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.

Alright, I’m back! Sorry for the delay but I wanted to leave that last blog entry up while I was attempting my marketing stuff because it has a big fancy image of the game’s features and everything so it looks good if you’re visiting for the first time and I figured right after launch there’d be a handful of new people checking the site out so I wanted to leave good visuals up promoting the game. But don’t worry, I’m not goin’ anywhere! I’ll be updating regularly again soon. ;) Here’s a quick catch-up of what’s been going on:

Elusive Ninja at Electronic Entertainment Expo

1) E3 was awesome! Had a blast there as always and we hit Vegas for a few days afterward which was a gongshow. The downside is that my awesome business cards didn’t arrive in time so I didn’t have anything to advertise Elusive Ninja with. :( I’ve got them now, and they look cool but wtf am I gonna’ do with ‘em now? haha

2) Sales are pretty awful, I’ll tell ya flat out! I’m going to do a full out post about iPhone App marketing and all the stuff I’m trying and what’s been good/bad and all the stuff I’ve learned the hard way, so I’ll save actual sales figures and charts for that, but we’re talkin’ a few sales a day here max.

I’ve got 3 reviews up so far, and they all dig it, so I know I have a solid game:

Bulletproof Outlaws Brings The Ninja Back With Elusive Ninja — yycapps

How Long Can You Elude Certain Death In, Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief? — AppAdvice

Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief Review — Final level

I’m not stressing the lack of sales right now because the reasons for it are pretty clear: the game is solid, but nobody knows it exists yet. I would panic if I had exhausted all my marketing and was only at a few sales a day but realistically I haven’t done anything yet. The game sold a bunch of copies on day 1 to friends, family, and followers of my blog/Twitter, but past that I don’t have any reach yet. Plus it launched at the start of E3, so right off the bat E3 creates a solid 3 weeks of nothing but E3 news coverage on all the gaming sites…an obscure little indie game isn’t exactly newsworthy when Nintendo is announcing it’s new console! A couple sites responded that they were interested but were so swamped with E3 that I’d need to get back in touch in a few weeks after it all dies down. So the timing was pretty bad.

On top of that I opted not to bring my laptop along because I didn’t want to spend my vacation working (after the stress of working a jillion hours to get the game done the last month or so) since I was with friends and wanted to de-stress. It turned out we had terrible Wi-fi at our hotel anyway and with most of the press being tied up with E3 stuff it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Throw in the lack of Elusive Ninja business cards to stick all over the convention and basically my launch was a super secret ninja launch in the shadows haha

As a result, I’m essentially re-marketing the game from scratch. I’m at like 5 sales a day as I write this, so I really can’t do any worse! (I’m not even going to get into the rampant amounts of piracy going on, my analytics tell me I have over 20,000 users…that’s a topic for another post!) But it’s no biggie, because I just look at this as a marketing challenge. “I have a quality product, how do I get attention for it from my target market?” It’s the same thing as like, Old Spice having those awesome Isaiah Mustafa commericals, or Coke coming up with new Coke can designs. I also have a bit of a marketing budget compared to most indies, so I’m not afraid to blow a little here and there trying things out.

My thinking is that if I don’t figure out the marketing stuff now, I’m just going to hit this same wall on the next game…even if I make an awesome game, it comes down to “how do I get some exposure?” On the plus side I’ve learned a lot, which brings me to point number:

3) I’m going to do a huge write-up (possibly in multiple posts) about iPhone marketing and what I’ve tried, what I’ve learned good and bad, etc. I’m hoping this’ll be useful for other indie devs so that they don’t waste money on stupid stuff and don’t get hit by surprise here and there. No one has really narrowed down a “how to succeed on the App Store” formula, and I’m definately nowhere near figuring that out, but it seems like everyone whittling away at it from different angles and sharing that information should help us get closer to it.

4) My business coaching sessions are officially over. My coach was awesome and I’ll miss those sessions but I think I can handle things from here. I’ve got a solid business plan for the next month+ and nothing has come up that’s really thrown me for a massive loop. The business course was massively useful, and it’s instilled some awesome stuff in me, from gaining knowledge, to being able to adapt to new situations, to keeping organized and structured, and I think as long as I stick to what I’ve learned I’ll be fine.

Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief at Gamasutra

5) I’ve got an Expert Blog on Gamasutra now, which I’ll be mirroring a handful of posts from this blog on. So you’ll see my little Quickdraw avatar appearing on Gamasutra here and there! Speaking of the avatar, I’ve found that now I just sign everything as Jeff instead of Quickdraw. Back when the Internet was new, having a little avatar and alias was the in thing but these days everyone uses their real names and since I’m doing lots of business E-Mails that require my real name it’s like ahh screw it, I’ll just use Jeff instead!

6) My general plan for the next month or so is to grab an iPad 2 and see if I can get Elusive Ninja HD working properly on it (it has a weird visual glitch going on). I’m also going to start designing my next game…I’ve got a ton of ideas, but I’ll have to actually choose one to flesh out and narrow down the details on, and probably prototype it up in Flash to see if the gameplay is fun, etc. I will, of course, be blogging about all that from the start! :) Hopefully I’ll be able to get started with actual iPhone art for it in early August! In the background of this stuff I’m going to keep marketing and promoting Elusive Ninja. I figure this should all keep me pretty busy for now! Ideally the end result will be being able to release Elusive Ninja HD, which will hopefully re-promote the iPhone version of Elusive Ninja, and then I’ll already be designing my next game for new visitors to follow along.

So there’s an update for ya! Got a lot of subjects I want to cover in the next bit, so stay tuned!

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