Please give advice to someone who's determined to sell games

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  • After a lifetime of hobby game programming (and programming in general) I am hell bent on charging money for the game I'm working on. I have made a career of programming for other people none of my personal side projects have seen any success so far.

    I'm very good with SEO, SEM, and web development, I am not good at: knowing what people want, or how to extract money from people.

    Currently my plan is to release a "light" version, a "full" version, and to release on android, DRM free desktop, and win8 store.

    So I ask of you, looking back to the first time you turned a profit off a game, what mistakes did you make, what advice would you give? If you have a fantastic link, please post that as well!

  • More,

    How did you price your game? I believe games of similar caliber of what I have planned go from 5 to 10 dollars, but as the developer I will not make a good judge of the game's value. I've sunk quite a bit of money into it so far though. How do you determine your games value in a way that optimizes for sales/market reach?

    How much did you drop in advertising? Is $1k in online advertising overkill, or not enough?

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  • skelooth

    Since you're going to have a desktop version of your game, you should seriously consider Steam Greenlight.

    I'm part of a small indie team that managed to get our game through Greenlight and released on Steam and it makes a huge difference. Ten times as many people bought the game from Steam as did from all other retailers combined - both online and physical stores.

    Yours wouldn't be the first Construct 2 game to try Greenlight either. Over 30 Construct 2 games have been listed and at least 6 have made it through and are on sale (even if in Early Access). See this collection.

    As for price, looking at similar games is a good start, but make sure you don't price it too low, you'll get more people buying when you do a % off sale. Our game was originally listed on Steam at $20 but the vast majority of sales came when the game was discounted (25% to 75% off). If in doubt, find the most similar game from a AAA studio and put your game on for a bit less.

    As for advertising, before Steam we had been signed with a publisher who spent a fortune on poorly targeted advertising that got us very few, if any, new players. Seriously, it was so bad it would have been more cost effective to hire someone to run around town for a day shouting "Buy this game!". So it's not about how much you spend, but about getting the right advertising.

    Getting people to like, share and tweet about your game on social media, getting games sites to do reviews and putting out newsworthy Press Releases will do more to spread the word about your game than pure advertising. Spending $100 to get your game listed on Steam Greenlight is a worthwhile marketing expense, especially if your game is already released elsewhere, given the exposure you'll get.

    Anyway, that's enough from me for now. I posted some info on raising awareness about your game and getting your game through Greenlight in other threads if you're not bored already.

    Good luck with your game.

  • Thank you so much! I didn't realize C2 games were compatible, that's great news!

    How far in the process were you before you started publishing press releases, trailers, etc?

    Edit: What are things you've done in the past that had a negative reaction?

  • Yeah, C2 games are compatible with Steam thanks to node webkit. As long as you have a game that can run from an .exe it can work on Steam.

    We had some trailers out and did some press releases while still in Alpha. It didn't hurt, but we could have waited until we launched the closed beta or were getting people to sign up for open beta just so the game was more polished and so people had more of a reason to click through the links.

    There weren't really any things that impacted negatively on getting people to the game, just things that were less effective than others. A site takeover and giveaway on IGN was less effective than a sale and spotlight on Steam. Putting the game in a bundle brought in less money than having it Desura, but more people were made aware of the game.

    That's not to say some people didn't have a negative reaction to some things. Some people responded to the trailer by saying "The game is crap, I hate it" yet others responded by saying "The game is great, I love it". If you look at the stats for the Top 50 games on Greenlight in one of the links posted earlier you'll see that even they get less the 50% 'yes' votes these days and some of the comments for otherwise great games are horrible. After a while you learn to ignore the negative comments unless they provide valid criticism you can learn from, and you accept that you can't please everyone.

  • Oh yes, user feedback is kind of terrifying. When software works without a hitch you never hear *any* user feedback, but if anyone sees anything they dislike even the slightest bit the floodgates of negative feedback open! I am a web developer and know this cycle well. Complaining people are the most vocal, it's pretty rare to get positive feedback from users unless you scratch their itch just right.

    I'm impressed you did an IGN takeover, I imagine that is not cheap?

    I'm still a long ways from releasing, but I know I need to keep this stuff in mind. If I could in the very least make my money back, I would call it a success. Really I just love programming, but as I get older time gets more valuable.

  • What do I need to do, legally, to protect my potential game? Is there standard legal mumbo jumbo I can throw in?

    How important is it that I DBA as a game company instead of self publishing under my normal name? Is it a question solely of brand management and the risk of tainting your own name as a poor brand?

  • skelooth

    Yeah, the IGN takeover was expensive even just for a couple of days, but luckily we had some industry contacts who negotiated a better deal involving a giveaway to IGN Prime members. We did something similar with GreenManGaming - not a takeover, but a competition, email to subscribers and a giveaway. We did slightly better than break even on both, but I'd be hesitant to do them again because of the effort involved and the small gain.

    Steam on the otherhand was something different. Even just being listed on Greenlight increased sales, admittedly that was when it first launched so not sure if it's as good now. Releasing on Steam and being featured saw a huge boost in players - we got more than twice as many new players in the first month on Steam as we did in the whole year we were out before then. We managed to get Spotlight and Midweek Madness sales on Steam by releasing small expansions and that saw a similar boost in sales.

    I think if we'd done the IGN deal after releasing on Steam it would have gone a whole lot better.

    As for protecting your game, you could register the game name as a Trademark if you're worried about someone using it, but you could probably just include a copyright notice, e.g. © 2014 Skelooth Games, on the intro screen of your game. Including Terms & Conditions or a EULA that players agree to can offer some legal protection as well, there are templates on the internet or you could get one from a similar game and change the names and some of the wording.

    Publishing under a studio name instead of your own offers a degree of privacy and looks more professional. Registering your "doing business as" name would depend on the legal/tax requirements of where you live, but I'm not sure the app stores are that concerned as long as the name you publish with them is unique. Setting up a limited company can also offer some legal protection if you feel you need it.

  • Thanks again for all of your help and advice OddConfection it is appreciated! Given enough focus and dedication I'm still months away, but these are all great things to know and keep in mind!

  • I would start marketing your game right now. Open a blog, twitter, and Facebook page for your game. These three things are what I like to think of as persistent targeted ads. You can post about a new monsters added to your game. A mechanic you implemented and the thought process behind it. You could offer beta testing to Facebook followers only. People love early access to games.

    Incorporate your SEO into your blog and it's basically Google advertising for you, for free.

    Steam Greenlight, as mentioned above, is a really to apply for. Even if you don't get the community support, you will have raised awareness about your game and hopefully linked back to your Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Another thing that I have not used personally but I have heard good things about, is app/game review sites. Give your app away for free to all of them. Don't worry about the $5. If even one of them takes interest and posts a review of your game on their site. That's countless targeted viewers and potential buyers.

  • I have a maybe stupid follow up question that could probably be easier by google-fu, but

    What are the requirements to be listed on something like the humble bundle store? Is there a review process of sorts or is it more open? What types of road blocks and requirements can I anticipate?

  • Well, I google FU'd, it looks like there are no clear requirements to be listed on the humblestore, and can't find any instances of games being rejected.

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