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You can buy Dynamic Voltage Games for $1.00
Have you ever wanted to own your very own gaming studio? Well have I got a deal for you! I started up Dynamic Voltage Games in 2017 and released a pair of Xbox One exclusives: Final Star and Pirates of First Star. Unfortunately, due to sales, it looks like the second installment of Pirates of First Star will never release on Switch and PS4. Also, even though Pirates of First Star did technically release on Steam, I'm not really counting that since I think a grand total of 5 people know it exists.
Despite Pirates of First Star receiving some pretty good reviews, such as PC Invasion giving it a 9.0, it simply has not resonated with the Xbox One crowd. Now you might be thinking "No kidding. Why would you think that a puzzle RPG would be a hit on the Xbox!?" Fair point - and while I didn't expect to sell a bazillion copies, I was a bit surprised by what can only be described as dismal sales.
But I'm not here to whine about it - there really was no data available to figure out when and where you should release your games, so if nothing else, I can help future developers prepare themselves for what they might expect.
When I offer up Dynamic Voltage Games for a buck, I am partially serious. I would sell the name and IP's to any party that would fund development of the second installment of Pirates of First Star, which honestly - would just be about 4 months of one person (me) completing the game. It's basically the original title but with a ton of new content and the story will be extended. There would be a day/night/weather cycle, NPC's would have their own lives and schedules, and you'd form relationships with them, which could include giving them gifts. The ultimate goal is to have them offer themselves up "in spirit", which would allow you to summon them in a battle to help you out. They'd have their own blocks which they would drop to damage your enemies (which would also have their own summons). There would also be two new huge islands that are both bigger than the island of Sonata. It would end up being around 40-50 hours just to complete the story. A lot of this has been in development for the past few months, but it was planned for release down the road.
So hey, if any of that interests you, you could always shoot me an email at [email protected]
Now, I want to use the rest of this time to thank those that have enjoyed Final Star and Pirates of First Star, but to also talk about the business side of developing, especially if you're an individual, and to also voice a few concerns about some of of the industry trends.
One of the most interesting things I discovered with Final Star is that I sold 7% of my Xbox One copies to Japan, despite only 0.255% of all XB1 consoles selling there. Essentially, the game sold around 31,000 times better in Japan than it did in any other region (based on how many copies sold per console owner per country). I know that shmups were more of a Japanese thing, but I didn't realize it was to that extent. Not releasing on the Switch and PS4, both of which have sold 80 times more consoles in Japan than Microsoft, was a serious misstep on my part. Had I done so, it's very unlikely I ever have to write this press release.
And this isn't anything against Microsoft, mind you. Developing for the XB1 is fantastic, and the [email protected] team is amazing. But for whatever reasons, the XB1 just hasn't had an impact in Japan. I guess Final Star's sales could show how important Japanese-style games are for that region. The Japanese are very specific about what kinds of games they buy - and Americans can be too. The tipped scales of Final Star's sales is a great indicator.
With Pirates of First Star, which is being outsold around 5:1 by Final Star, I think there's a few things to consider. First off, it has not reached Japan. This is because I did not localize the language, and I felt like only offering English was not fair to potential customers. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a budget for it. There's also a ton of games releasing this summer - but I did get decent traffic to my store page. The fascinating thing, however, is the extremely low conversion rate. It's about a quarter of what Final Star was - and keep in mind we're talking less than 1% across the board here, so a lot of pages views and not a lot of sales.
So people saw the game and then decided to not purchase it. Now there's a lot of reasons we can come up with. You could say "the game looks awful so no one wanted to buy that crap" - and yes, some people will come to that conclusion, but I also think that there are a ton of games in the same boat, because it user reviews are any indication, then how many games on the Xbox One have around 4-5 reviews? Lots. I don't believe any of these titles saw more than a few hundred sales - maybe 1,000 maximum, and I don't think any of these developers expected those kinds of numbers.
I think one of the biggest problems indie developers are going to face on Microsoft's console is Game Pass. Right now it's two bucks for two months. Did anyone trying to release a game this summer get a warning about that? Nope. It just happened. So when I release a $20 game I not only have to complete against other great indie titles, but I also have to compete against Devil May Cry 5, Kingdom Come, Gears of War 5, and hundreds of other games which you can have for 1/10th of what my game costs.
A Microsoft rep told me that the interest in Game Pass from developers has been huge. I suppose this is what happens when you fear trying to complete against it, knowing that it may crush your sales. Look - it's great for consumers and it's great for Microsoft, but indie developers who aren't invited in might find selling their games on the Xbox platform very difficult down the road.
There are lessons to be learned - and I think to an extent Microsoft has finally embraced what they are in the eyes of gamers. I mean they're definitely the "bro" console. They're carving out that niche, and it's smart, because that's where gaming is heading - and there's nothing wrong with that. For developers such as myself, we make games for a smaller audience. I just hope future creators are smarter than I was. Know a console's audience. If you can afford to release on every platform then go for it, but if you need to be specific - know who you're selling to.