Today it was exactly 6 months since I made the first sale of my Line-Drawing Game Starterkit for Cocos2D. I just glanced at the number labelled “Total” in the Plimus control panel: $18,479.05 … all of this from a single product over a period of 6 months!

No Product Launch Formula

I wish I could tell you exactly how to reproduce that level of success. I certainly did not implement the widely publicized and so called product launch formula. I’m sure PLF is valuable but the way it’s being sold makes it a scam to my mind. Why? Because it’s sold only once or twice a year, you can never just buy it, you have to wait for it, and when it goes on sale, people are more than happy to pay an outrageous price for something they could get much cheaper from reading the proper books and applying some common sense. That’s just a side note.

I also have to admit, I have no hard data where my customers are coming from other than they’re from all over the world. Or why each of them is buying or why some of them are interested but end up not doing it. Some will have followed me for quite a while, some found my website via google, others got wind of it through word of mouth and most recently they may have read about the Starterkit in my Learn Cocos2D book.

For the most part I have only informal data that I can share.

Little hard data

Thankful customers writing me that this was exactly what they’ve been looking for, and why. Only 3 refunds if I recall correctly, two were expecting something different and another one found Corona shortly after buying and decided to use Corona over Cocos2D, so he wasn’t going to use my Starterkit. As far as I can tell, most customers are not companies or teams of people but individual developers.

The level of support requests I received were minimal. I estimate that less than 10% of all customers contacted me for support, and almost all support incidents were solved after exchanging one or two emails. Most issues were caused by the fact that I didn’t include Cocos2D with the download, so they were mostly Cocos2D version mismatches and incorrect project setups. I definitely learned from that and will be including Cocos2D in all future versions of the Starterkit to cut down support incidents even more.

Clearly, there are two distinct groups of customers: those who would like to learn how to write a Line-Drawing game, hoping to eventually release it and in any case learn to understand Cocos2D and game development a little better on the side. And then those who plan to publish a commercial Line-Drawing game and want to cut corners, speed up development.

What I learned

For a while I was thinking that you need to have a frequently visited website like mine – over 5,000 visits per week here. You need to be well connected (followed) on Twitter. A Newsletter with many people on it that you can write to at any time is also very helpful. And having been a long time developer at Electronic Arts must surely be reassuring that I know what I’m doing. Next to actually showing that by writing a book. None of that is something you can do in just a couple of days or weeks.

I’m happy to report that you don’t need any of that to reproduce the success I’ve had with my Starterkit.

So skip your job application for EA, scrap the book draft and save your money on yet another type of scam: how to get 10,000 Twitter followers in 30 days. You don’t need them. Dan Nelson told me recently that the source code for his BATAK Duel game sold 14 copies in less than a month, priced at $297 (now: $149.99). The product page was just a simple blog post and yet still managed to bring in over $4,000 of revenue in the first month! For comparison, the first 30 days of the Line-Drawing Kit amounted to sales worth $5,370 revenue (before tax and everything).

BATAK Duel gameplay video:

I can also say with certainty that promo codes are a great idea, my 50% sale was a huge success. It generated over $4,000 in revenue and with another $5,000 made in the first month that means that half of my sales were generated by only two events: product launch, and 50% off promo codes. Maybe there’s something to the product launch formulas after all? But honestly, I think that’s just common sense. If you want to sell something, don’t sit around hoping for customers coming to you. Just as much as sex sells (in general), events sell products. Price drops, bundles, freebies, and so on. Get the word out, and do it frequently, and give something away for free – the simplest being information, knowledge, share experiences and data.

And think Steam!

I could have done more of that. But I was writing a book and it was also kind of an experiment to see how sales are affected if I’m not promoting the product in any way for a while. It was sobering to see sales drop to just a few per month three months after launch. Likewise it was exciting to see the reception (and sales) during the 50% sales event.

What I can also say with confidence is that if you offer a products that developers are interested in, they will buy it. And quite a number of developers are interested in commercial source code products to make this a viable market. It’s not just game code, it’s also components for regular App development that are very popular and lucrative.

The Secret is: Common Sense

And there’s another secret I’d like to share: developing an App Store game takes months to complete it, and if you’re truly passionate it can take even more months just to polish it, get it right in every aspect. Still your chances of tanking in the market are rather high, the stakes are high but the risks are even higher, even more so the longer you’ve spent developing your game.

