对于一家没有名气的独立开商来说，挤进PC游戏产业到底有多难呢？我们已经提过Xbox Live Indie Games服务，iPhone App Store以及其它独立开发者能够尝试的平台，那么在旧 式的PC游戏领域中又是怎样的情况呢？
尽管在过去10年间我已经创造过一些免费游戏，但是直到1，2年前我才开始真正考虑进入商业游戏产业。我的前两款商业游戏《ShellBlast》和《Spirits of Metropolis》都是硬 核益智游戏。它们都未得到媒体的关注，因为我并未努力去这么做并且我也不大清楚自己该做些什么，所以发行1年半后每款游戏只赚了不到300美元的收益。所以对于《Oil Blue 》这款管理/模拟游戏，我真的非常努力地向玩家和大众媒体进行推广（我自己的网站每天的访问量是300至400。）。
一开始只有3人参与《Oil Blue》的制作：我，美术师（Sara Gross》和编曲者（Jonathan Geer）。我们在5月份完成游戏，在6月初开始进行测试，并在6月22日发行游戏。游戏的 预算非常低（大约是500至700美元），但是完成后的游戏规模却大于我们的预期，需要花费5至8个小时才能“完成”游戏，尽管游戏本身可以无限制地玩下去。以下是关于游戏的 描述：
“《Oil Blue》是一款独立行动模拟游戏，你将在游戏世界中钻井采油，在市场上贩卖桶油，并在完成United Oil of Oceania公司的老板所设定的目标后开始探索新的岛屿。游戏 背景是在不远的未来世界的海上，这个世界对于油的依赖性更高。所以它将依赖于你和工作人员到世界各地去寻找未被发现的探油岛屿，并宣称它们为United Oil of Oceana公司 所有。
给我带来巨大帮助并且是我真的很感谢的一件事是6月初出现在Indie Games上的独家预览，这也吸引了一些主流评论博客对于游戏做出评论，我也因此开始受到关注。我们的游戏 所获得的评论都是正面且充满热情，并且还获得了Jay is Games，About.com以及Gamezebo等网站的评论。
评论中出现了许多负面的反馈，整个周末我们的预告片一直都保持在头版中。我认为我们的预告片似乎得到比预期更多的浏览量，同时我也知道许多媒体网站/博客与Gametrailers 的看法是一样的：这可能是快速赚钱的一种蹩脚尝试。在我发送评论副本的35个博客中，只有4到5个博客浏览了游戏，不过对于一家不知名的小型游戏来说差不多就是这样的结果 了。我希望1up，Giantbomb，Destructoid或其它知名的独立游戏评论网站能够选中我的游戏，但似乎情况并不如意。
单单我的网站上的演示版本便获得1865次下载。如果未包含网站销售的话我们游戏的转换率大概是6%至7%。这个转换率让我非常惊喜，尽管我需要获得更多下载量才能明确这一数 字是如何发展的。在购买《Oil Blue》的玩家中，85%的人是从未购买过我之前的商业游戏的新玩家。
上图是BMT Micro提供的销售图，最高值是出现在一些新评论发布后，尽管在上周我也迎来了零销量的几天。游戏已经不再出现于所有论坛的头版，并且在2周内未出现任何新评论 了，所以我将开始根据这些数值判断自己是如何销售游戏的。结果似乎不是很好。
大约6个月以前，我发行了自己的第一款独立PC游戏《Oil Blue》，虽然身处英国石油公司漏油事件的争议中，但却仍然获得了一些正面反馈。一个月后我在Gamasutra上分享了自 己的销售经历，而今天我想要基于过去6个月与其它分销商一起销售《Oil Blue》的故事做出一些总结。
那时候的未知情况是：我是否能够前往Steam平台（那时候他们还未联系我）？我是否能够前往其它评论网站？当我进行夏季推广（游戏邦注：购买《Oil Blue》便能免费获得我的 另一款独立PC游戏《greenTech Plus》）时游戏销量受到怎样的影响？在接下来几个月时间里我很快便能够获得这些问题的答案。
我同时应该注意的是，尽管我的游戏带着“Vertigo Games”的标签，它却真的只是我与两个外包员工所创造的。我并不是依赖于这些销售额去支付工资/维持生计，尽管可能有一 天我会这么做。
在游戏发行第一个月后，我在之前的文章中提到游戏的销售额达到了1645美元，这并不包含GamersGate等外部份销售的销售。基于同样的标准，现在我可以说在发行六个月后游戏 的销售额为2766美元，在5个多月内增加了1100美元左右（再次不包含GamersGate或其它分销商，他们所创造的收入与我自己网站的销售情况差不多）。这只是表明游戏的第一个月 销售非常重要，接下来提升销售额就变得更加缓慢了（直至下一次较大的推广/促销到来）。
《Oil Blue》是以14.95美元的定价发行，并且在我的网站上进行了“夏季推广”：购买《Oil Blue》便能够免费获得当时还买不到的《greenTech Plus》。
《greenTech》是几年前我为YoYo Games比赛而创造的一款简单的自由软件游戏。创造它只有一个简单的目的，就是将其移植到其它平台上试试水。《greenTech Plus》从根本上看 来是一款简单的游戏，这也是我创造它的原因—-为了将其移植并在全新平台上（除了PC）上销售而将其递交给两个新人开发者。当完成《Oil Blue》的开发时，我意识到自己可以 将《greenTech Plus》变成一款PC游戏并将其作为《Oil Blue》的推广帮手。
对于推广我所关心的只是它是否能够支撑我所获得的所有销售额，并且如果未与其它游戏捆绑销售的话《Oil Blue》会怎样。我是否该继续进行推广并延伸所提供的内容？我是否 需要在推广结束时降低《Oil Blue》的价格？如果人们错过这次推广的话是否会生气而不买游戏，或者会等待下一次的推广？说实话思考所有的这些可能性是让人害怕的。
谢天谢地在推广的帮助下游戏卖得还不错。在8月（推广的最后一个月）间《Oil Blue》卖出了24份，并在9月份继续卖出17份，在整个推广期间共创造了530美元的销售额（需要注 意的是卖出的这些游戏并不包含捆绑销售）。而接下来几个月的销售便不再这么乐观了，因为出现了许多全新的假期游戏。
我曾在12月的时候发行过2款游戏（游戏邦注：名为《The Sandbox of God: Remastered》和《Spirits of Metropolis》），结果都很糟糕。因为假期，你很难与任何有关预览或 游戏推广的网站联系，并且大多数玩家都专注于其它更大型内容的发布。所以当我在2010年带着《Oil Blue》进入假期时，我知道自己只有2个选择：创造一次巨大的促销去吸引玩 家给予游戏几天的关注，或者保持低调并在1月份进行重组。最终我选择低调而行，并且我也很高兴自己做出这个选择，因为在12月份许多其它独立游戏获得了巨大的销量，更别提 Steam上的游戏。考虑到自己只拥有少量的用户，我是不可能与他们进行竞争的。
尽管《Oil Blue》做得不错，但仍有一些游戏止步不前。它们就是我在几年前所创造的硬核益智游戏，并且我从未真正尝试着去推广它们：它们虽然是一些可靠的游戏，但是销售 这些游戏的时间已经结束了。
而如果我在夏季推广结束后提供一些全新的捆绑销售会怎样？这并不是像Humble Indie Bundle那样的级别，再一次地，我没有能力与那样的游戏进行竞争，因为我所拥有的用户和 资金不多，但我却能够基于一个有效的价格使用我所创造的游戏进行捆绑销售。
利用我在过去几年里所销售的5款游戏（《Oil Blue》，《Sandbox of God: Remastered》，《greenTech Plus》，《Spirits of Metropolis》和《Shellblast》），我创造了3个 独特的捆绑销售或组合。一个名为益智组合（它们是《Shell》，《Spirits》和《SOG:R》），售价12.95美元，大约为玩家节省了6美元。然后是行动/模拟组合（《SOG:R》， 《Oil Blue》和《greenTech》），售价19.95美元，节省了3美元。最后是所有游戏的组合包，售价25美元，节省了13美元。对玩家来说这真的会是不错的交易。
显然，如果《ShellBlast》和《Spirits》的销售像煎饼一样，那么组合销售对我来说就没有任何意义（在2010年这两款游戏都很难卖出去）。但我准备好将这些游戏推销出去了： 2010年末，我共卖出31份捆绑销售游戏，基于《Oil Blue》以及其它游戏的常规销售外又赚取了485美元。对于不花任何成本而赚取利益来说，这真的是个不错的方法。5款游戏的 捆绑销售最好卖，而行动/模拟组合则最不受欢迎。
他们的反馈如上所示。我想知道的是，为什么他们觉得不适合？我可以做出改变。我回复了我的感谢并告诉他们我有多失望，但是我仍会在创造下一款游戏后联系他们。我觉得如 果真的是因为《Oil Blue》的技术问题的话他们应该会告诉我的，原因应该只是他们不喜欢游戏内容而已。我后悔未进一步问明细节，但同时我也不想因为自己的愤怒或郁闷情绪 而破坏了今后的游戏提交机会。考虑到他们花了3个月时间才回复我，我并不想破坏与Steam的直接交流机会。
我所知道的只是1）我所拥有的用户并不多，2）Steam拥有大量的用户，3）《Oil Blue》的演示版本的转换率很高，并且在像GamersGate等网站上表现很好。虽然未能与Steam合作 让我有点遗憾，但是除此之外我还有很多事可以做。
作为没有多少资金的开发者，我难以支付广告费用。推广促销能够拉动销量，如果我这么做，我便需要呈现出新游戏或其预览才能让人们记住Vertigo Games。基于这种方式我将在 进行《Oil Blue》的促销的同时推广我们正在制作的全新游戏。但问题就在于我们还有好几个月才能完成新游戏。
促销可能在推广期间非常有帮助，但一旦回到最初价格，我们便很难保证是否能够再次恢复到原来的销售额—-如果继《Oil Blue》（游戏邦注：也就是我到目前为止所创造过的最 畅销的游戏）之后我没有更多游戏推出的话这便会是个很危险的做法。考虑到我的其它游戏的表现以及它们所拥有的较低价格，我可能只有等到下一款新游戏的发行才可能挽回局 面。
自从《Oil Blue》发行以来我便吸取了许多经验教训。首先，Gamasutra上一篇优秀的文章突出了在游戏发行前花几个月时间（而不只是几周）宣传游戏的重要性。《Oil Blue》便 是没有投入足够的时间去提升曝光度。其次我使用了门户网站去满足游戏的评论和分销需求，并且我通过使用图像和视频（而不是可游戏的架构）向他们推广游戏而获得一些早前 的机会。不过更多教训还是来自于游戏创造的技术方面，而有些影响着《Oil Blue》的问题其实都很愚蠢。
最初我的计划是创造一款遵循我几年前所创造的饭店模拟游戏的商业游戏，然后继续创造《Oil Blue 2》。但在阅读了一些很不错的评论（感谢它并不是“另一款饭店游戏”）后 ，我决定选择一条全新的道路并基于美国的司法体制创造一款全新的游戏。我需要在从续集中获取收益前明确Vertigo Games是一个品牌，并且对于我们来说更有帮助的是创造一些 《Oil Blue》一样独特但却完全不同的内容。这是一个让我非常兴奋的项目。
一年前我开始在自己的网站以及GamersGate上销售我的第一款商业独立游戏《Oil Blue》。从那时以来我已经写过两篇描述自身经历以及游戏销售的文章，希望能够帮助其他独立 游戏设计师更好地理解我们所面对的挑战。
然而在那之后又发生了许多有趣的事让我希望再次与你们进行分享，包括《250 Indie Games You Must Play》这本书的发布以及因为YouTube我首次发现游戏遭遇盗版的情况等等 。同时我还要分享除了我的网站外游戏在其它分销网站上的销售情况，从而为你们呈现游戏到今天为止的整体销售。
因为“假期冬眠”我们中止了游戏—-即因为圣诞季，游戏的销量遭到了冻结，我不知道游戏销量是否会恢复或者将在12月份开始出现下滑。那时候我的目标是开始一个新项目，即 正式宣布开始一个新项目并凭借着《Oil Blue》获得更多宣传。
似乎在一开始我便很害怕假期销量大幅度下滑，因为游戏在1月份的销售额是280美元而在12月的销售额仅为40美元。但是在2月份游戏销售额降到了100美元，在3月份甚至只有40美 元了。如此看来《Oil Blue》算是完成了其销售运转。
在这一期间我计划着公开自己的下一款游戏，即基于美国司法体制的一款游戏。但在做出计划的同时，我逐步意识到自己需要投入更多时间于游戏中，更别提进一步发展游戏的昂 贵费用了。当我凭借着少量的报酬尝试着置身于一款需要花费较长时间的项目时，我慢慢开始感到沮丧。与此同时我想要降低《Oil Blue》的价格去宣传新游戏，因为我的用户非 常有限，所以我只能尽可能地利用更多宣传。但似乎一切都未能奏效。
然后我收到了来自Mike Rose的邮件。他正在写一本名为《250 Indie Games You Must Play》的书，并问我能否将《Oil Blue》加入其中，对此我非常高兴。不仅是对游戏成为书 籍的一部分感到荣幸，而且这也能够成为我降低《Oil Blue》的价格的理由，并借此书籍更多地销售游戏。这一方法真的很有效，直至6月份游戏的销售额又增加了600美元。但这 并不是最有趣的一部分。
4月16日，《Oil Blue》的价格从14.95美元跌至8.95美元，并将持续到6月31日。而在我的网站上也仍有一些捆绑销售，即基于较低价格出售我的所有游戏（在第二部分文章中提到 的3种捆绑销售）。我也削减了捆绑销售游戏的价格，即将5款游戏的捆绑价格从25美元降低到15美元，其它2款捆绑销售也降价25%至40%。
当《Oil Blue》凭借新价格继续促销时，我所看到的改变并不明显：在我的网站以及GamersGate上我只卖掉少量的游戏，这点让我很吃惊。但更让人吃惊的是出现许多人购买5款游 戏组合包，并将其销售额从100美元带到了600美元。这就好像我再次以15美元在销售《Oil Blue》一样。如此看来，游戏销售的确取得了成功，即创造了上半年未创造的额外收益 。
让我们回到游戏最初发行的时候，我将游戏的预告片提交到GameTrailers并继续将其上传到我的YouTube账号上，如此我便很容易将其链接到其它网站上了。YouTube上的预告片是 我在各种论坛，网站上呈现游戏时所提供的链接。但真正有帮助的还是YouTube所提供的所有视频的流量指示器，即能够告诉你哪个网站嵌入了你的预告片，你从每个网站中获得多 少浏览等等。以下是我在YouTube上的一个视频的相关例子：
在发行后一周左右，《Oil Blue》的预告片浏览量便超过1万，但在销量上却没有明显的变化。所以我便打开了流量页面。让人惊讶的是，有4个不同的盗版论坛链接了该预告片， 这些链接让玩家能够在Rapidshare和其它网站上下载我的游戏。
这时候我所做的第一件事便是将我的流量页面设为私人可见，如此便没人能够看到盗版链接了。然后我打开了那些论坛并尝试着给它们发送电子邮件要求对方关闭下载链接。 RapidShare，Megaupload等网站在几天内关闭了链接。但仍有一些不知名的下载网站隐藏于其中—-所以我不得不申请版权专属，并等待几周的审核。仔细检查了各种网站但却发现 几个小时内其它网站上又出现了游戏链接，这真的让我很受挫。虽然关闭了大多数链接，但始终存在漏网之鱼。
因为《Oil Blue》的销量逐渐下跌，我想尝试一些不同的方法去销售游戏，不一定是为了销售更多《Oil Blue》，而是想看看哪种方法能够有效地作用于自己的下一款游戏。以下 便是其中的一些方法：
因为在几个月内未出现新的发行内容或消息，我的网站的流量一直处于下降状态，我很难尝试着基于TrialPay去使用全新的分销模式，即让用户从不同公司（如Netfix）间选择内 容，完成它们并能够因此获得免费的《Oil Blue》。该模式非常可靠，我便遇到一些成功使用该模式的人，但对于我来说这却不是一直持久的付费解决方法。
我已经接触了一些想要在其网站上呈现《Oil Blue》的网站和发行商，并且我也同意与他们进行合作。但是在我将游戏带到他们平台上6个月后我却未收到他们的任何回复。有些发 行商甚至在自己的网站上将游戏价格提升到20美元。
Game Giveaway of the Day
GGotD是一个能够快速提供现金和大量访客的网站。我不认为将一款新游戏带到该平台是一种明智的做法，但对于资金流动缓慢的“老游戏”来说，获取流量和报酬却很重要。他们 也会在你的游戏出现当天在其游戏页面上刊登你的游戏广告，就像去年当我的一些旧游戏使用其服务时便带动了《Oil Blue》的额外销量。尽管其付费不是很准时（我总是需要发 邮件去催他们），但是至少我没遇到过赊账的行为，所以我计划着明年继续与他们合作。
虽然在过去我一直与GG保持合作，《Oil Blue》发行后也一直待在该网站，但我仍想借此机会夸夸他们的服务。我会极力向所有准备进入商业领域的独立开发者推荐他们。他们每 个月都会准时将收入报表发给我，这是大多数其它公司所做不到的。我从未在此遇到付费问题，他们总是能够第一时间回复我的邮件。对于独立开发者来说他们无疑是最佳门户网 站。而对于Steam我自是没有发言权的，毕竟他们拒绝了我的游戏。
《Oil Blue》改变了我对于目前所创造的下一款游戏的计划。这一次，我提供给美术师和编曲者版税和前期报酬，如此他们便会更加用心地投入于项目中。我同样也并不打算将游 戏定价为14.95美元，而是可能在8.95美元至12.95美元之间，因为这更适合我们现在的用户。同时我正在创造游戏较早前状态的预览，并将于6月29日在我的博客上刊登新游戏的相 关信息（下图是我在上周所发布的预告片截图）。
