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Heroes of Loot post mortem, sorta

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So people have been asking for a Heroes of Loot post-mortem, but I honestly haven’t felt right on writing one up for various reasons. So I finally decided to just put those reasons in an article and see if that would be interesting enough.

It’s not dead

The first reason for me not having written a post-mortem yet, is that the game isn’t dead! I think a post-mortem is written once the game has run it’s course.

From a developer point of view it has, I don’t plan on adding a lot of new stuff to the game cause I pretty much added all I want. The games I create don’t have in-app purchases, it’s not a service created to keep players interested and spending money, the game is mostly “as is”. I release the game with everything I had in mind, then I usually do some various bug-fixing updates, and often add one or two new features or things to the game based on user feedback.  But that’s it.  I have to many ideas and crazy things I wanna try to keep working on, I move on to new stuff, and so for me as a developer the game is “dead”.

However, business wise, the game is still very much alive. Many people are still playing it, about 40-50 new players are buying the game daily, and together with the guys at Abstraction games, the Vita version is now on it’s way, and a few other appearances and platforms are in the pipeline.

So from a business perspective the game is still very much alive.

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A guilty feeling

The second, and much harder, reason is that I had a slightly guilty and shameful feeling talking about the game. 2013 has become a bit of a weird year for me with both Gunslugs (February 2013) and Heroes of Loot (September 2013) doing great on all markets released (so far: ios,android, ouya,gamestick and pc/mac for HoL).  All this while I was living, and working, in the middle of a renovation for more than 8 months in total. Honestly, the weirdest year ever; just imagine working on your game while guys with hammers and drills walk around every room in your house, drywalling rooms, painting rooms, etc.

So, where Gunslugs broke all records for a single Orangepixel game-release (early 2013), Heroes of Loot broke all Gunslugs’ records at the end of 2013.  So being a solo-developer, doing his own graphics, sound effects, and marketing efforts, you suddenly find yourself in a position where money is coming in from all directions. In a time where most people have a lot of financial problems, it honestly made me feel dirty at times. Knowing people without jobs living in the neighborhood, people having a hard time paying for the basics.. it gives a weird and guilty feeling to earn more in a day then they do in a month..

Wrong signal

Which brings me to the third and important reason that kept me from writing this: sending the wrong signal.  Seems like there’s not a day gone by without some developer somewhere writing an article with tips on how to “be successful like them” in today’s game-development market..

Let me put everything back in perspective by telling you: Orangepixel celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this year. I’ve been doing mobile games since late 2004, on J2ME devices, Android and iOS devices. I learned a lot in those years, I made about a hundred games (if not more) and I work extremely hard and many hours a week.  There is simply no science to making successful games, you can ask the guy from Flappy Bird if you don’t believe me ;)

So never read articles like this when you are about to release your first, or even second or third, game. It’s not comparable to my situation. I’ve worked on building a fan base and great contact with various press people over the ten years of doing this. I’m doing all this 24/7 or full-time if you prefer. And only have to outsource my Music work (thanks to Gavin Harrison) and some high-res artwork (thanks to Scott Tykoski)

You can count the instant success stories on one hand, compared to a hundred games a day being released on various platforms.  So even though there are great tips in all of those articles, don’t build your hopes on them thinking your first few games will come even close to making a lot of money and turn you into a full-time “indie” dev.. that’s not how it works.

Schermafbeelding 2013-05-06 om 17.31.47

The post mortem part

So finally, let’s talk about the actual post-mortem stuff!

Strangely I only had one “bad” point regarding the making of Heroes of Loot. Which was the time it took to get the game done. I wasn’t planning on making it an 8-9 month labor of love, but a lot of that was covered in my pre-release article: “Clash of creativity and business“.  In the end, Heroes of Loot was the game I was hoping to create, which is the most important thing.

