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.

Reviews

Reviews are the big one. Everyone knows they’re important, and a few solid reviews from the right sites will skyrocket you into fame and fortune…in theory. What doesn’t get as much mention is the sketchy side of game reviews that you’ll run into as an iPhone Developer.

Keep in mind that I’m not endorsing any “pay for review” or “pay for download” or “incentive download” systems. I’m also not saying Reviewers don’t deserve a financial compensation for their time and work. I’m just explaining what these systems are, how they work, and what you can expect to be approached with, as a new Developer so that you can make informed decisions. The final decision to use or not use these services is ultimately your own to make, but you should keep in mind that Apple is against people cheating in their App Store so while paying for reviews is no big deal, you could find your App has been rejected or banned if you do something like paying for downloads.

Paying For Reviews?

I suspect that when the iPhone was new, Reviewers were eager to review games and it was exciting just to be a part of the whole new App Store craze so reviewing a sweet new game brought a bunch of attention to your review website…but as time has gone on, things have sort of flip-flopped to a point where Reviewers know that reviews can be the difference between a game collecting dust in obscurity or being thrust into the limelight. From that flip-flopped perspective a review is valuable, and as a logical conclusion of that there are now a LOT of Reviewers charging money for reviews.

On the fishy side, you’ll get contacted by people with sketchy sounding E-Mail accounts saying “Me & my friends will give u 5-Star reviews on the App Store 4 cheap let me know if u want 2 know mor” I’m exaggerating a bit, but only a bit. I don’t see a reason these wouldn’t be legit, there’s not really potential for a big rip-off here…it’s some kid who realized he could make a few quick bucks by contacting small new Developers (odds are he’s not sending that E-Mail to Rovio or Capcom) and it only takes a minute to write an App Store review.

But if you’re going to buy App Store reviews, you might as well go with a little more above-the-table service. Like you can find people who will give you 5-Star reviews for $5 – $10 on UpHype and Fiverr as a microjob and doing it via those websites let’s you cancel the contract or leave a bad review of their service if they try to rip you off. Likewise, you can use a more professional promotional agency site like ComboApp which offers services like “10 App Store Reviews by Independent Reviewers”.

Guarantees

Usually these “buy App Store reviews” services come with guarantees like “all reviews will be 4 or 5 stars, if the Reviewer gives the game less than 4 stars, we ask them to instead submit their constructive criticism and feedback to the Developer so the Developer can make the necessary changes to bring their App up to a 4 or 5 star rating.” If you’re going to go this route, then this is actually a pretty good guarantee to look for…why pay for reviews that might be bad? You’re already crossing into an area some people would consider sketchy, so you might as well get your money’s worth.

Journalistic Integrity

Keep in mind that there ARE Reviewers out there who don’t ask for money, and oddly enough from what I’ve seen it looks like it tends to be the big sites that don’t ask for money and the little sites that do. So don’t freak out and assume every good review you read about a game was bought by the Developer. Also, some Reviewers that charge promise to legitimately review the App, good or bad, and look at the payment as just paying for their time…they don’t guarantee 5-Star reviews or anything (though they may give them). I’m not trying to paint Reviewers as a whole as some unscrupulous lot.

In fact, I don’t really have a problem with Reviewers asking for money, so I’m not casting any judgements here…writing a decent review takes time and there are hundreds of new Apps out on the App Store every day and I’m sure they get sent dozens of E-Mails a day asking for reviews, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Reviewers to want some compensation for their time and work. I mean, we’re game Developers and the gameDev industry is notorious for people doing unpaid extra work…you can’t really have a problem with that and then turn around and say “But a Reviewer should come home from their day job and put in a few hours that night to write a review for me for free!”

So this section isn’t to whine or complain about how the current review structure works, it’s just to say “Here’s what you should expect to run into as a Developer” because a lot of it caught me by surprise and as a Developer you should be aware of the pros and cons.

App Store Reviews

People want what other people want. This gets into some psychology stuff, but basically we want what everyone else wants. That’s why we read reviews of things before we buy or watch them. That’s why the App Store has a Top 10 list and a lot of the Apps IN the Top 10 list stay there forever. That’s why people buy 5-star reviews for their Apps. That’s why the McDonalds sign says over a billion jillion people served. That’s why celebrities get paid to endorse products. That’s why movies quote “Ebert gives it two thumbs up!” in their trailers. There’s exceptions to this of course, but in general we like to go into things knowing that other people have gone into them already and approve of them because it makes us feel safer with our decision, especially when it involves money.

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

Now picture this: You’re surfing the App Store and you come across an App that looks decent. It’s nothing incredible, but it seems like it might be fun. But it has literally NO reviews, ratings, etc. It’s like no one has ever downloaded it. Underneath that you see another App that looks about the same quality, but it’s got 10 5-star reviews raving about how awesome it is. Which one are you probably going to feel more comfortable spending your money on?

The same concept can apply to a Facebook Fan-Page. Buy a couple hundred Fans for your Fan-Page for $5 off a microjob site and now your Fan-Page looks popular to people passing through, instead of super ghetto. Personally, I don’t care much about my Facebook Fan-Page so I don’t feel bad about buying some Fans for it because I’ll pretty much never use it for any real purpose haha But be careful because you can get into a slippery moral slope here.



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