Halloween is almost here! The timing is awkward this year because it actually falls on a Thursday, but most people want to celebrate on the weekend instead of a weeknight. (We were so close to getting a Halloween Friday… will that happen next year? Is that how calendars work?) So that means a lot of events are happening the weekend prior, including this weekend!
I’ll be celebrating in style at Playcrafting’s Trick or Play event this Saturday, October 26th. Of course, Where Shadows Slumber will be on display along with a ton of other great indie games from NYC developers. Here’s their description of the event:
Video games are taking over the Microsoft office in Times Square for an all-out Expo celebrating local developers! Join us for a day of games and fun. All ages are welcome. We hope you can join us for our annual Halloween expo!
Game developers will be showing off their latest games. For developers, this is a great opportunity to show off their games (finished or unfinished) and get direct feedback from players. For everyone else, it’s a unique opportunity to try out the biggest collection of games made in and around NYC all in one place. There will be a costume contest! We encourage everyone to dress (appropriately, no real or fake weapons!) and get into the Halloween spirit.
Lamely, they don’t allow you to bring real or fake weapons as part of your costume. Don’t expect me to dress up as Rocket Launcher McSwordagger like I did last year. (Sailor suit it is, I suppose!) Maybe one of these years I’ll get my act together and dress as Obe. Does anyone have a giant white ball I can fit my head inside and paint eyes on?
Here’s the details:
Date and Time
Sat, October 26, 2019
12:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT
11 Times Square
New York, NY 10036
Want to join the fun? Get your tickets here while there’s still some left!
Indie devs can submit their games here, but you’d better hurry up…
Google is announcing their response to the Apple Arcade, something they call Google Play Pass. They’re promising developers that it will help them reach new users and get more money as a result.
“Google Play Pass is a new subscription service offering access to hundreds of apps and games, completely free of ads and in-app purchases. Play Pass provides a high-quality, curated collection of titles – with new content added regularly.”
You can read more of the details in their announcement, here.
Did Google Copy Apple?
I don’t think Google just copied Apple. Every platform is doing this these days, and Apple didn’t invent the concept. Besides, it’s different than the Apple Arcade. Apple’s subscription service was for entirely new exclusive games. They made sure that those titles did not appear anywhere else beforehand. Google seems to be taking a note from Xbox, and other console subscription services, since it focuses on existing products as well as new ones.
That’s what makes this so enticing to us… could Where Shadows Slumber qualify for the Google Play Pass? It seems like we could remain on the Google Play Store as we are now, but also attract a lot of new attention.
As far as money is concerned, we have no clue about how developers make money on Apple Arcade. Did Apple buy those games for a flat amount? Do developers get revenue for time played? (Wouldn’t that require a constant internet connection?) With Google they state pretty clearly that we would “earn recurring revenue from Play Pass users who engage with”Where Shadows Slumber if it was available through the program.
As an aside, I would happily be accepted into the program if offered, but I wonder what would make more money? People buying the game outright (in small numbers) or people finding the game and playing for a few hours, to the tune of some kind of fractional micro-payment (in large quantities)
As long as Google wouldn’t demand we take our game off the App Store, it seems like a no-brainer!
A few other things stand out for me. This announcement mentions that you can “highlight your app in a curated section of the Play Store with new featuring opportunities”, which is something Google Play definitely focuses on less. Opening the Play Store on my Pixel 3 always feels like a bland experience: same-y games in the “New Games” section, and some games “Recommended for me” that don’t look appealing. I have been hoping for Google to emulate Apple more here, in the sense that every good game gets its 15 minutes of fame eventually. (I still tell people about when Where Shadows Slumber was Game of the Day on December 10th, 2018) I’m looking forward to that as an optimistic developer, but also as a gamer.
It’s not clear how this integrates with the Google Stadia streaming technology. But it does make sense to have a library of prepaid games ready to go if you’re launching a streaming-only gaming platform. I suppose that although they haven’t announced a clear connection yet, it’s pretty obvious. And this makes Stadia more appealing to skeptics like me!
As far as actually paying for Play Pass – would I do it? I don’t know. I didn’t even subscribe to Apple Arcade yet, and that already launched. I guess I don’t game on my phone too much? Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments!
*Don’t* Sign Up Here
I shouldn’t mention this, but I will – you can nominate your game for the program here, and if Google likes it, they’ll accept you into the program… one day. That is, if they read your application. I can’t even imagine how many forms are being submitted at this very moment. It must be hell on Earth over at Google right now.
If you sign up, you’ll just make it harder for us to stand out. But you should do it anyway! If we hear back from Google and we’re allowed to talk about it publicly, we’ll announce the good news here. I really hope we get in! Where Shadows Slumber is perfect for the Google Play Pass.
Wish us luck! If you decide to sign up, good luck to you too!
