Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

But You Write a LOT, Dude…

Yeah, don’t worry, you don’t have to write as much as I do to build a following haha I just like to write. Realistically all a development blog needs for an update is a couple paragraphs of what’s going on, what’s planned for the next few days, whatever behind the scenes screenshots, artwork, music, videos, etc. are on hand…nothing too epic. In fact, I actually wasted a lot of development time writing the amount of stuff that I did for my blog. I did daily updates that were often multiple screens worth of writing. For my next game I’ll probably strip it down a bit.

So How Often Do I Have To Blog?

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

I did daily updates because I was feeling ambitious (or foolish, you decide haha), but an update a week is fine. The key thing is that you update things regularly so people know when to check the site, and so that you’re forced to stick to a schedule to stay on track. I’d recommend something like writing your blog entry on a Sunday night or Monday morning and posting it on a weekday. Going by my blog’s stats, for the entire development period I consistently had way less visitors on weekends than on weekdays. I figure on the weekend people are out doing stuff, but weekdays when they drag their butts into the office and procrastinate through the day, that’s the time they check stuff like devBlogs.

How Do I Start?

Set up a blog for free through a service like WordPress. There are tons of templates to get you set up quickly. From there, you’re basically good to go. See how easy that was? Throw up a post announcing who you are, what your game’s about, some concept art and a summary of where you’re at with it and you’ve got your first post already. Link your blog on to your Twitter, Facebook, forum signatures, etc. You want this to be the default place people head to when they’re looking for information on who you are and what you’re up to.

Contests

I haven’t experimented with this too much yet, so I’m going mostly with observations of what other people do here, and just things I plan to do in the future. Contests can be anything from high score competitions, to rewarding people who Retweet your announcements, to fan-art competitions, to “design a boss” contests. Rewards can be anything from shout-outs, to Promo Codes for your game, to iTunes gift cards, to physical prizes like iPads (though you should check the legalities on this) or posters and other merchandise.

You can hold them regularly and repeatedly, like a weekly competition for the highest score that week, or you can hold them infrequently like a random Promo Code giveaway. If your contest and/or reward is interesting, it can pick up some extra publicity and get your game’s name out there. That game The Heist gave away like 10 iPad 2s and it rocketed up to the number 1 spot on the App Store while it was doing that (though I don’t know if that’s the only reason it was successful, I think it’s reasonable to assume it had a lot to do with it). When people win your contests, make sure you give them shout-outs, even if it’s just a Twitter mention!

Price Drops

This is a biggie for iPhone Developers. It’s one of the few ways we can guarantee changing our sales dramatically. If your game is $9.99 and it drops to Free, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a ton of attention, downloads, publicity, etc. But let’s take a look at this category a little closer.

Benefits of a Price Drop

Whenever your price drops, you automatically show up on a ton of “Games on Sale Today!” Apps, websites, blogs, etc. and often it’ll say how much your game normally was and what it now costs. This is a bunch of extra publicity.

Launch Sales

Personally I think a Launch Sale is a good idea. It helps get you some attention and piles your purchases all into the first day or two of your Launch, which can help you get a good foot-hold in the App Store right off the bat.

Temporary VS Permanent

I don’t see a lot of benefit to a permanent price drop, but with a temporary one you have to make sure everyone KNOWS it’s temporary. Imagine you just bought a game for $9.99, and then the next day it drops to $0.99 and it looks like that’s its new price forever. What a kick in the nuts, and if you haven’t left a review yet, odds are the review you DO leave is going to be tainted with the anger of feeling like you got ripped off. Say you don’t own the game yet, and you see it’s dropped to $0.99 and you know that’s a great deal but you’re on the bus or at dinner or someone’s knocking on the bathroom stall door and you don’t have a chance to grab it. You forget about it for a couple days and then when you have downtime you remember the game and go to grab it and bam, it’s $9.99 again. Another kick in the nuts situation, and you’re probably not going to buy it for $9.99 because you feel like the offer was unfairly swept out from under your feet.

If the sales says something like “3 DAYS ONLY!!”, or “THIS WEEKEND ONLY!”, or “NEW YEARS DAY SALE!”, now you know exactly how long you have to get this game at this price. This is especially important in a Launch Sale because at Launch you want as many sales in as short a time as possible to secure a good App Store rank and hopefully get Apple’s attention for a Feature…if your Launch says your game is $0.99 now but it’ll go up to $9.99 in 2 days, people are more likely to grab it within those 2 days.

Learn The Holidays

I’ve never been great with holidays and now that I work for myself and don’t really have a standard 9-5 Monday to Friday schedule, I’m even worse with them. Thanksgiving could probably sneak up and completely blindside me. This was fine when I was just messing around, but while I’m sitting there going “What? No one works today? Why?”, other Developers are having Thanksgiving sales, New Years sales, Back to School sales, Black Friday sales, etc. and getting a bunch of publicity and new users that I missed out on because I didn’t pay attention.

Don’t Get Stomped By The Giants

The catch with holiday sales is that EVERYONE knows about those holidays. So you put your game on sale and sit back to watch your downloads skyrocket, except oops, Gameloft, Capcom, Ubisoft, EA, etc. all drop their $9.99 games down to $0.99. Every game news site covers that news, Gamers jizz their pants over their chance to grab big-name games for super cheap, and nobody notices your game sitting there not just not getting many extra downloads but also making less money for each of the downloads it DOES get.

This is rough, there’s not really much you can do about it except hope not to get crushed under the giants as they stomp around on us little guys. Another time this can crush you is if your game is Launched at the same time one of the giants does a massive sale stomp. All you can really do for that scenario is try to pick weird random off days to Launch your game or run your sales, instead of New Year’s weekend and such.

I actually attribute Elusive Ninja‘s terrible Launch to it coming out on Day 1 of this year’s E3 convention. I was in a situation where I could either delay the Launch for 3 or 4 weeks while the E3 news on every gaming news site finally slowly started to die down, or Launch it literally on Day 1 of E3. I had plans for some promotional stuff at E3 so I figured I’d go that route, but my promo stuff wasn’t available in time and it was just a comedy of errors all-around. If I were in that scenario again, I’d either go the same route but make sure my promo stuff was done and ready to go ahead of time, or I’d just hold off entirely till the next month to release my game. No one cares about a tiny Indie iPhone game when Nintendo is announcing their new console haha



Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Banner

Bulletproof Outlaws Diary