Well to start with I went full-time indie because I lost my job in June and decided to use this opportunity to develop a new game. Was I really thinking that I could in just 5 months complete a new game and make a living out of it? I would lie if I’d say yes but honestly I can find some satisfaction in just getting another MMO done in a bit more than 4 months (released on October 17th).

Three things could happen. The first one was a total failure. The second one was that many players would create accounts in Star Corsairs on the release week and I would have extended my full-time indie experience. The third, the one that happened, is that the game has some success but just not enough for me to stay full-time indie at the moment. At the moment …

How can I come to this conclusion in just about 2 weeks since release? Keep reading…

The numbers

Sales after about 2 weeks: $273.31 from 19 sales

Players who opted for the subscription: 11

Pre-launch crowd funding campaign: $600

Total number of accounts created so far: 1,389

Accounts created since release: 944 (the first 445 accounts were created in alpha/beta stage)

Accounts who logged in 20 times or more since release: 153

Accounts who logged in 20 times or more since October 31: 71

Visitors since release (click to zoom):

Visitors on starcorsairs.com from October 17 to November 3rd

Traffic sources (click to zoom):

Traffic sources on starcorsairs.com from October 17th to November 3rd

Flash games as promo:

My games were not great and for some reason I’m having difficulties distributing the 2nd one. Maybe because the name is similar I have no idea. All I know is that having Flash games as ads was more effective than sending a press release. Unfortunately I don’t have the number of visitors converted into players from these games (my own fault here). If if had the money to sponsor a great Flash game I could see some great results coming from this. Game 1, game 2

Numbers analysis

What really interests me here is how many people are playing and what’s the money I get from these people. I can say that 71 players are currently very active. I can say that 82 more players are probably less active and/or won’t come back. That’s not great but based on the number of accounts created since release about 7.5% of all accounts created are very active players which is not that bad when said this way.

It gets interesting when I look at the $273.31 I made so far. Now THIS is interesting considering the very low number of active players. If I dream a bit and think there was 1,000 active players (which is really not all that much) and do very simple math it would mean that this $273 would be about $1,700 . FYI Dead Frontier has currently an average of 3,000 concurrent users which means that it has way over 3,000 active players to have 3,000 concurrent users most of the time… Oh well…

So the money I made so far is NOT the problem. In fact this $273 is extremely good news. The bad news is how few people are playing but even more how few people actually visited the website or know about the game at all…

Traffic on starcorsairs.com before and after release

By relying mostly on what I could publish myself on Twitter, Google+, my blog, friends and Golemizer (yes some stories about Star Corsairs were published on some blogs before the release but nothing that had a big impact) I generated 445 accounts which is 50% of what my efforts to promote the game in media gave me so far. And don’t forget that I published also 2 Flash games to promote the MMO so from those 944 accounts some are still on from my own direct effort. Here is where you can see a big failure.

You would expect that contacting media and sending a press release would give a bit more than twice what I had so far. What happened? Well on all the websites/blogs/other publications I contacted I can count on my 2 hands the ones who talked about it (and it doesn’t go up to 10). There are some media that were warned about Star Corsairs a bit late so it might still increase but once again I was completely unable to generate any kind of interest from the press. You can see from the traffic sources screenshots that the only website I contacted that mattered a bit was Massively (MMORPG.com is from the listing of the game that happened this weekend and not launch coverage). Where are the others? Yep… nowhere to be seen…

Shouldn’t you try to contact websites focusing on indie games?

Oh yeah I tried. In fact I’ve been trying since the release of Golemizer in 2008, the release of the clothing expansion, the players’ quest expansion, the Diliculo Island expansion, the release of Blimp Wars, the release of Dungeon of Loot and now the release of Star Corsairs (and this past weekend I sent a 2nd email to all of them). Never had any chance with any of them. Maybe it’s just bad luck but as you can see I’ve been trying quite some times since 2008 so at some point you hope just a bit that someone will say “hmm, I think I know that name…”. Nope. Creating MMOs as a one-man team doesn’t get you any kind of credit here. Don’t be fooled like I was…

At this point I’d be glad with a very bad review instead of not getting anything at all.

What I think of all this

The business model works. The game is interesting. Too few people know about it. The game is not perfect. The game is a bit too complex. I could have done better with a few more months working on it full-time without worrying about money but it is a damn good start and current players appreciate it.