I just returned from a trip to AwesomeCon in Washington D.C.! It’s my second time at the convention – the previous trip was in 2017. Since our game was still in development then, the theme for this past week’s marketing has been “blasts from the past.” I had a lot of fun with that and plan to do quite a bit more. It’s always shocking to see what the game looked like before it was ready for primetime…
AwesomeCon is a D.C. based comic convention held in the Walter E. Washinton Convention Center. As for the show itself, I’m very glad I went – mostly because the crew that invited us runs MAGFest’s Indie Videogame Showcase, and they footed the bill for space. It was very generous of them to invite us, and I always take the opportunity to do shows like that. It cuts down on the cost of showcasing tremendously. For this one, I only had to pay the cost of an AirBnB, gasoline, and tolls to D.C. from Hoboken.
The audience wasn’t there exclusively for games – in fact, many people playing the game had to suddenly leave in order to make it to some signing or another scheduled event. But for those that stayed and really toured the arcade area, I felt a real sense of admiration for the indies and their games. It was a good group of people! Many of them even purchased the game right in front of me. On Saturday morning, one woman literally bought it because I said there were no micro transactions in the game, and she said she wanted to support our team [^_^ ]!
The album of images from the Awesome Arcade can be found on Facebook right here. Enjoy them!
Costs vs. Rewards
It’s so hard to quantify whether or not these shows are “worth it,” but that’s what everybody always asks. Was it worth it? How many sales did you get? How much money did you make? Does that make sense given the 3 or 4 business days it took to do the show? Does that make sense given the money spent to get there?
I won’t try to quantify things like (1) meeting other indies (2) getting the game in front of people who don’t yet buy it, but still might (3) having a banner up that people see out of the corner of their eye, subconsciously reinforcing the product in their mind (4) doing the MIVS crew a solid by adding another game to their arcade (5) giving attendees a fun thing to do for a few minutes, etc. But what can you quantify?
Well I did something different this time, and actually counted the number of “plays” I witnessed while I was running the booth. I defined a play as “they sat down, played past the first 3 Levels, and I gave them the convention spiel.” Here’s the numbers:
Total plays by day
Friday (11 am – 7 pm)
Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Sunday (10 am – 4 pm)
Total plays by device
Fire HD 8
So, over the course of 3 days at a cost of around $300.00, I personally introduced Where Shadows Slumber to 123 people. Even if all of those people purchased the game, the trip wouldn’t really pay for itself.
This isn’t an indictment of AwesomeCon, just something I’m going to start doing now to sate my own curiosity. I love going to shows, and I would return to AwesomeCon in a heartbeat. But they always tend to feel more impactful than they probably are. At the end of the day, my duty to the developers who built this game (as well as my duty to the studio itself) is to get the biggest bottom line we can each quarter. So this gives me a new goal for internet advertising and social media use: beat that time/cost return on investment!
Check Out Crescendo!
One of my favorite games at the Awesome Arcade happened to be on the next table over, Crescendo. I had never heard of it before, and without something like the Awesome Arcade it’s unlikely I ever would have. But the developer, Nate Largo, is very talented and he’s created something really polished and impressive. It’s a rhythm-based stealth platformer where you have to march in tune with the beat so that sound-sensitive laser robots don’t shoot your character’s face off. Check out his free demo here!
What’s That Strange iPad With a Keyboard?
This con was also special as it marks the first public test of a computer version of Where Shadows Slumber. Though we haven’t really announced it publicly yet or decided on a date, if you’ve spoken with us in the past few months we’ve probably discussed it.
Stay tuned for more news about that, and thanks again to Lexi and the MIVS crew for inviting us to D.C. for a great time!
The show was a full week ago, but PAX East seems like yesterday! Jack and I are still exhausted from our travels to Boston, but I didn’t want to let too much time pass without recording our thoughts on the trip.
Day 0: The PREGAMER Show
This year’s PAX began differently than in recent years. I’ve never made it up to Boston a day early for Playcrafting’s PREGAMER party, but I’m glad I went for it this year. (The regular fee was included with our booth) Dan got a bar at the convention center hotel and covered the whole room in indie games! It was a nice way to start the show – essentially like a Spring Play esque Playcrafting event in a different city, the night before PAX East!
Your setup is pretty simple – two bar tables pushed together with a chair for each one, and a power strip behind you. I was next to an adult party card game (similar to Cards Against Humanity) so I don’t think the games are sorted into categories, it’s kind of a free for all. The event had a lot of people in it, but not too much traffic – meaning that I didn’t see too many people at the table as the night went on. Maybe that’s my fault for not bringing my cool Where Shadows Slumber banner? In any event, the people that played it really enjoyed it. One dude even bought it in front of me!
I got to chat with some young developers who are basically where Jack and I were at two years ago – they just graduated college and have a beautiful demo of a promising indie game, with a lot of work ahead of them.
