Every once in a while, we’re going to use this space to just brag about something awesome. We hope you don’t mind! Yesterday, Where Shadows Slumber was featured in the Today tab on the App Store as the “Game of the Day.”
Every day, the App Store Game editors pick a game they feel deserves a moment in the spotlight. The impact it had on sales was pretty severe, as we’ll show in our upcoming financial tell-all blog post. But more importantly, it’s a nice ego boost to some struggling indie devs. Someone out there cares! Thanks, Apple.
Unfortunately, you can only read the official article if you’re on an iPhone or iPad. So just to make sure everyone gets a chance to read it, I’ve copied the text below as best as I could. What follows is the full text of our “Game of the Day” article, which was written entirely by staff at Apple and not by us. How cool is that?!
Most games treat darkness as a threat. In the melancholy Where Shadows Slumber, shadows shed light on perplexing spatial puzzles.
Magically repair a broken bridge by passing the right combination of light and shadow over it.
You’re Obe, an old man equipped with a mystical lantern that can change and morph each mazelike level. As you progress, objects and other light sources create shadowy patterns. Activating switches causes objects to slide and move, altering the location of the shadows and revealing previously unseen paths – and dangers.
Obe eventually has to coax other characters to press buttons and switches. It ramps up quickly; within a few levels, you’ll have your hands full puzzling out the right patterns to open the way forward. It’s typically brief, however. Where Shadows Slumber is filled with aha moments when the solution suddenly becomes evident. You won’t be stuck in the dark for long.
What’s wrong with all these people? It gets pretty creepy.
With an evocative animation style and stark use of color, Where Shadows Slumber paints a dreary, beautiful picture. A strange, rhythmic soundtrack amps up the tension, while brief, menacing cutscenes featuring mean-spirited beasts give glimpses into the game’s mysterious narrative. Where is Obe headed, anyway?
It’s all a bit hazy. But while the story is deliberately ambiguous, Where Shadows Slumber’s unique, shadow-manipulating mechanic shines clear as day. Step into the light.
We’re so thankful to the staff at Apple for featuring our game. Please share this article with your friends if they haven’t purchased the game yet – what more proof do you need that our game is awesome?!
In a patch that will go live later this week, we’re adding a small pop-up window to the game that asks the player if they would take a moment to review the game. I would have put this update through last week (Jack finished this feature a while ago), but my laptop was on the fritz and I just got it back this morning.
I realize it’s a bit odd to talk about a patch before it goes out, but I wanted to explain our thought process behind this addition. This patch will be a bit different than the others. We’ve just been fixing bugs for the past few weeks, but this is an addition that might rub people the wrong way. Read on if you’re an indie developer, because this totally affects your business…
No one likes “barriers to fun.”
Why We Didn’t Launch With This
Jack and I spent a long time working on Where Shadows Slumber. During that time, the user interface went through quite a few iterations. The “user experience” was even more important to us than the interface itself. We always asked ourselves what we wanted the player to feel when they first opened the app, or when they opened the app after closing it, or when they returned to the app after not playing Where Shadows Slumber for a few days.
One of our core principles was “don’t annoy the user,” and we took that very seriously. For you old-timers out there, did you ever notice how our free Demo jumps right into the first Level straight from the Splash Screen? Or did you notice how the final version of the game goes right into the Level 0-1 title card after the Splash Screen? We tried to take out as many “barriers to fun” as we could to make the experience as painless as possible. I think we did a great job! So far I’ve only seen one complaint that the game “has no Main Menu,” and that was on a 5-star review. So it wasn’t that big of an issue after all!
Anyway, when the topic of review requests came up, we weren’t enthusiastic about the idea. Sure, every mobile game does it – but we were worried it would annoy people so much, they would give the game a bad review, and say something like “too many pop-ups!!” People are weird. You never know what might set them off.
But it’s a classic Catch-22, because if we don’t ask for reviews, we might not get one at all. Less reviews & ratings mean that our game won’t become popular, which leads to less downloads, and the app goes into a death spiral. Furthermore, right now people who don’t enjoy Where Shadows Slumber have a lot of motivation to leave a bad review. But people who did enjoy the game have no motivation to leave a positive review. Think of it this way – when is the last time you left a great review for a restaurant you love? Have you ever done that? But I bet if you had a terrible experience at a restaurant, you couldn’t wait to go outside and write all about it on Yelp. It’s human nature to ignore the positives in life and let negative experiences motivate our actions.
