4. Partnerships Pay Off
As a self-publisher it's key to invest in relationships -- there are ten million other games out there so you can't expect everyone to immediately realize why YOUR game is so special compared to everyone else's. You have to make your case well and respect your partners to get traction when you're an indie developer. From Apple to Unity to press, we worked to make our case well ahead of our launch. Not every relationship paid off in a big way, but we look at relationships as a long-term investment that can pay off down the road.
Realizing the importance of the Apple ecosystem, we enlisted help in making our initial outreach to decision-makers in Cupertino. If you're an unknown quantity like we were, reach out for help from anyone you know who may have connections -- I'm not sure we could have gotten a meeting on our own.
Our presentation and budding relationship helped us later when the game's reception helped us to get both "New and Noteworthy" and "What's Hot" exposure in the App Store, both of which were critical to our success. Now, relationships alone won't put you over the top; you still need a sound concept and good execution. However, if you are a newcomer it's hard to get noticed in the crowded mobile marketplace -- and it's getting harder all the time in our experience. Identifying those relationships that will be most important and having a sound plan of action -- from getting a mutual colleague for an introduction to what you present and how you follow up -- should be part of your launch plan.
5. Multiplatform Synced Play
As mentioned earlier, synced play was a big part of our initial strategy. Ultimately, we were able to offer a play style that worked with how players are using multiple devices throughout the day. From day one, we worked from the perspective of what the player wants rather than what might look enticing on a budget spreadsheet. Many publishers make players pay separately on each new device they launch on rather than letting them carry over their progress.
Instead, we followed the player to whatever device they wanted to use, with no penalties. Rather than being tied to a device, our game is tied to a PLAYER and the player can choose to play wherever or however they want. Our paradigm is playing on smartphone while commuting, on PC at work during lunch, tablet while relaxing at home in the evening -- different devices for different situations but the same game the whole time.
KA is server-based, so game progress is constantly updated on the server no matter which device the player is using. We use the player's Facebook account as the login for syncing game data across devices, and as long as they use the same Facebook ID their game will always be synced on every device. Even if you lose your connection while playing, your progress will be saved up to that point. Of course, you need a network connection to take advantage of this feature but being available on multiple devices helps the player get more out of the game, and also helps him or her find new friends to play with. If your friends can play across iOS, Android, PC, and Mac, it's easier to connect with them than if they were forced to own a particular device to participate.
Now, some players don't like using Facebook (not everyone wants to have a Facebook account), so we do allow a solo mode for players who don't want to log in so they can play on single device without a Facebook account. However, using Facebook IDs provided a vehicle for offering PC/Mac play as another synced platform so players can, for instance, play on their PC via Facebook at work during a break. Our interface is smoother with touch input, but the mouse still works fine.
Using Unity (as we did for KA) or HTML5 helps us build a game for multiple devices quickly, but it still requires fine-tuning for each environment. Whenever we update a game, we have to update 3 different versions (for PC platforms, iOS, and Android) at the same time, and it can be a maintenance burden. So our multiplatform synced play does require extra work but it expands our audience (more potential players across all supported devices) while letting individual players get more out of the game (they can play simultaneously on all the devices they own).