Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Cyber Salesman

Here is an update after a few days on the market.

A couple of popular Italian sites quickly picked up the game, and the top spot in the Games/Racing section was mine in just a couple of days 8)
I've been there a few days, and now unfortunately leaving the spot for some other game (not sure which one).
I've also been high within the top 10 of the Overall section, which means that people just browsing for any application would bump into my game.

For daily raking overview, I like
It's not the best looking site out there, but I like the clearly visible arrows that show the trend (going down or going up).
If you search for "Final Freeway" you'll see that I'm going down today 8(
I paid the site the 1 EU necessary to get hourly rankings.. but it's a bit confusing (I think shows the ranks compared to the previous hour, rather than to the previous day).

Ranking is good in Japan, too. But not as good as in Italy. In Japan I touched #2 for Racing, but not #1 just yet.
..If only the App Store staff didn't elect some other motorbike game as featured, a game that has now been at the top of the Japanese store Racing sub-section few days. Even though it mostly collected 1-star ratings (the lowest possible). Power of exposure I guess !

Thankfully, my average rating is quite good: 4 out of 5 stars.
Ratings are a mixed bag. Some really help, some are enthusiastic, a fraction are expression of disappointment (some people hate the game for not being Out Run !), and some of the few negative ratings are downright unfair.
For example, some people haven't updated the firmware of their device in a while. Were they to browse for games using the phone, the App Store's application would prevent them from buying a game that requires a newer OS than they have.
However, I'm guessing that some bought the game directly from iTunes using a computer, and when they try to install the game, they find out that it's not compatible. As a reaction, they rush to leave a negative review for the game, even though the required OS version is stated in iTunes right below the game's icon.

Most reviews are good and present valid concerns and suggestions.. helpful, but it's not fair when someone purportedly leaves a lower rating only because there isn't a feature that they want.

Sales in the US and worldwide jumped sensibly the day that TouchArcade officially reviewed the game.
TouchArcade's forum has also been very helpful, with many users that keep giving suggestions and feedback.
It was especially useful today, when the first update of the game went live and a new feature turned partly broken on iPad 8(

The game is played in landscape orientation, and for this update the user could finally play landscape both ways (Home button on the left or on the right).
However, not having my iPad around (still waiting for Apple to change it), I couldn't test both orientations on the iPad (because the simulator doesn't simulate the accelerometer, and therefore one cannot see what happens when it's being rotated).
So, that was broken and I quickly wrote a warning on the game description and sent an update to Apple.
The first update only took 2 days, the new one may take more, and my only hope is that iPad users that update, will notice the warning about the iPad (live and learn: I just realized that I should have put the warning also in the Update message.. I did that now, but 200 people already downloaded the update! (granted, only a fraction of those are iPad users)).

About Sales!
It went well but they are already declining. About 4500 downloads so far. The peak day being 1100 sales, when TouchArcade reviewed it. The day after it went down to 512, and today it's 310.

From the reaction of the users, I see that the game has potential to sell much more. But the visibility is still not good enough.
I'm still waiting for a few more large sites to produce reviews that should bring more attention.

The plan for now is to add enough features to justify a price bump, and then increase the price by 1 dollar (to $1.99). Then I will start releasing a "lite" version to promote the paid one.

There are still a few things that can and need to be done.

About the price.. I can see how 99c is a stigma in a sense. At 99c some people sort of expect cute/scary/different games that play endlessly. Stuff that has 1 stage only by design.
So, coming up with 6 stages, in a way, is a bad thing because it's like putting a single digit number to the length of game play.
Also the 99c price tag may make people think that they must find a defect in the game... but this is only speculation !

Initial lack of play modes and some other things that iDevice gamers came to expect (like auto-accelerate and flexible landscape direction) are more important than one may think, and the 99c price perhaps sort of mitigates the reaction to those missing features.

I think now I pretty much know the basic features that people want, and once those are in, I can also get rid of the 99c price.
Between code changes, adding new stages, App Store review delays and review sites, it's probably going to take another month before the real prime time!




  1. quite interesting post. the 'idea' should be by far the most important factor for your next game. then - and only then - you'll decide the best technology/approach/pattern for your code. look at doodle jump.

  2. I don't agree..

    I think that one should push where his skills and interests are.
    I'm not very good with puzzle games.. I don't play all those games, so I don't really know what's a "great idea" for a quick and easy and addictive game.
    On the other hand, unlike most mobile developers, I know well my way around graphics and game programming in general.

