When is a game "done enough" to sell?

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  • I'm making a very large (for an HTML5 game) project that I'd like to sell on one or more app stores. I also want to get it out where the public can see it and also make a little profit from it before I have it all done.

    My current plan is to release it one level at a time, in a "pseudo-episodic format". It can be free at first, but as I add more content, along with revisions suggested (or complained about) by users, I'll increase the price up to whatever the final price will be.

    Each level is going to have some story built into it, so players should ideally want to come back for more to see how the story plays out. Users who bought the game free (or cheap) won't have to pay again to get the updates; only the new users will pay the slowly-increasing price.

    Does this sound like a valid plan? Am I missing on something big here? Take note I've never sold a game before.

    P.S. I have a fairly decent prototype at macjsx.xtreemhost.com/CiS2

    All input (could be on the game but primarily on the selling plan) greatly appreciated!

    EDIT: Another possible plan is to release the game with the first 1-2 levels enabled for free, but make players pay to unlock the rest of the game (and mention this up-front so it's not a "hidden cost"). Do you think this is a good alternative to just using the app cost?

  • If each level takes at least an hour to finish, I think you'll be ok with an episodic release. If it takes a couple minutes, you'd do better to release an hours worth of content.

    I've considered unlocking levels, but for now the functionality isn't the easiest, so I'm going to go with a full price, followed by extra levels for free.

  • Well, I don't think my levels will take an hour each. More like 5-20 minutes, depending on how often you die and how I decide to handle game-overs.

  • I'll leave you a couple notes based on the experience we have had preparing our business this year with my teammate :

    1- build a small game first. On average, the revenue from the first 3 games of a given team makes less than 300$ on mobile stores.

    2- planning to release your game on pc ? It has clearly not been designed for mobiles anyway (the gameplay and controls are too complex). But just note that there is practically no html5 market on desktop, and that the pc/mac/linux world requires a higher quality standard than mobile.

    3- You should try the publishers route, but only accept a fair deal (small upfront payment plus 50 to 70 % of royalties for example). They can get you front page features and they'll get your games validated fast on the stores. Last but not least, they generally have a network and cross-game promotion which is absolutely required when starting on mobile phones

    As for the selling model, most of them seem to ask for freemium (free game with ads, plus In app puchases to unlock more content or so).

    4- But start with a small game (unless you have a strong source of revenue maybe). It can feel heartbreaking to work for 3-6 months on some project and only get a handful of bucks in return.

  • Really good tipps guys! :)

    Nevertheless, I don't think my games are big enough to think about release-periods at the Moment. :)

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  • Beaverlicious :

    You can sell very small games on the html5 market (browser-based games) and make it worthwhile. I don't have enough personnal stats to share at the time. Nevertheless, according to our market research, it's mainly a matter of producing short, efficient yet polished arcade-ish games.

    Here we try to bring our development cycle for small games below 2 weeks (being 2 partners). We're also making pretty much everything from scratch at the moment, improving our toolset and workflow on the way forward.

  • Thanks for the tips! I'm still dead-set on completing this game no matter how long it takes - or how much money it gets - because it's a big personal hobby project. However, if I come up with a smaller, "bite-sized" game, I'll try to get that done first.

    In the meantime, I'm gonna try releasing it for free with only an "endless mode" saying that the "Campaign/Story Mode" is Coming Soon! I'm hoping that will help get the word out.

  • 2- planning to release your game on pc ? It has clearly not been designed for mobiles anyway (the gameplay and controls are too complex). But just note that there is practically no html5 market on desktop, and that the pc/mac/linux world requires a higher quality standard than mobile.


    I think you should consider rewording this statement. I get what you were implying with it, but I believe the creators of "Hotline Miami" and "Heavy Rain" Could tell you that there IS a html5 market on the PC. A rather quickly growing one at that. People have been turning to indie devs for awhile now and breakthrough games like Braid, Minecraft and the above mentioned have shown graphics are a sole requirement to sell a game.

    It is however a much different process and environment than mobile, given that your only true strong outlet is to either get published or self publish on portals like steam. There is also still and probably always will be a market for the small simple browser based games. Lots of websites host their own kind of arcade and there is a way to profit in that sector as well.

    Obviously currently mobile is your biggest market, but unless you are planning on pumping out several simple games and licensing them, you will face several similar issues you would on the PC. Namely one being over saturation, yes mobile is a great platform for simple html5 games however EVERYONE knows this and are exploding the market. Getting your game noticed is hard and requires some good marketing to get it not buried by the daily game spam.

  • Anyone have experiences releasing on Facebook? Do you need as much marketing as other platforms?

    FB sounds like a good place to break-in your game.

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