Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Whole Notion that Demos Kill Sales...'s a bit off. Or at least it's being mislabeled. If you're not aware, CVG posted an article this past week regarding new data that suggests games with demos can result in a halving of total sales:

I'm not irked at all by the study (hey, facts are cool and super helpful), but the presentation by CVG and a subsequent slew of other media outlets bothers me a bit. The study only took its data from Xbox 360 games, but that point has been incredibly muddled by press. To the author's credit, this point is mentioned in the article -- but it's not highlighted, expounded on, or even mentioned as any kind of disclaimer that the study may not be indicative of the medium as a whole.

It seems pretty clear from the author's perspective that, for headline purposes, the study should be presented as if it encompassed all viable gaming platforms (certainly more compelling then including boring caveats!). You think it would be fairly common knowledge that markets such as PC and mobile are different from the Xbox 360 demographic that's under analysis, but for whatever reason that point isn't being clearly articulated.

In fact, it's being ignored entirely.

That's really what's driving me nuts here. Why? For one, because the study doesn't apply to PC games, where I believe a demo can be a boon. Also, the study is based on the Xbox 360 -- which is both its own island as well as an incredibly strict and warped marketplace where a developer's one and only option to include a demo is to have it listed right alongside the game's full version.

In our experience, giving players a readily available choice to not purchase your game at the point where they should be purchasing your game is a big time no-no for driving sales. Seems to me that's exactly what's going on with this Xbox 360 study. But not highlighting your game's demo right next to the game's purchase option isn't the same as outright denying potential players the option to try the game out should they want to (and there's plenty of people who do, "Is there going to be a demo?" is a frequently asked question we receive leading up to a game's release).

There's a bunch of psychology to it that I won't pretend to understand, but to reiterate: it's all in the presentation. Which brings up another thought: Is it ethical to create a demo for a game and not advertise it on the same page that it's sold?

I'm not sure to be honest. It doesn't feel excellent by any means. But "manipulating" customers in such a passive way because it's been recorded multiple times that the game will sell less if you don't seems a better option than essentially saying: "No, you can't get a tangible feel for my game without putting money down for it. (Or pirating it, please don't pirate it.)".

Regardless, there has to be a give and take with how we as developers try to maximize our sales while not totally jerking with our player/customer base in the process. I just don't like the idea of denying players the right to play the game first in a panic move to rhetoric like that in the CVG piece.

tl;dr: Foregoing a demo isn't something I'd advise for PC developers. If you're worried about losing sales, think about the customers you may lose to disinterest and/or piracy when people Google's "[insert name of your game here] demo" and nothing comes up. Just don't slap a demo button right below the buy button if you want people to actually purchase!

Monday, June 4, 2012

An Overdue Update Ahead of E3

It's 5:25 AM the Monday before E3 officially kicks off (unofficially it's been going for a few weeks it seems), and I find myself coming to following a midnight nap induced by Polygon's party and all their free drinks. I didn't have all of them, but I had some of them and that was plenty enough.

So what's been going on since I last update oh, um three months ago? Well quite a bit.

GDC 2012
Just a really nice time in GDC getting to see some old friends (and meet new ones) from all over the globe. I learned a bunch of good stuff and had a lot of fun hanging around with Brian Provinciano (Retro City Rampage) for much of the week, and had a blast showing Valley to the crowd at Crashfaster's rather incredible chiptunes and indie games party at the DNA Lounge. Big thanks to Adam Rippon (Dragon Fantasy) for getting me involved. Here's a video tour of the space right before people were let in:

PAX East 2012 and AVWW's Launch
Another incredible, but extremely exhausting, experience. Exhibiting is just an incredibly taxing thing. I knew this, but you really don't understand it completely until you've been through it. Still it was unbelievably worthwhile, as we got to shake hands with a lot of the predominantly east coast press as well as show the game off to tens of thousands (and as a bonus have it focus tested by hundreds).

Not only that, but most of the Arcen Games team was able to get together for the first time and really get to know each other in person (three of us are in North Carolina, one in Georgia, and I'm in California). I actually flew over a week ahead of the convention with my wife and daughter to visit Chris Park and his family for a few days before the team flew up to Boston. While there were a few frantic moments thanks to my lack of preparation for PAX, we were able to spend a solid amount of time just kicking back and taking in what the Park's told us was the best time of the year in their parts. The whole two weeks over on the other side of the country was great.

