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!
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…
Merry Christmas, everyone! Instead of the usual Tuesday blog post, since today is Christmas, I don’t have too much for you. (My family is going to be here in about an hour) I guess that’s sort of underwhelming for the last blog post of 2018… sorry!
But Where Shadows Slumber is on sale for Christmas until New Year’s, so I wanted to take a second to let everyone know about the upcoming deals. We’re offering the game for just $1.99 USD (or regional equivalent) for two weeks! It’s a little different for each platform though, so pay attention:
App Store (iOS) Christmas Sale: December 25th – January 6th (link)
Google Play Christmas Sale: December 27th – January 3rd (link)
Amazon App Store Christmas Sale: December 22nd – January 6th (link)
That’s going to be it for 2018, so take some time to play our game and relax! We’re heading to MagFest 2019 next weekend to kick off the new year, so I’ll see you all on New Year’s Day to give you some updates about it.
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 [ ^_^]