在过去一年我分享了自己销售《Oil Blue》（这是一款在2010年发行于PC上的独立游戏，虽然销售不佳但却获得了一些好评）的经历。从那时以来我便一直致力于两个项目，一个 项目在经过半年多努力后被搁置了，而另一个项目便是在去年10月发行的名为《Cook, Serve, Delicious!》的管理游戏，你可以在游戏中购买装备和食物去填充你的饭店的菜单并 在早上9点至晚上10点间为人们做饭。今天我想再次分享这款游戏的销售，我如何做到这些，我将如何选择，我在销售游戏中使用的策略以及我会再次尝试以及不再尝试的事。
在经历了一款并不成功的游戏开发后（尽管已经完成了游戏图像和音乐的创造），我决定终止该项目并致力于其它内容。我曾经在Indie Royale上卖过《Oil Blue》，并赚到了1万 美元左右去支持下一款游戏（在搁置的项目身上用掉了一半左右的钱）。带着沮丧的心情，我决定如果这款游戏再不成功的话它将是我所创造的最后一款游戏。我已经尝试了好几 年，但都未曾赚取真正的收入。每个月我从游戏那拿到的钱都不到100美元，大多数收入还是来自在咖啡店的兼职工作。
最终我决定创造从2004年以来就有很多人要求我创造的游戏：受日本PS1游戏《我的料理》影响的一款烹饪游戏。2004年的时候我基于充满手绘精灵以及来自《模拟人生》的音乐的 《我的料理》所创造的一款免费游戏受到了许多人的喜欢。将做饭与尝试着让客人离开相结合是一种有趣且混乱的挑战。几年之后我尝试着创造这款游戏的续集，但是因为一些原 因未能成功，主要是因为我没有足够的钱投入游戏创造。而这一次，我有钱了，所以将最终尝试看看。我知道游戏理念很棒，并且只要带有一些优化内容的话便能够获得成功。而 我真正想要问自己的是：这是否是个足够出色的理念能够让我最终创造出一款优秀/赚钱的游戏？
多亏Game Maker Studio，我一直计划着将游戏带到多个平台上，但在开发的同时引擎仍然处于测试状态。我决定使用Game Maker 8.1并先在PC上发行，然后再将其移植到Mac和iOS 。我不怎么了解编程，而Game Maker让我能够创造任何想要的游戏，所以在某种意义上我与该平台是维系在一起的。我并不在乎是否了解Game Maker，我只专注于游戏创造过程。
我使用了与创造《Oil Blue》一样的美术师和编曲家（Sara Gross和Jonathan Geer），他们在过去都拥有非常棒的表现并且也有时间完成该项目。我的预算是6000美元，并且最后 只超出一点钱：在美术和音乐上花了5500美元，为了将游戏移植到其它平台上又花了2500元购买设备。我并未将创造游戏所花的钱当成虚拟消费，主要是因为这是所谓的时机成本 。没错，我花了许多时间去创造游戏，但当我开始衡量自己投入于游戏创造的时间并计算自己未拿到工资的损失时，我可能就要放弃游戏制作了，因为这便表示我的游戏热情已经 消失了。
测试是个很棒的经历，我并不想做出一些艰难的选择，如我将整合多少反馈到游戏中。有些用户发现游戏前进到下一个关卡太慢了，所以我便将游戏压缩了8个小时。虽然这对于我 计划将游戏宣传为带有20多个小时游戏玩法的广告不利，但这却是对的做法。比起面对20多小时乏味的游戏内容，我更希望人们能够拥有12小时有趣的体验。我修改了许多内容， 最终剩下一些较为出色的内容。
但在进行测试的同时我意识到难以赶在夏季截止期限内完成游戏。并且随着9月的临近，我知道如果我不能在10月前发行游戏，我便只能将其推迟到明年，因为从10月中旬以来便会 出现一些大型游戏。从收益和个人士气看来这都不是一件好事。所以我更加努力地投入工作并公布了发行日期：10月5日（周五）。根据《Oil Blue》的经验，我将新游戏定价为 8.95美元。并且与我的其它游戏一样，这款游戏也是没有数字版权管理保护。
《Cook, Serve, Delicious!》的发行
《CSD》与普通的休闲烹饪游戏不同，因为它非常复杂。我是故意这么做的，因为我将游戏称为“第一款餐厅硬核PC模拟游戏”，并且未去证实这是对的还是错的。至少我认为这是 对的！我不想将游戏定义为休闲游戏，希望游戏能够瞄准那些追求一定难度挑战的更加硬核/独立游戏玩家。在10月5日（周五）半夜，我使用了BMT Micro在我的网站上发行了这款 游戏。
在接下来的一周情况有所好转。Rock Paper Shotgun选中了我的游戏，并推动了游戏销量的上升，在新一周结束前我共赚到了900美元。我将几天内赚到2000美元的目标改成在月底 的时候赚到2000美元。我认为即使进行Mac/iOS发行我也很难打破这一数值。
这是真的Ryan Davis吗？真的是我前几年订阅并且很喜欢每一个Quick Look和播客的那个网站吗？不可能的吧！在打开邮件前我迟疑了几秒。没错，真是他，他向我索要了新闻稿 中提到的一些额外媒体代码/架构。
之后我看到了Giant Bomb在接下来一天的时间表：下午2点将会推出《Cook, Serve, Delicious!》的Quick Look，两名Giant Bomb员工将玩30分钟左右的游戏。那个晚上我甚至兴 奋得忘了睡觉。
让我告诉你观看基于Quick Look的游戏视频是怎样的感受：非常超现实。当游戏中出现一些爆破时我简直吓呆了，尽管这仍然只是在进行测试。我很兴奋地看到自己关注了很久的 两个人正在玩我的游戏。在整个过程中我的心都狂跳不已。在接下来几天里我又看了好几遍。想到不久前我都想着退出游戏制作领域时，这简直就是一次非常棒的成就。
在Giant Bomb的视频上线后30多分钟后，游戏销量便上来了。并且这种情况持续了整个晚上。每卖出一款游戏我便会收到电子邮件，我也即时刷新了iPod上的收件箱以获得更多销 量邮件。在Quick Look前一天我只卖掉2份游戏，而在视频发布的那一天我就卖掉了140多份游戏，在接下来一天甚至卖出了更多。我简直不敢相信，这是我一生中关于独立游戏最 棒的几天。我最终突破了自己的目标。
如果我们着眼于Giant Bomb的Quick Look之前12天游戏的销售趋势，我一个月赚到的钱大概是1500美元。而在月末的时候，游戏在我的网站以及GamersGate/Desura上的总销售额为 7400美元。我终于在发行Mac/iOS版本前做到了收支平衡，这是我之前从未想到的情况。
我知道在发行PC版本的同时未推出Mac版本是一次巨大的打击。这主要是因为我们使用的是Game Maker 8.1，这只适用于PC，而GM Studio也还未做好万全的准备。所以我快速将游戏移植到到Studio并在几周内创造了Mac版本并投入运行。最初我发布的新闻稿提到Mac版本将在11月问世，而我现在将其提前到了10月28日。那个月我只赚到了100美元，而现在单 单游戏的Mac版本就已经获得了1500美元的收益。在面对官方苹果Mac App Store我并没有什么经验。不仅审批时间非常慢（游戏邦注：大概需要14至20天去审批游戏与更新内容）
，并且这里几乎未曾出现过促销的情况。这里还存在一个主要因素，即那时Game Maker Studio的架构出现了一点小故障不能保存Snow Leopard的用户。这是很少出现的故障，但却 提醒了我需要去留意漏洞以及其它问题。GM Studio开发者能够在几天内帮我修复漏斗，而苹果也加快了更新内容的审核。
关于Mac版本的另一个问题便是未能得到有效优化，这主要是因为我并不熟悉GM Studio处理Mac上的文件的方式。这需要大量的运行资源（4GB左右的内存）。这是基于GM 8.1进行 开发然后再移植到Studio的副作用，即我未能面向全新的引擎优化内容。我迫切地希望获得iOS支持与运行，而完整优化《CSD》的Mac版本则意味着我需要彻底撤回游戏。考虑到 Mac版本到现在为止的销量，我最终选择进行一次简单的移植。如果你拥有一台足够强大的Mac去运行它，这便会是这款游戏的一个有效的版本。
2个月后游戏销量开始下降，相关报道也逐渐减少，我也准备好发行《Cook, Serve, Delicious!》的iPad版本了。我浏览了各种iOS网站并阅读了许多手机开发者的分析与测量，因 为尽管我对iOS有所了解，但面对整个市场仍是个新手。我是一个没有名气的开发者并将发行一款即将与该平台上许多餐厅模拟游戏相竞争的高价游戏，尽管我的游戏与它们不同。 这是件让人害怕的事，但与此同时我知道如果能够在此获得用户，我便会成为赢家。所以我便非常努力去做到这点。
我知道在一整年时间里，对于iOS开发者来说圣诞节是最大的促销日，我也想要与他们共享这一福利。我将游戏的iPad版本定价为5美元，并且在1月6日前享有3美元的促销价。 Giantbomb在其播客中再次提到了游戏，甚至将《CSD》提名为2012年获得最佳下载量的游戏，听到这一题名的时候我简直像获得了奥斯卡大奖那样兴奋。一些主要的评论网站给予 了游戏4颗星的评级，在Touch Arcade的4.5颗星的评论甚至在整个1月份都停留在TA App的首页。所有的这一切都帮助我的游戏在12月份创造了更多销量。
我知道自己并不想将游戏降价到1美元，因为这还是一款新游戏并且没有应用内部购买机制能够弥补损失。但我却未完全意识到圣诞节对于应用开发来说的重要性。选择在这个月发 行游戏意味着我将面对无数基于假期促销价的游戏，甚至连一些大型AAA级应用也低至1美元，一些大型公司甚至限免了其应用列表中的内容。如此我根本无法与他们竞争，结果便 是我的游戏错过了圣诞节的推广（那天它所卖出的数量甚至低于平常）。毕竟我的游戏售价是3美元，如果我是一个拿到全新iPad/iTunes礼物卡的孩子，我肯定会先选择其它1美元 的应用。
我所犯的另一个错误便是将促销时间延伸到1月6日。我不应该将3美元的游戏售价延伸这么长时间，但一切都太迟了。我已经对外公布了这一决定，我并不想因此惹恼用户。但其实 促销通常只在一两天内具有功效，因为你处于应用价格观察网站，所以你可以获得流量的推动。在那之后你基于促销价格所卖出的游戏与基于5美元原价卖出的游戏数量其实是一样 的。如果我能够尽早结束促销的话所有的假期流量有可能会带动收益。
我所面对的最后一个问题是游戏不能运行于iPad 1上，这便是基于GM 8.1移植游戏所出现的另一个副作用。因为不可能阻止iPad 1用户购买你的游戏，所以我只能在游戏描述中做 出警示。这么做似乎是有效的，除了有时候会收到来自用户的消极评论外。
实际上浏览应用商店中的用户评论有时蛮让人受挫的。有些人用户的确喜欢游戏，但却只会先给你1颗星，直至我添加了一个选择或修复了一个漏洞。有一个用户便在我每一次更新 时都给予1颗星的评级，并表示虽然她喜欢游戏但却不喜欢设计选择，且不断问自己为什么仍然会花4个小时去玩我的游戏。看到这个我简直郁闷到想砸掉显示器。但谢天谢地这些 问题终被解决了，现在我的游戏在美国应用商店中已经拥有120条4至5颗星的评论了，并且只有2条负面评论。不得不说这真的是非常棒的结果。
因为在iOS上修补游戏非常轻松，所以我想做一些之前在其它游戏中未曾做过的事：提供DLC。我知道每当我推出更新内容时这便能够推动游戏宣传，通过在PC上提供免费DLC以及在 iOS上提供应用内部购买能够促进游戏销售。在新图像和音乐方面我花费了大概1800美元，其中包含了在Iron Cook Kitchen中出现的新食物和全新的游戏玩法挑战。
我认为这款游戏最薄弱之处在于玩家从0颗星到达3颗星的餐厅，然后打开全新的事件和挑战，这是1颗星和2颗星层面中不具有的全新游戏玩法元素。全新的DLC包含了10种新的食物 （游戏邦注：其中6种食物是现在推出，而其余的4种则要等到3月），并且不像在1颗星和2颗星餐厅中出现的其它20种食物那样打开便能够购买。这能够帮助游戏维系起与接下来一 些餐厅级别之间的关系并创造全新的游戏玩法元素和策略去强化游戏整体，从这方面看来这是一种巨大的成功。
那时候我并未想到的是游戏方式。用户可以花12个小时以上打开最终餐厅关卡，那时候游戏将变成是可扩充的免费游戏模式，不存在其它可实现的目标。他们将能够“击败”游戏 。为了让这一DLC能够与拥有《CSD》的玩家相关联，它们需要仍处于打败游戏的进程中。如此便阻碍了销售DLC/IAP的能力。存在一个用户玩游戏的窗口，而当我能够向他们销售内 容时，剩下的内容便因为太短而难以触及。
不仅如此，当你想到这点时，游戏已经拥有完整的功能并且在iOS市场上基于5美元定价出售。一旦用户以5美元购买了游戏，那么不管他们打算玩10分钟游戏还是10小时游戏对我来 说都是没有区别，因为我赚到的钱都是一样的。创造DLC去延伸游戏并不能让我受益，只会让我投入接下来几个月的时间去完成所有DLC内容，如此我才能够进行之后的 iPhone/Android移植，之后我还需要将新内容移植到PC和Mac上。这并不是明智的行动，尽管DLC能够让游戏变得更好。我的下一款游戏将会更有效地执行DLC，如此我便不用再被移 植和开发所束缚。
另外需要注意的是我在iOS上发行了一个演示版本，即在用户购买完整版本前呈现给他们30分钟左右的游戏玩法。有很多评论说游戏是场“骗局”，我对此困惑不已，而在与一些 Touch Arcade论坛开发者交谈后我才知道，《Cook，Serve，Delicious!Free》这个名字会让人觉得这是一款免费且带有广告的完整游戏，但其实事实并非如此。所以我便将游戏名 字改为《Cook，Serve，Delicious!Lite》，如此便未出现任何问题。
我想要指出的一个有趣的事实是游戏在App Store前300款付费模拟与策略游戏榜单的排名—-从中并不能看出开发者一天赚到了多少钱。在1月和2月期间，当游戏处于300款游戏末 端时，我赚到的钱比它位列前150名时还多。同时这也让我知道了一周间游戏的销售情况，周二周三卖得最好，而周日和周一最糟。自从发行以来游戏在1月份都未曾再进入前75名 ，但作为我的第一款iOS游戏，这样的游戏排名已经算是一个很好的开始了。
3月5日，PC/Mac版本通过BMT Micro，GamersGate，Desura，亚马逊和MacGameWorld共赚到了16200美元。BMT，GamesGate和Desura是很不错的合作伙伴，他们的付款都很及时并且 能够提供很棒的技术支持。我非常推荐这三个服务。
（注：我同时也在我的网站上出售一个名为Combo of Amazing的捆绑包，即我当前所有促销游戏的组合，包括《CSD》，这个捆绑包售价15美元，通常情况下都是超过30美元的。这 一捆绑包为我赚到了3500美元，即包含于上述总销售额中。）
到目前为止的总销售额是28000美元，扣除开支后的利润是17000美元（游戏邦注：进行iOS/Mac/Android开发消耗了2500美元的费用）。在短短5个月里，这算是一个非常稳定的数 值，但另一方面我也必须承认这对于大多数独立开发者来说只能算是极其微薄的利润。因为我还需要程序员和美术师的帮忙，所以我能获得的利润就更低了。我通过在Game Maker Studio独立创造游戏而节省了许多钱和时间，事实证明这么做的确很有效。但如果未能得到Giant Bomb或Northern Lion的关注，我便不可能做到这一切。我一直告诉自己，能够得 到他们所给予的机会是多么幸运的事啊。
今年《Cook, Serve, Delicious!》还有许多获得利益的机会。我认为全新的手机移植将会表现得很好，我也有可能在年末的时候将这款游戏与其中一款主要的独立游戏捆绑出售。 我还想要重拾之前被我搁置的游戏并在今年发行它，同时在2014年1月发行一款主要的iOS游戏，因为这个月似乎是大多数开发者所忽视的一个月。
首先，面向Android移植游戏需要比预期花费更长时间，游戏的最终发行时间变成7月。其次，尽管花费了几周的时间我仍未能让游戏有效地运行于iPhone3或iPhone4上，因为在削 减游戏玩法组件前我不能删除足够的游戏资产去匹配256兆的内存，所以我只能选择抛弃这一版本。最终，游戏每个月的平均销售额为1500美元，即使在7月份多出了Android版本的 收益，但是其销售额还是逐渐下滑。9月份更是达到最低值，即只赚到1000美元左右的收益（游戏邦注：有三分之一收益是来自Android平台）。
虽然Android版本的数值低于iPad版本，但如果让我重新选择的话我还是会将游戏移植到Android。该平台上的开发工具优于苹果—-在Android我只需要花费几个小时便能够发行更 新内容，而苹果却需要经历好几天的审查时间，并且Android上添加成就和浏览数据的UI更加方便，这让我能够轻松对不满意的消费者做出回应，而不是像在iPad上那样对用户问题 无能为力。虽然相对于Android，iOS始终是我们的优先选择，因为它是主要的收益来源，但是随着时间的发展，它们的收益差距会不断缩小。
在10月份，iPad是我的主要收入来源，尽管我并未真正在这一市场上推广游戏。我发行了游戏更新内容，但却未进行任何广告（对于任何版本的游戏）。在4月（从4.99美元降至 2.99美元一周）和7月（3.99美元）的降价创造了小幅度的销售额提升，但其实并未出现明显的变化。除了1月份所创造的5067销售额外，从整体来看今年的销售情况并不是很突出 （9月份甚至低至674美元）。这与我所期待的每个月创造3千美元以上的销售额相差甚远。但再一次地，与我在1月份面对DLC更新时所采取的做法一样，我并未大力去推广游戏。这 便是所谓的你投入多少便能够得到多少。