Once I returned home it was time to actually launch A Valley Without Wind. After some 15 months of active development the game released the week of April 23rd through our store, as well as on Steam and various other distributors. The amount of press, and where it came from, blew us a way. Things went well on the sales front too, which is always a good thing as far as keeping a job you love. :)

E3 2012 with IndieCade
A bit after the launch we received an email informing us that AVWW had been selected to be showcased by IndieCade this year at their E3 booth. That's what I'm gearing up for this week. I'll be there June 5-7 during exhibiting hours to chat and have people demo the game as we prep its 1.1 release to coincide with the show.

Other Stuff
Still writing for MCV and just moved over from DIYGamer to IGM (Indie Game Magazine). I had to start writing about indie games again now that I finally have a tiny bit of free time. It was driving me crazy not to.

Also I just put together a page for my talks and panels should you be interested. More updates soon! (Well sooner than three months from now I'll promise that much.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Update as I Head to the City of Rice-A-Roni

I haven't updated in forever, so let's do some catching up. Here's what I've been working on the past couple months:

A Valley Without Wind Launches This Month
I'm really excited about this. Chris, Keith, Pablo, and I have been working on Valley actively for well over a year now (with Josh joining in and contributing heavily along the way). It's become one of the single longest projects I've personally ever worked on (along with Blokes which I'll talk about next). And it'll be out this month!

We just moved into the final beta stage for the game, and have all sorts of new stuff to check out (trailer, screens, info, and such).

Blokes Kickstarter Filming Complete
Another item I'm ecstatic about; as it's also one of those year plus projects that just runs you through the full gamut of emotions. We completed filming the first two episodes of the comedy series with the success of our Kickstarter effort fueling our budget.

I'm out of town this week (more on that below), but after I return I'll be sitting down with the director to take a look at a cut of the footage. Blokes is something that has built a lot of momentum and given me a lot of confidence as it progressed. I both wrote and starred in what we've done thus far, so you can imagine how acute my feelings are for it. Specifically my hope for it succeed, and my fear that it may totally fail. That's yet to be determined, but based on how the shoot days went I feel really good about it.

We're hoping to have the episodes out of post production for everyone to see either this month or next. For now, you can check out a bunch of great photos of the shoot by Erik Fischer.

MCVonline US Correspondent
Being hired on at MCVUK was a really cool and unexpected development that came about back in December when they sent out word they were looking to add a US writer to their staff. I've followed along with MCV years ago when i was covering the AAA beat much more, and jumped at the opportunity to join a publication with a solid track record under its belt.

It took a bit of time to figure everything out, but it was finally announced a couple weeks back and I've been writing for them every weekday since. So far the work isn't daunting, and I love working with the guys in the UK office.

Anyway, add another gig to the list. ;)

I gave my first industry talk! I had a ton of nerves about it, but to combat that I prepared a bunch. It's all about making PR, marketing, and community management work for you as an indie developer. So if you're not that, or not into marketing you probably wouldn't be that into it.

For those who are, here it is (view a list of all the #AltDevConf videos here):

Off To GDC
I'm packing for San Francisco as I type this. I'll be in town all week for GDC, doing lots of cool stuff. So if you're around, look me up!

Friday, December 2, 2011

60 Games in 30 Nights

Update (12/31): Should've never started my list with Binding of Isaac and Dungeons of Dredmor, mistake!

As I thought, kind of dumb. I have plenty of excuses for why I didn't get remotely close to my goal, but why bother airing them out here? No pouting I say! I have dipped my toe into about two dozen of these games already, and want to see this list through to the end--even if it's going to take longer than I'd previously hoped.

So I'm giving myself a two week extension, and hope to have all these games played by January 14th. That's a soft deadline now though, and realistically I probably will need the rest of the month to write about them. I'm alright with that though. Now it's less about the ridiculous time crunch I put myself under (which admittedly isn't really fair to the devs of the games I'm previewing/reviewing), and more about the full completion of the list. Now I can take some time playing games on the list that aren't meant to be tackled in a couple hours, or even a couple days.

Definitely a failure on my part in some ways, but on the other hand I'm pleased to have forced myself into finally trying out these great games. More updates soon.

Original: I'm trying something a bit dumb to me, but it has to be done. The title says it all, I have 30 days to play and write about the 60 games listed below. Must of them are indie, and hopefully short enough that I can get a full look at for review purposes. If not I'll be posting preview, impression pieces as well.

