Jeff 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.
Okay it looks like my site is finally fully moved over. It’s been a gongshow month+ of 404s, 500s, 504s, you name it, ugh!! But now everything should be stable…I hope! Let me know if you have any problems accessing this site! The host I’ve moved to is site5.com and they’ve been awesome at helping me move and get set up, I’m super impressed so far. My Touch Arcade banners just went live on Monday and they’ll be up for the next 2 weeks, so I’ll let you all know what the results are after that period is over! For now, I present you with Article IV – Psychology, where we take an in-depth look at the ups and downs an indie dev goes through when they’re focusing on marketing and building up a reputation:
Hi, my name is Jeff Hangartner! Recently I started a small Indie game studio called Bulletproof Outlaws. I’m an artist working from home and outsourcing the programming, music, etc. I’ve just finished my first iPhone game – Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief (the App Store link is here). It was officially released on June 6th, 2011. I’ve jumped into the wonderful world of marketing and I’m approaching it from a bunch of different angles and trying various marketing avenues out. I’m fortunate enough (and planned ahead strategically enough) to have some money to spend experimenting with marketing and I figure by sharing what I’ve learned, these marketing articles can help other small Indie Developers who can’t afford to waste money heading down dead-ends and trying experiments that might not pay off.
There are 5 marketing articles:
Using word-of-mouth marketing via Twitter, blogging, forum threads, etc. to build awareness for your game, and a realistic look at the pros and cons of price drops and using microjob services.
An in-depth look into the sketchy side of the industry that people don’t seem to talk about like buying downloads, paying for reviews, etc. Also covering traditional expensive marketing like banner ads and marketing agencies and ad services like AdMob.
What to put in a Press Kit, using Press Releases, creating screenshots and trailers, etc. Plus how to efficiently maintain everything we’ve talked about so far.
How to survive the internal side of marketing as an Indie Developer and dealing with the stress of spending your money, watching sales figures rise and fall, making big decisions, handling critics and pushy marketers, and a big blunt look at how rampant iPhone App piracy is.
ARTICLE V – Optimal Marketing Plan
A summary of everything, condensed down into 36 steps from Pre-Launch to Launch Day to Post-Launch, that I feel make up an Optimal Marketing Plan for an Indie Dev with little to no money who needs to make sure every dollar spent counts.
ARTICLE IV – Psychology
On my Bulletproof Outlaws blog I cover some of the psychology behind game development and behind running your own business from home. Right now I want to talk a bit about the psychology involved in marketing and sales, because I think a lot of people just focus on the numbers and data and there isn’t a lot of emphasis put on the mental trials you’ll go through. It’s kind of like playing poker, there’s the actual cards involved and that’s important, but there’s also a lot of mentalities and outlooks you need to develop to handle the ups and downs in the game.
Ego And Attachment
To paraphrase Fight Club: “You are not your sales. You are not your website hits. You are not your downloads. You are not your reviews. You are not your App Store rank.”
Learn not to attach your self-worth to how your game does. This can be really hard to do, because you spent weeks, months, sometimes years, putting your blood, sweat and tears into your game and you stayed up all night, worked every weekend, and fine-tuned everything in the game to the best of your skills…it’s your baby, and you’re finally sharing it with the world and hoping to figure out if you can make a living doing your dream job.
Highs and Lows
Your sales do great the first day, and you get a couple 5-Star reviews and you’re thinking “I’m awesome, I did it, I’m gonna’ be a success!!” and start planning out your next game as visions of dollar-signs dance around in your head. The next day your sales drop down to a fraction of what they started at. And you see a few 1-Star reviews popping up. A big review site reviews your game and says the controls are difficult to learn and the game isn’t long enough and gives it 2 out of 5. You reload AppFigures watching in almost real-time as every hour your App Store rank drops. A week later your game is barely selling and you’re miserable…you haven’t touched designing the next game and you’re thinking about how hard it’s going to be to go back to having to work a full-time job while only developing games in your spare time.
When you attach yourself to your stats, your self-worth fluctuates as frequently as your stats do. You’ll go through so many emotional rollercoasters on an almost daily basis that it’ll be hard to really focus on anything else. You’ll start second-guessing your decisions, you’ll be less motivated to work on your next game, and just in general you’ll do a lot of damage to your psyche that will affect your future as an Indie Game Developer.
On the flip side, even when your game does good there’s a risk. You start getting cocky, resting on your heels to enjoy the fruits of your labor instead of jumping into the next project to ensure you have a long-term sustainable income, starting to feel like you can’t make a wrong decision so you stop doing as much research and planning and start just winging things, and any down-swing in stats you hit is even more devastating because it’s knocking you off a much higher horse than you started out on.
Like the stock market or an epic poker game, your stats will go up and down all the time. If you can keep yourself from freaking out when sales are low, or slacking off when sales are high, you can make rational decisions to handle the situation.
You have to pay attention to your stats, reviews, etc. but don’t let them define you as a Game Developer. If you get a bunch of 1-Star reviews, read them and look for commonalities and try to figure out where you went wrong…was it the art style you chose? Was it the controls? Was it the overall game design or theme? Were there massive bugs that crash the game? And how can you fix these things in the future? Would more play-testing have helped? Should you have invested more time or money into an area of development?
Sure, you made some mistakes somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a Game Developer. Just take it in stride and try to learn from your mistakes for the next time.