Exciting news, everyone: your dreams of becoming a walking human billboard for your favorite indie mobile game are coming to fruition soon. This week, the Game Revenant merchandise store on Spreadshirt is launching! As a devoted blog reader, you have the privilege of receiving this news ages before those rubes in the general public. (What rubes!)
It looks like we’ll get some money from items if we mark them up a little bit. I don’t think I want to do that right now, because having people wear our stuff is more important than making another $1.50 at this point in the game’s history. That could happen at some point though, so if you’re on the fence about buying something, best to do it before the end of the month!
Currently, there isn’t much there. Which leads me to my next question…
What Would You Actually Buy?
I’m still getting things set up over there, so give me a day or two to get the online store looking nice and pretty. Right now I want to hear from you: what kind of Where Shadows Slumber stuff would you like? Spreadshirt has a whole line of clothing, but also fun stuff like mugs and junk. And it even has a dog bandana! (see above) My dog would rip those off instantly whenever we put them on her, but maybe yours is better trained.
Look, I can just make literally everything available, because there’s no cost. But I’d rather focus on the things fans actually want. For example, Jack furiously demanded zipper hoodies and… voila! There they are.
So what sort of designs would you like to see? It’s easy to just slap our game’s logo on everything, but there’s also a lot of cool art in our game we could use. I’m taking requests, so leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @GameRevenant with what you’d like to see!
Even better, vote in this open Poal: poal.me/nassfn
That’s all for now, everyone. Until I get more stuff up there… buy a Where Shadows Slumber Logo hoodie!
I come bearing good news, and apologize for posting this blog so late in the day. Jack and I are doing a panel at PAX East 2019 all about Where Shadows Slumber. If you read our recent tell-all about the company financials, you already got a taste of what we’ll discuss. This blog post is actually somewhat of a plea for help, though. Read on…
First: See You at PAX East?
Jack and I are definitely attending PAX East this year, though we haven’t figured out the exact details yet. It’s one of the biggest shows in the U.S.A. and it’s within driving distance, so we can’t miss it. Recently we applied to be part of Playcrafting’s booth at the show. It’s not a sure thing (since we could get passed over) but we’re optimistic. Playcrafting has been so good to us over the years, so it would be an honor to represent them and the NYC game scene at PAX East. Remember, kids: #HobokenCountsAsNYC
Even if that doesn’t work out, we’ll probably pay for a booth way out in hell. Some booth spaces at PAX East are just plain terrible, but it’s better than sitting at home doing nothing that weekend. Besides, we’ve got a panel to run! Speaking of which…
We submitted the following talk to PAX East, and it was formally accepted yesterday:
What Do Premium Games Really Make?
Saturday, March 30th, 1:30 pm in the Arachnid Theater
Description: Everyone knows Monument Valley made a zillion dollars, but how well do other premium indie games perform on the market? How much money do your favorite games make? We’re baring it all as we discuss the financials of our game Where Shadows Slumber (a PAX East Indie Showcase 2017 Alumnus) and speak openly and honestly about the state of the market.
It’s an uncomfortable topic to talk about, for obvious reasons. We’re pretty nervous that it might make us look like failures (since we just recently hit the breakeven point, but haven’t made profits) or frauds (since we really only know our own story + haven’t done much research yet, so we lack data). That’s why we need your help!
If you or someone you know is a developer, contact us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com. We’re looking for indie game devs who don’t mind showing off their financials and letting us show the crowd. It would be good to have more than just our numbers on screen.
We also could use more panelists, so hop on if you’re coming to PAX East! Dan Butchko of Playcrafting is a tentative maybe right now, along with Jack and myself. Obviously, if you’re an indie dev or a community organizer, this panel is a free way to tell a room filled with people about your project. What do you have to lose?
Just be ready to bare all – I don’t like keeping this stuff a secret. My mission statement for this talk is something like “customers ought to know how games do, so they realize that the games they support with cash will reproduce and the games they don’t will fade away.” Still working on that. And no, you don’t have to agree with me to be on the panel. (Jack probably doesn’t even agree with me!) I think if we debate on stage it might actually be fun for the audience. We can sort everything out during the Q&A at the end, too.
So, to wrap up:
Email me if you are 100% coming to PAX East, you have knowledge on this topic, don’t mind revealing embarrassing things about yourself, and want to be on this panel. Do it ASAP!
Leave a comment if you know of other devs who have already made their financials public besides Monument Valley!
We’ll Always Have Boston
Are you going to PAX East? Comment below so we can meet up at the show! (We’ll look like those guys above, only more jaded and edgy) Please attend our panel as well, to show your support for premium games and indie developers.
