A bit over four months ago, my company Brushfire Games released Shipwreck, our first game. After sharing some loose numbers on Twitter, it was suggested that I do a little post mortem so here's a little look at Shipwreck.
To date Shipwreck has sold a total of 1,299 copies for a total gross revenue of $2,605.15 USD. Here are some pretty graphs that show the units sold and gross revenue (USD) over time, split by platform.
(Click for full size)
There are three red lines marked on the graphs designating three big post-launch events. From left to right we have the launch of our Mac/Linux ports, our one-week $1 sale, and then our final price drop from $3 to $1.
So after looking at these graphs, these are the big things I take away:
Making Shipwreck was a cost of about $5000 to me (not counting time I took away from work and the opportunity cost of that), so it's still a fair ways short of making back the investment, but it was still a worthwhile experience. I also do software contracting four days a week which means that this loss doesn't cause me any distress since my rent still gets paid.
Generally the game was well received, though I'm sure some of that was caused by nostalgia or being easy on us because it was our first game. Indie Gamer Chick was the only review that was overall negative and while I wouldn't agree with all her points, she pointed out a lot of things the game could have done better.
Here are a some quick quotes I took from some reviews with links so you can read them in more detail if you'd like:
Everything in Shipwreck looks, feels, and sounds (Catchy soundtrack? Check!) authentic, and the love it shows towards the source material is evident. So lap it up, ladies and gents.This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a Legend of Zelda game on Xbox, and I can’t imagine it being any better than this.
I like how, instead of enemies dropping hearts (even when you have full health), they drop apples that you can save and use later. Now that’s a good idea. I liked the desert dungeon. And…….. well actually that’s the only stuff that really stood out to me. Everything else never got brutally awful or anything, but Shipwreck was bland and boring from the start and never really picks up steam.
Shipwreck really works as a retro adventure title, and is more than worth what you pay for it. Admittedly, there isn’t a great deal of content, but for a quick blast of Memory Lane fun, you can’t go wrong.
The game is short, as in can be completed within less than half a day. But don't let that put you off. I believe that the overall design of the game is well done. The puzzles and dungeon type levels makes the game challenging. The obstacles and enemies also make the game fun to play.
This game is a loving tribute to the Legend of Zelda franchise and Brushfire Games first foray into the world of video game development. For anyone who is a Zelda fan, Shipwreck is a must-play game. I mean that. Go to Xbox Live and get it immediately. You’ll never find a better tribute to the classic games like this one.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of A Link Between Worlds, the dungeons in Shipwreck feel dangerous. This danger can come from things that you might find unfair, such as taking damage when falling to a lower floor as part of a puzzle. Is that unfair because the design severely hampers the player, or is it unfair because the game deviates from what we’re used to in Zelda?
So after all those reviews and quotes, what am I taking with me to learn for the future?
I feel like including some notes on what went well and what went poorly, but don't feel it's particularly useful to go into deep detail because I feel the bullets speak for themselves.
Seriously finishing the game is a huge win in my book. It took me over a year to get from the original prototype to the shipped game and while that's longer than I had hoped, I am glad I managed to stick it out and release the game. Finishing games is hard and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Ultimately Shipwreck was a good experience. I managed (barely) to hang on for a year and see the game out. The design changed a couple times and I nearly canceled it a few times, but in the end I did design and program a full 2D adventure game in the style of the old Zelda games which was my goal. Was Shipwreck everything I wanted it to be? Of course not. But I finished a game, learned a lot, and am proud of the work I did.
Now to make the next game.