A marketing oversight on my part …

On August 26, 2010, in Marketing, Speaking From Experience, by Steffen Itterheim

I noticed that most of my recent posts revolve around the cocos2d book. It’s so very easy to forget one’s online presence while you’re frantically working on projects. I’ve seen it countless times and I don’t want to fall into the same trap. That is: create, create, create and then: announce. Boom. No one’s interested anymore. Everyone moved on. You lost your share of the Internet attention span. That certainly would be a shame because besides the book, I was working on other things over the past two months and I’m looking forward to making an announcement in the coming months. I think it will strike a similar nerve than the cocos2d book did. But it’s not limited to cocos2d, so it’ll get its own website, that much I can say. And yes, I love to tease. :)

I think programmers are especially prone to making the mistake of neglecting their online presence, their virtual alter ego that lives on the Internet 24/7. It’s all too easy to become deeply engrossed with what you’re working on, particularly if it’s a very technical thing. Once you’re done you get a burst of satisfaction and then you’re looking for the next fix which of course is spending more time on the project. In the meantime everyone else around you, and on the Internet that means blog readers, are wondering what you’re up to. If it goes on for a while without actually producing something, readers will stop wondering and start not caring anymore.

Numerous times have I read that you need to start marketing as soon as you start creating. At least that’s true for Indie developers. And how many times have I seen people fail at this? All too frequently. Typical scenario: our game is done, now how do we go about the marketing? Your blog should be your marketing instrument from day one. The other negligence for marketing simply stems from a deeply rooted repulsion for promoting one’s efforts and products. I certainly feel that too but I manage to live with it because it helps me strike a balance. I could only make a sales pitch like this one if I was primarily in it for the money (sorry Matt, that’s the impression the site is giving me because it’s too close for comfort to Internet marketer sites).

Most blogs die before they have even started. It’s hard to get readers attention in the first place but I think it’s much harder not to lose them over time. I learned it’s finding the right mixture of blog posts that will create the most interest and attention to readers, a careful balance that one needs to strike. Let me explain the categories of blog posts which I think are valuable but, if not mixed in with other categories, may be too niche to keep readers coming back more often. Unless you explicitly target a tiny niche, in that case a focused approach works quite well.

Concrete Learning Posts

Bloggers who provide sample source code and solutions for a particular platform fall into this category. You write a small tutorial or just a quick fix for a particular technology issue. The good side is that it shows off skill (sometimes) and that you’re being helpful. The downside of these posts is that, especially in the case of Tutorials, they attract a great number of readers but few will stay or come back. Smaller code solutions and quick fixes often get reader’s attention only through google, they copy the code and are gone. The blogosphere is saturated with information everyone needs to learn, because most of us are still learning. What’s often missing are the really hardcore ideas. Take that example and it makes me wonder, could this work to get cocos2d nodes to support NSCoding just by applying this concept? I’d love to try but I don’t have any need for that and it’s on the roadmap anyway.

The problem with the smaller code snippet posts, as I see it, is that they are often only losely related. You may find just the right piece of information but the rest may be too straightforward and already known to you that you don’t give it much value. Posts like these better fit on Q&A sites like stackoverflow.com. Also, before posting those bits of wisdom it may be wise to check if that information isn’t ubiquitious. Chances are someone else came to the same solution months before you. Posting what others have posted numerous times before does devalue your blog. In that case prefer a post that sums up all the other great posts on the topic. That works so much better since you’ll be sharing your own research.

And definitely share your current development status. I love those work-in-progress posts. I’ll be writing more of these in the future.

Concrete Experience Posts

You may be surprised how interesting your (development) life’s experiences can be. About a year ago I started a german Spieleentwicklerveteranen (Game Development Veterans) Podcast, in which I simply told my experiences within the game industry. How games come to be, what life is like as a game developer, why people start working for a games company and which kind of experiences they may be going through, from good to bad. Just a very hands-on, personal opinion approach with a couple anecdotal stories. I only produced two episodes though, mostly due to lack of planning and because it’s not really that much fun to do a podcast without a regular, reliable partner. Yet to this day I frequently get emails asking me for the next podcast.