We just had a crazy weekend, courtesy of Playcrafting and Dan Butchko. If you’re a game developer in NYC, or part of the industry, hopefully you were there too and this blog post is redundant. But if you missed either of these awesome events, shame on you! Read on to find out what you missed…
Note: Remember that any critiques in this post are my own thoughts and don’t reflect the views of anyone else on the team. Except for the thing about Jack and Overwatch – he really hates that game.
Day 1: The ’19 Bit Awards
Before the awards ceremony began at Johnson Hall (an auditorium that’s part of the New School) all the nominees were invited to showcase our games in a separate room. Here’s a little bit of the room being set up:
I didn’t have a ton of space at this showcase and I can’t say I accomplished all that much. But it felt nice to be recognized! We chatted with a few people we recognized and got something like ~10 people to play the game. Pretty soon, we were whisked away to get in line for our wristbands so we could head into the auditorium.
Nitpick: Next time I would hand developers their wristbands so they can stay by their games! I left Jack stationed at the table while I spent half an hour on a line for my band. It’s fine – there wasn’t enough room for both of us behind the table anyway. Just something for future reference…
After the showcase, the award show began! Dan got Carolina Ravassa (the voice of Sombra from Overwatch) to host the show, much to Jack’s chagrin. As the lights dimmed, and Jack ranted about how much Overwatch sucks, we went through the nominees. Between awards, upcoming games from the Playcrafting community showed off their trailers. There were also a few game-related performances for entertainment. All of this was set to live music from Zac Zinger and the Bits, who returned from last year. The band was incredible!
I generally don’t like quirky things interrupting award shows, because I’m a boring person. But there were two moments I really loved: the first was when ESC Games’ presentation crashed and burned, which meant they had to improvise and vamp for a bit before the next segment began. Those two guys are hilarious all on their own – no games needed.
The other moment I really enjoyed went exactly as planned: Dalton Grey, of the Adventure Society, performed a live “adventure” with four audience members. (Carolina Ravassa subbed in for an absent audience member, actually) You had to be there to enjoy it, I really can’t explain it well. Dalton obviously had a script and a set of sound cues he was running the “players” through, and it was a lot of silly fun. This was way better than his intro last year, because we got the chance to laugh at (and with) the performers onstage. Last year I believe Dalton was alone on stage, asking for audience participation, which felt a bit cheesy. Keep up the good work, dude!
Deep cut for long-time fans – remember when Earl (all the way on the right in the image above) interviewed Jack and myself 100 years ago?
There were three kind of odd choices during the night – one was a strange dance sequence following the Best Style award. The game Hamsterdam looks awesome, but the dancing seemed kind of out of place. I guess this kind of thing happens a lot at award shows? Then there was a long (long) clip of random Just Cause 4 footage that played over live music from the band. This game footage had no narrative to it at all, it just seemed to show off cool things you could do in the game. But I’ve seen better Just Cause sandbox gameplay from Reddit memes, so this clip left a bit to be desired.
The final odd choice was after Jen MacLean accepted her Game Changer award… their tribute to her was just someone playing (playtesting!) Civilization II. I didn’t mind it at first, but it seemed pretty silly. A women with her storied career probably worked on a bunch of games – why not include more? The video lingered on Civilization II for an awkward amount of time. Again, there wasn’t really a narrative to what we were shown. If they need a video editor for next year, I’m signing up!
Nitpicks aside, we were really there to see if we could win the Player’s Choice Award. I spent the week prior running a shoestring get-out-the-vote campaign. Alas, even though we did not win the coveted Player’s Choice Award, I still want to thank everyone who voted for Where Shadows Slumber! The honor went to Swimsanity!, and I’m happy for them. I got the chance to be next to them during the Winter Play Expo the next day, and they’re really cool guys.
Speaking of which…
Day 2: The Winter Play Expo
This year’s Bit Awards was just part one of two days of gaming. On Saturday, we filled the 6th floor of the Microsoft Center again to show off our indie games. Dan allowed all nominees from the previous night to exhibit for free, waiving the usual $50.00 fee. Thanks, Dan!
Some of the attendees have known about Where Shadows Slumber for years, so it was a good chance to tell people that our game was now available. I also met a lot of new faces. I can’t say it was the best show Playcrafting has ever done – I was in one of the back rooms, so it didn’t get much traffic. For all I know there may have been a ton of people at the show, but they just didn’t know this back room was open. No matter, there was always someone tapping away at the iPad in front of me + free pizza. Can’t complain!
