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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Rob Appel from Hitapp.com has just released his game Launch Control on the App Store. The amazing thing about it, for me at least, is that it was made with my Line-Drawing Game Starterkit.

Make sure to check out the Launch Control website to get the full scoop and to get in touch with Rob. He was one of the first Starterkit customers back in July 2010 and now his game is finally complete and released, right in time before Xmas. Congratulations, Rob!

To celebrate the event, he gave me 10 promo codes for you …

Launch Control Promo Codes


W6AELL3WMHHM
N3RT3MEWKMYH
KRK74YENKWJ3
KAX9HFHXXX36
TKH6RJKW7XT7
ETAFL64HYTRH
YAJ9FPKJTMLY
AKFWJ7RW99Y4
FNTFEY9NWPJ6
T9TPH67WKA4H

Apple’s Promo Code Terms & Conditions:

Code expires on Thu Jan 13 13:09:36 PST 2011 and is redeemable only on the iTunes Store. Requires an iTunes account, subject to prior acceptance of license and usage terms. To open an account you must be above the age of 13. Compatible software and hardware, and internet access (fees may apply) required. Not for resale. Full terms apply; see www.apple.com/legal/itunes/ww/. For more information, see www.apple.com/support/. This app is provided to you by hitapp.com.

Line-Drawing Starterkit News

I’d like to take the opportunity and tell you about the latest news regarding the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit:

  • The Line-Drawing Starterkit is now down from $179 to only $119 !
  • It’s now compatible with Cocos2D v0.99.5
  • Now includes Cocos2D for your convenience – this means it works out of the box
  • You can ask pre-sales questions and get support on the Cocos2D Central forum
  • Updates are also distributed through Cocos2D Central from now on
  • Soon the Starterkit will also be sold directly on Cocos2D Central so that you automatically get access to the Starterkit forum and files (currently it’s a manual process)

You may wonder how the Starterkit includes Cocos2D but is less than 5 MB to download? The answer is simple: I removed all non-essential parts of the Cocos2D distribution to strip it down from 30 MB (zipped) to less than 2 MB (zipped). Almost all of the content that bloats the Cocos2D download are test cases and test assets which you don’t need for developing your own games.

You can download the stripped Cocos2D distribution from Cocos2D Central.

Line-Drawing Starterkit: 50% OFF extended!

On November 15, 2010, in Announcements, Marketing, by Steffen Itterheim

Wow! You have to got to be fricking kidding me! It’s not even 24 hours after the 50% off announcement and the codes are almost used up (only 2 left)! 😮

Due to this unexpected success I decided to extend the coupon code offer for an additional 20 uses.

50% OFF – NOW: $89,50

With the following coupon code, you’ll get the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit 50% off – it only costs $89,50 with the coupon code! Just enter this code when making the purchase in the “Coupon Code” box:

LINEDRAWINGKIT4YOU

Secure Online Payments and Credit Card Processing by Plimus

Visit the Line-Drawing Starterkit product page.

IMPORTANT: this coupon code is now limited to 40 uses, and 22 have been used up at the time of this writing. It’ll work only for the next 22 customers and if recent sales are any indication, they may be used up in about 30 hours or less!

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I was thinking, Ansca Mobile is giving out so many coupon codes – why not do the same? :)

Actually, I have another reason for that. Just a few days ago I received emails from 3 different developers who stated their case and asked me to sell the kit to them for a much lower price, or give it away for free. On one hand, I feel with them. On the other hand, if all it needs is to ask me to give it away for free, and people got wind of that, I could just release it to the public domain to prevent myself from being flooded with emails. 😀

So I’ve sent those three a coupon code each, and give everyone else a chance to get in on the 50% off deal as well. Note that this coupon code is limited to 20 uses, so it’ll work only for the next 20 customers!

50% OFF – NOW: $89,50

With the following coupon code, you’ll get the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit 50% off – it only costs $89,50 with the coupon code! Just enter this code when making the purchase in the “Coupon Code” box:

LINEDRAWINGKIT4YOU

Secure Online Payments and Credit Card Processing by Plimus

Visit the Line-Drawing Starterkit product page.

IMPORTANT: this coupon code is limited to 20 uses, it’ll work only for the next 20 customers!

Starterkit update for Cocos2D v0.99.5

I intend to update the Starterkit to support Cocos2D v0.99.5 once that’s stable. With the recent release of a release candidate (RC) I’m being hopeful that the stable version will be ready soon. With the update the Starterkit will also support HD/Retina displays.