在PC/Mac/Linux方面，情况似乎也不是很乐观。从1月到10月份单单我的网站的总销售额大概是3600美元（同样时间内其它网站所创造的额外收益只有600美元）。6月份，我能够将 游戏带到Humble Store上，这对于独立开发者来说是一个值得信赖的平台。
因为Humble Store并未真正存在，所以游戏并未真正从中收益，但是通过使用他们所提供的服务，游戏收益的确出现了增长。使用HS服务所获得的销售额比使用BMT Micro多出了2 倍，尽管数量不多，但对于游戏知名度未出现明显变化的时候这仍然是不错的成绩。通过处理了CSD交易我放弃了BMT Micro，Humble服务也帮助游戏从1月到10月增加了2100美元的 收益。我希望在自己今后的游戏中继续使用Humble Store服务。
从手机平台到台式机，游戏从1月到10月的总销售额为22624美元，这意味着从2012年10月发行以来我从游戏中共赚取了34000美元。扣除9千至1万美元的成本后，游戏的利润大概是 24000美元，虽然从表面上看来这是不错的结果，但是因为我在12月份便辞掉之前的工作转向全职游戏创造，这便意味着这些钱是我的唯一收入来源（在同样时间内我的另外一款游 戏所创造的收益还不到2000美元）。这意味着我能够用于下一款游戏创造的预算将较少，并且它将再次成为一款孤注一掷的游戏—-如果我的下一款项目不能吸引广大玩家的注意力 ，我便只能重新找工作了。
我非常惊喜，简直不敢相信这是事实。这就像中了乐透一样。我的游戏竟然出现在Steam上了！在《Oil Blue》被Steam拒绝了3次后，我的另一款游戏花了将近1年的时间终于被 Steam所接受了。
当我平复了情绪后，我开始认真思考问题。我意识到自己将与其它上百款同样通过审查的游戏展开竞争。我快速浏览了所有的这些游戏并搞清楚哪些游戏已经完成而哪些游戏和我 的一样正准备分销，以及哪些游戏仍然处于早期概念/测试阶段。虽然有些游戏已经完成了，但是其开发者却未意识到自己通过了Greenlight，所以我知道这些游戏短时间内还不会出现在Steam上。谢天谢地，我所使用的引擎（Game Maker Studio）具有Steam API，能够支持Achievements，云端和排行榜等功能，所以我便开始努力面向Steam设置我的游戏。
有些游戏早于我的游戏出现在了Steam上，我也记录下了他们的发行策略。有个开发者拒绝提供给那些通过捆绑销售获得游戏的人Steam key，并因此遭到了来自Steam论坛的抵制， 所以我便立即在Desura，我的网站以及Humble Store面向当前的游戏玩家提供key。还有些开发者未提供额外的Steam支持而发行游戏，从而导致一些Steam社区成员延迟获得游戏。 这些开发者的实践告诉我一定要重视在Steam平台的发行。我只有一次机会能够面向Steam发行游戏，如果我不能尽所能地利用这次机会，我一定会后悔死。
游戏最初的定价是8.95美元，而Steam建议将价格提升到9.99美元以匹配该平台上的大部分游戏。随着价格的提升，我决定不仅要支持Steam功能，同时还要添加一些我本来所构想 的内容，如Key Binding支持。我很担心提高1美元的价格会遭到玩家的指责，但幸好我还未听到任何抱怨。实际上我非常看好带有全新内容的游戏，而Steam API也带给了我很多帮 助。
2013年10月8日，即《CSD》官方发行一周年后几天，这款游戏出现在了Steam上。在短短的一天时间里我便获得了将近15000美元的销售总额，这几乎等同于我在去年面向 PC/Mac/Linux销售游戏所赚取的收益。在两天时间里我便超越了这一数值。一周间，游戏共获得了超过5万美元的总收益—-远远超过我在过去三年里作为游戏开发者所创造的成绩 。我的家人都不相信这一结果。我自己也不敢相信。这是一条需要花费好几年努力才能触及的道路，但我最终还是走到了这里。
在不到8个小时的时间里我的游戏便赚取了超过5万美元的收益。并在这个时间段里卖出了2万份游戏。天哪！是2万份啊！我的上一款游戏《Oil Blue》在发行后的三年时间里也才 卖出1千多份！
对于我来说PC和iOS平台是最大的赢家，而Linux则是带来最少收益的平台。如果Steam Machines和Steam OS能够完善Linux的渗透率的话情况可能会有所好转。
今后《Cook，Serve，Delicious!》的发展将趋于平衡，但并不会结束。今天我已经发行了《CSD》的iPhone5/iPod Touch 5版本，这主要是出于乐趣，并且我也未进行真正的宣传 。我想要看看这么做的结果，并且我希望在这个月单单这个版本至少能够创造500美元的收益。
基于在Steam上赚到的收益，我的下一款游戏预算将会是最初的4倍，这让我可以不再使用Kickstarter和Early Access进行融资，并专注于创造一款完整的游戏。我希望在3月份发 行新游戏，并且我也有预感这将会是一次巨大的发行，当然了，前提是它会是一款优秀的游戏。
1年前我曾描写了《Cook，Serve，Delicious!》在Steam和手机平台上的发行以及自己的事业是如何走上正轨。这就像是一场漫长又艰难的战斗，但我最终还是成为了全职的开发者 。在那之后又发生了许多事，我又花了一年时间去支持自己的游戏，并学到了许多东西。我将在此分解自己的财政状况并明确哪些方法是可行的而哪些是不可行的，同时我也将描 述面向一个全新平台以及进行一次全新免费扩展的游戏发行过程，并分享自从2013年10月首次发行以来游戏的销售总量。
其实我并不是非常期待《CSD》的iPhone版本。这是只适用于iPhone 5的Android版本的移植内容（虽然它也能够运行于iPhone 4S，但是在iPhone 4上却不行）。因为这样我不得不 将游戏设置为“免费”，并添加了应用内部交易，从而让玩家能够在真正购买前先尝试游戏。
2014年2月，我收到了来自YoYo Games（即支持《CSD》Game Maker Studio引擎的总公司）的一封邮件。对于我来说这是让YoYo Games将游戏移植到Playstation 4上并在3月的GDC 公布这一消息的好机会。GM Studio似乎在加速对于主机的支持。这是非常让人兴奋的，因为我曾经遭遇过让第三方移植游戏的可怕经历，但是独立面向主机发行对于我来说又太过 困难。
随着GDC的进行，我把握住机会成为了PlayStation和Xbox的一名开发者。但是我却仍然搞不清楚这是否真的是我想要为这款游戏所追求的。我需要看清控制器支持是否适合整款游 戏。所以我便为基于Steam架构的《CSD》移植了控制器支持，并使用ew Game +，Extreme Difficulty模式等等新功能创造了一个全新架构。
我和Humble Bundle进行了漫长的对话（从去年延伸到整个夏天），即讨论怎样的捆绑适合《CSD》。虽然在Humble中有一些员工“拥护”着我的游戏，但这却不足以推动它成为“ 主要”捆绑对象。我并不想将《CSD》与一些较低阶层的Humble Bundle，如手机包捆绑在一起，因为我一开始并不认为《CSD》会变成一款手机游戏：这只是一款适合手机平台的PC 游戏。所以我便拒绝了所有其它捆绑网站的邀请。我知道自己所下的这一赌注会成功的。你只有一次机会出现在捆绑销售中，所以我希望它能是与众不同的。
最终我看到Humble Bundle的一个新机会—-成为Simulation 2捆绑包的一部分，从收益共享和曝光度看来这是一个较大的捆绑销售（游戏邦注：因为那时候大多数Humble Bundle拥 有将近12款游戏，而这个捆绑包只有6个）。这便是我在等待的机会。最新的Humble Bundle Weekly是从7月18日开始，这整个捆绑包在下一周到来前便卖出了超过87000份，并获得 427386.45美元的销售总额。
如果着眼于Humble Bundle每日的销售情况的话你一定会大吃一惊—-在捆绑销售结束后它们甚至还继续提升。Steam上朋友向别人推荐游戏的功能继续发挥着主要的推动力，特别是 在捆绑销售结束后推动着玩家数量的增加。
2014年Valve继续完善Steam的功能集，并在2月份引进了标签系统以及9月份呈现了全新的管理列表。开发者都表现出了他们对于这些系统的看法，对于我个人来说，我认为每日的 收益提高便是新系统所带来的结果。有些开发者认为它只是将一些大游戏变得更大并导致一些小游戏更难得到关注，即使这并非这些系统的本意，但是它们也未能带给那些获得糟 糕评论的游戏帮助。不过对于我来说，我始终都欢迎新方式去呈现《CSD》。我一直打算通过Steam去突显《CSD》的优惠券，但在2014年却一直未找到合适的机会，所以Steam的新 功能或许能让我在2015年做到这点。
随着秋季假日的临近，我在思考着该如何做才能在冬季促销的到来以及大量新游戏出现前保持《CSD》的新鲜度。我知道《CSD》将会被无数新游戏所淹没，但我却在想着是否能够 再一次重新发行《CSD》？当我着眼于Twitch和Youtube上《CSD》的数据流时发现，人们希望游戏能够拥有本地多人游戏支持内容，如此我便可以创造一个全新的游戏部分去专注于 本地多人游戏和排行榜挑战。当着眼于代码时我发现自己可以无需花费太多时间去完成这一设置。在9月24日，我使用了更多细节去整理《CSD》的全新发行内容。
《Cook, Serve, Delicious: Battle Kitchen Edition》
我想要创造游戏到目前为止最大的扩展内容。与主游戏不同的是，《Battle Kitchen》扩展拥有所有全新功能。这里将出现每周挑战，攻击模式，多人游戏团队比赛，持久模式， 电子竞技模式，排名赛，以及拥有超过50个角色的名单，并且其中有一半的角色是来自一些主要的独立游戏。在发行前我们完成了大多数的功能创造与优化。而在10月23日发表公 告时，有些功能还停留在Photoshop中。然而我对此非常自信，我相信自己一定能够完成所有承诺的内容。
使用来自《Hotline Miami》，《Nuclear Throne》，《Rogue Legacy》等等游戏中的角色作为客串真的很有趣。这三款游戏是我所联系的前几个开发者的游戏。当他们说出“yes ”的时候，我便有信心获得更多开发者的肯定回答了。我真的很高兴能够看到自己这么一款小游戏中出现如此庞大的客串角色名单，我甚至不敢相信这一事实。
在我做出决定前Valve联系了我并问我是否对Daily Deal的新扩展感兴趣。如此我的最初发行日期将变成11月。因为还有很多事情要做，所以我很担心能否赶上截止期限。我再一次 想到2月份时所面临的类似的情景。即当YoYo Games向我索要游戏的PS4架构时。我觉得自己能够战胜这一挑战，更别说来自Valve的支持能够给游戏带来多大的帮助。所以我欣然接 受了。
因为有着之前的经历所带来的信心，我每天都只工作到晚上8点，并且未感到太多压力，而现在回想起来觉得那时候的自己还是要带着一些压力比较好。我知道如果情况变糟糕的话 我应该熬夜把事情做好。所以我便买了一些含有高剂量咖啡因的药丸以及星巴克的浓咖啡以防万一。周三的时候我知道为了之后发行我不得不删除一些功能。周五的时候我不敢保 证到底有多少功能能够成功完成。隔天我便进入了应急模式。离Steam Daily Deal还有24个小时。在半夜的时候我吃了药丸并喝了咖啡，以保证自己能够继续工作。
接下来便出现了我所遇到过的最可怕的游戏制作经历。凌晨3点的时候我已经非常疲惫了，这时候的我已经连续编程20多个小时。但是我却不能停下来；为了执行《Battle Kitchen 》我拆分了整款游戏，而现在我不得不将其重新组装起来。虽然咖啡因让我能够保持清醒，但是我的脑子却不能再有效运转了。这是一种非常奇怪的体验；我感觉自己就像行尸走 肉一样。那时候我又吃了药丸并喝了咖啡；5点的时候我的工作速度几乎接近停滞状态了。在某一时刻我甚至不能进行简单的调用将文本置于屏幕上，因为我忘记如何操作了。虽然 坐在屏幕前，但是我却不能敲打键盘，时间一分一秒地过去了，截止期限步步逼近，我简直就要奔溃了。那时候的我决定捂着枕头大叫一声并去冲个冷水澡以恢复精神。
周日中午12点到了。《CSD:Battle Kitchen 》以五折的价格出现在了Steam Store的首页。而游戏仍然处于准备状态。
20分钟后，我的手机响起。我快速瞥了一眼Steam上《CSD》的论坛。游戏完全崩塌了。问题一个接一个跳出来。模式不能运行，角色也打不开。Endurance Challenge在完成后就坏 掉了，这并不是一个简单的漏洞，特别是对于所有只是想要玩游戏的玩家来说。排行榜也出现了颠倒以至于最低分数出现在了第一名的位置。更糟糕的是，问题接二连三地涌现在 标准的单人玩家模式中，这也是我在一开始想要避免的情况（如不能在主菜单屏幕上阅读邮件）。
这种情况下我根本不可能去睡觉，于是我又回到了电脑前，尝试着找出问题的根源。在花了一个小时寻找漏洞后，我意识到本来可以避免这种情况的。因为脑子一片空白我甚至未 尝试着去分析代码。沮丧过后，我在论坛上解释了自己将近30个小时没睡觉，并表示会在隔天修复问题。幸亏收到了许多支持的信息也让我因此镇静下来；我也非常庆幸自己在那 天未发行完整的游戏。
在周日过去之前有人在YouTube上传了他们玩《Battle Kitchen》的经历。尽管他们感受到了游戏乐趣，但也遇到了一些漏洞，并且在玩了Endurance模式后游戏如预期那样崩塌了 。评论者对此非常惊讶并说道：“嘿，这是一个测试版本，所以出现这些问题也是不可避免的。”
48小时的五折Daily Deal带来了超过4400份游戏销量并创造了21000美元的销售总额。从销售时间来看这是一次巨大的成功，11月份的促销即将到来，在接下来几天将会出现许多新 游戏。我不知道在Daily Deal中怎样的成绩才算突出，但在回首之前的一些数据时，我知道这样的表现已经很不错了。
11月的Steam促销以及冬季促销并未选中《CSD》，可能是因为离Daily Deal日期太紧或者他们觉得还有其它游戏更适合这一活动。不管怎样在这两次促销中我的游戏共卖出了1万份 并赚到了将近5万美元的收益。我认为《Battle Kitchen》的扩展版本发挥了很大的功效，即确保游戏对于玩家来说具有新鲜感和乐趣，如此他们便会愿意向别人推荐游戏。
我还需要发行一些额外的内容以完成《Battle Kitchen》扩展，这一扩展将在本周五带着全新的Mystery Box模式进行测试。我认为从很大程度看来《Battle Kitchen》是成功的。 Weekly挑战是有趣的，并且每周能够吸引大概800名玩家进行尝试。从游戏玩法角度来看Endurance模式也取得了巨大的成功，并且它也推动着全新的eSports Endurance模式在2014 年12月出现在游戏上。此外，角色选择页面也如我期待的那样完美。
而未能有效运行的竟然是本地多人游戏理念。组合赛也不如我所希望的那样有趣。这一模式的前提是由2至4名玩家参与挑战。每隔15秒控制便会从玩家手中脱离，而下一名玩家便 会有5秒钟时间去观察自己身处哪里。也就是玩家1可以出现在意面点单中间段，而在他的时间结束后玩家2将完成点单。这虽然看起来很有趣，但是真正去玩的话却不是这样。对于 一个之前从未玩过《CSD》并且突然进入联合赛的玩家来说，他们一定会感到莫名其妙的。这是将玩家带进游戏的一种糟糕方式，这也是我所犯的一大错误。
有趣的是，《Battle Kitchen》的单人玩家内容获得了许多关注，而多人游戏模式却恰恰相反。说实话，我并不认为玩家对于《Battle Kitchen》中的比赛具有巨大的需求，我也 不认为VS模式能够创造出巨大的轰动，这也是我为何会添加全新模式的原因。不管怎样，《CSD》的开发都结束了，我的注意力将转向其它两款还未公布的游戏，其中一款会在今年 问世。
基于《CSD》的编码方式，人们难免会猜想我将如何完成主机移植。其实我更想彻底分解代码而重新编写，但那时候，我认为自己不能再重造游戏了，我应该创造一些新内容。我总 是觉得喜欢《CSD》的玩家便是喜欢游戏本身；我可以为其添加一些新鲜内容，并且光是想象续集就会让人很兴奋。虽然话是这么说，但是现在关于主机支持或续集，我并没有可公 开的内容，而在今年年底，人们的关注焦点应该会转向我所创造的下一款游戏了。
本文并不是我的这系列文章的终结，更恰当地说应该是关于《CSD》的收益或者在一些新平台和新功能的试验内容的终结。当然了，我关于将一些全新内容带到游戏中去保持游戏的 新鲜感的计划也结束了。从现在开始我需要专注于自己的新游戏并为了尽早与玩家见面而努力去优化它们；也许4月我们就能再见面了，不过就像之前那样，最终发行日期都是不好 保证的。
就是在2年半以前，我在《Cook，Serve，Delicious!》发行后的第一周曾经质疑过自己创造这款游戏的决定。而今天，《CSD》在手机，Steam，Distro网站以及Humble Bundle等平 台上共卖出10万份游戏并获得了超过61万美元的销售总额。其中Steam的收益便占据了其中的78%。
这是一个让人惊讶的数字。我简直不敢相信。这一收入完全可以支持我之后的两款游戏，并帮助我继续追求成为顶级独立开发者的梦想。凭借《CSD》我们着实往前迈了一大步，但 我觉得这还不是最顶峰，相信我之后的两款游戏能够进一步延续这样的成绩。我要感谢你们所有人的支持，感谢所有YouTube和Twitch上喜欢游戏的人，感谢所有给予积极评论的社 区成员，感谢那些购买了游戏并喜欢游戏的玩家。当然了，我还要感谢Ryan Davis，他是推动这一成果的大功臣之一。我永远都不会忘记这一切。
How much do indie PC devs make, anyways?
