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Small fish, big scary App Store

05-07-2011, 04:09 PM
#1
Junior Member [Original Poster]
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 4
Small fish, big scary App Store

Hi guys,

I'm new to the forum, although browsed it many times to find the many hidden gems of the App Store. I am a gameplay programmer by profession (with many triple-A titles under my belt), but unfortunately I might be soon out of a job. But I am taking this as an opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do, go indie, but at the same time it feels like a massive risk, it almost seems unreasonable, and I was hoping to find some guys out their who were perhaps once in a similar situation and could offer me some insights.

My initial plan was to create a fun little game that is quite simple (in terms of user input and accessibility), yet highly polished, with a code development time of around 6 man months. I would consider trying to get it out on multiple platforms (iPhone, iPad, maybe even Android). I would need to outsource most of the artwork (any idea how much this would cost?).

It's really hard to get any kind of sales figures (apart from the big successes). What is the market like? Is it very hit and miss, based on luck? Or does a high quality game always at least generate some revenue? Basically want I want to know is, in a years time when my funds have dried up, will I be earning enough to live? I'd be very interested in hearing your experiences and words of wisdom


Thanks,

Bangz.
05-07-2011, 07:48 PM
#2
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,006
If you want to get a sense of how unpredictable the AppStore is, do not look at games that are already in the top charts. Instead, follow the "new releases" for a week to see the sheer volume of completely new things entering the AppStore each day. Pick some games that are similar to what you're considering producing. Follow them using a site like www.topappcharts.com to see which, if any manage to get traction. Keep in mind that you're proposing to put 6 months of your time + asset costs into one basket - that's potentially a very costly crapshoot.

There's plenty of sales data out there, if you're willing to look, ask, and interpolate.

05-07-2011, 08:22 PM
#3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bangz View Post
But I am taking this as an opportunity to do something I have always wanted to do, go indie, but at the same time it feels like a massive risk, it almost seems unreasonable, and I was hoping to find some guys out their who were perhaps once in a similar situation and could offer me some insights.
As someone who has been doing the App Store thing for nearly three years, with a reasonably good amount of success, I can honestly tell you it is a very big risk to jump in with both feet. If you're counting on making a profit, and supporting yourself within your first year on the App Store, the odds are very much against you. It's certainly not impossible, but please go into it with the knowledge that failure is a possibility, and said failure may have absolutely nothing to do with how great your game is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bangz View Post
My initial plan was to create a fun little game that is quite simple (in terms of user input and accessibility), yet highly polished, with a code development time of around 6 man months. I would consider trying to get it out on multiple platforms (iPhone, iPad, maybe even Android). I would need to outsource most of the artwork (any idea how much this would cost?).
If you're planning on making a profit on your first game, you might want to shoot for three months or less of development. If you're paying an artist, it's going to get very expensive, unless you're paying via a share of the profits.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bangz View Post
It's really hard to get any kind of sales figures (apart from the big successes). What is the market like? Is it very hit and miss, based on luck? Or does a high quality game always at least generate some revenue? Basically want I want to know is, in a years time when my funds have dried up, will I be earning enough to live? I'd be very interested in hearing your experiences and words of wisdom
The market is very very rough for the vast majority of developers. Yes, there are some big successes, but that is not the norm. It's all very hit and miss. There aren't many indie devs who have been able to consistently release hit after hit on the store. Yes, name recognition helps a lot, but it's no guarantee. Will you be earning enough? No way of knowing. It depends on what your living expenses are, and your definition of success. For me, I have to sell quite a few games per day just to break even, as I support a family of five. But for those single devs out there, they'd probably be ecstatic with my daily sales. So, it's all relative.

As someone who does this for real every day, and has had a few hits, a few misses, and a few in-betweens, my words of wisdom are this:

1. There is no guarantee of profit. Not today. Not tomorrow. If you spend six months making a game, be financially prepared for it to fail. And if your game happens to be a hit, be equally prepared for that success to end much sooner than you'd like it to. Build a buffer for yourself. Yes, you may have made $2,000 on your launch day. Heck, you may make $2,000 per day for a week. Do not make the mistake of doing the math on $2k X 365. The more likely scenario is that your game will be making $10 per day a month after launch.

2. Game quality does not guarantee success. Quality certainly increases your chances of success, but if customers don't know about it, it might as well be the crappiest game on the planet, because it's not going to sell many copies at all. Visibility is key, and getting it is much harder than making the game in the first place.

