing else. 

But instead people saw that as an attack to f2p, another kid crying, just go home, bla bla bla. Only a few people understood the point of the post, it's obvious that I was not able to express my thoughts properly.
And one thing is for sure, the post was just a mere "I'm gonna express my thoughts about this", but instead the post proved one thing, when someone talks about something completely opposed as the "reality" of the market, people usually get it as an attack, really sad, but it's in our nature as human beings to protect what's important for us and blame to anyone who thinks different.

Like I said, WE changed the market, if we did it, we can change it again, but of course, you like the market, so I'm acting against you, and as expected I'm considered a troll, because (generally speaking) people don't want to change anything.

One thing really funny from gamasutra comments was that, "the market wants this", sure, I can imagine all of you on your offices receiving tons of emails per day like this:
"Hey I saw your game but I cannot pay 5$ to buy the game, please make it free and I will play it"
So you play according to those emails and decided, hey, the market wants it free, let's do it!!!!!, it's what the market wants!!!!
Right?, is that what happened, right?
 
I respect f2p or any other thing, do you want to use f2p in your game?, fine, it's your game, your business, do as you please. I'm not stopping you, am I?

I hate the mobile market because right now is a "f2p/freemium or nothing", there's no room for paid games anymore (well, general sales say so), and that, even if you don't want to accept it, limits my creativity (and yours as well) because I need to think how I'm gonna sell the game instead of thinking about the game itself.
And as I stated, f2p is not a valid model for all games, some games can fit nicely on the f2p scheme, so use it, but what happens with the rest?, well, we are forced to include shitty purchases that have nothing to do with the game and hope for someone to buy our shotgun/powerup/whatever and get some bucks from it.

Clear example, pretend that I want to make a resident evil game, I need to think how I can sell that, probably putting all weapons as IAPs, maybe some special ammo too, how about health packs?, and if none of this make sense, then I have to discard the resident evil idea and move to another idea. 
So, what if I really wanto to create that resident evil game?, well, with the current f2p scheme in mobile market there's no way to have this working, not in an attractive way to get money from users, because the ideas to monetise the game sucks.

Of course, we all have to deal with this, sure, I have no doubts about it, deal with it if you want, I'm just moving to another platform with a paid market, I'm tired of this bullshit of f2p/freemium, so, for me mobile market is no longer a valid platform, as simple as that. No rage, no "kill f2p", I'm just moving on :)
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is mobile market wrong?

Hi,

A month ago I've released a game for mobile only (FullBlast), the game went bad, pretty bad (as expected on mobile, poor visibility, a few people interested in a paid game), and we've suffered  hundreds of 1 star reviews because it's a paid product, and now Monument Valley is suffering the same punishment as well.

The point is, what's wrong with mobile market?, I say nothing, the market just follows the direction that WE developers gave it.

If you recall a few years back, 2009, the "launch" of the iphone (yeah it was not exactly the date but you get the point), it was a beautiful store, you were able to put your product on a store by yourself (finally indies can go live) and the range of prices vary a lot, from 2.99$ to 9.99$, very good prices for most of the actual games available on the store. So, what happened?, well, a bunch of losers decided that:
- "hey, my game is not as good as yours (lack of confidence bro), so I'm gonna lower the price to make it more attractive to customers"
And that started the race to the bottom to the "standard" 0.99$ for an app/game. Which for an app/game made in 2 weeks/1 month, that could be a very good price, but not for developers that spent months to create a quality product.

With that race to the bottom, the big guys decided to jump in, so, if I can buy dead space for 0.99$, why should I buy your less poslished indie game for more or even the same the price?, and that started the freemium/f2p era, ok, let's put it for free and rely on ads as our main income, or include shitty purchases.

And what happened?, well, we created the market that we actually have, a place full of trolls expecting everything for free, rating your game with 1 star just because you don't rely on that stupid freemium model, nor ads, nor IAPs. That happened to me, and now it's happening to monument valley as well.

My point of view is NO, this is NOT what market wants, this is what WE told the market, we gave free candies to the users, and now users are upset if we try to stop offering more candies for free. As simple as that.

Maybe it's time to think about it, stop the freemium era and move back to the paid model with no IAPs, nor ads. The actual market is not a sustainable model if the vast majority of devs barely make 1000$ in revenue. 
Of course someone will tell bullshit about capitalism, you know, only the strongest survive, bla bla bla, but I don't think so. If we all have to behave the same way, there's no competition at all, there's no place for "someone did something different and stood out of the crowd".