So it’s only going to be a matter of time before more developers learn the secret that selling one’s source code for a game that’s already on the App Store is not just an additional revenue stream, it’s a rather lucrative one and one that allows you to cross-promote both products. In fact, suddenly you have two products on two different markets for two different kinds of customers with very little extra effort.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Think about it. It makes perfect sense.

Even more so for me because I have always enjoyed working on game technology and enabling game developers to excel more than actually finishing a game, with polished gameplay, an intuitive user experience and fixing all those obscure bugs cropping up at the last minute.

Also, if you need help making sales, I have good news for you: there will be an affiliate store available here in the next couple weeks. If you’re interested in becoming an affiliate, give me a shout.

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My eBook’s being pirated. I’m taking advantage of that.

On December 6, 2010, in book, cocos2d, Marketing, by Steffen Itterheim

Discuss this topic on Cocos2D Central.

My Learn iPhone and iPad Cocos2D Game Development book is out and that inevitably meant it would appear on websites offering download links to illegal copies of the book.

Since there’s really nothing that can be done about it that actually works, and because I understand (but not necessarily condone) the reasons for downloading ebooks illegally, I wanted to take a different stance. And so I’m posting my thoughts on the matter on forums and websites, where a link to an illegal download of my ebook is shared.

That way, I hope to convert a minority of the downloaders to buying customers. But my actual goal is to use their websites as marketing instruments. Shamelessly placing my links on their websites and asking their users to come here is just fair and square. If they enable illegal downloads the very least they can do for me is to allow me to enable users to more easily come here, or on rare occassions to actually buy the book. Who said that illegal downloads can’t also be a mutual relationship?

Here’s what I’ve been posting to “warez” and “free ebooks” websites offering downloads or download links of my book:

My Response on Illegal Download Sites

I’m Steffen Itterheim, author of the Learn iPhone and iPad Cocos2D Game Development book.

I see that my book is offered here for download illegally, either directly or via linking to an externally hosted file. I wanted to share my thoughts on this matter.

1) I’m not offended, disappointed or furious.
Why should I be? It’s to be expected. I’ve been working long enough in the software industry to have come to accept piracy as something that shouldn’t affect you at all.

2) I don’t judge you.
A lot of people download(ed) things from the Internet that they shouldn’t have. For some, it’s part of their culture. For others, it’s the only way to take part in a world that they couldn’t otherwise afford to join. For a few, it’s simply a hobby, or a habit. Some claim it’s for research and trying things out before buying, but quite honestly I think they fall in one of the aforementioned categories. Or they’re merely being pragmatic about their spendings, cutting corners where they can.

3) I won’t lecture you either.
Piracy is a fact. It’s not even a market because if piracy wouldn’t exist, most pirated products wouldn’t be selling noticeably better anyway. Only very few pirates would ever buy a product they downloaded.

Those are my convictions on piracy. I think it’s pointless to complain about piracy, and it would be especially stupid of me if I did so in the lion’s den, so to speak. :)

I’m a realist. I understand that some percentage of you will download the book just to have it. You’re the collectors, you may skim over the book before you set it aside in your amazingly well-assorted, categorized archive of eBooks. Enjoy it. Then there’s a percentage of you who download the book on a hunch that you might need it soon, or that it might spark your interest (again) in game development or programming for iOS devices. You probably wouldn’t buy it either. Except for a select few for whom the book did spark a flame – but how could you know beforehand?

To everyone else who truly want to read the book, I can only encourage you to buy the book in hindsight, after the fact. I know it costs quite an effort to pay for something you have already used, or read in this case. I still hope some of you will, I’d be grateful for that.