For future conventions, I think having it right on top of the Bit Awards (and one week after the Global Game Jam) was a bit too much to handle at once. I’m not sure if the Winter Play Expo was even announced the night before, which feels like a wasted opportunity. (If it was, and I forgot, take that as a sign that it needed a bit more publicity) My suggestion for next year is to space everything out across February a bit more.
This is all due to the efforts of Dan Butchko, who has been an enormous help to Where Shadows Slumber throughout the years. Playcrafting is a really incredible resource for indie developers in the NYC area. (I plug their company so often, people must think I work for them.) If you make games and you haven’t come to one of these events yet, I urge you to add it to your schedule! We’ll definitely be there.
Next week: Thinking of blogging about our next steps regarding different platforms… comment below with questions about porting Where Shadows Slumber.
If you follow Game Revenant on social media, you’ve already seen a lot of spam this week about the Bit Awards. However, I wanted to make a quick official announcement on the blog about this contest, and what YOU can do to help.
Every year, Playcrafting hosts an award show for the indie game community in the New York City area. We’ve been to the Bit Awards at least twice now, and it’s always a fun time. You can actually buy tickets to the show here: www.thebitawards.com
Since Where Shadows Slumber was nominated for Best Mobile Design way back in 2017, we weren’t eligible for that category again this year. (But congrats to all of those nominees!)
However, they surprised us with a nomination for the Player’s Choice Award. This one works differently from the others – instead of being chosen by Playcrafting’s judges, this award is voted upon by you, the loyal fans!
…so how loyal are you?
Vote for us by completing these simple instructions:
1. Click this link: bit.ly/VoteBit 2. Scroll down… 3. Choose “Where Shadows Slumber” 4. Enter the required info 5. Press “Submit”!
Betray our trust by completing these other, much worse, instructions:
1. Click this link: bit.ly/VoteBit 2. Scroll down… 3. Choose literally any other game, you traitor 4. Enter the required info 5. Press “Submit”!
The choice is yours! Whatever you decide, we hope you’ll come to the award show this Friday and celebrate with us anyway.
Best of luck to our competitors, and all the nominees!
Hello, loyal readers! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve been teasing a money post for quite some time. The fateful day has arrived! Spreadsheets, I summon thee!
If this is the first time you’re reading this blog, thanks for tuning in! My name is Frank DiCola, and I’m the CEO of Game Revenant. I was the artist and animator for Where Shadows Slumber, a premium indie puzzle adventure game that released late last year on the App Store and Google Play. We have a whole archive of posts going back two years if you want to take a look at our design process! However, this post is dedicated entirely to examining the financials of our launch window on the global mobile market.
Why put this information out for the world to see? Well, something that impressed me about Monument Valley back when it originally launched was how open the developers were about their income & expenses. Jack and I vowed to do something similar once Where Shadows Slumber launched. Of course, at the time, I hoped to also make as much money as Monument Valley, but as you’ll see below that didn’t exactly pan out. Even so, I expect this blog post will be really informative for indie developers who are just starting out. I wish I could tell you once your game hits the store, you’ll be rolling in money. But it’s probably better for you to hear the truth, in plain black in white.
This blog post will chronologically address the income and expenses related to publishing Where Shadows Slumber, covering the following:
Our pre-marketing budget
Our development costs
The revenue Where Shadows Slumber made
Our break-even point
The marketing effort going forward
This is going to be a dry one if you came here for art, programming, music, or other fun game design stuff. The part no one tells you about running your own indie studio is that you spend a lot of time examining old bank account statements and crunching numbers in Excel to get your taxes in on time. Read this post if you want to know what it’s like spending money to promote your game!
DISCLAIMER: The income and expenses here are 100% related to Where Shadows Slumber. Costs related to running a business (paying an accountant, office supplies) are not included in this post!
2016: The Early Days
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve heard us talk endlessly about how we started our development with a demo / vertical slice version of the game. Because that didn’t launch until late 2016, this year was mostly spent in heads-down development mode. And since Jack and I were working together on the game for free (well, for future revenue share) there were no salary-related expenses either.
In fact, there were so few expenses in 2016, I can just list them in a sentence: we paid for an IndieCade submission, bought a standing display banner, entered into the PAX East Indie Showcase, bought the Where Shadows Slumber domain name, and started an Apple developer license, for a grand total of $402.15 for the year.