Readers love to read and hear about experiences for two reasons: either they are less experienced than you are, and get a glimpse at what it must be like to be at your level. Or they actually are at the same level than you are, and they can relate. Suddenly they’re not so alone anymore.

Recently I spoke to a former colleague of mine who set out to write his own game, I think he has all the necessary skills and he certainly had the motivation and drive to go through with it. But as time passes by, and he kept working all by himself and more often than he wanted to, faced serious technological challenges that hindered his game’s progress. Not being able to actually talk to like-minded people and getting tips from a range of professions, as we were both used to during our time at game development studios, can be a serious motivation killer. And you guessed it, he has no blog and not even a Twitter account.

For me, one thing to fight off incoming demotivational phases is to converse with the people out there and blog my experiences, at least once in a while. I like helping others answer their question because I know how it sucks to be stuck, I also learn valuable lessons from it and I feel good to be able to help or at least nudge developers in the right direction. It also leads me to think in different directions and helps connecting the dots, so that’s where the interesting experience stories are actually born. Wait a second, I was in the exact same spot back then …

I believe experiences, if they provide a meaningful resolution are the most valuable blog posts anyone could write. But those don’t come natural to most developers (or people in general – but I’m not saying that developers != people). So that’s a conundrum. We programmers love the DRY principle (if you don’t you’re not a programmer yet), but that doesn’t translate to blogging and even less to marketing. Like my Starterkit, I know I should mention it more often to make a decent number of sales over the coming months yet the programmer in me tells me that, oh well, those who’ll like it will find it regardless. Trust me, they don’t. I am tempted to mention it more often, at least on Twitter, and maybe give away some promo codes or get someone to write a review. But what to say about it? Look, it’s here. The same thing from last week. Oh great. Yeah, I think you get the picture. It’s really hard to REPEAT YOURSELF without becoming obnoxious. We all know the kind. Personally, I don’t follow Twitter accounts whose tweets mention their own product(s) about 50% of the time or more, unless they provide interesting insights into their work.

Ramblings aka Opinion Pieces

Everyone loves to have an opinion. It’s very easy, tempting and almost natural to start blogging with a lot of opinion pieces. I started in 2007 with my gaminghorror.net blog and almost all early posts were opinion pieces. I think that, unless you know exactly what you’re talking about and can construct a careful argument, that those kind of posts can easily backfire. Either you’re an expert and a critical thinker and you are able to dissect your thoughts into constructive opinion, or else you risk being regarded as a loudmouthed idiot who doesn’t know squat. There’s a fine line to walk. Certainly no one cares about whether you like a certain product or technology more than another, or yet another opinion on the same issue unless you can provide a new, fresh argument. But if you have an actual pet-peeve, something that comes from your heart and that just totally goes against everything you believe in, that’s what should become a great insightful blog post.

For example, one of my pet peeves is to fight off the Piracy Problem by saying it doesn’t really exist. Except in our minds. We don’t have a piracy problem, we have a perception problem. We just make ourselves believe that most of the time piracy is bad for business. There is a real threat but it has a much less impact than the piracy numbers lead us to believe once you factor in human behavior. For App developers it’s widely understood and appreciated that, once their App is free for a day, the downloads jump through the roof. Ten or even 100 times more downloads for free than at the $.79 price point. Yet when we consider piracy, we see great numbers exactly because the software is free yet we forget to consider that, if any pirated software would cost just $.79 the piracy numbers would drop at least ten-fold. I can’t prove it, but I sure as hell believe it because that’s how software piracy works. It’s not a market, it’s a movement that exists only because there is no money involved, set aside a few scrupulous industrial pirates.