by David Galindo on 07/24/10
So how hard is it for a relatively unknown indie dev to break into the PC gaming industry? Much has been said about the Xbox Live Indie Games service, the iPhone App store, and various other platforms indies can jump off into, but what about good ol’ fashioned PC gaming?
Today I’d like to share my experiences selling a recently released indie game called the Oil Blue, mainly because I think sales transparency among indie devs is so important right now given the increasing difficulty of building a successful PC game (more on that in a bit).
While I’ve made freeware games over the past ten years or so, I haven’t actually gotten serious about breaking into the commercial game industry until a year or two ago. My first two commercial games, ShellBlast and Spirits of Metropolis, were hardcore puzzle games. The games got little to no press, mainly because I didn’t try very hard and didn’t quite know what I was doing, and made less than $300 apiece over a year and a half. So with The Oil Blue, a management/sim game, I was largely marketing my first major indie release to both players and the general media (my own website gets about 300-400 unique visits a day, usually off of the downloadable freeware games).
Production on the Oil Blue started back in November with just three people: myself, an artist (Sara Gross) and a music composer (Jonathan Geer). Work on the game was completed in May, went into beta testing in early June and released on June 22nd. The budget on the game was small (about $500-700) but the game itself ended up being a bit larger than I had anticipated, taking 5-8 hours to “complete,” though the game itself can be played for an indefinite amount of
time. Here’s the general descriptor:
“The Oil Blue is an indie action-sim that has you drilling for oil in the world’s oceans, selling barrels of oil on the market, and exploring new islands once you completed objectives set by your employer, the United Oil of Oceania company. Set in the ocean in the near future, the world’s dependency on oil has grown to an even larger amount. It’s up to you and a crew of men to travel the ocean, find abandoned oil drilling islands, and reclaim them for the United Oil of Oceana company.
Once you land on an island, you have a set amount of days and oil barrels to make during your stay. Fire up those old drilling machines and start making oil underwater, watch the oil barrel market and sell at the highest price, repair machines and do it all within the time you’re given…or the UOO will boot you off the island for a better crew. Sell more barrels to achieve higher ranks and perks, upgrade your machines, and conquer the ocean!”
Back in November one of my primary concerns was that the general public had little to no knowledge of ocean oil drilling to begin with. I wasn’t modeling the game realistically (in fact, I did little to zero research on oil drilling at all) but I knew that the focus of the game might hurt me a bit. Who the heck would know, or care, anything about ocean oil anyways?
Of course, we all know what happened in the Gulf with one of the largest oil spills in history. Suddenly everyone was going to have an idea of what ocean oil drilling was, for better or worse.
But that’s the main question that I wasn’t sure I had the answer to: would this controversy actually help my game at all, or hamper it from being taken seriously? The game itself has no oil spills or anything of the sort, and in fact was set in the future. But no matter what the game was actually based on, I knew the general idea- ocean oil drilling- was going to come across loud and clear no matter what I did.
Honestly, I think it hurt me more than anything else. Not only was I an unknown dev emailing blogs and sites about my game, but I had an ocean oil drilling game that, on paper, was probably capitalizing on the tragedy of the Gulf and really, how good can a game like that be? Certainly another indie game capitalized full force on the Gulf news, and with my emails coming after that game got press, few blogs took me seriously or wanted to report on another game with similar yet wildly different themes.
I have a good feeling that was the reason why my game was rejected on one portal, despite the fact that I already have a game set up on their service. GamersGate picked up the Oil Blue, but few others (the few that there are) responded to me at all.
Reception and Feedback
The one thing I’m really thankful for and in fact helped tremendously was the Indie Games exclusive preview that was posted in early June, which opened the door to game reviews on a few mainstream review blogs since I wasn’t a complete unknown now. The reviews were very positive and enthusiastic, with reviews from Jay is Games, About.com and Gamezebo.
Still, I had a hard road ahead of me. I submitted a game trailer to Gametrailers.com with a general descriptor, though I knew from experience that they actually write their own captions on trailer descriptions. Still, I was a bit surprised to see this:
A ton of negative feedback was posted in the comments and the trailer itself stayed on the front page for the weekend. I thought it was kind of hilarious and probably got the trailer a lot more views than it ever could get on its own, but at the same time I knew that a lot of media sites/blogs thought the same thing Gametrailers did: this is probably some lame attempt at a quick cash in. Out of the thirty five blogs I emailed review copies to, only four or five checked out the game, which was a reasonable amount for a small unknown game like this one. I was hoping that 1up, Giantbomb, Destructoid or another website known for reviewing indie games would pick up the game, but no dice despite my emails.
It’s important to note that I’ll only be sharing my personal website sales and not sales from portals, but these sales are a really good indication on how I’m doing right now overall (I’m also giving away a small game with the purchase of the Oil Blue on my website only thru August 31st, which helped tip sales towards my website.)
The game was released June 22nd at $14.95. So far, in the thirty days that the Oil Blue has been released, I’ve sold 122 copies of the game, making $1,645.43 after royalty payments to BMT Micro.
The demo on my website alone has been downloaded 1,865 times, giving me a conversion rate of about 6-7% if I don’t include portal sales. That’s a very strong conversion rate that I’m really happy with, though obviously I need to get a lot more downloads to see how that number holds up. Out of the people who bought the Oil Blue, 85% of them were completely new customers who never bought my previous commercial games.
Above is the sales graph provided by BMT Micro with spikes coming at releases of new reviews, though now over the last week I’ve been having some zero sales days (which for some reason isn’t charted on the graph). All the forum threads I’ve started everywhere are now off the front pages, there hasn’t been a new review in two weeks, and I’m starting to see how I’m selling the game just off of my own traffic. The result is less than great.
But, I have been issuing new review copies to more websites, and I think that should help me a bit more in the weeks to come. The game was pirated on July 2nd (quite easily since the game is DRM free) but I don’t have any reason to blame slower sales on that fact alone. Certainly it doesn’t help, and I hate that it’s out there being torrented, but the game will sell when I get more traffic going. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and carry on.
Something that really depresses me is the decreasing number of portals that would carry a game like this. Reflexive have closed their doors to distributing games, and RealArcade has shut down as well. I remember submitting my first game a few years ago to RealArcade and having a response in a few days, but not just a rejection letter…a letter that outlined why they didn’t accept my game, what I should try to do in the future, and wishing me the best of luck. That
’s a heck of a lot more than I can say for such distributors like Greenhouse who must have me on their ignore list (of course, they’re still in business and RealArcade is not, so what do I know?)
There’s also something I like to call the “Steam factor.” A good number of people have told me to let them know when my game is on Steam so they can purchase it, but very few people realize just how difficult it is for games to be accepted onto the Steam platform. And while Steam did download my game at the start of this month I haven’t received any feedback, which could really only mean that they’re not interested. And as far as portals/distributors go for indie devs, that’s pretty much all there is.
I think overall the game has been a good, solid start for my team. I plan to do a sequel to the game sometime next year, and I think I’ll be far enough away from the Gulf Spill controversy that it shouldn’t hamper te game’s promotion like I believe it did to the Oil Blue. Plus I have a number of games in the works that are a bit more traditional and should appeal a bit more to a larger audience in the months to come.
I hope that this post gives new indie devs some ideas on what to expect for their first major indie release, or at least be somewhat interesting to people wondering just how much PC indie devs can make these days. Certainly there are a lot more successful indie devs out there than myself, but so far it’s not a bad start to what I hope can be a career that pays the bills.
About six months ago, I released my first major indie PC game, the Oil Blue, which went on to get some good positive feedback amid the BP oil spill controversy. A month afterwards I shared my sales experiences on Gamasutra, and today I’d like to follow up on that post with a final look at my six months in selling the Oil Blue on my own and with other distributors.
It’s easy to look at these sales I present in this article and scoff at them, given that Minecraft probably makes in five minutes what it took me nearly a year to make, but I maintain transparency on my game sales with the hope that it’ll help somebody out there. So, let’s get to discussin’!
Where We Left Off
First off, you should probably check out my previous post on the first month sales of the Oil Blue, which gives more detail into making the game, my challenges I faced up front, and the overall goals and plans I had to push the game in the future.
Among the unknowns at that time were: would I be able to get onto the Steam platform, who had not yet contacted me at that time? What about other review sites, or even a publisher/distributor for the game? And how would sales be affected once my summer promotion (buy the Oil Blue, get greenTech Plus, another indie PC game of mine, for free) ended on August 31st? I would soon know the answers to all of these questions in the months to come.
I should also note that while my games go under the label “Vertigo Games” it’s really just myself and two others that I contract out work to, as well as having a part time job. So I’m not depending on these sales to make payroll/make a living, thank goodness, though I’d certainly like to some day!
Sales So Far
After the first month, I reported in the previous blog entry that sales had reached $1,645, not counting outside distributors such as GamersGate. Using the same standards I can now say that after six months sales stand at $2,766, an increase of about $1,100 over five more months (again not counting GamersGate and other distributors, who have provided a nice amount of income similar to the sales on my site.) It just goes to show how absolutely important your first month of sales are to your game, before it gets locked into a slow trickle of sales for the remainder of it’s life (or until the next big promotion/highlight/sale).
Looking at the numbers at face value don’t tell the whole story however, as I’ll break down just how exactly I got those sales in a period of little to no coverage/advertising.
The Promotion Factor
The Oil Blue launched at $14.95, with an added “summer promotion” on my site: buy the Oil Blue, and receive greenTech Plus, a game that was not available for purchase at the time, absolutely free. The promotion was set to end on August 31st.
greenTech Plus was a game I had created based off of a simple freeware game for a YoYo Games competition I did a few years back. It was created for the simple purpose of porting to other platforms…to test the waters a bit. greenTech Plus is fundamentally a simple game, which is why I made it- simply to give to two starting developers for porting and selling on new platforms other than the PC. Once the Oil Blue was wrapping up development, I realized I could make greenTech Plus as a PC game with little effort and use it to push the Oil Blue via a promotional giveaway of sorts.
My concern with the promotion was simply if it was a crutch for all the sales I had received, and how the Oil Blue would do without bundling it with another game. Should I keep the promotion going and extend the offer? Would I need to decrease the price of the Oil Blue once the promotion was over? Would people be angry that they missed this promotion a few weeks afterwards and not buy the game as a result, or wait for another promotion? It was quite honestly
terrifying to think of all the possibilities.
Thankfully the game managed to sell OK sans promotion. The Oil Blue sold 24 copies during August (the last month of the promotion) and went on to sell 17 copies in September, creating about $530 worth of sales during that timeframe (note that these copies do not include bundle sales, which I’ll get to in a bit). The later months would not be quite as active, as the game fell out of notice with all the new holiday games and sales that were coming up.
There are two things an indie dev should do during the last few months of the year: either ramp up and throw as much effort as you possibly can towards a new game release, or get the hell out of the way for major game and even indie game promotions and sales.
I have previously released two games during the December timeframe (called The Sandbox of God: Remastered and Spirits of Metropolis) with disastrous results. You simply can’t get in touch with any sites about a preview or promoting the game due to the holiday break, and most gamers are too busy with other larger high profile releases. So going into the holidays with the Oil Blue in 2010, I knew I had two choices: either create a massive firesale and bring attention
to the game for a few days, or stay low and regroup in January. I chose to just lay low, and I’m pretty happy with my decision as there were a large number of sales for indie games in December, not to mention the Steam sale and Humble Indie Bundle #2. There would simply be no way I could compete with some of the offers in those sales given my limited audience.
But that didn’t mean I could experiment a bit.
Combos and Bundles
While the Oil Blue was doing fairly well, there were some that simply weren’t moving at all. These were the hardcore puzzle games I had created some years ago, and never really attempted to push them for sales anymore as I had learned a lot since their development: they’re solid games, but their time to sell was pretty much up.
But what if I offered some new bundles once the summer promotion I had for the Oil Blue was over? Something not quite on the level of a Humble Indie Bundle, because again, there would be no way to compete with something like that given my limited audience and funds, but maybe offer a good bundle of the games I have made at a solid price point.