    I think that so far this worked for me. Because the game gets noticed (if sometimes hated by Out Run purists.. sigh), and it's not something that any programmer can do, because it requires a certain type and quantity of experience 8)

    The "great idea" concept is a gamble.. because there are lots and lots of beginner developers out there that put a lot of effort into coming up with the next money-making idea... but there are millions of ideas out there.

    If I had a penny for every time someone came to me to sell me his idea.. ..and all you have to do is, code it up ! Yeah right ! A great idea and a brilliant plan ;)

    Game development, especially like it was before, is a lot about programming as well.
    The concept of separating game design from programming, the game designer vs the programmer.. that's something that I don't agree with.
    A programmer can be a game designer too (also depends on the game).. and game play can evolve from programming. And it shouldn't be about ideas by one side and code at the other side... not if I can help it 8)

    ..that's a bit too philosophical.

    But in brief, I think that aiming at the "great idea" is too much of a gamble.. too much based on luck.. especially when one considers the importance of quickly impressing people. Be that potential customers or media reporters..

  3. Not bad at all Davide (4500 downloads for a $0,99 app, Apple takes 30% of total sales, so you got about $1335... right? :) )! Anyways I'm sure that with the updates coming you'll boost your sales quite a bit. Woooo! ;) Marco

  4. Marco.. that's how much Apple got ;)

    Anyhow, today the game was finally featured in the "New and Noteworthy" list of games, and it got a bit over 1000 downloads just one day ! (Same effect of the TouchArcade review).

    We'll see how long this lasts..
    It's good numbers, but I'm still in negative.. when considering 4 months without pay..

  5. How much has it sold per region? I assume the American market is the biggest, correct?

  6. Scott,

    Up until now, it was EU where I sold the most. Specifically Italy, where I was quite high in the charts (1st in racing for a few days too).

    Today, with the "New and Noteworthy", for some reason I was removed from the Racing category..

    Nonetheless, sales improved overall, US on top with 567 units, followed by Japan (113) and Italy (101) which is probably already saturated anyway. ..then UK, Canada, France, Mexico.

  7. Salesman-Kaz,

    Nice numbers there! 8P Please don't be too negative about it not yet letting you "break even" ... the real trick is finding a way to let the 1,000s of other folks know about it.

    It's a bit riskier, but I agree with you about pursuing the idea you want to make and not necessarily the 'great/big idea'.

    Maybe Kotaku will review it soon.


  8. Wooo.. I dunno.. TouchArcade was great. Maybe because I put the time into their forum from the start. But they were really fast to do the review and did a nice job too.

    I guess other big sites are either understaffed or maybe they just don't like FF.
    Pocket Gamer told me right away that they didn't have time to review the game (at least they told me 8).

    Maybe some just don't think much about it.. or maybe there is some money going around reviews after all (?)
    I can only wait and see.. but for the time being, I'm really happy that Apple got me some exposure 8)

    All I know is that next time, TouchArcade forum will be again the place of choice to introduce a new game.
    It's a very active and supportive community. In comparison, Pocker Gamer's forum is a bit of a dead place where the sad souls that don't get reviewed plug their stuff.

    Hopefully, people approvals and buying power will prevail against selective editors ;)

  9. Well, when you become a celebrity in the community, then everyone will want a piece of your precious time. 8P

    Just keep making good software, and with time things should hopefully improve.

  10. Yeah.. code will set you free !
    No need to go begging around for exposure !

    Anyhow today's sales increased further.. 1910 copies, compared to 1040 from yesterday 8)

  11. Hooray! \(^o^)/

    Let's see some $ale$ graph$!

  12. Soon you will be rich enough to go from instant ramen to frozen pizza. :)

  13. Ummm 2187 copies today (-1 promo code and 3 returns 8( )

    Better, but, a lot less steeper than from 1054 to 1922.
    Which makes me think that it's going to be hard to break the wall of 3000 copies per day.

    As of right now, I still need about $2K to get to one month salary before taxes (more than 5K and less than 10).

    Another thing is that, for some reason the US rank has been decreasing (while most other are going up), but the US is where the big of the market is.

    At the other end of the spectrum, I there is the top spot for the Arcade section in Pakistan, which will get you about 5 copies per day 8)

    I've also heard the rumor that at least one of those sites that ignored me so far, would definitely feature me if I rode with a publisher (which normally invests with ads on the site)... I guess some things will never change 8)

    Another rumor I've heard is that some publisher asks for 30% of the revenue as a price to work its magic.