Paul Graham puts it best in his essay What you can’t say. It’s the things that might (or will) get you in trouble which perhaps should, or must, be said. The ideas that people fear might be true. Like Galileo’s moving earth theory. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Conclusion

So what am I saying, I forgot to market myself? Not quite, I’d rather see it as an invitation. By writing more blog posts and allowing anyone who is interested to literally “read my mind” I invite you to take part. And dozens of developers have taken this offer so far.

I get a lot of emails and I answer all of them, even if it takes me a couple days to get to each and every one of them. There are valuable exchanges of information and knowledge and some of that would be of a general interest. But because I spend the time writing to a single person I tend to write less blog posts to a greater audience. I make observations and find solutions all the time and learn from them. Some of that actually goes into the book as I’m writing it. But what I should do more is to let everyone in on more of my insights or simply what I’m up to.

When I look at this website from an outsider’s point of view, I see too much focus on the book right now. A few valuable posts in between but not enough for my taste. I have a tendency that, once I start writing, I write a lot. This is bad because it costs a lot of time and effort. So I avoid it too often. Yet, often times it’s the tiny pieces that can be just as important. Because your time is valuable, too!

Going forward I vouch to write at least one blog post per week that’s not about the cocos2d book, and may not even be about cocos2d specifically, like this post, but still generally interesting to iOS game developers of course.

I also need to write shorter posts. The sun is setting … again?!?! 😮

About App Store whiners, again …

On June 9, 2010, in Mobile Business, by Steffen Itterheim

WOS Blog has a post online which really sums up well how i look at the App Store:

“Don’t believe anyone who whines that it’s hard to make money with a really good game on the App Store, viewers. They’re either lying, or imbeciles, or both.”

It’s called How not to do it and covers some basis of why certain Apps succeed while others fall by the wayside. Sometimes it’s a matter of beating someone to the market, other times to learn from other’s mistakes, but mostly to price your Apps fairly.

A while ago i read about Indie game developers who eventually thought it would be a good idea to spend 3-6 months on their next game, to sell the App by means of quality and content. While there are chances that this will work and even reward you greatly money-wise, it also increases your risks by several factors. You’re going down the same path that leads to similar problems of the AAA game developers, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s a hit-driven business. If you did moderately well on your 1-2 month games, and then you do a 3-6 month game, your chances of making it a success get slimmer and slimmer. It does help to understand the market and marketing but even that won’t help you if the game doesn’t vibe with players.

So, would you rather have a less than 50% chance of making it (relatively) big, or a 100% chance of doing moderately well?

Of course, if you can keep running the 100% part of your business you should really consider making the bet. But if you have no money to spare you should stick with moderately well and instead keep pumping out moderately well doing games. Make 8 of those over the year and you got yourself a respectable business nonetheless.

I wonder what happened to those Indies and their “big project”? Hmmm …

Starterkit: Line-Drawing

On May 27, 2010, in , by Steffen Itterheim

Line-Drawing Game Starterkit

Site License! Unlimited Apps!

Royalty Free! No Attribution!

60 day money-back guarantee!

Made with the popular cocos2d-iphone game engine.
Compatible with cocos2d-iphone v1.1 and v2.0, Xcode 4.6 and iOS 6.
Includes ARC enabled versions of the starterkit!


Sale – only $49 !


All Starterkit project artwork provided by Arezou Ipakchi Design. Promotional images created by Justin from CartoonSmart.

What it is:

Get a head-start for your Line-Drawing game and save days if not weeks of your time! You’ll get gameplay code modelled after the extremely popular Flight Control game. You’ll learn how to draw lines, detect touches on objects, have objects follow a path – and much, much more! Written by a professional game developer and game industry veteran (me) the source code is annotated with lots of comments explaining my rationale and written with readability in mind.

Contains separate iPhone & iPad targets!

The Starterkit includes targets for iPhone and iPad using the same code if you don’t want to create a Universal app, for example to reduce your app’s size or to be able to charge more for the iPad version. If the iPad Target is selected hi-res iPad images will be used. Image selection is done automatically by loading those images whose filenames have the “-ipad” suffix, the same suffix cocos2d uses.

