Indie devs who put ads in their games are fools!

On June 19, 2015, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

Imagine you downloaded a racing game and launch it. This is the first thing you see:

Car Ad

You think: “Cool, that’s a really nice car! Graphics look even better than on the App Store screenshots. Okay, of course I want to ‘Race Now!'”

Worst case scenario: you are gone, happily playing that new (and arguably better) racing game. The Indie dev gets his fair share of the deal: $0.10.

This rant needs more detail …

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Why “Free to Play” is bad for Indie Game Developers

On January 9, 2014, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

The “Free to Play” business model is bad for us independent game developers. If we try to implement it, that is.

Let me first explain what a typical (casual, mobile) free to play game works like. The type of game that works so well on mobile, revenue-wise, that it’s all the rave and even Indies are tempted or have tried to follow down that path.

A typical, casual free to play mobile game

As you launch the app you’re presented with colorful, charming visual imagery and characters with unnaturally large eyes. This is visual appeal 101 if you’re aware of the composition of an art style that provokes a heartfelt, warming charm. Like a meadow in full bloom it appeals to all audiences. Like a meadow in full bloom it is nothing special if you know when and where to find it.

Typically you aren’t given any choice but to start playing the game. The rules are extremely simple at the start, the interaction understood in a split second and the early levels are designed for player success. It’s a series of visual and audible successes and before you begin to truly enjoy it, the level is complete. And that is intentional.

As you progress in the early levels, they all seem over far too quickly as you’re introduced to more game mechanics. This is what gets players hooked, the simple fact that they could keep playing and enjoying themselves but the game always stops them short of getting in the zone. This is the stage where the player is conditioned to advance to level after level.

In a sense, the player isn’t really “free to play” as he or she wants to.

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Cocos2D Developer Survey Results

On November 16, 2012, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

For the past two weeks I’ve been running a Cocos2D Developer Survey. As of today, 236 developers started the survey and 189 finished it completely. That’s 80% despite the many questions they had to answer.

Here are the results with my observations. I started the survey also to see if I was on track with KoboldTouch, and whether certain assumptions hold true. Specifically I had a hunch that cross-platform development is only perceived to have great value or appeal. Let’s see if I was right.

Click on each image for full resolution.

Who are you?

I was very curious how many cocos2d developers consider themselves to be hobbyists and indies compared to professionals, who either work for a mobile developer or are taking on freelance jobs as one.

Almost half of those who answered the survey are hobbyists. Nearly 30% consider themselves indies who make a living making mobile games. This is great!

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Affiliate Store Opened

On November 13, 2011, in Announcements, by Steffen Itterheim

I opened an Affiliate Store page to be able to promote and sell other developer’s products.

Recently I decided to write one big post every other week (bi-weekly on Thursdays) as my iDevBlogADay post. I also wanted to create something exceptional each time. In particular the Compiler Directives list worked great. It bothered me that there was no such list. And apparently I wasn’t the only one looking for that.

That made me start regarding the iDevBlogADay posts essentially as paid writing jobs. Regardless of how little that payment may be, it is adding to my bottom line and it is a welcome additional incentive to put my best efforts into it.

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Stepping a little outside the bowl that is Cocos2D today. I’d like to turn your attention to a very prolific indie developer who has been around for many years. His blog was instrumental on setting my mind towards wanting to become and indie developer. I’m talking about Jay Barnson, better known for his blog Tales of the Rampant Coyote.

In his blog post dubbed Eight Tips to Help You Finish Your Indie Game he collected and published these 8 bits of wisdom:

#1 – Keep It Simple
#2 – The Secret of Scheduling and Budgeting
#3 – Make It Playable as Fast as Possible
#4 – Develop a Cautious Relationship with Scope / Feature Creep
#5 – Be Able to Carry the Project on Your Back
#6 – When In Doubt, Cut It Out
#7 – Save It For the Sequel
#8 – Power Through the Valleys

I specifically value #1 and #3 very highly, with #2 being very important to actually make measurable progress. Measuring your progress in small steps is what’s going to make you feel good about your project and that will keep you going.

I urge you to take #4 through #7 very seriously. I wish you strength for #8, that’s what’s going to hit all of us and in fact, it probably killed thousands of times more cool game projects than big companies cancelled for budgetary (is that a bird?) reasons, or simply because the decision maker hadn’t slept well.

