Monday, September 5, 2011

First month of Fractal Combat's sales

I've been thinking about posting an update on the situation with my independent game business, but it's hard to sit down and decide what to write.
For example, I wrote a long post a week ago and then scrapped it.. 8)

Fractal Combat so far is doing OK, only OK. Mostly because after the first 2-3 weeks of sale, I've all but stopped marketing it and focused on producing the first update.
This was due mostly to the lukewarm reviews from the likes of TouchArcade, 148Apps and PocketGamer, which got me worried that other review sites may start to copycat those reviews.. which are not entirely negative, but are also not very positive (accusing a cheap mobile game of being too repetitive? Yeah, sorry! 148Apps giving it 3/5 on graphics? Yeah, right!).

Admittedly, some of the potential weaknesses were known.. but I just didn't have the time. The game was complete and I needed to sell it as quickly as possible to stay in business (it's not just me, but I'm the one that depends fully on this 8).
There are no bugs or missing features.. but of course on iOS it's a given that there are going to be updates to improve on the original release and I counted on that (users do, so should I).

A few days after the release, Apple featured it in a decent spot, and that lasted about 2 weeks, which is good, but not good enough.
The game initially sold for $1.99 and is now $0.99. I regret not having lowered the price as soon as it was featured, because I'm guessing that sales volume (or lack thereof)  is what makes a game worth keeping in the featured list or not.

Nevertheless the game is still doing quite well in Italy !
That's due to a few factors.. one of them is the specialized sites' reviews. Frankly, reviews are subjective by definition. I have some communication channels with some Italian sites and journalists, and that helped me a great deal to get some fair coverage.
Having any kind of dialogue makes it possible to address potential complaints and to ensure that some things will be fixed or explain why the game is in a certain way.. the reasoning behind it. Not having a communication channel means that your game is one out of many in the App Store, and you're in the hands of some unknown reviewer that my love it or may hate it.

The moral is that PR matters a lot, especially in the context of independent mobile games facing competition from big budget games down selling for $0.99 a month later.
Having coverage in any country is great.. but having coverage in the much larger US market would be even nicer 8)

Now, a few words about piracy: I've been looking at the Game Center's leaderboards entries to estimate a "piracy ratio". GC is tightly integrated in iOS and Fractal Combat posts leaderboards entries automatically, so anyone that has GC activated (most players?) and that plays the game, will show up in the leaderboards.
I can then compare that number of users with the number of copies sold to guess how many copies out there weren't paid for.
Based on that, on the first few days, it was a staggering 9:1 in favor of pirated games, but that was mostly due to some extra exposure in the piracy circle (would you believe that it was an Italian "script adult" getting the cracked version up on the most popular iOS pirate site ?)
After a month, the ratio now is more like 2:1, meaning that for every 2 users on the leaderboard, one copy of the game was sold.

Now for some sales figures.. here is a chart of the first month. The initial larger sale is in coincidence with being featured in the New&Noteworthy games section (games only, not overall) on App Stores world-wide.
Unlike for Final Freeway, there is no spike for the TouchArcade review this time. Probably because the review wasn't quite an endorsement. We got 3.5 (out of 5).. but it sounded more like a 2.5.
And, that's the story so far, but it's not the end of it 8)

In the meantime, Final Freeway on iOS keeps on selling (one year later !) enough to keep me afloat, and the Android version is slowly taking advantage of its placement in the new racing category in the Android Market. Currently selling about 1-copy per hour, and placed 14th in the racing category. But it's too early to draw conclusions on that.

And now, back to work!


  1. I was thinking recently how the whole $0.99 could actually be hurting things on the iOS market. People come to expect super-high quality stuff for that price ... which isn't bad ... if and only if it didn't cost and arm and a leg to make the super-high quality app.

    I'm not sure if there's any real correlation to this, but it seems that the non $0.99 games that do well are titles that are already well known and were available on other platforms years before they came to iOS ... so naturally people wanting the same (or similar) experience wouldn't mind paying "extra" for it ... but then again, the price on iOS is probably a lot less than what they paid for it on the other platform(s).

  2. I initially set the price "high" because I also didn't want to succumb to the $0.99 trend. After all, FF was Tier 1 and initially didn't even have online leaderboards, then why shouldn't FC be at least Tier 2 (1.99) ?
    But unless you're known before or well publicized at the release.. it's hard to compete for more than 0.99.

    Also more and more games rely on in-app purchase and they may as well be free, 0.99 or even pirated (!) because the real revenue stream is a different one. And I suspect that as much as many people realize that they aren't getting a better deal with freemium (free + in-app), they still instinctively go for it.
    This is the same reason why games are $0.99 rather than $1 ..perception of savings, leading into more spending !