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.

Touch Arcade

I want to talk about Touch Arcade because everyone knows they’re basically the top dog popularity-wise of iPhone game stuff so I would imagine a lot of iOS Developers are curious about TA. TA is expensive compared to some sites, but they have the traffic and targeted demographic to justify it and I’ve had nothing but a great experience working with them so far. They answered my questions promptly, sent me the information I needed, helped me schedule my ads for the specific time I want, and for the exclusive spots they allow things like rotating through or scheduling different banners, animated banners, etc.

I’ve actually purchased an exclusive ad space for mid-September, a banner in the top of the side column for $600 a week, for two weeks. Steep for an Indie, hey? I don’t actually KNOW what this will do, but let’s look at my business reasons for spending this $1200:

1) They have a massive amount of traffic.

2) That traffic is my exact target demographic.

3) The spot is exclusive so I know my banner will be shown 24/7.

4) The spot is in a prominent location so I know it’ll be seen.

5) The above points are always true all year round, but this is the most important point: I scheduled my banner for September 12th…what’s also happening around September 12th? Everyone is going back to school. What happens for the first month of every school-year? Students are still coming off summer and adjusting to being in a boring classroom, teachers are just starting the curriculum so they aren’t assigning any massive homework and there aren’t any tests to study for, so you’ve basically got a ton of my exact target demographic held hostage for 8 hours a day fiddling with their phones bored out of their minds. Odds are they’ll be txting and gaming on their phones like crazy. On top of that, everyone being in the same class, school, etc., is prime Word-Of-Mouth advertising time since it’s as simple as whispering to eachother “psst dude check out this game” or seeing eachother playing it, etc.

6) With all of that going on, I’m going to probably drop the price to $0.99 for the first week as a “back to school sale” which should drum a little publicity my way when sites are announcing the games on sale for back to school.

7) I might even throw in some kind of high score contest just to encourage people to play.

8) I’ll hopefully have the HD version of Elusive Ninja done in time for this, so I’ll be able to advertise both the current version and the HD version together, and announcing the HD version will let me cross-promote the current version.

So those are my main reasons for doing this. Now it may not do anything at all, I may have just thrown away $1200, I won’t know until it all plays out…BUT, in terms of the prime time, prime strategy, prime location, etc. to BE spending $1200 in advertising, this is about as optimal as you can get so I’m comfortable with the decision I’ve made. I could spend the exact same amount on the same ad space right now, but I wouldn’t have as many business reasons to do it now (school year starting, HD version done, etc.).

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

I’m expecting to pull a minimum of 1200 sales from those two weeks because right now I’m just happy if my game covers its own development and marketing costs since I’m looking at this as a learning experience. And I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number of sales, going by the stats of the site. If my sales stay terrible, then I’ll look at how I did things and try to figure out what went wrong. If my sales do well, I’ll look for why exactly they did well and try to repeat that success in the future…that could involve buying more ad space on Touch Arcade or expanding on a marketing campaign or running more contests etc., I’ll have to figure it out when the time comes and I have data to make my business decisions with.

Marketing is ALWAYS going to be a crap-shoot to some extent…that’s just the nature of trying to tap into the psyche of mass crowds of people. But when you know you have solid reasons for what you’re doing it’s a lot less stressful and confusing and doesn’t weigh on your mind 24/7 and that peace of mind can be worth a lot in terms of allowing you to focus on your next project and not second-guess the decision you made or panic day-to-day over the money involved. I’ll be covering this more in Article IV of this series which covers the psychological side of marketing as an Indie.

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