Our old Demo got a ton of ratings (6,000+) compared to our final production release on Google Play. I realize that version was free, and it’s been out for two years, but I think a review request also had something to do with it. The problem is that the Demo’s review request was at the very end of the experience after the last Level. I don’t really want people to have to beat the entirety of Where Shadows Slumber before they get a message asking them to leave a review. Instead, we’re putting the request towards the middle of the game.
Overall, I’m pretty optimistic. If we get this feature in before the next time Where Shadows Slumber goes on sale, and then drive a lot of downloads / installs with that sale, we might get a nice review bomb to bring us higher up the charts.
In conclusion, we’re hoping this addition:
Won’t annoy people too much
Will lead to more ratings overall
Will increase the rate of positive reviews to negative reviews
Wish us luck! Better yet, wish us 5-stars…
Eat an entire megaphone, as shown above. (No chewing!)
Make Your Voice Heard!
Once this launches, you probably won’t even notice it. Jack set a timer that’s pretty lengthy, so it’s rare that you’ll be asked twice or three times to review the app. Besides, if you haven’t done that already, what are you waiting for?
But seriously, if you have any comments or concerns, leave a comment on this post or on Facebook! We want to know what you think. Especially if you have any marketing ideas for us, because we want to do everything we can to get Where Shadows Slumber out to the whole world.
See you next week! A financial update article is in the works, so you won’t want to miss out. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog…
Now that our game has launched on Google Play, I’m making the rounds on Reddit showing it off to as many communities as possible. Do you have a Reddit account? Would you mind giving these posts a boost?
I realize this is kind of scummy – the whole point of Reddit is that the community decides what to upvote and downvote based on their hive-mind interest. But… we’re part of the community too, right?
Also, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to brag about how popular our game is on the /r/IndieGaming subreddit after posting just one GIF. Read on, and thanks in advance for the help!
Boost These Reddit Posts!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to upvote the following posts:
We did really well here already. Shout-out to Grant for recommending we post here and giving me advice about how to get on the top page. My initial post was boring, long, and corporate – we shortened it to basically just a website link and let the game speak for itself. Nearly 5,000 people viewed this, and it only cost me a few minutes of my time. I’ll have to come back to this sub more often!
This post was dead on arrival, sadly. For a community as large as /r/Gaming, you’d expect more upvotes and comments. I doubt your help will get us on the front page, but you’re welcome to try. The front page of this sub is usually gaming memes or really popular titles.
Solid engagement here from a community that I confused with /r/IndieGaming. This sub is all about the developers, and the process of making games. People seemed to like our trailer!
There’s more where that came from. Comment below with your favorite subreddit – if I can somehow tie it to the game, I will. Next up, I’m going to post rainy GIFs to /r/ImaginaryRain and see if there’s a snow subreddit too. (I’m not kidding! Tell me your favorite subreddit and I’ll work a plug in somehow. As long as it isn’t a NSFW subreddit…)
BONUS: Robert Adams of TechRaptor Reviewed Us!
We met Robert a loooong time ago during Playcrafting’s Spring 2016 arcade event. He’s kept in touch with us all this time, eagerly awaiting the game’s release.
I feel bad that it took so long to get a build out to him, but he’s on Android instead of iOS. So when our game launched on iOS first, it took a while to get him a copy. Now that we’ve released the game on Google Play, he published his thoughts on TechRaptor. Here’s a sneak peek:
Where Shadows Slumber is a game that I’ve been following for some time. I first saw a tiny poster with intriguing art at a Playcrafting event and got to talking with one of its developers. Since then, I’ve anxiously followed the game’s progress and was finally able to get my hands on the final release. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.
We want to extend a very hearty “thank you” to all of you Android gamers who patiently waited for our game to launch on your platform. It’s a shame we couldn’t do the App Store and Google play at the same exact time, but this strategy was a bit easier on our small indie team.
Note: If you get a strange message that the game needs to access the storage on your device, you can press “Deny” and the game will still work. We’re looking into why that false alarm is being triggered.
We Need Your Help!
First and foremost, grab a cup of tea and curl up on the couch with Where Shadows Slumber. You’ve waited a long time to play this, and we spent a long time working on it. You deserve to savor the moment.
When you’re done with that, go leave a 5 star review on the game’s store page! Look at it right now. One review?* Get in there, people! Let’s make this as popular as Monument Valley so Jack can retire and fulfill his lifelong dream of replacing author Stephen King and taking over his life without anyone noticing o_o. That’s a secret, but you read these blog posts for inside information, right? We trust you.
Seriously, go leave a review and share this link with your friends:
It’s always good to share some beautiful artwork of the game with your friends, instead of just shouting at them. Here’s the YouTube link to our promo video. Check it out, and share it on Facebook or Twitter! You can also boost our original post if you want to see how many Shares we can rack up on that bad boy.