2016 Expenses: $ 402.15
2016 Income: $ 0.00
With nothing to sell, and no ads in our (unexpectedly popular) free Demo, we didn’t pull in any money during 2016. That’s fine though, because we weren’t expecting to make anything that year! Things get exciting in 2017, though…
2017: Hitting The Road
This was the year we started to really spend money on the game’s development, as well as pre-marketing. We spent a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth going category-by-category to discuss where we allocated money. The largest categories by far were Contract Labor and Travel Expenses, as you can see below:
Our Advertising budget was mostly spent on physical stuff we hand out at shows, like drop cards and Where Shadows Slumber buttons. The reason Contract Labor cost us so much is because Alba and Noah came in during the end of this year to make the game’s audio (worth it!), but we also paid our friend Zak Moy to make the logo and got our Demo professionally translated into multiple languages.
The number you see quoted here for Events actually reflects event submissions, as the only event that really cost money was the original PlayNYC at Terminal 5. You can see how team Meals really stack up over time, but the big culprit for doing events is Travel Expenses – it’s hard to get hotels and train tickets for cheap! Between travel, hospitality, and then stuff like parking and Uber receipts, we racked up a small fortune in travel expenses. The totals for this year were:
2017 Expenses: $ 10,456.74
2017 Income: $ 0.00
Once again, we didn’t do anything that would generate income. The game would still need another 9 months of development before it was ready for prime-time, and Game Revenant didn’t sell anything related to Where Shadows Slumber like T-shirts or plushies. No income yet, none expected!
2018: Finally… Money!
2018 was the year we finished development and launched the game on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store. Our marketing efforts before launch consisted of a ton of travel, as you can see below. Contract Labor and Travel Expenses dominate once again, making up nearly $12,000 of the budget!
The Contract Labor section is dedicated entirely to paying our hard-working musicians, and the other categories fall into predictable camps (internet ads and swag for Advertising, full game translation for Professional Services, and Event fees for spots at Play NYC and Gameacon) The reason we racked up so much in Travel Expenses is because in 2018 we went to MAGFest, SXSW, and PAX East. Actually, most of the cost is from SXSW because of the flights to and from Austin. Driving to shows is really important!
2018 Expenses: $ 15,105.04
2018 Income: $ 21,229.24
We finally had some income now that the game was made available to the general public! While it felt good to have income for once, the total amount was sort of underwhelming. Premium games are a dying breed, and we knew that going in. Lots of people told us to fill the game with scummy ads and videos instead of charging up front, but we didn’t want to do that to you. Integrity comes at a steep cost though – our income from 2018 left us still at a deficit, meaning the game cost more to make than it made in revenue! I’ll talk more about that in the next section, but first let’s examine some details about the launch.
We launched on iOS on September 20th and then on Google Play on November 20th of 2018. I expected the App Store to make more money than Google Play, but since we released two months earlier on the App Store these numbers are a bit skewed. Apple got a head start, no fair! Even so, my gut tells me that Google Play will continue to under-perform the App Store as time goes on. As you can see in the Tasty Circle chart above, iOS dominated our sales and it wasn’t even close.
But what really disappointed me was the abysmal performance we had on the Amazon App Store – I knew it would be bad, but I didn’t think it would be that bad. The number shown there is from two sales, one of which is me. (I needed to get the game onto our Kindle and that was the quickest way)
The area graph above gives you an idea of the bumps in sales we got, as well as their impact. Don’t be mislead – although the line is hugging the bottom of the graph and sales are poor, we get a tiny amount of money each day. I don’t think we ever had a day where no one bought the game, which is good.
We hoped the buzz from Launch Week, where we were featured on top of the Games Tab, would extend forever. But once we left that prime-time slot, sales plummeted and never recovered. We were able to boost sales with events like the Halloween Sale and Cyber Monday, where the game was offered at a discount. Then we got surprised with the Game of the Day announcement in early December. Kudos to Apple – they really did a lot to promote our tiny indie game, and I’m sure they’ll include it in a few articles sporadically throughout the coming year. But it’s really hard to get eyes on the game without them holding our hand, as much as I hate to admit that.
(There isn’t enough interesting data to show from Google Play yet, so I’ll have to put a chart up for that sometime later this year once there’s more to see.)
2019: Break Even, Break Out
Starting on January 1st, 2019, Where Shadows Slumber needed $4,734.69 to hit our break-even point. It doesn’t pay to list that number in terms of “units required to break-even” because sometimes the game is on sale, and other times people buy the game in other currencies that don’t convert neatly into $5. Here’s a better way to put it into perspective: Apple is going to send us $2,764.77 on January 31st, and Google already put $879.87 in the company account on January 15th. So we’re already down to just $1,090.05 before we break even, which I predict will be reached by the end of February.