What others are saying:

“Code is quite clearly written and decently documented […] definitely a fine investment.”
From: Commercial cocos2d Code review from Alex Curylo.

“It was an awesome moment when I found the source for a line draw game of this caliber.”
-Franklin Lyons, SpinFall

“Especially the path and movement system is saving me lots of headaches.”
-Martin Hoffmann

Games made with this Starterkit:

Launch Control

Ferries HD

Feature List:

  • cleanly seperated and well-structured GameScene code design with a minimum of dependencies
  • easy to add new objects and extend object parameters
  • touch object & draw a path for it (whether it’s already following a path or not)
  • path drawing ends when path is drawn over appropriate target location (eg airstrip for airplanes, respecting angle of approach)
  • path drawing ends when arbitrary point limit is exceeded (to avoid slowdowns)
  • path is drawn when dragged with thick transparent line style like Harbor Master, without glitches
  • path is split into equal length pieces no matter how quickly user moves finger
  • objects spawn outside screen, locations can be re-defined and extended
  • objects display incoming warning marker at screen border
  • objects display collision warning when any two of them are getting too close
  • objects follow path to end – then fade out and increase score or continue moving
  • objects always rotate in movement direction
  • objects bounce back at screen borders
  • motivational Labels for successful landings, precached
  • Score and HighScore Labels
  • HighScore saved to disk between play sessions
  • supports both Landscape orientations with autorotation
  • loads correct resource files depending on Target (iPhone or iPad)
  • proper Pause handling for incoming calls, SMS
  • many generally useful Math Helper functions included
  • lots of comments explaining rationale and giving tips for improvement
  • assertive coding style to help catch coding errors early on
  • offline and online documentation
  • you can choose between using cocos2d-iphone v1.1 and v2.0
  • you can choose between using ARC or classic manual reference counting
  • compatible with iOS 5.0 and newer, including iOS 6
  • compatible with Xcode 4.6 (the most recent versions also work)
  • easy setup: just unzip, open Xcode project, select build scheme, build and run

Questions? Need Help?

Just send me an email.

Legal Disclaimer

Cocos2D is a registered trademark of Ricardo Quesada. Steffen Itterheim, the Learn & Master Cocos2D website and the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit are neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Zynga or Ricardo Quesada.


Try Before Buy!

Demo App for iPhone
Demo App for iPad

Browse the API Documentation

View a Code Sample


Buy Now!

Site License! Unlimited Apps!

Royalty Free! No Attribution!

60 day money-back guarantee!

Made with the popular cocos2d-iphone game engine.
Compatible with cocos2d-iphone v1.1 and v2.0, Xcode 4.6 and iOS 6.
Includes ARC enabled versions of the starterkit!


Sale – only $49 !



License Agreement

Copyright

Purchase grants you the License to use and modify the source code and assets under the following Terms and Conditions:

You are not allowed to make the source code publicly available. You are not allowed to give or sell the source code to others, modified or not. Licenses are not transferable.

All Licenses are royalty free. You can make as many free or commercial Apps using the source code as you want. You may re-use any existing assets in your App.

If you do contract work and have or want to give the Starterkit source code to your client, your client needs to purchase a Site License as well.

Site License

Each purchase grants you a Site License. The Site license grants you the use of the Starterkit without restrictions at one site.

A site is an office, building or living space rented or owned by the company or individual making the purchase. It allows anyone working on site to use and modify the Starterkit source code.

Large companies operating at several sites need to purchase a site license for each individual location if the Starterkit is to be used at multiple locations. Contact me if you’re such a corporation and you prefer a flat fee license with your own license text to go along with it.

Support

Updates to the Starterkit are done on an as needed basis. I will also keep it up to date and running with the latest stable releases of cocos2d. Updates are distributed via a download link sent to the email address you used for your order. If your email address ever changes please contact me, ideally you should forward me your order confirmation in that case to speed up the change.