Amazon Is Happening!
As we speak, our game is chugging along in Amazon’s review process. It’ll be there for another day at least, so if you have a Kindle… just wait longer! You’ve waited all this time, what’s one more day? If you want, you can keep furiously scanning the store page. It may randomly show up sometime during the evening!
Don’t worry – the game is coming to the Amazon App Store. I can’t promise that anyone will actually buy it there, considering it’s the smallest market, but it’s coming! Maybe we should have a stretch goal if we sell 10 units?
Thank you for your patience, Androids of the world. Your time to rise up and take your rightful place is finally here! We hope you enjoy the game [ ^_^]
This blog post contains all of the conventions, seminars, lectures, and events we’ll be attending during 2018. Keep checking back for more as we update this post, and feel free to recommend en event to us in the comments if you don’t see it here!
We didn’t get to do too much during our launch month of September, since we planned to stay close to our computers unless all hell broke loose. Now that October is upon us, we have some great educational and promotional events lined up!
October 15th – Lecture @ The Academy of Innovative Technology, Brooklyn NY
A teacher at this really awesome public high school approached us during Play NYC 2018 to see if we’d be willing to come teach her students for a class or two. We were happy to accept! I’ll be speaking to the students in a closed setting about the reality of launching a mobile game on the App Store, our ongoing Android testing process, and life as an indie developer. This event is not open to the public, but I still thought it would be cool to mention it here!
October 20th – Panel @ College of Arts and Letters Alumni Panel, Hoboken NJ
This is another educational event that isn’t open to the public unfortunately, but it is exciting! Last year I was invited to return to my alma mater to field questions from incoming high school students about the art program at the Stevens Institute of Technology. I’m returning again this year, and since Where Shadows Slumber is out on iOS you can bet your tail I’ll be mentioning it every other sentence.
October 23rd – Postmortem @ Stevens Game Development Club, Hoboken NJ
Jack and I have been invited back to our old stomping grounds at Stevens in order to stomp on the ground. (We’re fantastic at it – it’s all about ankle strength, really.) The Stevens Game Development Club was a fantastic resource for us during our college years. I don’t know if I would even be making games if not for the connections I made during my time with the club. We’re returning to do a full postmortem about Where Shadows Slumber and field questions from an audience of aspiring young indie developers. Come join us if you’re in the area, it’s free!
October 27th – Playcrafting’s Halloween Game Expo
We’re so glad Playcrafting is doing their Halloween Game Expo again this year. After a brief hiatus from the Microsoft Technology Center in Manhattan, Playcrafting is back at their usual spot for a fun-filled Halloween weekend event. We still have pictures from last year, where Jack went as Buster from Arrested Development and I went as “Frank forgot you had to bring a costume.” It was a blast, and we can’t wait to return with our finished game! The Playcrafting general audience has been waiting for Where Shadows Slumber for a long time.
November is an exciting month! I’ll be travelling to Australia to hit up two conventions “down under.” I originally wanted to hit up PAX Australia while I was going to be in the country, but we didn’t make it into their indie section. (It will be easier to apply to this stuff now that the game is finished – submitting dev builds is always shaky) Here’s our November schedule:
November 2nd – 4th – Supanova Adelaide
I’ll be visiting sunny Adelaide’s showgrounds to check out the first of two Supanova shows, Supanova Adelaide. I can’t wait to show off the game to an entirely new audience that’s probably never even heard of us before. If we meet any fans down there, I’d be pretty shocked. Surprise me, Adelaide!
November 9th – 11th – Supanova Brisbane
After Supanova Adelaide, I’ll fly to Brisbane for the convention the following weekend. It’s fortunate that they ended up right on top of each other, because Supanova has shows year-round. Lucky! For Supanova Brisbane, I’ll be in their chic Bytes and Backlots section, where are the cool people are.
What Did I Miss?
We don’t have anything solid in December yet. Are we passing up your favorite video game convention? Don’t let us make a terrible mistake! Leave a comment or harass me through some other digital medium, and I’ll update this post!
And share the shortened link with your friends: bit.ly/WSS-iOS
If you’re not sure what “pre-ordering” means, read on…
What Is A Pre-Order?
When a game is available for pre-order, it’s very close to launching on the App Store. So close in fact, that you can tell Apple you want to download the game the instant it becomes available on the App Store! Because Apple knows our game is launching so soon, they may place Where Shadows Slumber on a special “Coming Soon” section of the App Store to advertise it to their customers.