There are various things I could have done differently, but that’s also the reason I’m writing down a lot of ideas for the sci-fi follow up to Heroes of Loot ;)

Just give me some damn stats

Even though I warned about this a few chapters above, I know most people just want to hear some “awesome” stats to think about while they create their first or second game.. so here we go:

Heroes of Loot, released on Android, iPhone/iPad, Ouya, Gamestick, Windows/Mac/Linux all on the same day.

Mobile versions costs about €2.00,  desktop version costs $5.00.

No F2P/IAP shizzles, just pay once, play anytime you want

Received front-page exposure on Google Play (Japan), iTunes, and the Ouya store. Managed to stay in the “hot new paid” list on Google Play for 3 or 4 weeks, and in the iOS “top paid” list for a week.

Won various “Game of the week” and “Game of the month” awards, sadly was nowhere to be seen in any of the end of 2013 lists..

Average 4.5 out of 5 star rating across the platforms.

Combined, paid, downloads (so far) about 50.000, with the lion share being on iOS (32k) followed by Google Play (12k).  Note that Google Play also has a free (with advertising) version available with a download figure of 108.000 generating ad-revenue.

Both Ouya and Desktop versions combined make up for the other ~3-4k paid downloads.

Words behind the stats

I think Google Play could have done better if the game had gotten a global front-page feature, but sadly this never happened and it was only front-page in the Japanese Play store. However it’s always important to keep in mind that the free-ad version on Google Play increases the revenue made on Android, bringing it much closer to what is made on iOS as you might think.

Ouya is a very young platform with very few players (compared to all other platforms), cursed by many developers for it’s silly “escape the sandbox” system where games stay in a sandbox category until enough players like or play it to lift it out of there and into other categories.  However, seeing as you need very little work to turn an Android game into an Ouya game, I think it’s simply stupid to not release your game onto it if it makes sense to play it with a controller.

Desktop is a new area for me. And Heroes of Loot was the second Desktop released game for me, but the first where I actually did some serious work on trying to get people to notice it.  I believe my games are a great fit for Desktop gaming, so I hope to improve both my games and marketing on that platform with new releases.

The long tail: As mentioned early in the article, Heroes of Loot is still in it’s “long tail” of sales. This tail seems to be more interesting on Android than on iOS, of course you can find various reasons to explain that, but it’s still an interesting thing to note.

The end

And there you have it, the post-mortem to Heroes of Loot.  All I can add now is that if you still haven’t checked it out, please do (www.heroesofloot.com!) It’s easy to get into, it offers a lot of challenge, and so far it has been one of my best games..  so far.. ;)

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  • Good stuff, thanks for posting!

    Interesting how you’ve stuck to the premium full-game model. I hear a lot of developers saying it’s all going free-to-play now, and that model makes more sense financially etc. I’m not a big fan of free-to-play. I prefer to keep a game whole, and the customer buys the full experience, and a game retains it’s integrity (game play experience isn’t damaged because developer messes with game dynamics too much in order to monetise via IAP).

    What do you think about that Pascal? Not read your ‘Clash of creativity and business’ post yet, maybe you explore the issue more there?

    Anyhow, onwards and upwards! Best of luck with your future projects.

    Cheers,
    Jamie

    p.s. Don’t feel so guilty by the way, you’ve provided a lot of entertainment and fun to many people; it’s only natural they’ll want to give you something in return; you should enjoy the reward for all the hard work you’ve put in over the years! ;)

    • orangepascal

      I don’t like free2play as a player, so I’m not using it as a developer.

      Free2play games are also more of a service, they require you keep statistics on what works, when players convert, what the best price for a specific item is, etc.

      I know various smaller developers like you and me, who tried the F2P route and failed HARD. The companies that do this right are bigger, have a marketing team, do a lot of advertising cause F2P is only profitable if you get enough players and keep them playing.

      Also the target audience my games have is the group that prefers paying and then playing. They prefer the more hard core game where they don’t have to wait for X minutes or hours before they can continue their quest, they just want to really get into the game and complete it.

      As a gamer I’m part of my own target group, I like the games as I make them: buy once, and enjoy until I’ve completed it.