They'll be going up throughout this month on the blogs/sites I write for. However this will be the central document for my progress. I'll put a link in the sidebar, and update the list with hyperlinks to coverage as it's posted. I'm a busy man, so I don't suspect this will be easy or entirely possible for that matter. Wish me luck!*

  1. To The Moon
  2. InMomentum
  3. The Binding of Isaac
  4. Wizorb
  5. Octodad 2
  6. A.R.E.S.
  7. Atom Zombie Smasher
  8. Defense Grid
  9. Dino D-Day
  10. Dungeons of Dredmor
  11. Fate of the World
  12. Galcon Fusion
  13. Killing Floor
  14. Nation Red
  15. Zombie Driver
  16. Numen
  17. Polynomial
  18. Puzzle Dimensions
  19. Really Big Sky
  20. Sanctum
  21. Scoregasm
  22. Shatter
  23. SpaceChem
  24. Steel Storm: Burning Retribution
  25. Swords and Soldiers HD
  26. Time Gentlemen, Please/Ben There Dan, That
  27. Trine 2 Beta
  28. Vertex Dispenser
  29. New VVVVVV Content
  30. Xotic
  31. Alpha Protocol
  32. The Ball
  33. The Graveyard
  34. King’s Bounty Series (Something from it)
  35. The Longest Journey
  36. Nimbus
  37. The Path
  38. Puzzle Bots
  39. Revenge of the Titans
  40. Runespell: Overture
  41. Samorost 2
  42. The Scourge Project
  43. Windosill
  44. Zen Bound 2
  45. Syberia
  46. Dragonsphere
  47. Another World
  48. Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars
  49. Bionic Commando Rearmed
  50. Fort Zombie
  51. Dark Void Zero
  52. Pathologic
  53. Vizati
  54. Planet Buster
  55. Proteus
  56. Smuggle Truck
  57. Project Zomboid
  58. Fatale
  59. Fortis
  60. Amnesia Custom Stories
*Oh, and for the record I took the first day of this month off mostly because 60 games in 31 days doesn't sound as cool--and as we all know this sounds too cool to mess up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Off to PAX Prime!

I'm right in the middle of a 12 day stretch where I'm travelling all over the West Coast (and slightly to the right.) Been pretty insane, as soon as I get comfortable it's off we go again. I doubt I could do this all the time, but it's been a pretty fun summer given how busy things are.

Driving to and from Vegas to see old friends was much needed; but just three days at home before turning around to fly up to Seattle for PAX is harrowing at best. Especially with all that's going on at the moment. Heir today, gone tomorrow ay? (Love that game, despite it's unforgiving nature.)

When I have been home, I've been head down working on making room maps and finishing other tasks we have to complete before A Valley Without Wind beta arrives. We're so very close now. It appears public beta is still on target for the first half of September. We'll see how everything goes, but I can say loudly and proudly that the game is gelling together in ways I can't describe and I can't wait for people to finally get a chance to play.

Would love to chat more--in fact I plan to in September once I stop spinning--but I have to get at least a few good hours of sleep before a very odd series of flights to Seattle tomorrow. May have a PAX post here, and we'll be busy over on DIYGamer, Gaming Dead and my YT Channel too. If you're into what's going on at the northwestern nerd mecca, keep an eye on those spots over the next few days!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Valley Without Wind Updates and Gameplay Video

We've emerged from the Arcen labs to share a new press update for our upcoming game A Valley Without Wind showing off a lot of good (new) stuff. The biggest item has to be the character model updates, where we've totally ditched our previous method and models as they just couldn't match up with these new ones. Pictured is an example, and you can check out 16 new concept art images over on Chris's blog.

On top of that, Chris has put together a solid 17-minute video of pure gameplay, along with an accompanying post. Have a look (or even better head over to YouTube and watch it in 1080p):

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Rudolf Kremers on DIYGamer

Wanted to direct you to a piece I put together for DIYGamer featuring Rudolf Kremers of Omni Systems. If you're unfamiliar with the name or company, there's a good chance you've at least heard of their title Eufloria. A seamlessly evolving RTS, wrapped in a beautifully ambient package.

It's really blissful stuff, I suggest you at least give the demo a try PC/Mac'ers; and those who own a PS3 can look forward to a PSN port sometime later this year.

Now for the picture break down: Rudolf is wearing a ballin' shirt. My hair is ridiculously long, and I'm representing my hometown with a t-shirt I bought from local awesome-shop Octopus Garden. Modestly priced whats-its and weird crap, stop by if you're ever passing through South-Eastern Washington.