In a few weeks, No Crusts Interactive will be releasing our first independently developed game on the iPad. (If you want in on the news, sign up for our No Crusts newsletter or follow us @NoCrusts!) You’re going to be hearing a lot about the game. Not just for marketing purposes, but because I’m in a position to share real-world data and experiences about life as an indie developer in the children’s market.
As you may have noticed, I use this blog as well as my public speaking to share as much information as possible about the reality and best practices of developing games for kids.
With the consulting and work-for-hire projects that I often work on, I’m not always at liberty to share the ups and downs. But when it’s my own game, I can say whatever I like!
So, with about 10 to 14 days until we submit the app to the app store, what’s on my mind?
1. Finishing the app with as much polish as possible. If you ever wanted to see how obsessive a designer can be, check in with them at the tail end of the project. The new game is a puzzle game, and I am obsessed with tweaking the level design. I’m literally moving art assets by one-quarter of a pixel because I want it perfect!
2. Managing all my Web identities. Not only am I in the midst of redesigning the No Crusts website to make sure it’s up-to-date, but I’m also cleaning up Facebook, LinkedIn, and every other place my potential audience might be hiding. The message must be clear, consistent, and ubiquitous. This is an enormous amount of time and effort, by the way. Far more than I expected!
3. Collecting feedback from trusted sources. Multiple friends and family have played the game. Every colleague I see has played it. I’m doing a demo at a local meetup. Then I write down the feedback. (I strongly believe in being able to average my feedback, not just respond to the most recent round of feedback. Must be the researcher in me!)
Some of the feedback is immediately actionable, some speaks more toward longer-term goals, some ideas I need to hold and see if other testers continue to raise the issues, and some I throw out (because they’re different from the fundamental goals). But they are all contributing to my understanding of how to market the game. It also helps me prime the word-of-mouth network that I’m going to need to reach my goals.
4. Setting concrete performance goals. This game was largely developed as a portfolio piece to demonstrate my design sense. That said, I still want it to succeed, which means I need measurable metrics by which to judge success. It’s not enough to be wishy-washy about the goals. (“I want to make my money back” is wishy-washy. In my experience, people who say that don’t actually know how much money they spent!)
A simple way to do this is to fill in the blanks of this sentence: “Success is _____ purchases, _______ downloads, and ______ reviews averaging a rating of _____ in _____ months time.” But, this begs the question, how does one reach those metrics?
5. Doing my research… on everything. I need to prep an enormous amount of materials, including performance metrics, but also press releases, marketing images, marketing descriptions, keywords, search engine optimization, Web text, emails to friends and family, emails to reviewers, video trailers… For every one of those items, I’ve been collecting resources, best practices, and examples to inform what I do. (Don’t worry. I’ll share!)
That’s a lot of hats to be wearing as we prepare to launch. It reminds me of a quote that floats around the developer community, which has long since lost the attribution. Basically, it goes that 90% of the work is spent developing the game, while the other 90% of the work is spent making the game a success. Ponder that one.
Looking forward to sharing this adventure with you. If you have particular questions about my experiences, please feel free to ask. Additionally, if you’re a developer willing to share some stories or post-mortems, please drop us a note at kidsGotGame@NoCrusts.com. I’d love to do a q&a or have a guest blogger share their experiences.
Otherwise, next chance to catch a session by me is Games + Learning + Society in Madison, Wisconsin, Cartoon Digital in Munich, The Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, England, and Casual Connect USA in San Francisco.
Photo ©: Small_Realm