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Spilt Milk Studios Development Diary 16: Long Days
Not so much to talk about this (third!) week. Delays can be blamed on the busy October/November calendar for anyone in the games business who values going to shows and conferences. Not only was there the Eurogamer Expo a few weeks back, but more have cropped up since – and it was my pleasure to take part in them in a meaningful way, not just as a schmoozer (though that is pretty good fun).
So I’ve been on a panel at Explay in Plymouth (and helped judge the gamejam entries too, which was mega fun!) where myself a few others talked about what we see as the challenges in modern games development and publishing – as independents rather than as established big-league players. We’re in a great position to find new ways of making money and getting into touch with our audiences, but often don’t have the money or scope to properly follow through on these opportunities.
Gamecity in Nottingham was fantastic. I urge anyone who has even a slight interest in games to head to Gamecity next (and every!) year because it filled me with a frankly embarrassing amount of pride in what we do. Making games is something culturally important, socially relevant and the most outrageously creative medium in existence. Enough of the superlatives. It was great, we showed Hard Lines to the general public for two days in the main tent. Below you can see the graph for sales over those few days:
Underneath here you can see the same period the week before. I’ll be honest the uptick in sales is good (note that these graphs only cover iOS) but the previous week’s downtick is confusing. Either way the presence at Gamecity seemed to have a beneficial effect on sales. That makes me happy! (Not to mention Richard Lemarchand totally bought it in front of me!)
I also went to the London Games Conference which was interesting. Despite the occasional talk verging into sales pitches on products and companies, some very thought provoking (and often reassuring!) points were made. The one thing that stuck in my head is that Tencent’s income every year is more than that of western publishers combined. All of them. Put together. Crazy!
Moving on to Hard Lines, we’ve submitted (and are fully expecting it to be out this week) an update that does two things. One is it adds iCade support. Why? All of two people are going to take advantage of that, right? Well, yes and no. As part of the Android support for Hard Lines (specifically the Xperia Play) we needed to add a button-reading system for menus. While adding that, it became apparent that we weren’t a million miles away from iCade support. And hey presto, an unexpected feature was added to our list! Obviously it also helps in the future if we, say, want to port to the Vita (using the Android support).
The second fix was more to do with IAP. I pointed out last week that we’d messed up by allowing every player to see the ‘Lionel’s Hard Cash’ mode in the standard mode select screen. This meant a lot of people felt like they were being asked to pay £54.99 to buy a single mode. Obviously that wasn’t our intent, and this update removes it from that carousel until you’ve bought it via the ‘Infinite Hard Cash’ option in the in-game shop. The damage may be done for some players, but moving forwards we have to assume that the majority of new players won’t notice or even be aware.
So how are sales going? Well, on iOS, we’re fighting a downwards trend. It’s sad, and I have lots of plans to turn it around, but week after week our average sales get just a little smaller. The positive side is that we’re primed to update with tons of content (a few outside factors are limiting our ability to do so right this very minute, but we’re expecting to have plenty of new stuff out before Christmas) and I am sure that we all know the power of sizeable content updates to generate new sales and reinvigorate the life of a game.
Part of this confidence is the amount of active users we’re still seeing. Not only do we have 15,500+ active users right now, we keep getting good reviews (4 and 5 stars all the way) thanks to a prompt we added with the last update, and a vocal community on the forums and on twitter. Things are far from over, even as I look towards releasing a second game to support the income we’re seeing from Hard Lines. And when that happens, we’ll be experimenting with cross-promotion and all the fun opportunities that will bring with it!
So next time (which may be more than a fortnight away, admittedly) we’ll be looking a bit at the Android sales so far, and if you’re lucky unveiling some of the solid plans we have for taking Hard Lines onwards into 2012. Exciting? I damn well hope so!
Hard Lines update regularity – 1.4 updates per month (7 updates in 5 months)
People involved in Hard Lines dev – 4
Beta Testers – 35
Dietary changes during development – I take my tea black now (no sugar, either)
Other games in development – 3