And what I’d really like you to do, regardless of where you got the book from and what your intentions are, is to stop by and visit my website Learn & Master Cocos2D Game Development:

http://www.learn-cocos2d.com

I also want to make it very convenient to those who *might* consider buying the book, to actually do so. I know that one aspect of piracy that shouldn’t be neglected is merely convenience. So for that reason I’ll give you the links that lead you to Amazon and other websites all around the world which carry the book, as well as links to eBook versions of the book The Learn iPhone and iPad Cocos2D Game Development:

Purchase the print book via Amazon:

Amazon.com (United States)
http://www.amazon.com/Learn-iPhone-iPad-Cocos2D-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284664414&sr=8-1

Amazon.ca (Canada)
http://www.amazon.ca/Learn-iPhone-iPad-Cocos2D-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284664526&sr=8-1

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Learn-iPhone-iPad-Cocos2D-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284664462&sr=8-1

Amazon.de (Germany)
http://www.amazon.de/Learn-Iphone-Ipad-Cocos2d-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books-intl-de&qid=1284664401&sr=8-1

Amazon.fr (France)
http://www.amazon.fr/Learn-Iphone-Ipad-Cocos2d-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=english-books&qid=1284664539&sr=8-1

Amazon.co.jp (Japan)
http://www.amazon.co.jp/Learn-iPhone-iPad-Cocos2D-Development/dp/1430233036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=english-books&qid=1284664550&sr=8-1

Purchase the eBook:
From Apress (PDF): http://apress.com/ecommerce/cart?act=add&bid=1524
NOTE: the Apress PDF eBook has no DRM, it is not copy-protected or password-protected. It’s probably the exact same file that is being shared here.

From Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Learn-iPhone-Cocos2D-Development-ebook/dp/B004E0Z4YY

I hope you understand that if you offer my book for download illegally, it’s just fair to reply to that with promotion of my websites and making it a bit more convenient for the few people who tend to download books exactly because it’s convenient. At least this way I’m getting something positive out of it.

Thank you for your time and for allowing this message to be posted.
Steffen Itterheim

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The Cocos2D Linkvent Calendar 2010

On November 20, 2010, in Announcements, cocos2d, Marketing, by Steffen Itterheim

You may have heard about the Appvent Calendar by Blacksmith Games, creators of Floop and Plushed. From that idea emerged the popular Free App A Day website.

I thought, maybe I can take this idea and transform it into something slightly different: the Cocos2D Linkvent Calendar 2010. The idea being that I publish a blog post every day in December 2010 – you know, the month that ends after 24 days in that culminating event that will crash the App Store and end humanity’s existence. Or so I’ve heard. Each blog post will link to your website, blog post, tutorial, product, open source project or whatever else that might be of interest specifically to Cocos2D for iPhone developers, as long as it is “your thing”.

As my blog is closing in on 5,000 visits a week and my Twitter account is followed by over 1,400 hummingbirds and more and more of my book readers will come here and check out the site, I think that would be a nice gift to anyone who is interested in receiving some traffic from me. What you do to deserve a link is up to you. This is your chance to make your blog better known, or even kickstart it. The better and more relevant the content is to Cocos2D developers, the better your chances are that some of this traffic will stick, in form of return visits.

What you can do

Just to give you a few ideas:

  • write a postmortem of your game, and your game will surely get a few extra sales as well
  • open source your previous game’s source code, and in turn announce your new project
  • lower the price of your commercial product on that day
  • receive more attention for your technical essay about some aspect(s) of Cocos2D
  • write an awesome tutorial, for example about integrating UIKit controls in a Cocos2D project

The only thing that’s important is that the article, website, product, game, etc. is somehow relevant and of interest to Cocos2D developers. So if you “only” have a game made with Cocos2D, you should spice that up by, for example, talking about your development experience or explaining how you solved some tricky aspects of the game’s source code, including examples.

Accepting Offers Now!

I’m accepting offers now and until all 24 slots are filled, while holding a few reserve slots just in case. Please send all link requests by email to linkvent (at) learn-cocos2d.com – you don’t want to spoil the fun by posting it as a comment!

Also, you can reserve a slot by letting me know what you have in mind and are going to do, without actually having to have something to link to right now. You should be able to prepare and publish your content by early to mid December though.

I probably can’t answer all request, but if I do include yours then you’ll get a notice when I’ll publish it. Keep in mind that I will publish posts on midnight Central European Time (CET) (UTC+1), so you may have to factor in time zone differences.

Note: this is all about helping individual developers and products receive the attention they deserve while giving Cocos2D developers some useful information to digest. For that reason, I won’t link to posts on forums, wikis or other aggregating sites, to Apps on iTunes or to a code repository with just some files in it. There ought to be something to read, a little guidance if you will, and it should come from you, and it should be connected to you by putting that up on your blog or website. You can then of course link from your post to wherever you like.