3. Start small. Try and keep your first game small and cheap, without it looking cheap. If you can figure out how to keep your costs low, but your quality high, your odds of profiting go up quite a bit.
05-07-2011, 09:03 PM
#4
Joined: Dec 2010
Location: ΖΞN
Posts: 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little White Bear Studios View Post
...Visibility is key, and getting it is much harder than making the game in the first place.
This for sure is key.

I think that you (Bangz) being a gameplay programmer, then you will have a good eye for what exactly to do which people will want. It's the promotion and marketing that I also find tricky...my background is physics/graphics programmer. Hopefully after more than 1 app then cross-promotion will ensure "enough to live on".

BubbleSand - "the best sand app"
Tetroms
05-08-2011, 01:24 AM
#5
A very sobering post from Little White Bear - thanks. We're about to release our first game. Like anyone else we're trying to make something that's really good and has a good balance of fitting in and standing out. But then also do the harder (and less fun) part of letting people know about it.

As our game has progressed I've had thoughts of leaving my day job (which I don't much like) to concentrate on the game and the marketing of it. But... as optimistic as I like to be, I do know that the majority of indie apps have poor sales. But sometimes it's all to easy to concentrate on the success stories we hear about. Perhaps that has it's use though - as motivation.

When feeling optimistic I think our game has enough initial appeal to make it's way into the charts - and enough lasting appeal to sustain some momentum for a while. But then again, it's so hard to get noticed with the sheer number of apps that are released every week.

The sensible devs I've read about try to create a portfolio of apps in a relatively short period of time. I wish I could work on more than one idea at a time - but I tend to get completely absorbed into a project which doesn't leave much room for anything else.

Play Yam Yam!
Download some great music for your game projects.
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05-08-2011, 02:13 AM
#6
You programmers must have an invisibility cloak when it comes to me posting my desparate threads.

Concerning artwork its cheap if you know where to go.
05-08-2011, 05:17 AM
#7
Junior Member [Original Poster]
Joined: May 2011
Posts: 4
Thanks for the great feedback.

LittleWhiteBear, it's great to hear that you're doing well on the AppStore, living the dream! And thanks for the good advice, it sounds sensible (less risky) to aim for a shorter development time, such as to not put all our eggs in one basket. And to put a great deal of effort into hype and marketing.

Plooper and others, where is good to go for good quality 2d artwork? We do have working capital we can use, and I'd be happy to offer commission.
05-08-2011, 06:02 AM
#8
Joined: Dec 2010
Location: ΖΞN
Posts: 304
Reality

How *not* to do things (attached). The first "mountain" was just after release and peaked at 110...you can see the rest since then. I think our app will do better on Android...something I never before imagined could be.

Sure I enjoyed making the app, and I'm giving it an overhaul even though it's too late. Hopefully this can be finished before I *return* to the dayjob! Hopefully retaining time for the hobby.
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BubbleSand - "the best sand app"
Tetroms
05-08-2011, 06:42 AM
#9
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by plooper View Post
You programmers must have an invisibility cloak when it comes to me posting my desparate threads.

Concerning artwork its cheap if you know where to go.
where are these threads?
05-08-2011, 08:10 AM
#10
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Berlin, Germany
Posts: 1,674
Quote:
Originally Posted by blitter View Post
How *not* to do things (attached). The first "mountain" was just after release and peaked at 110...you can see the rest since then. I think our app will do better on Android...something I never before imagined could be.

Sure I enjoyed making the app, and I'm giving it an overhaul even though it's too late. Hopefully this can be finished before I *return* to the dayjob! Hopefully retaining time for the hobby.
I find it more than puzzling that people believe they will make easier money on android.

And if people belive in cheap but great art they also belive in santa clause.

@bangz: if you are someone with several triple a titles under his belt you should know how basic economics work and nothing comes cheap.

Chances are more than big that you will fail so as with everything in life if you got a chance to get a job in the biz take it..

Instead of putting everything into one pot try to aim for alot smaller projects to test the water with.. Something along a month or so at most.

Get this done,released and see how itworks out. This will give you an good insight into how the store works, how promotion works etc.

It makes no sense to me to gamble everything on one project.

As a general note: i find it funny how people assume a gameplay programmer comes up with the ideas in the first place.