    These things make me sick.. but that's how business works, I guess.

    In the meantime, I've been getting a lot of positive user reviews... with some rare 1-star reviews from people that don't "get" the game.

    Also, my last standing review on the Italian store is a terrible one from someone that wrote in a very broken Italian (it's written so bad that it's funny ! 8) ...or fake ?).
    I hope that that's not the reason why sales are also lowering in Italy.
    I'm otherwise assuming that the marked has just reached the saturation level over in Italy.


  14. I know this doesn't relate to $ale$ and ultimately doesn't affect the bottom line that's needed (i.e. $$$ to pay for the bills and food), but I would take the negative comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes what folks will say will actually be constructive, but a lot of the time it's just whining, "I thought it was this, but it's not!! I'm unhappy." It may or may not be the case, but I do recall a guy I knew in college who would go buy a PC game, play it to the end (or copy it) then take it back to the store citing "it didn't work" or some other nonsense. One just can't make everyone happy and it's better to just focus on one's vision.

    The publisher bit is annoying ... I can't believe it ... though (as an experiment) it might be worth seeing if going with a publisher will increase overall sales ... but honestly, it really more has to do with the fact that enough people don't yet know about the game rather than a publisher per se ... I suppose the publisher just already has more avenues to let the world know about the software in their catalogue and also that people are likely to follow the publisher than an individual.

    Just give it a bit more time; I'm sure the game will catch on as the word-of-mouth effect kicks in. (^_^)

  15. Hmmmm...that's why you should update the game often and not just sit-down and watch your sales! Hihi ;) Seriously, frequent updates will make non-believers understand that it's well worth to pay those money because the game will get better and better. Another thing to consider is that FF is not a "game for everyone", most young people with an iPhone will just get the ultimate 3D racing game with ultra-pumped graphics to show their friend "what their phone can do" and not FF. In this 3D era selling a game like FF is not easy... actually I think that you're already selling very good if you consider the amazing concurrents you have to rival with (Need for Speed, Real Racing, Ridge Racer, Asphalt 5, etc.). Bai! Marco

  16. What about a product page on Fessbuk?

  17. Marco and Freddy have some good points. I've also noticed that updating the game puts it back up on the App Store ... and as much as I don't like Facebook, having a page for it will help with the word-of-mouth synergy.

    What happened to my last post? 8P

  18. Marco,

    I can only agree.. but as you can imagine, updates require some work 8)
    My work has doubled now as I also spend time around twitter with the @oyatsukai account, look for pirate copies on the net, request reviews, etc.
    Nonetheless an update is in the works.. and I'll be asking for some beta testing for those that have the time 8)

    Another example of a distraction from development.. but probably a needed one.. I'm going to look into it..

    What happened to your last post ? I see it above 8) (unless was something else ?)

    BTW a little more growth of sales today.. but growth is quickly slowing down.

    Supposedly there should be some reviews coming from Italian, Taiwanese and Spanish sites.

    And I've been posting on Slide To Play's forum (a formal request for review was made already a few days ago, but I wanted to bump things a little 8)

  19. I guess maybe I didn't click 'Post' or something; I'm pretty forgetful these days. (>_<)

    The sales growth thing is possibly something that you'll have to (initially) nurture until it builds up enough momentum. I am quite sure not "enough" people know of the game for sales to automatically maintain itself enough to where you don't have to manually tend to things so often.

    This is a stretch, but you could ask your lady for some pointers/ideas; she might have some insights that none of us may have thought of or considered.

  20. Umm sorry about your post.. I surely didn't delete any (^^;)

    It's important to promote products.. most definitely. But quality is important, too.
    The first release told me many things on people's expectations.. and now I must go back to the drawing board and rethink some things, add some features following certain priorities.

    About involving the woman...
    I ask everyone for their opinion, gamer and non-gamers, and I did ask for some impressions to my gf as well.
    But, I don't think that she has much to add at this point. She's really not the person that would even think to buy a video game..
    Maybe the day that I make some fashion and SPA software, then she'll probably be more interested 8)

  21. Yes, as soon as you start developing a clone of Dead Or Alive Volleyball your gf will have her say for sure... :)

  22. I don't think she'd be interested in that either 8P

  23. It depends if you use live models as reference of mot. :)

  24. Yeah, dead ones are a problem to manage and explain to the police. :)

  25. ..they could be recorded models ! (those I have ! ;)

  26. Recorded models with pixelated parts? :)

  27. There is also those without any pixelization ;P