I am way better at pleasing players than making myself interesting to the press. MMOs are mostly not considered indie. Did I say that on at least 2 websites focusing on indie games that online MMOs are turned right away? “Sorry while we support indie developers we can’t help your indie MMO as it’s not downloadable…” Yep. Heard that… Oh well.

I must insist once again that the money made so far is pretty damn good considering the attention the MMO got. But building attention is not easy and it’s not the first time I’m confronted to this. I should have known better I guess. Let’s say I’m a really slow learner so there’s only me to blame here… *cough*

So is it over?

Heck no! I will still work on Star Corsairs. In some months it might even become my full-time job who knows. I can’t rely on the press for visibility but I still have some promo coming up. I won’t let go a game that does so well with so few players. Golemizer is still online after 3 years also! I was just about to shut it down this summer when I lost my job and decided that I would find a way to get the money to keep it online while I had no revenue. It’s still online. And I will still work on new games. In fact I have a prototype ready for something much simpler that maybe will be able to catch attention more easily.

But the fact is that I have bills like anyone else. As much as I’m happy with that $273 with so few players in so little time it’s nowhere near enough to pay for food, house, car, etc. If the game would have received a bit more exposure I might have risked to stay jobless for a month or two more. But as it is now it’s just too risky. I won’t put at risk Star Corsairs and Golemizer just because I “think” that “it’s about to get big”. So that’s why I’m taking a decision so soon after the release of the game. Different results would have brought a different decision but with what I see it might take months before something really happens. I can’t wait that long otherwise I might just go bankrupt and believe me I don’t want that.

Is it really that bad?

No. Here are some news from just this week…

Gameforge lay off 100 employees

And I was worried that Star Trek: Infinite Space would be some big competition to Star Corsairs. Maybe I have to find myself another day job for now but at least Star Corsairs is now released and will still live for many years just like Golemizer.

RockYou cuts half of staff

You don’t need a big team to be successful for sure but when you work for someone else it’s much easier to get fired…

Lego Universe will end in January 2012, offices closing

“it has not been possible to convert a satisfactory number of players to paying subscribers”. Well I was but I didn’t receive as much exposure so the end result is similar… beside the fact that my game will still be online in a few months.

I don’t get any joy from other devs losing their jobs. I lost my job this summer so I know the feeling. What it does tell me though is that I’m not doing so bad after all. In 4 months I’ve been able to release a game that gets good results considering its number of active players and the exposure it receives. I might need to find a day job to pay the bills but my games are still online and will still live. If a single person is able to get “beer money” out of MMOs while a bigger studio needs to shut down its game then it tells me that all those lonely devs out there might deserve a bit more credits than they get after all.

Sure maybe we don’t have the graphics. Sure maybe our games have flaws. Sure maybe we don’t write our press release the way you’d like us to write them but look. In February 2012 you’ll be able to play Star Corsairs and not Lego Universe and probably not Star Trek: Infinite Space. Again I wish no harm to other devs but I just can’t find any other way to make my point at the moment…

What’s next?

First I still have some things I want to see in Star Corsairs so players I’m still there don’t worry! Drones have been mentioned since the beginning and I’d like to add some kind of raids. Something that would give a reason for players to get together and get nice loot. I still have some promo coming up so expect to hear about me a bit more about Star Corsairs.

I have a prototype for a simple game. No idea when it will be released but again it’s online and multiplayer. No sandbox this time, no crafting. Something simple. Something easy to create and maybe something easier to enjoy (and review…). Thanks again to Brian for feeding me on ideas, to pump my motivation and for helping me to not quite give up yet.

I will buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, L.A. Noire and probably SWTOR as well. My new job is paying more than the old one and I plan to be a normal person who enjoys games a bit. For 5 months now I have cut every expenses I could and took a single afternoon of vacation (my wife forced me I swear…) so if I’m to have a day job I’ll try to have some fun while still working toward my goal of one day making a living out of my games. Who knows! Maybe I’ll even allow myself to buy a bottle of Scotch whisky again. I really miss Scotch…

This is how it goes. It’s not over yet. I hope it will never be in fact. I have however accepted the fact that again I might have to wait a bit longer.