For me this is a now or never, or we move back to the paid model or we all die in a few years and only a few big studios will remain alive, if you are not able to recoup your investment, you will not create more games as simple as that. The f2p is not a valid model for ALL games, some games are not suitable for such model.
No need to say that big guys like zynga, king and others are making tons of money per day with their free products, and they will not leave the ship, well, maybe they can remain free, but for the rest of us? let me tell you, you are really limited in your creativity if every time you want to create something you need to think hard about how to put your IAPs and if people will buy them, or just discard the idea because the IAP model cannot be implemented and you have to look for some other idea.
You have to create a game around IAPs, balance the game to encourage people to buy your stuff, and that my friends limits your creativity completely. You have no freedom at all to create a game that can work very well as a paid game without any IAPs, but instead you are forced to include IAPs if you want to survive or make any money at all, and don't try to charge for an expansion like monument valley did:
- how dare you?, I've paid for the game, and now you have a bond for life with me to include anything else you want to put in the game for free.

Probably I'm just a fool, a nobody who has no idea about markets and stuff, someone that just wants to create a game and don't be bothered about how I will put this machine gun as IAP to get some bucks.

Time will tell.




Friday, October 24, 2014

FullBlast postmortem, another project that bites the dust






Hi,

I'm Alex the main dev of FullBlast and I want to talk a bit about our recent and first project at Ufo Crash Games.

As a couple of professionals working as freelancers we decided to team up to create a game on our own, tired of working for other people we wanted to have something "personal". 

So the classic, brainstorming, prototypes, and finally we decide to create something with the feel of the old arcades like terra cresta for example, and we are really proud of what we did, everything works exactly as we wanted, I mean, everything was adapted or created according to our personal taste, difficulty, controls, visuals, etc.
We didn't follow any other "new" games released, so no idea what other devs do, and we don't care either, each one should do their game.





The final result is pretty good, but anyways, we are here to share our noob mistakes. Even if my partner and I are professionals, we are not business people, 0 idea about selling a product which is why we failed, just like many other devs do.

First of all, you shouldn't do "your" game, you should think what's the game that people will buy, aim to that segment and release a game adapted to that people, at the end we are here to make some money, not to be rich, but at least to cover the production costs while we have fun creating games, that means put everything aside and study the market in much more detail.

Second you should think about how to monetise the game, we did another noob mistake by thinking that this could be a premium game, why not?, we are gamers used to pay 60$ for a ps4 game, I don't think that anyone will die for paying 1.99$ for our game, right?, wrong!, mobile market don't give a fuck about premium games, unless you have a super AAA title, otherwise you will do better trying the freemium or f2p market.
One thing to notice is that some premium games sells well, BUT, our mistake was to make a demo before buy, so if instead of free + unlock full game, we should've released a premium game, maybe things would be better for us with that decission.
On android the audience seems to be very young and very casual, they just download games "because it's free", and we've received a lot of 1 star ratings because, "the game is not free at all, just 1 level and you have to pay for the full game", yeah, just as the description that NOBODY reads says, 1 level free, pay to unlock the full game.
So in our experience, free + unlock the full game doesn't work on android unless you have a large/big game and you can put let's say 5-10 levels for free before buy.

Another mistake was the difficulty, we tried to create an arcade game like the old classics, but obviously with casual people this thing doesn't work at all, they've found the game pretty difficult, even though there's an option within the options menu to change the difficulty, that again nobody saw, they just tap the play button as fast as possible...

And finally another mistake, daily a lot of people on forums complain about, "damn another game with IAP, ads, etc, what a piece of shit", so we thought, hey our game has NO IAP, NO ads, just a standard and classic purchase, you know, the old model seems to be very valid, at the end we talk about just 2$, but it seems that the amount of people caring about that is really just a few guys (I'm exaggerating of course).

So, time to talk about numbers, actually the game on android has 200k downloads, which is a good number, but only 650 sales, which leaves us a 0,003% of conversion rate, far far away from expected (2%), surprinsingly the piracy was not important at all, 1k pirated copies, not bad at all. But in any case, our numbers are far away from expected and obviously we lost all our money on a game that so far gave us 1k$ (pretty much). This game took us 7 months working 2 seniors on it, 1k$ revenue means a total failure.
And all of these incredible numbers are thanks to google, our game was featured and that helped A LOT to achieve those 200k downloads, with around 25k downloads per day. 




On iOS things are very different, 7.1k download, 93 sales, which leave us a 0,013% rate, much better than android, but again far away from expected, we hope to increase the number as soon as apple approves the update patch and we add more features like iCade and a couple of new enemies in a future update (the enemies will be of course on the android version as well).

The countries were a surprise, we thought USA will be on top, but Asia and Europe had taken a much better place, impressive I would say.

iOS downloads by countries:




Android downloads by countries, pretty curious huh?. Russia being on top, interesting.





We had good press coverage, maybe we miss more international sites talking about FullBlast, but hey, competition is really hard, thousands of developers fighting for a spot on sites, reviews, there's no place for all of us, and only the best ones manage to get the coverage they deserve.





So, we've learned a lot in the process, even if we've failed like many others, we need to get all the feedback and apply it to the game (and future games).
Now it's time to find other ways to monetise the game, moving away from the premium side and going into the IAP model with ads as it seems to be the most viable model for mobile games.
It's important to monetise the game properly, carefully pick up the places were you want to ask the user for his money, make the game as casual as possible, and of course release a good product :)

Alex,