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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.

Starterkit Price Drop, Sales Numbers

On August 16, 2010, in Announcements, Marketing, by Steffen Itterheim

The important bit first: the price of the Line-Drawing Starterkit is back at $179!

The simple reason: customers voted with their wallet, it sold zero units at the $299 price point over the last two weeks while people kept asking me for rebates and price drops. I clearly misjudged the value proposition of the Starterkit and how much potential customers would be willing to spend.

About Thinking, Learning and Knowing

I’m going to be upfront about the sales numbers because I want to be instructive and convey the lesson’s I learned. I also find these numbers posts very intriguing myself. One of the things I love about working under my own terms is that I can choose how transparent you want to be. I feel there’s more to gain from transparency, being open and upfront, and sharing what you know then there is to lose.

I’ve actually been told a few times that you can’t sell to cocos2d developers. Which I find astonishing. “I don’t think there are sufficient willing customers” was the one sentence I received in an email which I find most telling. Thinking is not knowing. Thinking is: not knowing! Trying and not succeeding is ok, but thinking and not even trying is not. The former you might regret financially but seldom will you regret having done it. The latter is just being complacent and accepting the status quo, or simply a reluctance of pursuing unconventional business ideas.

I can only say: I’ve learned a lot from running this website over the past 4 months. Certainly more valuable lessons and knowledge than from most of the books I own, and the above selection is just a fraction of my library. They are the books I hold most dear and are most relevant to my work right now, including Stephen Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell as the perfect separator between left-brain (hard skill) and right-brain (soft skill) books. It puts everything in the proper perspective. I certainly didn’t expect to learn some of the lessons nor was it easy to deal with the very unexpected ones, but I did nevertheless. The good part about the hard lessons is that they make me think even harder to learn what I need to know to understand. I also have a bunch more unconventional ideas now. And I grok Invictus.

The Numbers

The Line-Drawing Game Starterkit has been on sale (40% off back then) from July 10th to August 1st, that’s 23 days. From July 10th until the public announcement on July 20th the sales were limited to my Newsletter subscribers, close to 670 people were given the password to access the sales page at the time.

When I formed the idea of selling a Starterkit, I punched some numbers about website traffic, pricing, conversion rates, looking at other products, thinking of what certain indicators could mean, why people are having success and why others don’t. Being a pessimist I came to about 3 sales per month if the price is around $200. That would have been nice, and would have allowed me a return of investment in less than 6 months. And when I was optimistic I thought I could be making up to 5-10 sales per month, perhaps by being featured prominently. I definitely had enough positive indicators to go ahead and try making and selling the Starterkit and being sufficiently convinced that it’ll have a positive impact, financially and otherwise.

The reality is that I sold 30 copies at $179 each within 23 days! Way, way more than my expectations. See the screenshot of the payment report to the left for the monetary details. Note that the first section with 3 sales were test sales by myself, so that amount should be deducted from the total. Also, 30 times $179 does not equal the sum on the bill because surcharge fees depending on the payment method have already been deducted. Net sales is the amount after Plimus took their share, which is close to 5% if I remember correctly.

I estimated my return of investment (break even) at about $4,000. So overall it’s not bad. Not bad at all given that I made all those sales in 23 days instead of months.

The downside to this story is that after setting the price high at $299 I did not make a single sale in the past 2 weeks! This price point seems past a certain pain threshold that developers are feeling comfortable spending. Customers voted with their wallets and I basically killed my own business by modifying just one (crucial) aspect of it. I was my own worst enemy by making a wrong judgement call.

And of course I’ll try to fix it: from this day on forward the Starterkit’s regular price will be back at $179! It has proven to sell at this price point and I’m hoping to see sales pick up again. Despite this no-sales period of over 2 weeks the Starterkit earned me $120 per day on average, or an hourly rate of $15 assuming a regular 8-hour work day.

The Future

If it turns out that continued sales from the Starterkit allow me to live off it, I’m going to run this website full-time in the near future. That means more free stuff, more intriguing blog posts and every once in a while a new commercial product that targets very specific unfulfilled needs of cocos2d game developers. You might consider the cocos2d book to be one of these commercial products, and I intend to improve it after press by listening to reader’s feedback and filling any holes with free Tutorials and FAQ entries on this website. It will be a book that continues to get written.

