27 June 2011

Up Next - A New Direction

Hello All,

It's been a quiet six or seven months since we launched Space Miner Blast and my last blog post. Ok, so it's more like 9 months, but that time does go by fast! Most of it was spent on some game contracts, with a smattering of some Space Miner 2. As a result, we didn't really have much to blog about.

Unfortunately, while Space Miner was a great critical success (Yay, GOTY on Toucharcade!), its commercial success was only mediocre, so finding time and funding to dedicate towards the sequel has been a challenge. We had a few months back from November to January when it was in active development, but we had to put it on hold when other, paying projects came up. At this point, we have a lot of design and prototype work done, but a lot more work remains before we have a Space Miner 2 sequel.

This leads me to a couple of unfortunate admissions. The first being we won't be doing a sequel this year, like we were planning. The second being we are working on something else instead.

Hence, the title for this post.

Let me start by saying I love Space Miner. Our company loves Space Miner. As a game developer, it is my favorite game I've ever made. So, as the head of Venan, the decision to not continue work on it was an agonizing one. I want to make this game so badly even writing this post makes me feel ill inside. But at the end of the day, we need to do what's right for the company. And I know deep down that doing Space Miner 2 right now isn't the best decision for us, because we don't currently have the time and capital to do it right, and I refuse to do it wrong.

So what next? The answer is, simply, something smaller.

We needed a project that we could reasonably expect to get out by the end of the summer, and SM2 is at least 6 months of work. So that meant re-evaluating our plans and finding a new game design to bring to the table. We did that, and we now have something new underway that we're really excited about. But I'll talk about that more later when things are a bit further along.

As for the "new direction" though, this next product will be freemium. Looking at the App Store, it is becoming increasingly clear that this will be the dominant business model going forward, with 8 of the top 10 grossing apps (as of this evening) being freemium games. Even the mighty Angry Birds finds itself out of the top grossing spot with two free titles in front of it.

I'm pretty sure if you did a head-to-head survey of these other games with Angry Birds among average consumers, (or even Space Miner!) they would not fare too well. Now I don't consider Angry Birds the best game on the App Store, I think it's a solid piece of work that resonated with people. But these other games are all clearly inferior. iMobsters is currently sitting at #12 and I hardly consider that a game. So why are they making more money?

I think when you see a bunch of mediocre products making a lot of money, and a lot of great products making equal or less money, it speaks a lot to which business model is working. And as much as I'd like to just make the games I want to make, the business side is what affords us that luxury.

That being said, I think there is a lot of opportunity here, since most of these games suck. Play-testing them is like pulling out my teeth. As far as I can tell it's a space dominated by good businessmen (or women) and lousy game designers. So our mantra is to make the freemium game we don't hate and hopefully find some success in the process. We've been working on it for about a month now, and I already enjoy it more than 95% of the ones I've played on mobile, Facebook or otherwise. Hopefully you'll all think so as well.

Ok, the cat's out of the bag now. It's unfortunate to announce this, but it's only a delay, not a burial. There is more to come for Uncle Jeb and clan, so be patient and stay tuned.