Have a look at Jay’s indie game shoppe at Rampant Games, he sells his own and other indie developer’s titles.

Side Note

As a side note, Jay recently blogged about the web-browser based Lord of Ultima game that launched earlier this year. It’s the game I walked away from, so naturally I was interested to read what the Coyote had to say about it.

His review blew my mind, Jay hit so many nails on the head – both about the good and undesireable aspects of the game – it was unbelievable. Besides it was also fun to read and his conclusion being “Ultima is dead” is exactly what is wrong with the game. In and of itself nothing, the game is actually quite fun and well thought out, but using the Ultima license for that kind of game while not making good use of it … well it’s clear it would bring some more players into the game but ultimately (pun intended) it is severely damaging the brand. Ultima as we old-schoolers knew it, is indeed dead. Lucky for us, we don’t need no Ultima anymore because there’s something better for us!

On the other hand, that also means there’s a future for Ultima. One in which our kids remember Ultima as a series of actually quite good webgames. Oh well, that might not be too bad after all, if I set my “everything was better in the good old days” mind (it starts to develop once you pass age 30) aside for a moment. :)

Add your link to the Cocos2D Linkvent Calendar

Do you have something to share with the Cocos2D community? I haven’t received enough submissions to fill all the days until Xmas, although I do have enough links to post one each day, I’d rather post a link to your website or blog post.

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Mike Kasprzak has been a full-time indie game developer for five years now. He quit his job as Technical Director at Canadian game company Big Blue Bubble, with the words “being too ambitious for my own good”. What followed were 5 years of attempting to strike big as an Indie but, well, not doing so well after all in the XNA space. But things turned for the better when the iPhone SDK came along. In 2008 he created and released the puzzle game Smiles, it grew in popularity over time and from the lessons learned Mike began to make ports of the game, including Windows Phone 7. The game even won him a car!

Read Mike’s recap of his past five years being a full-time indie game developer.

Make sure you also check out his blog tooNormal ?! where you can learn a few more things about Mike. He is also running the Ludum Dare game competition and he wrote a chapter about writing portable code in the iPhone Games Projects book published by Apress.

Add your link to the Cocos2D Linkvent Calendar

Do you have something to share with the Cocos2D community? I haven’t received enough submissions to fill all the days until Xmas, although I do have enough links to post one each day, I’d rather post a link to your website or blog post.

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Marketing for Indies: an excessively long Link List

On October 22, 2010, in Marketing, Mobile Business, by Steffen Itterheim

I’ve been asked to write something about Marketing & PR a lot of times and repeatedly. It seems to be a topic that’s often sought after and mostly misunderstood.

Sometimes, it’s deceivingly complex, as in “How to get my App featured by Apple on the App Store?”. Who the f*ck knows? If you do, be sure to tell everyone about it!

But when you dig deeper, you learn more about the whole “process” and things become a little clearer. I hear you can get lucky if you know the right people at Apple’s PR or App Store department. At least that’s what I was told personally by someone who does PR and knows someone at Apple personally. Ok, not an option for most of us. I also hear that Apple scans certain websites when looking for App Store features, and for games the #1 site to get reviewed by which in turn might lead to an Apple feature is touchArcade. What else, right?

But getting a review on touchArcade is a different matter altogether. From game industry experience, I can tell one thing that almost guarantees to get your game reviewed/featured: it should be looking awesome! And not just the game, you need a trailer that packs a punch or two, one that’s hilarious or one that’s simply exciting and really wets your appetite. Not easy to do, but well worth the money if you can outsource it to someone who knows how to do it well. And if your game doesn’t have the looks, or can’t have them, it must be uniquely interesting. Combine the two, and you got yourself a winner. That ought to be easy, right?

Well, yes and no. If you know what you’re doing, it can be easy. And it certainly feels easy in such a case. After all, all the work to set yourself up for success has already been done. But if you don’t happen to be working with world-class artists, programmers, designers – what do you do? You can pour everything you have in being creatively unique. To my mind, that’s one of the reasons why the Indie space has become so successful. It’s not just that being unique and innovative is what the developers want their games to be, it’s actually helping them a lot to get coverage in the first place – it’s even a necessity, and a way to success!