Source Code not covered by this License

The licensed Source Code project contains files which are available for free and are governed by different licenses. The Terms & Conditions outlined here do not apply to source code files which do not contain the Copyright notice “Copyright (year) Steffen Itterheim. All rights reserved.”.

Disclaimer

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE REGENTS OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Questions? Contact me!

If you have any questions or if you require specific License texts before making a purchase, please contact me.



If you think your game suffers tremendeously from App Store Piracy, you’re wrong. To put it bluntly: your game has simply failed on the market!

Reports that put the App Store piracy rates at “at least 60%” and developers reporting piracy rates of 80% and even up to 95% are mathematically correct but what they often forget to tell you are actual sales numbers. In the rare cases where Indie developers also mention how many sales they have made, pirates or not, these numbers are always extremely low. For a commercial developer who reports an 80% piracy rate on one of his games it’s simply an attempt to turn terrible sales into a PR story which might give their game a little bit more attention. In fact, i expect the games who report piracy rates of over 30% to have sold no more than 5,000 copies. At $.99 this creates a revenue of $3,500 – maybe a good number for a two-man team but a catastrophe for a commercial developer. This is hardly a problem caused by piracy but a simple failure of the product on the market.

What you have to understand about Software Pirates in general: they use a lot of software. In fact, this is their hobby and favorite passtime, to try out as much software as they can get their hands on. So you will always have a minimum amount of pirated copies of each piece of software, no matter how successful this software is (or not). Of course, with higher success and more sales of the software more pirates are also likely to use it because they, too, value quality software. But given the amount of jailbroken iPhone devices prepared to run pirated software there’s a hard cap of the maximum amount of piracy you will ever see on any title. Just as much as there will be a minimum number of pirates playing every game as soon as it becomes available and regardless of how successful it is on the App Store. If your sales are close or below that minimum number of pirates, you naturally get piracy rates of over 50%. These pirates don’t cut into your revenue however. Ignore them. They never would have bought your App in the first place!


David Rosen from Wolfire reports in his Another View on Piracy article that the highest number of Jailbroken iPhones worldwide is said to be 10%, and in the USA – whose users constitute about two thirds of the iPhone/iPod market – the number of jailbroken devices is just 5%. Assuming a total installed base of 75 Million iPhones (50 Mio. as of April 2010) and iPod touches (20 Mio. as of Sept. 2009) we get at most 7.5 Mio jailbroken devices worldwide, or approximately 2.5 Mio jailbroken devices in the USA. They are not all pirates, however. PinchMedia reports that 38% of jailbroken devices have run at least one pirated App. They also state this number is low. So let’s just take half and we’ll end up with 3.75 Mio. jailbroken devices worldwide which have run at least one pirated App. Still a pretty high number – but it only tells us that they have started one pirated App but not how many or how much of a pirate these users really are. If i had to guess i would say that 10% or just about 400,000 of these users are active pirates who try out a lot of Apps on an almost daily basis. These are the pirates who make the biggest impact in terms of per-App piracy numbers. They are also the users who are least likely to upgrade their pirated copy to a legal one, if they ever do it at all. And trying to fight these pirates is anything but futile – they will never be your customers!

PinchMedia also supports my theory that most Pirates try out as much Software as they can which, of course, leaves less time to use each App intensely: “Pirated applications are used less frequently, less intensely, and for a shorter overall length of time than purchased applications.”

Let’s go back to the gist of it: developers who have a problem with App Store Piracy have, in my opinion, either a problem of perception or they’re making a simple PR statement aimed at getting them more attention, hoping to achieve better sales. The developers who suffer most from App Store Piracy are those who simply are not successful. Their real problem isn’t Piracy, it’s much more likely that they failed either at Marketing, Timing, Quality or finding their Target Audience.

Let me sum this up with a simple chart which i think explains why App Store developers report amazingly high piracy rates, when in fact they are reporting the commercial failure of their App:

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