Next year, if you’re going to be in town for PAX anyway, you ought to at least show up to the party before the real convention begins! Also, if you happen to be at PAX but you couldn’t get a booth, this is a nice way to still represent your game and maybe get some media attention before the news storm hits.
Days 1 and 2: Showtime!
When the show began in earnest, I was shocked at how busy the event was from the moment it started. In recent years, Thursday has been a terribly slow day. Almost one of those days that makes you say “man, why does PAX even start on a Thursday anyway?” But this year Thursday felt more like a Friday, which was great!
It’s hard to quantify crowd sizes. Every year, Where Shadows Slumber has been at different spots on the show floor. (PAX East Indie Showcase in 2017, Indie MiniBooth in 2018, now Playcrafting in 2019) You don’t just want “a lot of people at the show”, but rather “a lot of people who come to your table excited about your game, eager to engage.” It would do us no good if 1,000,000 people came to PAX East but only cared about Roblox.
I can’t put it into hard numbers, but we felt busy all through the show. Tons of people remembered the game from last year’s spot at the Indie MiniBooth. A few diehards remembered the demo days, which is always heartening. And we bumped into some old friends from Stevens, too! There’s a suprising amount of them that either live in Boston or make the journey north just for PAX. The more of these shows I do, the more I look forward to just making connections with devs, industry people, journalists and old pals.
Our placement at the Playcrafting booth was perfect, too! We were facing out toward the aisle near a corner, with nothing in front of us. And since we were next to the Bose AR-cade (also run by Dan) we got a lot of spillover traffic from them, too. Jack joined the fun Thursday night, which was just in time, because I was already feeling tired. PAX East is a marathon, not a sprint!
Day 3: How Our Panel Went
Before we even had a booth at PAX East, I took the liberty of submitting a few panel ideas to the show just so we could talk about Where Shadows Slumber. This would be a special PAX, since it’s the first time our game is available on the market for sale instead of just as a demo or beta download. Some of my more selfish ideas didn’t fly, such as an entire 1 hour lecture on the greatness of our game, how beautiful it is, and how handsome the developers are. However, our panel “How Much Do Premium Games Make” was accepted!
It was scheduled for 1:30 pm on Day 3, Saturday. We didn’t get to pick the time, and I wouldn’t normally miss the busiest time of the show to do a panel, but we ended up getting a great crowd! Here’s a shot I took from the podium of them coming in:
The panel was a fantastic success! Jack and I were joined by Dan Butchko of Playcrafting, Kati Nawrocki of Dots, and Adriano Valle of OrcPunk. (Though, to be honest, I know all of them through Playcrafting!) It was a frank and honest conversation about how difficult it is to be a premium indie game in a crowded marketplace. We talked about changes in consumer patterns, and new business models that can appeal to today’s phone gamer. The short version is that free-to-play isn’t just a “good idea” – it’s a requirement on mobile. Or… don’t focus so much on your game making money!
I want to thank our fellow panelists, everyone who came to the panel, those who asked questions, and Matt our theater manager for making the event so successful! We’ve all leveled up and become “game devs who do panels sometimes” which I’m sure is just a few steps from “game devs who are incredibly successful and happy.” So close!
BONUS: I think Night 3 was when we got to try an awesome party bluffing game called Pluck Off! that is still in development. It’s a card game, so don’t expect to see it at too many video game events in the future, but if you can get a print & play it’s totally worth it. (Warning: don’t play with Jack, he’ll destroy your face)
Day 4: An Exhausted Success!
By the time Day 4 rolled around, I had basically checked out and spent most of the day collapsed in a chair in the back of the booth. This ended up being a mistake, as I actually missed a lot of people who planned to stop by the table but hadn’t scheduled a time. (Sorry people!)
We can call the weekend a success though, because we nudged so many people to buy & review our game that it brought our Apple rating up from a 4.4 to a 4.5! This may seem insignificant, but it brings us past the threshold that Apple uses when deciding which games to feature. Some games, like our muse Monument Valley, are featured at least once a week. If we climb the ranks, Apple might give us at least a feature every month. Bring on the Today tab, boys!
I don’t know about Jack, but I’m still recuperating from the weekend. I have no idea how some devs did three shows back to back in March… (This is the SXSW / GDC / PAX East Trifecta, sometimes called March Madness or dying.) I’m hoping to get back on the wagon soon though, because we have a lot of little changes to make to the build in response to your wonderful feedback. Jack and I spent the entirety of our 4 hour drive back to Hoboken planning what we can do in the short & long term to improve Where Shadows Slumber. I’m excited to put the plan into action!
Thank you to everyone who visited our table, bought our game, gave us a review, or attended our panel! You helped make a good PAX great. Wish us luck finding the energy to keep going!