The excessively long Marketing Link List

But back on topic, I actually just wanted to share a link list with you. It’s called:

The Big List Of Indie Marketing And Business Tips

Here’s the index … as you can see, it contains a lot more than just links about marketing alone:

  1. Marketing
  2. Press Release Sites
  3. Business
  4. Piracy
  5. Interviews
  6. Game Revenue And Sales
  7. Advertising
  8. E-Mail Marketing
  9. Jobs
  10. Indie Funding
  11. Merchandise
  12. E-Commerce Payment Processors

And one link you should not miss: a free eBook about Videogame Marketing & PR!

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Back from the devs

On October 5, 2010, in Announcements, by Steffen Itterheim

I’m back from Macoun, and it was nice meeting you all! Well, actually since that conference was just a 90 minute ride away, so I wasn’t really gone, except mentally. I spent a lot of time last week to prepare my presentation (in german), and fighting a cold. The subject was a game component system that I wrote on top of cocos2d, to encapsulate most of the cocos2d CCNode stuff and allowing me to focus on writing re-usable gameplay components. The system works but it’s not production tested. Still it’s proven very promising from my initial tests and opens some interesting opportunities, for example the re-use of components is a huge timesaver, and you can totally get rid of any class hierarchy and remain flexible throughout development. Due to writing the book and other things I hadn’t had the time to develop it as much as I wanted to. I’ll release it eventually but for the moment, I have a different focus.

For one, I’m late with the Game Center chapter due to the Macoun conference preparations, an upcoming wedding and an apartment renovation of the soon-to-be-wed as their wedding gift. So I’ll try to cram writing both the Game Center chapter and the final chapter in this week, before turning my attention to updating the Line-Drawing Starterkit and Xcode project. I did not intend to support non-beta versions of cocos2d, but given how long the recent betas last and how many developers actually use the latest beta (probably due to HD support) and how significant the breaking changes are this time, I’m going to update the starterkit and Xcode project with HD support while keeping the old project for those who would rather use the stable 0.99.4 version of cocos2d. Once that’s done, it’ll be mid of October and another project, only partly concerning cocos2d, kicks in full speed. No time to lose.

Speaking of the Starterkit, September went by and I made 10 sales, without advertising it or anything, so those numbers are at the lower end of the “potential sales” spectrum. That’s a sum (over $1,500) that I can live with. Well, actually, that’s a sum that I can live off of. On a related matter, I recently found a page detailling the traffic stats of the cocos2d-iphone.org website. If those stats are correct, the unique visits are over ten times that of my site. Now, frankly speaking, every time I get those little facts and stats from here and there over the past couple months, and then added up the numbers, compared them with mine, applied reasonably pessimistic estimations and caution, I do wonder: why the hell isn’t cocos2d run like a business?

If you ask me, with those traffic stats and a reasonable conversion rate of 0.1% per unique visitor (mine is over 0.2%), one could easily pay 3 people to develop cocos2d, test it, write documentation, moderate the forum, and in general adding more business value. Which in turn grows the business, speeds up the development of the engine, tools and by-products and will make everyone benefit from that. I don’t get it. Because at this point, it’s either going to be that, or a slow decline to a niche product over the next couple years due to the increasingly strong competition from other iOS engines. Especially those that offer cross-platform support, since that’s what contractors are asking for, or even demanding, more and more.

Anyhow, for my part, I decided that now would be a good time to start doing the Indie thing full-time, still accepting contract work but I’m able to be a lot pickier about it. I have a goal set out for myself, and it’s not a simple one. I’ve always enjoyed most to help my colleagues, to fix their problems, to support them and in general, to help them achieve excellence. I know, that sounds like something you’d find in EA’s job matrix – and in fact, you do. Helping others achieve excellence, throughout my professional career, that’s what I’ve been doing and enjoying the most. Now I find myself doing that for cocos2d developers, enjoying it and being able to support myself in the process. Well, I think I’ll have to thank you, my dear readers, for that. :)

As a thank you back, I’ve started working on a bigger project about 3 months ago that will be useful and helpful to many indie game developers, regardless of the engine you may be using. Hence it deserves its own website and a cool name (darn, that is hard!). I’m looking forward to really getting into high gear with it after I’ve submitted the remaining book chapters. Stay tuned.

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