I won’t call this a postmortem as really I feel it’s a bit too early to use this word. Let’s say that it’s just a picture I’m taking a bit more than a month after the release of Bret Airborne. I’m not even sure I’ll one say write a proper “postmortem” with the typical “what went right” and “what went wrong” as I feel it might be a bit too arrogant to draw conclusions from something that might take who knows where in 10 years from now.

Anyway, let’s take a look at this picture already.

What is Bret Airborne?

If you’re looking for the description it’s on the website here. To me Bret Airborne is the “best” game I released so far. It’s the best combination of fun and polishing I’ve come up with so far. It’s not revolutionary or groundbreaking but what it does it does nicely. For once I don’t have any hidden doubts on some efforts I might not have done.

Even if not everyone agree about it I’m very happy about the art and that’s a first for me. I also did a pretty good job at trying to reach out to people to tell them about my games. I did took some notes to do a better job next time but that’s the first time I went that far. Now that I’m thinking about it I’m wondering why I didn’t do that before … Lesson #1: If you don’t fight for your game then nobody will.

How many copies did you sold?

Right to it eh? Alright …

39 days after the release I sold 34 copies so far + whatever sales I might have done from stores without any dev panel.  It might not be impressive but it’s almost 1 copy per day so it still hits some imaginary goal in my mind. Of course I estimate that to make a living I need to sell about 1 copy every hour.

Out of those 34 copies 11 were sold during the ShowMeTheSales promotion that was run last week on ShowMeTheGames so you can say that this sale was a success all things considered even if other indies part of that sale did a lot better than me.

I’m making about $8.50 per copy sold at $10 (it depends where the game was sold) and during the ShowMeTheSales promotion I was making $3.75 per copy (game was sold at 50% its price). So as you can see it’s not a lot of money and some might even say it wasn’t the brightest move to sell the game for $5 during ShowMeTheSales.

Well the goal wasn’t as much to make money as it was to just spread my name around a bit. For a week I was fortunate enough to stand there with known games are recognized indie developers. While it might not create immediate results it’s the kind of marketing move that is worth a lot. Who knows what kind of opportunity this might bring. Maybe none but I had to do it as I can’t be the one shutting doors here. When such opportunity presents itself you jump on it.

Website traffic

Here’s my Google Analytics graph for April 9th to May 18th.

Click for full view

Here’s a game! Spot the day Rock Paper Shotgun posted a review of the game. I also did see sales raise this day so it’s not just traffic to my website. Sadly it’s the only major website that covered the game and RPS post so many stuff in a day now that most sales happened in the morning. A few hours later the review was off from the front page and visits and sales also stopped.

The small curve you see around April 16th to April 21st is when I posted a trimmed version of Bret Airborne on the Chrome store. These are not “visitors” though as I just added my Google Analytics code to the web page in which the game sits so it’s in fact illustrating how many people installed this trimmed version. As far as I can tell none of these installs have converted into sales. I won’t be wasting time on that anymore. Maybe that can help some people but as far as I’m concerned it’s just a gimmick.

You can also see in this graph when ShowMeTheSales started on May 12th. What you see on May 1st is when a review was posted on Rampant Games.

What I get from this is that getting coverage from major website really is important (well I can’t see a scenario in which it would hurt anyway…). It’s not that I didn’t try to get others to post about Bret Airborne. For example it took 4 emails to finally get on RPS. I’ve put the same effort with other websites but sadly didn’t get any result.

The thing that upsets me the most I guess is that the game didn’t even make it on websites covering casual games like JayIsGames. It seems it would have been a natural place to appear and that I would have been able to reach people more “naturally inclined” to enjoy games like Bret Airborne. I’ll keep trying to reach these websites as I have more news to send them but so far I can’t even tell if my emails were caught in the spam filter or not.

Reaching the proper market

If I believe all reviews  so far the game is good so I did good on that part of the job. Where I’m having a hard time though is to reach people who might be more receptive to a game like Bret Airborne.

Not that “typical gamers” can’t enjoy it. All reviews were written by people playing a lot of games every single day. I fear that the sight of “match-3″ might scare some people away though. My best weapon against that are the reviews the game got so far but it’s not that obvious to say to people “yeah I know it’s a match-3 game but you will enjoy this one!”.

So I’m having 2 problems here. Reaching people who might be more inclined to try games like Bret Airborne and convincing others that it’s “not just” a match-3 game with no strategy or depth.

There are times I’m wondering if the game had a different theme (like fantasy for example) if it’d be easier to sell to non-traditional match-3 players. Maybe the cartoony look of the game is pushing some people away before they even check what the game is about. Fighting wizards might be more easy to communicate than steampunk hot air balloons.

Tablets you’re saying? Well it is in my mind. The mobile market is however a weird beast and from what I read it really shouldn’t be seen as an obvious answer to my problem here. To start with I don’t even own a tablet or a cellphone so I’m already quite behind on the topic. So it’s part of the plan but I’m not hugely enthusiast about it. I see enough people struggling on these devices so just because Bret Airborne feels like it would be a good match for tablets I’d rather remain careful about any assumptions.

The game is set to be released on what seems a more appropriate store next week. I won’t say more for now as I’m not sure I can and I really have no idea of how many people it can possibly reach anyway. I’ll see in a few weeks.

Marketing

So I said that I thought I did an okay job trying to reach out to people. Well obviously I could have done better when you look at the stats but it’s the best I have done so far. There’s a point though after sending 3 emails to the same website about your game that you have to give up if you don’t really have anything new to say.

First email was the typical announcement. Second email was a friendly follow-up in case the first email went unnoticed and the third was to show the reviews the game received so far. I was hoping that showing RPS reviewed the game in a positive way would help more than it did to convince people to talk about the game. It did help but not much.

So here are a few things I identified as “need to do better for next game”:

- Do proper press work way before the game is released. That way I do have new stuff to say as the game is being developed so proper motivation to write again and again to the press without just appearing to try to spam them. That means showing alpha gameplay, sending beta review copy, announcing new features and maybe even run a Kickstarter campaign. Not much for the money but since people cover Kickstarter campaigns it might be one more opportunity to talk to people about my game.

- Reach out to youtube reviewers. There are many people doing that so I need to include them in my list of people to contact.

- Create the Greenlight page while the game is still in development. I can’t say that having a Greenlight page helped in any way really. But with so many people suddenly knowing about your game maybe it’s just a matter of having the “proper” game to show. Yes votes for Bret Airborne on Greenlight are terribly low. People really react badly to this game on Greenlight. I’d be curious to know what kind of effect Greenlight had on games before they eventually got released on Steam. So maybe with a different games results could be different. I already paid the fee and it’s not much work to publish there so I can’t see any good reason to not do it anyway.

Final thoughts

While I can appreciate the things I learned and the things I did better with Bret Airborne I’m still scratching my head about how poorly the game has been doing so far.

I mean I get that maybe the game is hard to sell and that overall I don’t have much experience selling PC games but 34 copies really is low. 100 copies would still be low but 34 is … well really low. It’s not a surprise though when you think about the shy coverage of the game. People just don’t know about it really so I can’t be expecting much sales.

The good thing though is that now I have a proper game in my portfolio that people will be able to buy for years to come. The game ain’t dead and I won’t have to pull the plug on it. If I do better with my next game Bret Airborne could even gain in popularity a bit. The more “good” games I release the more they should help to promote each others.

So even if I’m not particularly impressed by the number of copies sold so far I still see things in a positive way … most of the time ;-) And honestly it can only means that the best is yet to come so how could I not be happy about that! :-)

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