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How I made $18,000 in six months selling source code
by Steffen Itterheim on 01/10/11 05:32:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

It was 6 months ago when I made the first sale of my Line-Drawing Game Starterkit for Cocos2D. I just glanced at the number labelled "Total" in the Plimus control panel: $18,479.05. Wow!

I have to admit, I have no hard data where my customers are coming from other than they're from all over the world. Or why each of them is buying or why some of them are interested but end up not doing it.

Some will have followed me for quite a while, some found my website via google, others got wind of it through word of mouth and most recently they may have read about the Line-Drawing Game Starterkit in my Learn Cocos2D book. For the most part I have only informal data that I can share. And I do so regularly on my Learn Cocos2D blog.

Informal data

Thankful customers writing me that this was exactly what they've been looking for, and why. Clearly, there are two distinct groups of customers: those who would like to learn how to write a Line-Drawing game, hoping to eventually release it and in any case learn to understand Cocos2D and game development a little better on the side. And then those who plan to publish a commercial Line-Drawing game and want to cut corners, speed up development.

I had to make only 3 refunds if I recall correctly, two were expecting something different and another one found Corona shortly after buying and decided to use Corona over Cocos2D, so he wasn't going to use my Starterkit. As far as I can tell, most customers are not companies or teams of people but individual developers and indies at best. The level of support requests I received were minimal.

I estimate that less than 10% of all customers contacted me for support, and almost all support incidents were solved after exchanging one or two emails. Most issues were caused by the fact that I didn't include Cocos2D with the download, so they were mostly Cocos2D version mismatches and incorrect project setups. I definitely learned from that and will be including Cocos2D in all future versions of the Starterkit to cut down support incidents even more.

What I learned

For a while I was under the impression that you need to have a frequently visited website like mine - over 5,000 visits per week here. You need to be well connected (followed) on Twitter. A Newsletter with many people on it that you can write to at any time is also very helpful. And having been a long time developer at Electronic Arts must surely be reassuring that I know what I'm doing.

Next to actually showing that by writing a book. None of that is something you can do in just a couple of days or weeks. I'm happy to report that you don't need any of that to reproduce the success I've had with my Starterkit. So skip your job application for EA, scrap the book draft and save your money on yet another type of scam: how to get 10,000 Twitter followers in 30 days. You don't need them.

 Dan Nelson told me recently that the source code for his BATAK Duel game sold 14 copies in less than a month, priced at $297. The product page was just a simple blog post and yet still managed to bring in over $4,000 of revenue in the first month! For comparison, the first 30 days of the Line-Drawing Kit amounted to sales worth $5,370 revenue (before tax and everything).

I can also say with certainty that promo codes are a great idea, my 50% sale was a huge success. It generated over $4,000 in revenue and with another $5,000 made in the first month that means that half of my sales were generated by only two events: product launch, and 50% off promo codes. Maybe there's something to the product launch formulas after all? Honestly, I think that's just common sense.

If you want to sell something, don't sit around hoping for customers coming to you. Just as much as sex sells (in general), events sell products. Price drops, bundles, freebies, and so on. Get the word out, and do it frequently, and give something away for free - the simplest being information, knowledge, share experiences and data. Think Steam! Learn from them. Try a bunch of different things and see what effect they have. You'll be surprised!

I could have done more of these events. But I was writing a book and it was also kind of an experiment to see how sales are affected if I'm not promoting the product in any way for a while. It was sobering to see sales drop to just a few per month three months after launch. Likewise it was exciting to see the incredible reception (and sales) during the 50% sales event.

What I can also say with confidence is that if you offer a products that developers are interested in, they will buy it. And quite a number of developers are interested in commercial source code products. It's not just game code, it's also components for regular App development that are very popular and lucrative.

The Secret is: Common Sense

And there's another secret I'd like to share: developing an App Store game takes months to complete it, and if you're truly passionate it can take even more months just to polish it, get it right in every aspect.

Still your chances of tanking in the market are rather high, the stakes are high but the risks are even higher with the App Store being so crowded. The longer you've spent developing your game the higher the risk.

It's only going to be a matter of time before more indie game developers learn the secret that selling one's source code for a game that's already on the App Store is not just an additional revenue stream, it's a rather lucrative one and one that allows you to cross-promote both products.

In fact, suddenly you have two products on two different markets for two different kinds of customers that you can connect with each other with very little extra effort. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Think about it. It makes perfect sense.


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Comments


Dave Young
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Thanks for posting! It's definitely an option for some developers to do this, one I had forgotten.


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