12 May 2010

Floaters and Sinkers and Coasters

This is a post I wrote back in May but never posted. Since it is sitting here mostly written, I've decided to post it now as I prepare to start blogging again. I have some more thoughts on the whole pricing mechanics of the App Store, but I think I'll save that for another post.


So it's been about three weeks since the last update, when we were just starting our coaster sale of Space Miner. Man, what can change in three weeks.

But let's start with the coaster. It lived up to its name.

Fortunately there was some goodwill from the press out there, and we got some decent pickup on our press release. That combined with the normal sales notification channels served to shoot our unit sales up about 30x over the weekend. We climbed the charts fast, and then peaked (again) in the high 20s, this time at 28. So for a couple of days at least we were riding high.

But then the fall came, and it came fast. Here is a chart of the results:

When the sale hit, we did get a little grumbling from people who paid more, but not a whole lot. We also got solid reviews, without some of the troll-like ones we got the last time we had a big sale. Unfortunately, we didn't get one more thing, and that is traction. Like our past experiences with Space Miner, our ranking didn't help us at all in terms of getting us visibility to increase sales enough to maintain our increase our ranking.

In other words, Space Miner is a sinker.

My thoughts on why this is just comes back to straight marketing 101 - having a clear message. I don't think most people know what to make of Space Miner, since it's not a nice clear cut genre that the consumer can easily identify with. It's essentially the game of Asteroids turned into an RPG. And I don't think people see that and think "Oh, that's a game I want to play." Because it is so strange there is an initial bit of resistance that we have to overcome. I can easily see them say "Oh people really like this game, but that must be because they just like these kinds of games."

Also, going back to the icon, I think it doesn't really have wide appeal, and the screenshots have always been a problem, since the game is all about the motion. So when you add all these things up, you just have something that has to fight through a lot of resistance to succeed on the App Store. We'll need to find ways to overcome this if we want to get some traction back for this title.

And then we have Ninjatown: Trees Of Doom!

To say we are a bit surprised at how well it is doing would be a colossal understatement. We had no idea how the gameplay was going to be received, and we have no direct contact at Apple, so really you just hope to get featured. We thought it would happen based on good will from Space Miner, but you really can't predict anything.

We did get the call early on though, and a week after we launched we got featured. We resisted the urge to drop the price immediately and decided to ride out the new exposure. What we saw was much different than our experience with Space Miner.

It rose, and kept on rising. It got to about 16/17 in All Apps, and short of Pop Cap titles, was the highest rated game that wasn't $.99. We were flabbergasted at how quickly it went up the charts and how it didn't give back

So what's next for Space Miner?

I don't think we'll be doing much more in the way of updates. Frankly, making updates to Space Miner is A LOT of work. The game is big, it is complicated, and it has a ton of interdependencies. And based on our past updates, they haven't generated enough of a bump that it makes sense financially. We could charge for them, but that also doesn't seem to make sense - why build something that can only be bought a fraction of an audience that is already not big enough?

iPad comes up a lot, but that is also an area I'm not too sure about yet. The installed based isn't that high, their App Store has even worse discovery problems than the iPhone store, and the port will require us to spend a good amount of time re-doing UI. We're also incredibly busy with other projects, so it's isn't a high priority right now.

A sequel is in the works. We have a lot of neat ideas planned for that, but it's gonna be awhile until you see something. Once we're able to start full swing on production, we'll discuss that a lot more along the way.

And finally - our free to play initiative. What we're working on now is a free version of Space Miner that is basically a take on an Endless Mining mode. It's faster and more of a straight-up arcade game.

We have a lot of work to do in any event. The adventure continues...