Using the five games I had now amassed for selling over the years (The Oil Blue, the Sandbox of God: Remastered, greenTech Plus, Spirits of Metropolis and Shellblast), I created three unique bundles, or Combos as I called them. One was called the Puzzle Combo (Shell, Spirits and SOG:R) for $12.95, a savings of about six dollars. Next was the Action/Sim Combo (SOG:R, Oil Blue and greenTech) for $19.95, a savings of about three dollars. Finally, there was the “5 for 25” pack of all five games for $25, a savings of about thirteen dollars, easily the best deal.
Obviously if ShellBlast/Spirits was selling like hotcakes, the combo wouldn’t make any sense for me (both games hardly sold anything in 2010). But I was ready to give those games away if it meant bringing in more sales, which it did nicely: by the end of 2010 I sold 31 bundles, making an extra $485 on top of the normal single sales of the Oil Blue and the other games. Not bad for something that cost zero dollars to make happen. The 5 for 25 bundle was the best seller, with the Action/Sim combo hardly selling anything at all.
My last blog entry had me wondering what, if any, intentions Steam had towards selling my game on their service, given that they had downloaded the game twice using the login I provided but sending no feedback. But about a month after making that blog post, I finally received feedback from Steam.
Sadly, that was all the information provided. Part of me wanted to know, why wasn’t it a good fit? Could I change anything, or was it something technical? I thanked them and let them know how disappointed I was, but that I would be in contact for my next game. I felt that if there really was something technical about the Oil Blue that I could fix, they would have told me…no, it was simply that they didn’t like the content of the game for whatever reason. I regret
not pressing the issue further and asking for further details, but at the same time I don’t ever want to come across as angry or annoying, sabotaging my future submission chances. Given that it took three months to get back to me, I didn’t want to damage the only form of direct contact I had with Steam and go through the submission process again. What a weird position to be in.
I’m not naive enough to think that a Steam distribution deal would equal an easy pile of cash. What I do know is that (a) I have a limited audience, (b) Steam has a massive audience, and (c) the demo conversion rate for the Oil Blue is quite strong, and does well on distribution sites like GamersGate. It’s a shame I won’t get that opportunity with Steam, but there’s not much else I can do.
On Discounts and Promotions
I’ve mentioned sales/discounts and bundles quite a bit, and have had a number of people tell me that $10 would be their sweet spot to buy the game. I’ve been resistant to a short sale so far, for reasons including timing and advertising.
During the June-Sept. months, the game was freshly released, and I didn’t want to create any discounts for it simply because it was selling on its own word of mouth/coverage. Oct-Dec. were the months where I decided to put the game on ice, so to speak, in an effort to lay low during the extremely busy time of game releases and discounts. Which brings us to today and asking myself, what should I do?
As someone who has very little funds, I can’t afford to advertise hardly at all. Promotional sales have the ability to drive in traffic, and if I’m going to do that, then I need to have a new game on display or a preview of it so that people will remember Vertigo Games. In that way I’ll be able to make a sale on the Oil Blue while at the same time promoting the newest game in the works. The problem with that is I’m still months away from revealing my newest game.
There’s always a tendency to slash prices on something that moves slower than it did a few months ago, but the last thing I want to do is dilute the value of the game. Sales might be fantastic for the duration of the promotion, but once the original price goes back on, it’s hard to say if it’ll ever recoup it ’s sales frequency again…a dangerous position to be in if I don’t have any more games to fall back on aside from the Oil Blue, the bestselling game I’ve made so far. And given how well my other games have performed and the low prices they have, well, I really don’t have any other games to fall back on until the next new release.
There are many things I’m coming away with from the release and sales of the Oil Blue. One was the excellent article on Gamasutra highlighting the need to hype up games months, not weeks, before release. The Oil Blue didn’t have much time to be noticed- a strong preview from IndieGames and a release just weeks later dissolved any kind of hype buildup I could possibly have. Another was the way I approached portals and sites for review requests and distribution
inquiries…I blew some of my earlier chances by promoting the game to them through pictures and video instead of a playable build. More lessons came from the technical side of making the game, and some of the issues affecting the Oil Blue- mainly the BP oil spill- was simply dumb, frustrating luck.
Originally my plan was to make a commercial follow up to a restaurant simulation game I made years ago, and then go right into the Oil Blue 2. After reading a good number of reviews, oddly enough thanking the skies that it wasn’t “another restaurant game,” I’ve decided to go a new route and create another original title based around the justice system of the United States. I need to define Vertigo Games more as a brand before I can benefit on sequels and games that have a tremendous amount of competition (the mentioned restaurant genre), and what better way to do that then creating something as unique as Oil Blue but completely different…something that hasn’t been done before, not quite like this. It’s a project I’m immensely excited about.
I’m also happy to report that the years of funding my games via a credit card are over, as I’ve paid off the accumulated eight thousand dollars in credit card debt as of today. True, most of that was through my new part time job as a barista, but it’s something I’m really happy about anyways. The limited funds that come from games sales are no longer plugging up holes, but rather funding my future games instead of relying on credit. It’s a great feeling to have
It was just one year ago that I started selling my first major commercial indie game, the Oil Blue, on my own website and GamersGate. Since then I’ve written two articles (Part 1) (Part 2) detailing my experiences and sales in the hopes of helping fellow indie game designers understand the challenges facing us, with the intention of my last article six months ago being the final “conclusion” of my written experiences.
However, enough interesting things happened between now and then that I’d like to share once more with you all, including the first sale on the Oil Blue and being published in the book, “250 Indie Games You Must Play,” as well as going back to detail a few areas such as finding out when my game was first pirated thanks to YouTube. I’m also going to share my sales including distribution sites outside my own website for the first time, giving you the complete total of sales to date.
Where We Left Off
If you haven’t read my previous articles on my game sales (Part 1) (Part 2) please do so before diving into this one so you can get a sense of where I’m coming from, the goals I had for the game, and so on.
We left off with the game coming out of a “holiday hibernation” where sales had largely frozen over thanks to the Christmas season, and I had no idea if game sales would kick back into action or I had seen the final plateau of sales in December. At that time my goal was to start a new project, get far enough along to officially announce the new project and kick off a sale on the Oil Blue at the same time to gain more publicity.
Sales for January 2011-June 2011
It seemed at first that my fears of not being able to “shake off” the dip in sales for the holidays might have been unfounded, as the game sold about $280 in the month of January, a much better figure than the $40 I had made in the whole month of December. But then sales dipped to sub $100 in February and finally $40 in March. It seemed the Oil Blue had finished its sales run.
During this time I had planned to unveil my next game, which was going to be a game set in the justice system of the USA. The more I had planned it, the more I realized how much time I was going to need to put into the game, not to mention how expensive it was going to be, leaving the project going nowhere fast. I was getting aggravated at myself for trying to get involved in yet another year long project with little return, and I was slowly getting depressed. Meanwhile, I knew I wanted to drop the price of the Oil Blue in conjunction with announcing my latest game, simply because my audience was limited and I wanted to leverage as much publicity as possible. But nothing was coming together for the latest project.
Then, I received an email from Mike Rose. He was putting a book together called “250 Indie Games You Must Play” and asked if I would allow the Oil Blue to be a part of it, and I was ecstatic. Not only was it a great honor to be a part of something like this, but it would allow me to finally have an excuse to drop the price of the Oil Blue and sell some copies with the added attention it would get from the book. It paid off nicely, with the sales adding another $600 in sales up to June. But that’s not the most interesting part.
Everyone Loves Bundles
The Oil Blue dropped from $14.95 to $8.95 on April 16th, with the intention of running to June 31st. However I also have a few bundles of games on my site that include all of my games at a cheaper price, with three bundles in all (see Part 2). I went ahead and slashed the prices on the bundles as well, from $25 to $15 for my five game bundle pack and 25-40% off the other two bundles.
When the Oil Blue went on sale with its new price, the change was minimal: I sold a paltry amount of new copies on both my site and GamersGate, which was quite surprising to me. But what was even more surprising was the influx of purchases for the five game combo pack, bringing up sales from $100 to $600. It was in a sense like I was selling the Oil Blue back at $15 all over again. In that regard, the sale was a nice success in bringing a little extra revenue for
a game that hasn’t done much in the first part of the year.
Piracy and Youtube
Back when the game was first launching, I had submitted a trailer to GameTrailers and went ahead and uploaded it to my YouTube account as well, since it’s very easy to embed on other sites. That main YouTube trailer was the one I linked to when posting the game on various forums, websites, and so on. But what was really helpful was the new traffic indicator that YouTube has for all their videos now, which tells you which websites embed your trailer, how much traffic you get from each one, etc. Here’s an example from one of my YouTube vids of a crazy Burnout 3 crash:
About a week after launch, my Oil Blue trailer view count spiked to over 10,000…but I couldn’t see any discernable difference in sales. So I loaded up the traffic page and, to my horror, found four different piracy forums linking to the trailer, all with up to five links apiece to download my game on Rapidshare and other sites of that nature.
The first thing I did was make my traffic page for the trailer private, so that no one else could see the piracy links. The next thing was to go to each of those forums and try to shut down the download links at the source by emailing them. Rapidshare, Megaupload and some other sites took down the links within the day. Other less known download sites had incredibly difficult hoops to jump through- going as far as having to fax over a copy of a legal document of copyright ownership, and waiting a few weeks to be approved. The idea of going through all that trouble only to have another link posted within a few hours seemed ludicrous to me, and frustrating as hell. I took down most of the links, but there was only so much I was going to be able to do anyways.
Still, YouTube’s traffic page helped immensely in knocking a few holes into the pirate ships, and it’s something I’ll be using to my advantage in the next game I release.
Experiments with Payment Solutions
Because the Oil Blue was slowing down on sales, I wanted to try out some different ways of selling the game, not necessarily to help sell more copies of the Oil Blue, but to see what would work best for my next game. A few of those included:
Because traffic to my website is down to a slow burn due to no new releases/news on new releases in months, it was hard to try out this new model of distribution with TrialPay, which allows a user to choose offers from different companies (such as Netfix), complete them, and receive the Oil Blue for free in return. The model they have implemented is very solid, and I had a few people take advantage of the offer, but not enough for me to offer it as a permanent payment solution.
Still, I have some good ideas on how to leverage TrialPay on my next game. Perhaps I could offer it as a “preorder” incentive and then discontinue it once the game is released. But I do want to point out that they’re a nice group of people over there that I would recommend to any indie game developer wanting to experiment with payment solutions.
I’ve been contacted by a few portals and a publisher asking about taking the Oil Blue to their sites, which I agreed to. I’ve yet to hear back from them six months later, despite having my game on their services. The publisher even raised the price to $20 on their site, though it doesn’t seem like they’re offering the game beyond their website.
What I’ve basically learned from this is to probably never accept offers from people emailing you about putting your game on their services. I don’t think they’re necessarily sitting on a pile of money and not sharing the dough (I would be very surprised if they sold any copies at all, since some of those were startup portals in the vein of Steam).
I’m thankful to have done business with them however, so that I know never to do business with them again.
-Game Giveaway of the Day
GGotD is a good site for some quick cash and visitor hits, no question. I don’t think it’s wise to put a new game on their service, but for older games that aren’t bringing in cash flow, it’s a great way to grab some traffic and compensation. They also allow your ads on their game page for the day your game is given away, which led to a few extra sales of the Oil Blue when I ran some older games on their service last year. While payment can be a bit erratic (I’ve always had to email them at least once to remind them of payment due), I’ve never not been paid, and plan to do business with them later this year.
While I’ve done business with GG in the past and the Oil Blue was on their website just a week after release, I just wanted to take the opportunity to praise their services. I cannot recommend them enough for all indie devs ready to jump into the commercial space. They have monthly invoice statements sent to me on a good schedule, something that I’m learning is quite rare for most companies to do faithfully. I’ve never had any problems with payment or issues, and they’re quick to respond to my emails. They’re the best portal on the internet for indie devs, no question. Of course, I can’t speak for Steam because they’ve rejected my game, but hey.
The Final Sales Tally
So, after one year of sales, where do I stand? Well, including all sales outside of my website (which I haven’t shared before until now) and bundles, I’ve made $4,480.87. On a budget of about $800, that’s not too shabby at all. But I have to ask myself: given the time I put in to make that money, was it worth it?
For making a living off of, no, it wouldn’t be worth it. But for the experience and joy of making a game, and as supplemental income to my current real job as a barista, yeah, I think it definitely was worth it. I didn’t get to $10,000 as my own personal goal, but I think I can get there with my next game.
My experience with the Oil Blue has changed my plans for the next game I’m currently making. This time around, I’m giving my artist and composer freelancers royalties in the next game as well as up front compensation, so that they feel they have more invested in the project than they did before. I also don’t plan on hitting the $14.95 price point with this next game, but want to take it around $8.95-12.95, which better serves the audience I have now. I’m also kicking off previewing the game at an earlier state than before, with the first information of my new game being posted on my blog on June 29th (below is the teaser image we released last week).
But what I really hope is that these series of articles have helped someone out there planning their next indie game, and the hurdles they’ll be facing both financially and commercially. I wish yall good luck in your endeavors, and I’ll be back a month after my next game releases to tell you all about my sales experiences once more. Thanks and good luck out there!
It’s kind of incredible how much the gaming landscape has changed in just less than two years.
Over a year ago I wrote about my experiences selling the Oil Blue (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), an indie game that was released on the PC back in 2010 and garnered some critical acclaim but less than stellar sales. Since then I’ve worked on two projects, one that was cancelled after more than a half a year’s work, and the second released last October called “Cook, Serve, Delicious!”, a management game where you buy equipment and foods to fill your restaurant’s
menu and cook for people during the business hours of 9am to 10pm. Today I’d like to share my sales and how I got there, where I go from here, the strategies I used in selling the game and what I would and wouldn’t do again.
This is less of a post-mortem in game design and more of what I learned in selling not only my biggest PC game to date, but my first Mac and iOS release as well. Let’s get to it!
Build Up and Buzz
After going through some development hell with a game that just wasn’t coming together for me, despite the terrific art and music that had already been created for the game, I decided to shelve the project altogether and work on something else in the meantime. I had previously sold the Oil Blue in the Indie Royale bundle and had about $10k left to fund my next game (after burning through around 5k on the game I had just shelved). I knew, with a sinking feeling,
that this was likely going to be the last game I was going to make if it wasn’t successful. I had already given it a go for years now, but had no real income aside from pockets of sales when the Oil Blue would get some attention here and there. I was making less than a hundred dollars per month on the games I had available, and had most of my income supplemented by my part time job at a coffee shop.
I decided to finally make the game a lot of people had requested I make since 2004: a cooking game that was influenced by the old Japanese PS1 game, Ore no Ryouri. Back in 2004 I made a free fan game based on ONR that was filled to the brim with awful hand drawn sprites and ripped music from the Sims, and yet somehow it really took off with people. The combination of cooking dishes while trying to keep customers from leaving was a fun, chaotic challenge. A few
years later I was always trying to get a sequel back off the ground, but it never seemed to come together for various reasons, mainly due to the fact that I had no money to invest in the game. This time, I had the money, and I was going to give it a final go. I knew there was a good concept in that game, and with some polish it could turn out to be quite good. What I really was asking myself was: is it a good enough concept to pin my final attempt at making a good/profitable game?
Work began in March 2012 and the game was formally announced on April 20th. The goal was to have the game hit during the summer so I could take advantage of the slow game news/releases. I was also going to challenge myself in making a weekly blog post that detailed how the game was progressing, my game design strategies, and so on. I’m actually quite proud that I managed to do that, since I hardly ever stick to deadlines or able to stick to a regime for all that long, so woo!
What I was hoping for also with these weekly blog posts was a buildup of interest so that people could get hyped for the release. I was hoping to make a big splash on launch day, and I was shooting for at least $2k in sales on the first few days.
You can click these Youtube pics to check out the videos.
Platforms and Development
I had always planned for the game to be on multiple platforms thanks to Game Maker Studio, but at the time of development the engine was still in a beta state. I decided to use Game Maker 8.1 in the meantime and release it on PC first, with a port to Mac and iOS once GM Studio got out of beta. I know very little code and Game Maker lets me make any game I really want, so I was in a sense tied to that platform. I didn’t mind as I knew Game Maker inside and
out, and as a result I could focus directly on the game making process.