More Lessons to learn

If you want to learn some business & marketing lessons in general I recommend reading The Long Tail to understand how niche markets work and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion for a lesson in marketing which I find important to understand both from the seller’s and the customer’s point of view. The Long Tail was instrumental for me to actually become comfortable with the thought of selling a product to a niche audience and why that idea might just work. But also instrumental because I just keep shaking my head when I read the naive comments of some people. That’s also where how to deal with critics comes in handy.

I’m pleased to announce that the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit is finally available for sale! It’s a source code project for anyone interested in developing a line-drawing game. The gameplay is modelled after the famous Flight Control game. The Starterkit works with the latest cocos2d v0.99.4 version and will at the very least receive compatibility upgrades for future cocos2d versions.

Hop on over to the product page to check out the feature list, the API documentation and a source code sample. You can also download the Starterkit App for iPhone from iTunes. The iPad Edition is still in approval.

Note: for the reminder of July 2010 you can get the Starterkit at an introductory price for only $179!

Positioning of the Starterkit

I’m sorry that you’ve had to wait one and a half months compared to the initially planned release date of June 1st. I double and triple checked every decision I made and you can see some of the results on the Starterkit product page.

I’ve also decided to increase the regular price from the initially intended $199 to $299 effective from August 1st, 2010. One of the reasons being that I initially planned to have multiple licenses including Indie and Commercial ones. I thought long and hard about positioning the Starterkit and eventually decided to sell only Site Licenses. For the individual developer it costs a bit more but for small and commercial teams it’s great news, and small teams and established, dedicated developers is who I am targeting. Those who really appreciate the value of commercial source code saving days and weeks of research and development, and all the trouble, sweat and pain associated with it. And I’m here to help if you have any questions regarding the Starterkit’s source code.

I don’t have plans to make another Starterkit and in all likelihood it will remain the only commercial cocos2d-related product for the remainder of this year.

Book Chapter about Line-Drawing Games

For those who are disappointed about the new price, either grab the Starterkit before August 1st or wait until December for the Learn iPhone and iPad Cocos2D Game Development book I’m writing. It will contain a chapter covering some of the basic aspects of a line-drawing game but without the finer details and complex interactions conveyed in the Starterkit. It’ll be Chapter 12 so in about 8 weeks (Mid-September) I’ll mention it in my weekly book chapter posts.

Closed Sales Period, Summary of

And here’s for transparency: exactly 10 days ago I informed the 668 subscribers of my Newsletter of the closed sales period. The password-protected Starterkit product page received just over 200 unique visitors. During the last 10 days I made 9 sales amounting to about $1,530 with Plimus’ 5% fee already deducted but obviously before tax. All sales were made within the first 4 days after I sent the Newsletter and for the last 6 days sales were absolutely zero. Although I’ve been in contact with several interested parties who didn’t want to or simply couldn’t buy it right now for various reasons. If you’re one of them: you’ll get it for $179 no matter when you make the purchase, just contact me beforehand.

Right now I’m curious to see how sales will be now that the Starterkit is publicly available.

Starterkit Promotion

I’d appreciate if you would tweet and re-tweet this post and mention the Starterkit to all fellow cocos2d-sians! If you would even go so far as writing a serious and honest review on your blog, please get in touch with me.

Just don’t test the waters by mentioning the Starterkit in the cocos2d community forum.

Stance Lance

I wish Ricardo had taken the time to be considerate and then talked to me instead of running off making an assumptive, excessive, and for the most part irrelevant (off-topic) stance post which only served to cause a big commotion among his community while allowing his forum rule “Treat people with respect.” to become a farce.

In Conclusion

In hindsight I’m glad that the whole thing got me thinking in so many new directions. Most importantly it got me in contact with a lot of developers who consciously don’t post on the cocos2d forum. To get those encouraging words and positive feedback and gaining interesting insights from other developer’s perspectives – especially those who tag along silently – really helped me understand the cocos2d development community better. Thank you, you know who you are!

The whole shebang also served as a great motivational factor to pour my everything into the cocos2d book, which came at just the right time to let off steam in just the right way. I’m writing it to be the cocos2d documentation it deserves and the one I always wished it had. I can’t even begin to describe how satisfying it feels to write this book. So much in fact that it hurts to stop writing every time I reach the 27 pages each chapter is expected to have. :)

No Starterkits for the time being!

On May 30, 2010, in Announcements, cocos2d, by Steffen Itterheim

I will take some time off to carefully consider my options.

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