You can’t play it until the game is really available on September 20th, but you can share it with all of your friends! If you pre-order the game, you’ll be charged $4.99 USD on September 20th and the game will load on your device that day.
Tired of waiting for the game to launch? Sorry… we couldn’t pass up this marketing opportunity. Getting the game on App Store’s “Coming Soon” list is a huge boost for a small studio like ours! Besides, it ensures that we can spend the next two weeks marketing and talking to journalists before players get their hands on the game. When people start playing, I’m sure I’ll have to be glued to Twitter and Gmail answering people’s questions and giving them cryptic hints. It’s nice to have a reprieve… this is the calm before the storm.
Do I Have To Buy The Game Right Now?
Yes, you do.
Ok, not really. You can wait until the game launches for real on September 20th before committing to a purchase. Some people like to wait until reviews come out from other customers or game journalists – that’s fine with us. (I do that, too) Chances are that if you follow this blog, you’ve already decided that you’re buying the game. If that’s not the case, just wait a few weeks! We’re confident that Where Shadows Slumber will be a critical success. We’ve put years of work into this game, and we know you’ll be impressed with the final product.
Now that the development phase of our product life cycle is behind us, the Where Shadows Slumber team is putting all of its focus behind advertising the game in anticipation of our upcoming launch. Last night, I met with Alba, Noah, and Caroline at Buzzfeed’s NY headquarters to discuss our strategy. (Jack is knee deep in wedding preparation this week, but we sent him our notes afterward) Shout out to Caroline for hosting us and giving us a tour! The Buzzfeed offices are awesome. I made sure to line my pockets with free candy every time I said I was “going to the bathroom.”
We’ve been pretty transparent about our process these past two years. Though I won’t reveal our planned iOS release date in this post, I can share with you everything we discussed at our marketing meeting last night. I hope this give you a sense of how small indie teams try to spread the word about their products. You’ll notice we’re leaning heavily on free / earned advertising, with a smaller focus on paid advertising. You may also notice that this is a ton of work. As we say all the time, marketing is really a full time job! If you can get someone on your team who does that around the clock, go for it. Wearing multiple hats is pretty stressful.
OK, enough whining! Let’s dive into the details…
Teasing With Teasers
The standard formula for movie promotion these days seems to be:
Release a tiny teaser video that builds anticipation for a new product
Release a short video that announces the movie’s release date and builds anticipation for the next trailer
Release a trailer video that hypes up the final product once consumers can take some kind of market action (e.g. buying a movie ticket)
We decided to do something similar with Where Shadows Slumber. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see a few different videos go up on YouTube to announce the launch of the game. Alba composed different musical tracks for each video, and I’m going to film portions of the game to line up with them. (Play the audio file above to hear the rough cut – don’t worry, there isn’t supposed to be a video with it yet!)
Apple has a button on iTunes Connect that allows us to make the game available for pre-order. This wasn’t what we originally planned, but it seems like games that are available for pre-order are featured on a special part of the App Store. (Now that I have a bunch of iPhones lying around, I check the App Store constantly) If we can get on that pre-order list, we may be placed directly in front of a few million people each week. That would be awesome!
I’m not a big fan of pre-ordering games, personally. I tend to wait until games have been out for years before buying them. But I understand there are a lot of fans out there who don’t want to miss our game and want to play it the second it comes out. Also, any chance to get the game in a premium spot on the App Store is one we can’t afford to pass up. Stay tuned to this blog for more information! Teasers, trailers and announcements will all go up here as well as the Game Revenant Facebook Page, Twitter feed, and Instagram feed.
Journalists and Children First!
There’s another standard industry practice we decided to go with: emailing codes to reviewers ahead of time. Apple will give you 100 free promotional codes that allow iPhone users to download your game even if it’s not released to the public. As long as the build is in the iTunes Connect system and has been approved by Apple, they can use the code to get the game for 28 days.
Journalists will get the game ahead of time, and we’re going to insist that they don’t release their reviews before a certain date. (This date will be prior to the full release of the game, but will likely be after pre-orders have begun.) This is usually referred to as an embargo. I used to think it was a dirty word, but my feelings have changed now that I’m a publisher instead of a consumer. The purpose of an embargo is to make sure that smaller outlets don’t get left in the dust by big sites like IGN. You also want to ensure that people play your game thoroughly instead of rushing out a review. By telling people that their review can’t go live before a certain date, you’re giving everyone else time to catch up with the big boys.
