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.

Strange Things That Happen

A lot of random stuff starts happening once your game goes live. You’ll start getting a bunch of offers in your E-Mail. Some of them will be legit, some of them will sound fishy, and some of them will be flat out “wtf??” Once your game goes live it triggers a bunch of people’s attention, from marketing agencies to pirates.

Massive Piracy

This will happen the second your game is up on the App Store. You can’t stop pirates. You can invest some development time making your game not work if it detects it’s pirated, etc. but sooner or later someone will find a way around that. Everyone’s game is pirated, so don’t let it phase you…you’re not alone in the piracy boat.

The discouraging part is that usually the piracy happens before the legitimate downloads happen. Elusive Ninja has Flurry in it to track gameplay stats and a couple weeks after it went up on the App Store I was contacted by a guy at Flurry to talk about some promotional stuff. His E-Mail mentioned that my game seemed to be doing great with over 30,000 sales. I was like “wtf?” because I had less than 200 sales at the time according to AppFigures. I checked out my Flurry stats and compared them to my AppFigures stats and…well, compare the two world maps:

Bulletproof Outlaws - Elusive Ninja

I actually laughed when I first saw it because it was so blatant. I had heard iPhone piracy was pretty bad, but there it is slapping me in the face. It doesn’t really bug me because what can you do about it? I remember some guy tracking down who pirated his game and E-Mailing them and getting a big “we pirate your crappy games for justice and honor” response from the pirate himself. It’s all just a waste of energy to me. People will always pirate your game, that’s just the nature of technology. Odds are the people who pirate your game probably weren’t going to buy it so you’re probably not losing any money in the long-run. I wasn’t going to get $30,000 from Asia if it weren’t for those darn pirates messing everything up.

So take it in stride and don’t let it upset you. I decided to use it to my advantage, putting “*** OVER 20,000 USERS! ***” at the top of my App Store description haha It’s technically true, and it makes my game seem more popular when someone new stumbles across it. I considered putting out a Press Release saying “Elusive Ninja passes 20,000 users!” but I figured that’d be a little bit overkill and cross some ethical boundary of mine. :)

Sketchy Offers

There are marketing agencies, distribution services, review services, etc. out there that you can find via Google, but at times they’ll come find YOU. Sometimes you’ll get a legitimate E-Mail from a service who’s name you recognize, and sometimes you’ll get E-Mails that make you go “hmmm…” The first thing I look for is the amount of bad Engrish in the E-Mail haha After that I’ll Google whatever website the person represents to check out if it looks and sounds legit. I’ll Google for reviews of their services, testimonials from previous clients, the amount of traffic their site gets, etc.

I’ve gotten E-Mails from 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” And I’ve gotten offers from people who clearly threw up quick fake sites and go around requesting Promo Codes just to get free games, with no intentions of actually promoting or reviewing the game.

A lot of the legitimate offers will sound really good, because that’s their job the way it’s your job to write an awesome description for your game on the App Store. And a lot of people will be super pushy with their sales pitch. I find a lot of people like to get you on the phone or Skype, which I’m personally not a big fan of because I like to be able to think out my replies and do my research. Often they call people all day long selling whatever their service is and talking live can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re developing your first professional project.

Just remember that if they’re contacting you, it’s because they need you. Hold meetings on your terms, turn down offers that don’t benefit you, and let them know you’ll need time to think things over and do your research before you make any final decisions.

CONCLUSION

This concludes our look at the psychological side of being an indie developer. I imagine this Article is the one that most people will skip, but I honestly think it’s one of the most important ones. Going the entrepreneurial route, especially working as a solo Developer can be a long and lonely road and a lot of the battle is more mental than anything else. We can be our own worst enemies, or our own most supportive allies…it all comes down to your state of mind.

In Article V – Optimal Marketing Plan, we’ll take a look at the culmination of all 5 of these Marketing Articles in the form of a list of steps that, based on my experiences, I would follow on my next game to spend the least amount of money and focus on the most beneficial areas of marketing and advertising. It won’t guarantee results or anything, but it’ll help Indie Developers channel their spending into optimal channels for Developers with a small marketing budget!

Email: Jeff Hangartner | Web: iPhone Game - Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief



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