I used the same artist and composer (Sara Gross and Jonathan Geer) as I had for the Oil Blue, as they both had excellent work in the past and delivered right on schedule. I budgeted about $6k for the game and only spent a little bit over: in the end, I spent $5,500 on art and music, with an additional $2,500 on equipment needed to bridge to other platforms, such as an iPad and Macbook Air, as well as a GM Studio license and iOS developer licenses. I don’t include
all the time I spent on making the game as virtual money spent, mainly because that’s called an opportunity cost, and I really hate when people argue that they actually lost $60k on a game because their salary for the year would have been $45k in corporate America, etc. Yes, I spent a ton of time making the game, but the day I start measuring my hours put into game making and figure the sum of money I lose by not working for a waged income is the day I need to
quit game making because the passion is obviously gone.
Anyways, sorry for the rant there! I had also budgeted about $1k for advertising and press releases, as that was a completely new thing for me so I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out. It was a bit scary, as my previous budget was paltry compared to the money I was spending on “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” despite the fact that even on indie game terms, <$10k on a game is a very low budget. But it sure felt high to me.
One thing that was significant in shaping up the game was an open beta I made publically available with a small amount of game content, followed by a closed beta of the full game. The open beta really showed me some game design flaws that I had previously missed, and allowed me to see from those open beta testers users who were very passionate about making the game better. I invited about twenty of the open beta testers to the closed beta, where they got a full
version of the game. I was incredibly paranoid of the game leaking ahead of the release date, but thankfully the game stayed within the forums I released it on.
The beta was a great experience, but what I wasn’t expecting was making some tough choices as to how much of the feedback I was going to incorporate into the game. Several users found the game too slow to progress to the next level, so I trimmed the game down by nearly eight hours. It really hurt as I had planned to advertise the 20+ hours of gameplay, but at the same time it was the right thing to do. I’d rather people have a fun twelve hour experience than
a mediocre twenty hour one. Lots more fixes were done and there was a great, positive amount of buzz surrounding the game. Or at least, that’s what it felt like.
But as the beta was underway, I knew I wasn’t going to make the summer deadline. And as September loomed, I knew if I wasn’t going to launch before October, then I was going to have to hold the game till next year due to the high profile releases starting mid-October. And that would have been an absolute disaster in terms of income and my personal morale. I worked like crazy and managed to announce a release date: October 5th, on a Friday. It would also be
$8.95, as I learned from the Oil Blue that a high price of $15 was something I wanted to avoid. The game was DRM free, same as all my other releases.
The Launch of Cook, Serve, Delicious!
CSD was a different game from the normal cooking casual fare, mainly because it was incredibly hard. This was done intentionally, and I branded the game as “the first Hardcore Restaurant PC Sim” without really knowing if that were true or not. Hey, it sounded true to me! I had no interest in branding the game to casuals, and immediately aimed the game at the more core/indie gamers looking for a difficult challenge. And so, on Friday October 5th at midnight or so,
I released the game on PC via my website using BMT Micro.
Right away I realized why games don’t get released on a Friday: if you don’t get any buzz by the end of Friday, you’re next shot is Monday. That’s two days that my game was going to be dead in the water, right after launch. How could I have been so dumb?
Actually, I remember why: because I felt like the people who were going to buy the game were the ones reading my blog since March, and the ones who really loved Ore no Ryomi and had played my previous fan games. I felt that was enough to push me to my $2k goal, a goal that while very short from the $8k I spent, would set me on track.
Well, by Sunday I had made about $250. I was panicking already. The audience that I thought was there was significantly smaller than I had imagined. Very few websites picked up on the game on Friday, leaving me with a dead weekend. I told myself that it would be OK with the Mac and iOS release I was going to work on, which I really felt was a more lucrative market, but it still marked the most depressing weekend I’ve ever had involving my indie game pursuits. I felt
like a complete failure.
The week following, things got a little better. Rock Paper Shotgun picked up the game and sales grew quite a bit, and by the end of the next week I had hit $900. I changed my goal from $2k in a few days to $2k by the end of the month. I thought that any money I wasn’t able to make to break even I’d make with the Mac/iOS releases.
I was trying to convince myself in all sorts of ways that things would be fine. In the back of my head though, I knew I had blown it. You only get one chance to launch a game, and CSD hit with all the intensity of a marshmallow. I was hoping that my press release via GameBizWire would help get my foot in the door with a few websites, but aside from a few requests from indie sites, there wasn’t much on the radar. It was extremely difficult motivating myself to get
through the Mac/iOS ports at this point. Sales were dwindling by the day.
Had that sales trend continued, I probably would have ended my game career. I don’t think I would have had the motivation to go through the Mac/iOS ports due to the fact that Mac was already a smaller audience, and iOS was such a difficult market to break through that it seemed ludicrous to even try since I couldn’t even break through the PC market. I felt like a quitter, but after making two games that I was really proud of design wise and seeing them flounder
financially, I had my spirit broken. It was over.
A Giant Bomb
The next week following my game launch, a message on the right bottom corner of my PC screen lit up: an email from Ryan Davis about some promo codes for CSD.
This wasn’t the actual Ryan Davis, was it? Not of the Giant Bomb website that I’ve subscribed to for the last few years and enjoyed with every new Quick Look and podcast, right? No, that can’t be. I paused for a few seconds before opening the email. Sure enough, it was him, asking for some extra press codes/builds mentioned in the press release.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to running around the house screaming. But then I realized the game wasn’t exactly a prime candidate for any kind of coverage on Giant Bomb. That’s what I believed anyways, after a rough week and a half of little to no coverage. So I sent some codes over but didn’t think much would come of it.
And then I saw the schedule for the next day over at Giant Bomb: at 2pm, a Quick Look of “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” which is where two Giant Bomb guys play a game for thirty minutes or so. I don’t recall sleeping very much that night.
Most of the views on GiantBomb are done by their own hosted videos on the GB site, so the view count here is inaccurate to the total amount of people who watched the Quick Look.
Let me tell you what it’s like watching a video of your own game being Quick Looked: pretty damn surreal. I was scared to death that something would break in the game, despite extensive beta testing. I was so excited seeing these two guys that I enjoyed reading/listening to for so long actually playing one of my games. My heart was racing the entire time. Then I watched it about a half dozen more times in the next few days. It felt like such an accomplishment that
I felt like it was crazy I was thinking of quitting game making in the first place…well, that is, until I remembered I kinda need to make money doing game development, cause that’s kinda important.
About thirty minutes after the Giant Bomb video went up, sales came in. And they kept coming in all night. Emails would be dispatched to me with every sale, and I could literally refresh my inbox on my iPod seconds after the last email, only to get more sales emails. I had sold 2 copies of my game the day before the Quick Look, and on the day of the video release sold over 140 copies, and even more the next day. It was incredible, and one of the best indie game
related days of my life. I finally had the breakthrough I so desperately needed.
If we look at the sales trend for how the game was doing in the first 12 or so days before the GiantBomb Quick Look, I would have made about $1,500 that month. Total sales for the month ended up being $7,400 on both my site and GamersGate/Desura. I had almost broke even before I had a chance to release the Mac/iOS version, something I couldn’t even imagine happening.
Sales graph for PC/Mac- guess which day the Giant Bomb video came out?
Still, I knew it was a fairly big blow not to have the Mac version released at the same time with the PC version. It was mainly due to having to work via Game Maker 8.1, which is PC only, since GM Studio wasn’t quite ready yet. So, I quickly ported the game to Studio and in just a few weeks had a Mac build up and running. Originally my launch press release said the Mac version would come out in November, but I was able to release it on October 28th. I only netted
$100 for that month and as of now, have sold around $1,500 for the Mac version alone. I was kind of surprised how poor my experience was with the official Apple Mac App Store, where I thought I’d be making the majority of Mac sales. Not only was the approval times severely slow (nearly taking 14-20 days to approve games and updates), but the sales were nearly nonexistent. One main factor was that the Game Maker Studio build at the time had a glitch that didn’t
allow saving for Snow Leopard users. It was a very rare glitch, but led to my one and only review for CSD on the Mac store, alerting me to the bug and warning others of the issue. The GM Studio devs were able to get a fix for me in just a few days, and Apple rushed the update to get it out quickly.
Another problem with the Mac version is that it’s just not very well optimized, mainly due to the different way GM Studio handles files on the Mac that I wasn’t used to. It needs a significant amount of resources to run (optimally 4GB of memory), among other things. This was a byproduct of developing on GM 8.1 first and then porting to Studio, as I didn’t optimize anything for the new engine. I was in a mad dash to get iOS support up and running, and to fully
optimize CSD for Mac meant that I’d have to tear down the game completely. Given the sales to date of the Mac version, I did the right thing by choosing to have a simple port, but it still felt a little scummy. It’s a perfectly playable/fine version of the game, if you have a powerful enough Mac to run it.
Tapping into YouTube
Something I didn’t see coming was the ease of which the game could be played and streamed by various YouTube and internet personalities. It had some breathing room during the day for people to chat to their viewers, and then gets immediately chaotic during the “Rush Hour” portions of the day where things just go nuts for one minute. There were people streaming the game for charity events, and some big named YouTube/internet streamers like Northernlion
and HAWP giving it a go. Some streamed just to show off their awesome APM skills. It was pretty nuts to watch.
Still, after two months things started slowing down sales and coverage wise, right as I was ready to launch the iPad version of Cook, Serve, Delicious! I was watching various iOS websites and had read dozens of developer breakdowns and strategies by mobile devs, so while I sorta knew what to expect on iOS, I was still very much new to the entire market. I was a no name dev who was about to launch a pricey game that would compete with a ton of other restaurant sim
games on the platform, despite my game being significantly different. It was scary, but at the same time I knew I’d have a winner if it found an audience. And I managed to do everything possible to ensure that it wouldn’t.
iOS for Dummies
I had known that Christmas Day is the biggest sales day in the entire year for iOS devs, and I wanted a piece of that pie. I priced the game at $5 for the iPad, with a sale at $3 till January 6th. Giantbomb mentioned the game again in podcasts and even nominated CSD for Best Downloadable Game 2012, which to even be nominated felt like I had won the Oscar. Some major review sites gave me 4 stars and up, with Touch Arcade’s 4.5 star review staying on their front
page of the TA App through January. All of this helped to create a lot of sales and buzz for December, and a good thing too, considering how stupid it was to launch in December in the first place.
What I knew I didn’t want to do was go down to $1, as the game was new and had no In Game App purchases to help offset the loss. But what I didn’t fully realize was that, sure, Christmas Day was a huge day for app devs…if your game is priced accordingly. I launched during a month where I was competing with endless holiday sales, where huge AAA apps were being sold at just $1, and where major companies would slash their entire hundred plus app catalogue to
nearly free. There was no way I could compete with that, and consequently my game didn’t get a Christmas Day boost (it actually sold less than most days). My game was $3 after all, and if I was a kid with a shiny new iPad/iTunes gift card, I’d fill up on $1 apps myself.
Another major fault of mine was the sale till January 6th. I should have never kept the game at $3 for so long- but it was too late. I had already posted how long I’d have the price for, and I didn’t want to upset any users. But sales typically work great at one-two days because you’re on app price watchers websites and get a boost of traffic. After that, you’re basically selling your game at a discount with no disenable difference in revenue whatsoever, since I had to sell more copies to make what I would with a $5 price point. All that holiday traffic could have boosted revenue if I had just ended the sale earlier.
Finally, the last problem I had was the game wouldn’t run on an iPad 1…another byproduct of porting the game from GM 8.1 instead of optimizing it from the ground up. Because there’s no way to prevent iPad 1 users to buy your game, I had to issue warnings in the game’s description. That seemed to work fine, aside from the occasional “HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF” comments I get from time to time with regards to the game not being on iPad 1. Yes, I actually
got that comment.
In fact, it’s kind of a jolt to interact with user reviews on the app store. Some would love the game but would only give me one star until I added a small option or fixed a bug. One user repeatedly gave me one star with every new update saying she liked the game but didn’t like the design choices, and asked herself repeatedly why she still was playing my game for hours. I wanted to punch my monitor. But thankfully the issues were ironed out and the game on the US store currently has 120 4-5 star reviews, with only two negative reviews. That’s pretty awesome, I must say.
My DLC Take
Because of the ease of patching a game on iOS, I wanted to do something I hadn’t done with any of my games before: offer DLC. I figured this would be a boost of press every time I’d get an update out, and would help sales by offering the DLC for free on PC and as a premium in app purchase on iOS. I spent about $1,800 on new art and music, which consisted of ten new foods and a new gameplay challenge taking place in the Iron Cook Kitchen.
Game design wise, it was a huge success, addressing some of the shortcomings of the game and making it even better than before. Business wise, it would be a huge mistake.
I think the weakest point of the game was when the player was getting from zero to a three star restaurant, which then unlocks new events and challenges, as the one and two star tiers don’t have quite as much going on in terms of new gameplay elements. The new DLC consisted of ten new foods to buy for the restaurant menu (six currently released as of now, with four more in March), and unlike the other twenty foods available would unlock to buy at the one and
two star restaurant levels. This helped bridge the gap to the next few restaurant tiers and created new gameplay elements and strategies that really strengthen the game overall, and in that regards it was a big success.
Originally I was going to have the DLC available for free on PC/Mac, with iPad owners buying it at $1.99 per pack. But ultimately I decided to release it for free on iPad as well, as the smaller userbase (about 1,800 at the time when the first patch went out in January) wouldn’t result in very many IAP sales, even if the conversion rate was high. I thought the goodwill gesture would result in more press and ultimately more sales.
What I didn’t think of at the time is just how the game is played. Users can unlock the final restaurant upgrade at around a dozen or more hours, and at that point the game becomes an open ended free play mode, with no other goals to achieve. They will have “beaten” the game. In order for this DLC to be relevant to the user who owns CSD, they’ll need to still be in the progress of beating the game. Because of that, the ability to sell DLC/IAP is hampered. There’s a window in which the user is playing the game and when I can sell them content, and it’s too short to target.
Not only that, but when you think about it, the game is feature complete and selling at $5, a premium price on the iOS market. Once users buy the game at $5, it makes no difference, business wise, whether they play for ten minutes or ten hours…I still make the same amount of money. To create DLC to extend the life of the game benefits me in no way, and crucially ties me up for the next few months as I get all of the DLC finished for iPad so I can move onto the
iPhone/Android ports, and then after that having to port the new content to PC and Mac. It was not a smart move, despite the DLC making the game better. My next games will have a better implementation of how DLC can be integrated in a much smarter way, so I won’t be so tied up with porting and developing.
iOS Sales and Results
Since CSD has been released on iPad, I’ve had one more sale at the end of January, decreasing the price from $4.99 to $2.99 for a few days, but that’s been about it. I’m very cautious about creating too many sales, and I don’t want to price the game below $2.99 since there’s no IAP in the game to make up the difference. This is my only game that’s making money after all, so I have to be extremely careful in how I promote it.
Another side note was that I released a demo version on iOS that had about thirty minutes of gameplay before the user had to buy the full version. I had a lot of reviews calling the game a “scam” which was pretty confusing…but after talking with some helpful Touch Arcade forum devs, it turns out calling the game “Cook, Serve, Delicious! Free” was giving the impression that it was the full game for free but with ads, which certainly wasn’t the case. So I changed it to “Cook, Serve, Delicious! Lite” and haven’t run into any problems since. Whoops!
My app ranking on the Top 300 for North America since release through March 6th.
One interesting fact I want to point out is the way the game is charted in the App Store Top 300 Paid Simulation and Strategy charts- it doesn’t quite give the entire picture of how much a dev makes in a day. During parts of Jan/Feb I made more money being near the bottom 300 than being in the top 150. At the same time it does give me a good indication of how sales go during the week, with Tuesday/Wednesday being the best selling days, and Sunday/Monday being the worst. I haven’t cracked the top 75 again since launch through January, but to be on the charts for a few months with my first iOS game is a great start. (I was originally in the Action/Simulation genre listings before switching to Strategy/Simulation in Jan.)
The Totals so Far
The game has been on sale since October 5th for PC, October 28th for Mac, and December 12th for iPad. Here’s how I’m doing in sales so far.
The PC/Mac version has sold a combined $16,200 through March 5th across my site via BMT Micro, GamersGate, Desura, Amazon and MacGameWorld. BMT, GamersGate and Desura have been nothing short of fantastic to deal with, as they always pay on time and have great tech support. I cannot recommend those three services enough.
(A quick note: I also sell on my website a bundle called the Combo of Amazing, which packages all of the games I have currently for sale, including CSD, into a $15 bundle, which normally would be over $30. That accouted for $3,500 in sales, which is part of that sales total above.)