Of course, breaking even is pretty lame since sales are just barely trickling in at this point. Ideally, we would have broken even a long time ago and found a nice rhythm where our daily sales can lead to a good projection for each quarter’s revenue. We’ll break even without any extra effort just because people are randomly finding out about the game – but in order to break out of this slump, it’s going to require more effort. One cause for optimism is that we haven’t launched in China yet, though a publishing deal has been in place since 2017. (Not their fault at all, obviously!) Now that the blockade on new government approvals seems to be ending, we’ll get up-and-running in that country hopefully by Q3 2019.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I recently told the team my plan to re-invest the money Where Shadows Slumber made back into marketing so we can escape the doldrums. Only this time, that money won’t have to be paid back to the company. Game Revenant isn’t in debt or danger of bankruptcy, so we can use this money to boost the game. Then, each quarter’s revenue will go directly toward profit sharing so that everyone (including myself) can finally get some money in their bank accounts.
So, if you haven’t purchased our game yet, please do so! Hopefully our next financial report will be a bit more exciting. For those of you who are already super-fans, be on the lookout for some related merchandise coming from us in the coming weeks…
I don’t think we ever announced this formally on the blog, but we’ve been nominated for an award at the Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Awards! The competition is a week from tonight at the BAFTA center in London, so it seemed appropriate to talk about it now. Who knows? We might have even better news for you next week…
We were eligible for a Pocket Gamer Award since we attended one of their events during the 2017 – 2018 season and Where Shadows Slumber released in 2018. I submitted our application sometime in the fall and waited patiently. There were a lot of categories, so we picked all the ones that could tangentially apply (game design, art, music, etc) Finally, back in December of 2018, we got this message:
We’re delighted to confirm that your game or company has been named as a finalist for the Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Awards 2019 – congratulations!
You can check out the full finalist listings here.
The PG Mobile Games Awards recognizes the industry’s key players over the last year, from the developers making great games to the publishers, tool makers and service providers that are helping to build a platform for success.
If you’d like to share the great news, we’ve attached graphics below that you can use on your site or social media (#PGMGA19).
Craig Chapple Senior Editor PocketGamer.biz
It’s such an honor to be a part of this contest! The email didn’t specify which award we’re nominated for, but as you can see on the website (and the image below) we’re up for Best Indie Developer. Wish us luck, everyone – the competition is fierce. Speaking of which…
There are a lot of categories to peruse if you’re curious about who else is up for an award. Obviously, our attention is on the immediate competition surrounding Best Indie Developer. This is going to be tough to win – one of the nominees is Team Alto, creators of Alto’s Adventure and 2018’s Alto’s Odyssey. Not to mention the fact that Ben Esposito created Donut County… maybe we should just say “it’s an honor to be nominated!” and leave it there. Being included next to such awesome people is an award in itself!
By any chance, if you’re a fan of Where Shadows Slumber who lives in London, by all means go to the show in our stead and pick up our award for us! Seriously though – as I’ll explain in next week’s money blog post, Jack and I are going to cut back on expensive travel options so that we can actually make money from this game instead of always trying to recoup our investments. It would be a blast to attend in person, but that’s a luxury we’ll have to indulge in some time in the future when we’re wealthy famous game developers. For now we’ll just wait for the email [ *_*]…
Next Week: No Pie Charts
As I indicated above, next week I will actually post the money blog I’ve been teasing for months! I’m nearly done with the corporate taxes for 2018 and then I’ll make some nice charts for you loyal readers. Jack hates pie charts, but you can expect a lot of cake charts and cookie charts instead.
P.S. Want to help us with something entirely unrelated? You can nominate us for the Player’s Choice award at next month’s Bit Awards by going here…
This is a quick blog post update to remind you that MAGFest 2019 is this weekend at the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge music fan, but MAGFest is exciting because of MIVS – the MAGFest Indie Videogame Showcase.
Even though they spell “video game” weird, the convention is awesome! Where Shadows Slumber has been given a complimentary booth in the MIVS section along with a bunch of other awesome indies. I unfortunately cannot attend due to an unexpected family tragedy, but Jack is still going. Say hi to him at the Where Shadows Slumber booth. (Not sure where it is yet, this convention is usually by-the-seat-of-your-pants.)
The festivities begin Thursday afternoon! MIVS core hours begin at 1 pm.
MAGFest Has Been Good To Us
If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you don’t need the whole speech again. You survived 2018’s Bomb Cyclone with us, and you remember the first time we were invited to MAGFest in 2017. It’s a great show, and we’re happy to return. I regret not being able to personally attend for the third show in a row, but I’ll be there next year. We can finally show off the finished product of Where Shadows Slumber, so who knows – maybe next year we’ll have another game in the works to show off?
I don’t have a lot of time on my hands right now sadly, so that’s it for now. Wish Jack good luck and expect some pictures of the event to be posted here next week!