We have no way of enforcing this. If Polygon decides to scoop everyone else, there’s nothing we can do against a media giant. I guess I just hold a grudge forever, and don’t send them a code next time? It’s a bit weird. Anyway, if you think an embargo is something only shady game developers do, I think you’re mistaken. If we insisted on a Day 1 embargo, though… that would be a different story. Reviews for the game will definitely come out before the game is playable by the public, have no fear!
The Where Shadows Slumber World Tour!
Ok, not really.
But at our meeting, we tried to list as many local educational institutions we could possibly think of, so we can go on tour giving lectures about the game. That probably doesn’t seem like something that would attract a massive audience, but I think it’s important. First of all, we’re all dying to talk about our game! We’d love to do a talk at the NYU Game Center, Stevens, some NY high schools, and any podcasts that would have us. We have so much knowledge to share!
More importantly though, we need content to post on our various social media channels to keep people engaged. We can’t just post GIFs of the game, or we’ll eventually give every one of our secrets away. So even if Jack and I talk about the game to a small room of 25 high school students, that video can then get posted to Facebook and reach 4,000 people. There’s really no speaking engagement too small or insignificant for us: everything can be spun into a good social media post.
Our list wasn’t very long, sadly. A lot of these institutions would rather see us become a success before booking us, rather than helping us attain success. No problem – I totally understand. We’ll see how the game does at launch, and try to jump from one talk to another. Hopefully we get to the point where people are dying to book us!
Do you have a classroom, podcast, or event that requires a speaker? Email me at contact@GameRevenant.com with details! We’re doing this pro-bono, so there’s no need for speaker fees or anything.
There aren’t too many conventions happening during the remainder of 2018, other than some Playcrafting stuff. So we’re definitely going to whatever Dan Butchko is throwing at the end of September / mid-October! If we put together an actual “tour,” I’ll put some kind of cool map graphic in a future blog post for you to all see. We might try for PAX East 2019, too. Man, it feels weird typing that. Remember PAX East 2017?
A Website Overhaul
Caroline mentioned last night that our current website could use an overhaul – it’s basically just a splash page right now, because that’s all we really needed. Fairly soon, we’ll be ready for the professional website to go live with screenshots from the final game and a few new features. I’m really excited about that! Web design was never my specialty, but it’s so important for putting on a good first impression.
Most people will experience our game for the first and only time through the App Store. But, for those fans who find out about our game via social media or some kind of ad, they’ll probably get sent to the website. What we have up right now is kind of like a demo website – it shows off the team, some awards we won, and our demo screenshots. We’ve also had a presskit up for a year or two, but I don’t know how many journalists availed themselves of that resource.
The new website should hopefully have a separate section for the team (so it doesn’t clog up the main stretch) as well as some sweet parallax effects. We checked out the Firewatch website and got a little jealous. Don’t be surprised if you see us do something similar in the future…
Wait – Are We Spending Any Money?
So far, everything we’ve mentioned has been free advertising. Since we don’t have any paid conventions planned, and the cost of train tickets to Brooklyn doesn’t really count, none of the above counts as “paid advertising.” That’s a good thing, because our tiny indie coffers are a bit empty these days.
However, we’ll be making use of a few sources of paid advertising. These ad networks let you dip your toe in the water with a little bit of money first before going crazy, so we’ll run some test ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Search. If you’ve ever wondered how these companies make money, this is how – from us! I also won a contest last year and was awarded $1,000 in credit for advertising on PocketGamer.com, so we may pick up one of their indie bundles.
Our budget is pretty low here: we’re talking less than $3,000 across ALL of these platforms, for the weeks leading up to launch and then a few weeks afterward. Personally, I would love to see the game make a ton of money before doubling down on these ads. I also need to check the stats on the ads themselves to see if people are really clicking through them to the App Store. If you aren’t careful, internet advertising becomes a dopamine game: put money in, see some orange bars fill up, get happy, and repeat. I want results! We may do an entire blog post about our ads if we get some interesting findings. Stay tuned…
Now that we have this plan in place, we have to actually do all of it! There’s still a few things left to plan, however. I want the team to have a spreadsheet listing every action item we need to do on launch day, with labels for who is responsible and the time this needs to go live. (This is stuff like “when do we post an announcement blog?” and “when do we all change our Facebook header to an advertisement for the game?”)
And of course, I need to plan out a whole series of teaser posts for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our Instagram in particular could use some love… I’m just learning how to use that app, and we barely have any followers. I haven’t really spammed those channels over the past few years, but now is the time to let people know something is coming down the pipe. I always hear that you need to see something about 20 times before you’ll buy it. I’ve heard that at least 20 times, so it finally makes sense to me!