Total sales on the iPad version alone from December 12th through January 31st totaled $10,500, with a projected $2,000-$2,500 for the month of February. Once I have the iPhone and Android port done (should be by April) I’m hoping to make at least $3,500 a month in mobile sales, which would definitely put me on track to have a good year.
iPad sales so far
So, the grand total so far puts me at around $28,000, which is a $17,000 profit after expenses ($2,500 being onetime expenses in getting into iOS/Mac/Android development). For just five months, that’s a very solid figure, but on the other hand I have to admit that would be some razor thin margins for most indie devs. Had I needed a programmer or an additional artist, my profit would be much lower. I saved lots of money and time by doing the game on my own via Game
Maker Studio, and it paid off quite well. But had I not been mentioned on Giant Bomb or Northern Lion, I probably would not have broke even on just the $8,500 in expenses. It’s a scary thought that reminds me how lucky/blessed I was that they gave my game a chance.
There are plenty of opportunities for revenue this year with just Cook, Serve, Delicious! I think the new mobile ports will do well, and I’ll likely bundle the game towards the end of the year with one of the major indie bundle guys. I want to return to that shelved game and release it this year, as well as make a major iOS game for release in January 2014, as that seems to be a great empty month that most devs don’t target at all. Look at how much attention was given to Hundreds, one of the few major iOS releases in January.
I’ll likely do another sales article sometime before the end of the year with my experiences in the iPhone/Android market, but I hope this was at least interesting enough to help anyone out there looking into making an indie game. I am finally a full time indie game developer with my game supporting me financially, for the moment anyways. Here’s hoping it’ll stay that way for the months to comeOne year after its release, it feels like I’m barely starting to launch my game.
“Cook, Serve, Delicious!” was released on October 2012 to PC, and has since moved on to several different platforms and distribution services. I wrote an article months ago outlining the first few months of sales, and today I’d like to wrap it all up in this one year look of sales data, strategies for selling my game, platform performance, and huge opportunities that shot the game higher than I ever imagined it going. It’s been an insane ride, and I hope these series of articles can help indie devs out there with their own strategies and game launches. So let’s get to it!
Predicting Sales and the Mobile Market
When I wrote up my last sales article on Cook, Serve, Delicious, I had many predictions. First, I was planning on releasing the game to Android and iPhone in April, and have $3,500 in sales monthly on mobile alone, with my next game releasing in January.
Turns out all of that was completely wrong.
Firstly, the Android port took longer than expected, resulting in a July release. Secondly I couldn’t get the game to run properly on iPhone 3 or 4 despite weeks of work, so I had to cancel that version outright as I couldn’t cut enough of the game’s assets down to fit the 256mb of memory before having to cut gameplay components. And finally, my monthly mobile sales ended up averaging ~$1,500 a month, going lower and lower through the year, even with the added
Android revenue in July. September hit rock bottom, with barely $1,000 in sales (a third coming from Android).
But let’s back up a bit. Android, while not the most lucrative market, has been quite a pleasant experience. Sales on Android from July through October 1st have netted $2,223 in actual revenue (after Google’s cut), with the iPad version bringing in $15,013 from Jan. thru Oct. Keep in mind the iPad sales account for $5,013 in January alone (the game was still new and on sale), as well as six extra months of sales vs. the Android version.
That Android number looks substantially lower than the iPad version, yet I’d port to Android again in a heartbeat. The developer tools are so much better on that platform vs. Apple- I’m able to release new updates in just several hours vs. the days in review that Apple takes to review the app, the UI for adding achievements and viewing data is so much more developer friendly than Android, and I’m able to respond in the reviews section to dissatisfied customers instead of watching helplessly as a user states problems in the iPad reviews section without any way for me to help them. The money isn’t quite there, and as a platform I have to acknowledge that iOS will always take priority over Android since it was my main source of revenue, but I hope that disparity of revenue closes over time. I’d love to keep developing for that platform.
Android based retail platforms, however, are a different story. Eager to experiment, I tried putting the game on the Samsung marketplace, Amazon App Store, and several free-to-play experimental sites like Moriboo, all for Android. While the contracts for those retail stores prevent me from sharing hard data, I will say that in terms of sales up till today it was barely worth the day it took to port to these platforms.
The iPad has been my main source of income through October, though I haven’t done too much to really push that market. Major updates have already been posted for the game, and no advertising was done (for any version of the game, actually). Temporary price cuts in April ($2.99 for a week, down from $4.99) and July ($3.99) resulted in a small bump, but nothing substantial. Aside from the terrific $5,067 in sales in January, the year has been pretty small as a
whole (the lowest being $674 in September). It was a far cry from my expected >$3k in sales a month. But then again, I did little to really push the game in any major way like I did with the DLC updates in January. You get back what you put in, most of the time.
Over on the PC/Mac/Linux side, things were similarly slow. Sales from Jan. through October were around $3,600 total just from my website alone (other websites that sold the game contributed an additional $600 for the same timeframe). In June, I was offered the opportunity to be in the Humble Store widget, a great platform for indie devs to sell their game through a trusted merchant (this was not the stand alone Humble Store that’s available now, but rather the widget devs can use on their own websites).
While the game didn’t benefit from any Humble exposure at the time since the HS didn’t exist yet, it showed that by simply using their service, it would help increase revenue. Sales were double than what they were using BMT Micro, and while admittedly that’s not a whole lot, it’s pretty interesting when there’s virtually no change in awareness for the game. I dropped BMT Micro from handling CSD transactions and the Humble widget added an additional $2,100 from June through Oct. I hope to continue using the Humble Store services for all my future games.
Sales through October
Total sales from January through October resulted in $22,624 from mobile and desktop, which means since its release on October 2012 I’ve made about $34k in revenue from the game. Spending around $9-10k total on the game, that’s a $24k profit, which sounds pretty good on paper… however, I had already quit my job in December to focus on games full time, which meant this was my only source of revenue (my other games contributed less than $2k total in the same
timeframe). What this meant was my next game would have a small budget as well, and would once again be the make-or-break game for me… if my next project wasn’t a breakout hit, I’d have to go back to work on something other than game making.
And then something happened that would pretty much change my life forever.
One morning I woke up to an email: my game, Cook, Serve, Delicious! was Greenlit. I was angry. This was a fairly legit looking email, but it had to be spam or some sort of scam, because I wasn’t even close to the top 100 for Greenlight (up to that point, Steam was only accepting 8-10 games per month or so). But I went to the Greenlight page anyways to see what could be going on…and there it was. The acceptance banner that the game was indeed Greenlit, along with nearly a hundred other games.
I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. It was truly like winning the lottery. I was so excited I was shaking uncontrollably. Holy crap. I’m on Steam. I’M ON STEAM! After being rejected three times with the Oil Blue by Steam, here was my next game, nearly a year later, being approved by Steam.
Once I calmed down, I went into strategy mode. I realized that I would be competing with these other hundred games that were approved alongside me. I quickly ran through all the games and determined which ones were finished and ready to distribute like mine was, and which were still in early concept/alpha phase. Some games were finished, but the devs didn’t acknowledge their Greenlight acceptance even days after it was awarded to them, so I figured those games
wouldn’t be on Steam very soon. Thankfully, the engine I was using (Game Maker Studio) was fully equipped with Steam APIs for Achievements, Cloud and Leaderboard support, so I read up and started working like crazy to get my game set up for Steam.
Other games launched ahead of mine, and I took note of their release strategies. One dev refused to give Steam keys to people who got the game via a bundle which lead to a lot of backlash in the Steam forums, so I immediately offered keys on Desura, my website and Humble Store for current owners. Other devs released their game with no extra Steam support, and some Steam community members were a bit put off. They had beat me to release, but at the cost of not
fully embracing the Steam platform. I had one chance to launch on Steam, and damn if I was gonna just throw my game up there without making it the best I possibly could.
The game was priced originally at $8.95, however Steam recommended a $9.99 pricepoint to better fit with the large selection of games. With that price raise I decided that not only would I be supporting Steam features, but would also add things that I felt should have been there at launch such as Key Binding support. I was worried about the potential backlash of the $1 increase, but I have yet to hear a single complaint. I think the fact that I fully backed my
game up with new content and Steam APIs helped quite a bit.
The Steam Launch
On October 8th, 2013, just a few days shy of one year since CSD officially launched, the game landed on Steam. And in just one day, I had made nearly $15,000 in gross sales, which was almost as much as I made in the entire last year on PC/Mac/Linux for CSD. In two days, I surpassed it. In one week, I had made over $50,000 in gross revenue… more than I did in the last three years as a game maker and barista. My family couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.
Finally, I felt redeemed. This was a path that was more than a dozen years in the making, but I had finally made it.
But man, Steam was just getting started. I participated in the November Steam sale and had triple the revenue of my daily income even with the game at 50% off. The December Steam sale came and saw similar sales.
I woke up one morning in December to a mess of Twitter replies. My game, at 4am that morning, had been chosen for a Flash Sale during the Steam Winter Sale at 75% off. I was a mess of emotions: I had no idea that was gonna happen, and was I really ready to have my game sell that low? (I had put in the 75% offer to Steam, so I knew it was possible, but you don’t know if you’re picked). Would my sales crash afterwards, with people not wanting to buy the game anymore
after it was so cheap?
I frantically looked at my sales data. Only a few hundred dollars it seemed, hmmm, maybe people just aren’t that interested in the game. Then I realized Steam froze all data at 4am the moment it went on sale. I had no idea how it was doing.
I was excited, until I realized I had told some people earlier on Steam and Twitter that they should buy the game at 50% off since CSD wasn’t chosen for a Flash Sale. I felt terrible, and quickly posted in the forums that it was completely my fault, and I would be more than happy to buy a game for them on Steam should they feel that they were mislead, as they certainly were, albeit by accident. That seemed to calm some folks down, but surprisingly no one took me up on it. That offer still stands, by the way.
The sale ended at 12 noon. I checked the data…$6,000 sold, a nearly 6x increase from yesterday. That’s pretty darn good! Wait…that’s only the data from 4 to 5am. As I kept refreshing, the sales kept rolling in. Thankfully I had to leave the house with visiting family to do some stuff, which kept me from frantically clicking the refresh button.
We stopped by Schlotzsky’s later that day for lunch, which was great since I don’t own a smartphone, had my iPod with me, and they have Wi-Fi. My sister and I stood in line as I quickly connected online and got to the sales page.
Over $50,000 gross was made in just under eight hours. Over 20,000 copies sold in that timeframe. 20,000! My last game, the Oil Blue, has yet to break 1,000 copies sold in the last three years since release.
“I’m buying lunch.”
I wasn’t sure how the game would sell after the Flash sale. My thoughts were it would go down dramatically since it was so cheap for those few hours, but as it turned out they actually doubled in daily revenue since the flash sale up until the December sale was over.
I wasn’t sure how sales would go after the big holiday extravaganza, but as it turns out after a week or so sales went back to my normal revenue I was making before the sale. Insane.
Not only that, but sales on other platforms increased during the Steam launch, with Android bringing in over $3,000 since October 2013 and iOS bringing in over $5,000 in the same timeframe.
The flux in sales for iOS (top) and Android (bottom)
People are still discovering the game, and every week it seems a new YouTube personality picks it up and the game gets a spike in interest. It’s the perfect streaming game for sure, and it’s hilarious to see everyone’s first rush hour.
So the total so far for Steam? After the normal revenue share and such, I’ve made over $130,000 in just three months on Steam. Typing that number still makes me shake my head. That’s impossible! No way. No. Way.
The grand total of units sold across all platforms is 52,539. That’s so much larger than anything I could have imagined, and so far daily sales average around 40-60 copies sold per day across all platforms (excluding sales/major promotional days).
PC and iOS were the big winners for me, but Linux is by far the least, with only one copy sold on the Ubuntu store and a little more than a thousand on Steam. It will be interesting to see if the Steam Machines and Steam OS will help improve Linux penetration.
The future of Cook, Serve, Delicious! is winding down, but not quite over. Today I’ve launched an iPhone 5/iPod Touch 5 version of CSD, which was mainly done for fun and not really advertised in any major way. It should be interesting to see how that does, as I’m hoping for at least $500 in sales this month from that version alone.
I’ve also looked into porting CSD onto consoles, but that has been a fruitless endeavor. Talking with various “porting” studios, one wanted to port the game but felt a massive retooling was needed to make the game much easier and friendlier to casual gamers. NOPE. (that was especially odd to hear given that they’ve ported over a lot of hardcore/challenging games to Playstation systems.)
Another company, despite one of the devs in that company really enjoying the game and wanting the higher ups to get back with me, never did. One dev team was eager to do it, but lacked the reverse engineering to make it a simple port, which would mean they’d have to code it from scratch…a significantly difficult task that would involve too much of my time at this point since I’m already looking towards my next game.
It doesn’t look like the game will be ported to consoles, which at this point I’m ok with, since I’m already making plenty of money on Steam and ready to move on to new games. It was going to be more of a fun release, but what can I do at this point.
With the money made on Steam I’ve been able to boost the budget of my next game by nearly four times the original amount, allowing me to bypass Kickstarter and Early Access so that I can make a fully complete game. I hope to debut the game in March, and I feel this game has an opportunity to be a huge release, but only if I can make it a great game of course. I think I can do it.
If you’ve read all my previous “How Much do Game Devs Make” articles spanning the last few years, you know how hard it’s been to get where I am today. Most of the time I wanted to quit. There were times when I had to go back to work since games weren’t supporting me financially. Times that I didn’t have a plan B, and that really terrified me, because I didn’t want to do anything else in my life but make games. Now I can.
Or at least, I can for the immediate future. You’re only as good as your last game, after all.
Two and a half years later, I’ve finally finished launching my game.
Just one year ago I had discussed launching my game, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” onto Steam and mobile platforms, and how my career was finally starting to take shape. It had been a long, hard battle, but I was finally able to support myself in being a dev full time. Since then so many things have happened that I found myself once again devoting a whole year into supporting my game, learning all kinds of things along the way. Continuing my previous articles (part 1,
part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5, man how the time flies by!) I’ll break down my finances and see what worked, what didn’t work, and the process of launching not only on a new platform but a brand new free expansion, as well as the grand total amount of sales since first launching in October 2013.
Picking Up from January 2014
In my previous article I wrapped up things by mentioning my new CSD port to iPhone, which was launching that day. I also spoke of my somewhat depressing venture into trying to get CSD ported to consoles with no luck, and talked about announcing my next game in March and the final numbers of CSD up to that point: over 52,000 copies sold across all available platforms, and over $130,000 on Steam alone for the first three months.
While the March reveal didn’t happen for my next game (and has yet to happen as of this article), I’d like to bring the numbers up to speed. How did the iPhone version of CSD do?
The ol’ Mobile Market
I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations of the iPhone version of CSD. It was a port of the Android version made to work only on iPhone 5 (and while it would work on iPhone 4S it would completely crash on iPhone 4). Because of this I had to make the game “free” and have it unlocked via an in-app transaction so that everyone could try the game before buying.
The results aren’t too shabby. Around 1,810 copies were sold from launch in January 2014 thru January 2015, bringing a total of ~$3,760 after revenue share with Apple. It’s a fun little version of the game that’s cool to have in your pocket, and there wasn’t much overhead spent on the port to begin with (the main things being some UI elements made larger to read on the small iPhone screen and some gesture inputs made more “forgiving” than the iPad version.)
The iPad version did considerably better, with January 2014 thru January 2015 bringing in an additional ~$14,900 in profit after revenue share, which adds another ~4,460 units sold. While down from the previous year by nearly 30%, I’ve more or less halted major development on the mobile versions in order to focus more on the desktop version which was far and away the clear leader in sales.
Android managed to do fairly well with $9,605 in sales for 2014 after revenue share with Google (3,297 copies sold), way more than expected.
Once the iPhone version was released, I wondered if that would be the last platform CSD would debut on. It wasn’t too much longer that I found myself with an intriguing opportunity.
Cooking in the Next Generation
I received an email from YoYo Games, head of the Game Maker Studio engine that CSD is powered by, in Feb. 2014. It was an opportunity to have YoYo games port my game over to the Playstation 4 as part of their huge reveal at GDC in March. It looked like GM Studio was gearing up for console support across the board. It was hugely exciting, given that I already had a dire experience trying to get third parties to port the game and the idea that sometime soon I’d be able
to self-publish on consoles was absolutely massive for me.
There was just one small problem: CSD didn’t have controller support. It was never planned to have any kind of controller support at all. While I had explored some options when shopping the game around to third parties it was mainly Photoshop mockups that I had no idea whether or not would work, nor had I ever coded for gamepads before.
So, with no clue on how to translate a keyboard/tablet centric game onto a gamepad, and exactly one week to figure it out and implement it into the game, I accepted. There was no way I could pass up that opportunity. At the same time, I had no idea if I could even deliver something like that within the time frame that I had. But dang if I wasn’t going to at least try (you can read some of the more technical details on how I mapped the game onto controllers here).
Thankfully I had barely made the deadline, with a fully controllable build of CSD via gamepad (but many areas of the menu locked off as I just didn’t have time to implement controller support for the whole game). There were a small selection of foods to choose from and the game would allow the player to play for a day before resetting buzz for the next player. It was quite a bit of fun to make.
Team YoYo Games at GDC
With GDC in full swing I took the opportunity to register as a developer for both Playstation and Xbox. Still, I didn’t know whether or not that was something I wanted to pursue with this game. I needd to see how controller support would work for the entire game. So I got busy porting controller support for the Steam build of CSD, and organizing a brand new build with all kinds of new features such as New Game +, Extreme Difficulty mode, and lots more.
The CSD Relaunch, Part 1
Building controller support and looking into ways of expanding the game was a very exciting way to test the waters on a relaunch of sorts- basically keeping CSD fresh and relevant six months after the release on Steam. I also wanted to do my first sale outside of major summer/winter sales, opting for a 30% discount for the week of April 14th.
I’ve always championed devs to value their game- don’t do heavy discounts unless you’re in a major promotional sale, don’t bundle heavily, and respect what your game should be worth. I did get some criticism from a few Steam users angry at the low discount (in fact only CSD and 8 other games out of 42 had discounts smaller than 50% off that week).
Still, it was completely worth it. For the week of April 14th thru the 21st CSD sold over 2,000 copies, netting $14,400 in gross sales. I was blown away, and couldn’t wait for the upcoming Summer Sale to begin, where I hoped that CSD would be once again featured as some kind of daily deal just like the Winter Sale.
Sadly CSD wasn’t chosen for the Summer Sale, instead staying at a 60% discount thru the entire event (June 19th thru the 30th) and netting nearly 4,000 copies sold at a ~$17,000 gross revenue income.
For lots more details on both of these sales, check out my Tumblr blog post from that July breaking down the figures a bit more and comparing the two.
After the Steam Summer Sale there wasn’t much time to rest…the Humble Bundle in July was fast approaching and a new opportunity was about to unfold.
Humble Bundle and I have had a long stretch of conversations as to which bundle CSD was right for, stemming from the previous year through the summer. There were a few employees “championing” the game at Humble but it couldn’t get enough force behind it to propel the game into the “major” bundles. I wasn’t that keen on bundling CSD into a smaller tier Humble Bundle like the Mobile bundle as I never found CSD to be a mobile game first: it was a PC game that was well suited for mobile. So I declined, as well as turning down all other bundle sites in the process. I knew that there had to be some time when my gamble would pay off. You only get one chance to debut in a bundle, and I wanted it to be special. As the months went by, I wondered if that would ever actually happen.
Finally, a new chance at a Humble Bundle was offered- it would be part of the Simulation 2 bundle, not a major Humble Bundle tier but a big one in terms of better revenue share and exposure (as most Humble Bundles have nearly a dozen games by the time it’s finished, whereas this bundle would only have six). It was the one chance I was waiting for. And so, the newest Humble Bundle Weekly went up on July 18th, and by the next week had sold over 87,000 copies with
$427,386.45 in gross revenue for the entire bundle. For more info check out my blog post on Tumblr during the week of Humblin’ Bundlin’ here.
It was surprising to see the effect of the Humble Bundle on daily sales…they increased quite a bit after the bundle was over, and continued to be healthy afterwards. The Steam effect of friends recommending the game to others continued to be a major drive, especially with the large increase in players after the bundle.
Steam Curation, Reviews, and Tags
Valve’s additions to Steam’s featureset continued in 2014, with the Tag system introduced in Feb. and the new Curation lists debuting in September. Devs have posted their pros and cons with the systems, and for me personally I always saw increases in daily revenue as a result of the new systems. Some devs argued it only made the larger games bigger and the smaller games increasingly harder to find despite the opposite effects intended with these systems, nor do they help games that may not have performed well on the critical reviews front by critics and users alike, but for me I always welcomed CSD to be found in a new unique way. I always had intended to feature CSD discount coupons via Steam but never really found the right time to do so in 2014, so there’s still unique Steam opportunities to try out in 2015, not to mention whatever else Valve comes up with in managing the ever growing catalog of games on the platform.
What I was most proud of were the Steam user reviews, which number over 1,500 and brought the game’s rating to “Overwhelmingly Positive” with 1,521 good reviews and only 66 bad reviews. I’d have to imagine that the critical reception by Steam users drives sales significantly, especially with the new up front placement of the game’s reception on the Steam page (literally the second thing you read about the game after its description).
As the fall holiday drew near I wondered if there was anything else I could do to keep CSD relevant and fresh as the winter sales and major games started to line up. I knew CSD would be buried with all the new games coming out, but I wondered…how could I re-launch CSD once again? As I was watching a few CSD streams on Twitch and Youtube people wishing the game had some sort of local multiplayer support it was pretty clear…create an entirely new segment of the
game focusing squarely on local multiplayer and leaderboard challenges. A quick glance of the code proved that something like this could be done in a short amount of time. And so on September 24th, I teased a new release of CSD with more details to come.
Cook, Serve, Delicious: Battle Kitchen Edition
I wanted to create the biggest expansion the game had received yet. Separated from the main campaign game, the Battle Kitchen expansion was announced as having all kinds of new features. There would be weekly challenges, strike modes, multiplayer tag teams matches, endurance modes, e-Sports modes, tournaments, and a roster of over 50 characters, half of which were characters from major indie games. Most of these features were coded and getting polished for release. Others existed in Photoshop only when announced on October 23rd. Still, I felt confident I would be able to meet all the additions that I had announced. In fact I had no doubts whatsoever.
It was such a joy to bring in cameo characters from games like Hotline Miami, Nuclear Throne, Rogue Legacy and tons more. Those three games were among the first devs I asked when putting together a “guest roster” for the character select screen (with the new characters used to differentiate players for both tag team matches and the leaderboards). Once they said yes, I was able to get a ton more devs on board. I was thrilled seeing such a huge guest roster in my
small game…I just couldn’t believe it.
When I brought the indie devs on board, I knew I was forgoing any chance I had in making this premium DLC. This had to be a free expansion, otherwise devs could argue (and they’d have a legitimate argument) that I was using their characters to push sales of the new DLC without cutting them into any kind of revenue share. I didn’t really mind making it free DLC; the idea of a multiplayer expansion already depends on getting as many players in as possible, and
lowering that bar to entry at all costs was vital in creating a healthy community of competition for the leaderboards.
My initial October date came and went as certain parts of the game proved harder to code than others. The hope that re-launching the game during October before the extremely dense November month of releases was gone. I was going to re-launch during a time that I felt was suicide for any indie dev trying to get their game noticed…the holiday season where nothing escapes the vortex of huge AAA releases. I wondered if a delay to the more barren January would be a better move.
Before I could make a decision, Valve contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in a Daily Deal position featuring the new expansion. It would move my initial release date in November a week up. There were still so many things to do, I was worried I wouldn’t make the deadline. Then again I recalled the similar situation in Feb. when YoYo Games asked me for a PS4 build of the game. I felt up to the challenge, not to mention that any help from Valve in getting exposure for November was worth going for. I readily accepted.
November 9th was the target date for both the release of the expansion and the discount with front page Steam Store exposure.
Confident from my last deadline I met back in Feb, I worked each day until about 8pm, not really feeling the huge amount of pressure that, looking back, I should have definitely felt by then. I knew that if worse came to worse I could pull an all nighter and stay up as long as I had to in making the game before the release on Sunday. I bought some high dosage caffeine pills and some Starbucks pure espresso shots just in case. By Weds. I knew I was going to have to
cut some of the features out for a later release. By Friday, I wasn’t sure where I’d be in terms of how many features would make it. The next day, I was in pure panic mode. I had 24 hours to get it done before the Steam Daily Deal. By midnight I had taken the pills, chugged an espresso drink and got to work.
What followed was one of the most miserable experiences of game making I have ever, ever faced. By 3am I was completely spent, having coded for nearly 20 straight hours. There was absolutely no way I could stop; the entire game was taken apart to implement Battle Kitchen and, at the bare minimum, I had to put it back together for the game to even run. The extreme dose of caffeine kept me completely awake but my mind was pretty much shut down. It was the strangest experience I’ve ever felt; I was quite literally a zombie. I took additional pills and drinks at that time; by 5am my work had slowed to a crawl. At one point I couldn’t even do simple calls to place text on a screen, as I couldn’t remember how. I sat there in front of the screen, unable to type, the minutes ticking away, the deadline looming over me, and I nearly broke down. I had to scream in my pillow and take a cold shower just to squeeze any small amount of juice I had left.
The 12pm Sunday deadline hit. CSD: Battle Kitchen appeared on the Steam Store front page with the 50% off discount. The game was still hours from being ready.
I still had every intention of making this a patch for all players. But as I neared release, realizing I didn’t have any time to even test a majority of modes implemented aside from a quick run through, I made the last minute call to release the expansion as a beta program for those wanting to opt into the branch. I uploaded the build and collapsed into bed at 2pm, a few hours past deadline and not as a full release, but still, I had made it.
Twenty minutes later, my phone was buzzing off the hook. A quick glance showed a horrifying glimpse into the Steam CSD forums. The game was completely broken. There were glitches everywhere. Modes didn’t work. Characters didn’t unlock. One mode, the Endurance Challenge, would crash upon finishing…not as a simple bug under certain circumstances, but for all players simply trying to play it. Leaderboards were reversed so that the lowest scores were at the #1 position. Even worse, problems had seeped into the standard single player mode, which was exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place (such as not even being able to read emails on the main menu screen).
There was no way I could sleep, and so I was back on my computer, trying to figure out the complete mess that had happened. An hour into bug-hunting, I knew this just wasn’t going to happen. I was in no shape to even try to analyze code, as my head was pounding and I couldn’t even think straight. Severely depressed, I posted on the forums that I had gone without sleep for nearly 30 hours now and couldn’t get to the patch until the next day. The messages of
support were extremely beneficial in calming me down; I was in pieces and was so damn thankful that I didn’t attempt to release the game as a full patch that day.
By the end of Sunday someone had uploaded a YouTube vid of their Battle Kitchen experiences (BaerTaffy). While they had fun they encountered several bugs which had me wincing the entire time, and closed with the expected crash to desktop after playing Endurance mode. The commentator was surprised, then said something along the lines of, “well hey, it’s a beta so these things are to be expected.”
I found such deep comfort in what he said at that time. While the expansion was game breaking in many ways, a lot of people didn’t find it to be extremely troubling given the beta nature. The support given to me by others greatly helped as well. By 10pm I was able to sleep soundly, after a 40+ hour marathon of coding with no sleep, and didn’t wake up till 1pm the next day.
When I woke up, I felt rejuvenated. It was almost like I had a debilitating sickness the previous day, only to feel 100% awesome the next. I pulled up my chair and started analyzing code, and it shocked me to how much in poor shape it was. It was almost like a drunk person was coding for me the previous night, with so many stupid mistakes and missteps that I wanted to punch myself in the face. Four days later I was able to patch the game up to stable condition, and another four days after that had the expansion release out of beta for everyone, dubbed “part 1” of the two part expansion plan (which I initially didn’t plan to split apart to begin with, but more on that in a sec.)
The Daily Deal and Steam Winter Sale
The 48 hour 50% off Daily Deal brought in over 4,400+ copies sold, making $21,000 in gross sales. It was a huge success given the window of time to sell, the upcoming November Sale coming up, and the massive releases coming in just the next few days. I didn’t know what to expect given the huge amount of sales that some titles can pull off during Daily Deals, but looking back at the number in retrospect, it worked out quite well I think.
The November Steam Sale and the Winter sale didn’t feature CSD in any promotional deals, perhaps due to the close proximity of the Daily Deal, or perhaps because they felt there were other titles more suited for those spots. In any event, combined revenue of both sales ended up with over 10,000 copies sold and nearly $50,000 in gross revenue. I think the Battle Kitchen expansion helped play a large part in that role, keeping things new and interesting for players
that can help both curate or even just recommend the game to others.
Battle Kitchen, Part 2
There’s still additional content I need to release to complete the “Battle Kitchen” expansion, which goes into beta this Friday with an all new “Mystery Box Mode.” I think that a large part of Battle Kitchen was a success. Weekly challenges are fun to make and have an average of about 800 players per week trying it (is that a good number? Honestly, I don’t know, but it’s good enough for me.) The Endurance mode is a huge success from a gameplay standpoint,
inspiring a new “eSports Endurance” mode being added in December 2014. The character select screen is as epic as I was hoping for.
What didn’t work was surprisingly the biggest addition to the expansion: the idea of local multiplayer. The tag team events aren’t nearly as fun and chaotic as I had hoped. The premise of that mode was that two to four players would take on a challenge. Every 15 seconds, controls are severed from the player and the next player in line is given 5 seconds to see where they are before controls are handed off to them. So player 1 could be in the middle of a pasta order, then their time is up and it’s up to player 2 to finish the order. It’s (theoretically) fun to watch but not a whole lot of fun to play. As
one person said during a livestream who had never played CSD before and was thrown into a tag-team co-op match, “this…sucks!” It was the absolute worst way to get introduced to the game, and that’s absolutely my fault.
It was interesting to see the amount of attention the single player content of Battle Kitchen got but not a whole lot of videos for multiplayer. I honestly don’t think there’s a huge demand for tournaments with the kind of content that’s available in Battle Kitchen anyways, nor did I think the VS. mode that I needed to implement would have created a whole lot of splash, which is why I opted to do an all new mode instead. After that, development on CSD will finally
be over (aside from Weekly Challenges, which I will continue to update every Monday, with my goal being a full year of support), and my full attention will be towards my two unannounced games, one of which is coming this year.
The Future of CSD
With the code the way it is in CSD (after two years of new content, an iPad port, new Steam features, controller support, and then a new expansion, it gets pretty messy), it casts doubts as to how I’d be able to pull off a console port. I’d much rather tear down the code completely and rebuild it, but at that point, I don’t think I’d want to redo the game, I’d want to create something new. I’ve always felt that the players who love CSD love it in spite of itself; there’s so much I can do with a fresh slate and it’s just exciting to imagine what a sequel would bring. That said, I don’t have anything to
announce right now in terms of console support or a sequel, but I think later this year something will come into focus as to what I’m making next.
This isn’t the end of my series of articles, but I feel this may be near the end of what CSD can bring in terms of huge revenue or experimentation of new platforms and features. Certainly it is near the end of my plans in bringing new and exciting content to the game to keep it as relevant as possible. I need to focus on my new games and get those polished for a reveal as soon as possible; April looks promising, but then again, every article I’ve managed to do
closes with the hopes of a reveal of a new project, only for that date to pass by without an announcement. Things are totally different this time around, but hey, enough promises and more deliverin’, right?
The Grand Total
Just two and a half years ago, I questioned my decision to even make Cook, Serve, Delicious after that awful first weekend of release. Today, Cook, Serve, Delicious has grossed over $610,000 in sales across mobile, Steam, distro websites and my cut from the Humble Bundle, with over 100,000 copies sold. Steam accounts for 78% of that financial figure.
What an insane number. I just can’t believe it. That income allows me to fund my next two games outright and continue pursuing my dream of being a top tier indie dev. We made a lot of progress with Cook, Serve, Delicious, but I feel the biggest has yet to come considering the scope of my next two games. Thank you to everyone for the support, thank you to all the Youtube and Twitch streamers out there enjoying the game, thanks to the community for all the great
reviews and thanks to anyone who bought the game and enjoyed it. And of course a huge thanks to Ryan Davis, who was the one to open up the door to this staggering amount of success. I will never, ever forget that.
I don’t know if this is just the beginning, or if this is the pinnacle of my success. I don’t know how my next two games, which are stylistically different from Cook, Serve, Delicious, will be received critically or commercially. I don’t know how console development will go. I don’t know how much longer Cook, Serve, Delicious will provide me with healthy daily income (as of right now it’s still selling great). What I do know is that we’ll find out all these answers together.
The future is completely uncertain, yet I couldn’t be more excited.