Nasty Three Months Later
, Game Dev
When I released Nasty three months ago, I had high hopes for it on XBLIGs. The first couple of weeks were underwhelming, but acceptable. After it dropped from the new releases though, downloads (and as a result sales) plummeted and any notions of Nasty doing well went up in smoke. From this experience though, I have learned several things which I plan to take forward as I develop more games.
Sales on XBLIGs are very front loaded. Every new game gets a ton of exposure guaranteed for about two weeks. It's important to position your game to really take advantage of this. Nasty was priced too high and had a few glaring issues (I firmly believe that the 1.5 release of Nasty a few weeks later made the game much, much better but was too late to take advantage of the initial gold rush). This caused Nasty to not sell well initially, not stay listed on any of the top lists (top rated, most popular, etc), and to be rated poorly enough that it has gotten lost amidst 600 or so other XBLIGs. Nasty's poor start on the service has directly attributed to its long-term poor performance.
Nasty turned out to be much more of a niche game than I anticipated. I love Contra, love Bubble Bobble, and love old school 2D pixel-art games. Turns out a lot of people are turned off by this style of game and art, find single-screen levels to be too small, and find the game far too difficult. Three of what I felt were strengths turned out to be weaknesses. Ouch! It's important to know your audience when you're trying to sell something to them... this is something I failed at with Nasty.
One of the big changes I'm focusing on with further development is reducing the time I spent working on a game. Nasty overall took 8 months to create, working 15-20 hours a week. That's far too long for a game to be in development considering in comparison how much it has sold. Abduction Action! (my second XBLIG) will take half the time... even if it doesn't sell as well as I hope, the kick in the teeth of such a situation will hurt a lot less.
I'm also focusing on doing more of work for Abduction Action! myself as another cost cutting measure. So far with Nasty, I have recouped about a third of my out of pocket expenses. With Abduction Action!, I have done all the artwork myself and have found a good selection of free royalty-free music to use. My out of pocket expenses thus far are $0. I'm pretty sure I'll end up spending some money on Abduction Action!, but it will be small enough that it will easily be recouped during the initial two week new release period. Everything after that is gravy in my pocket.
400 points was a bad price to sell Nasty at. I made more per sale than I would have otherwise, but I kept the game out of many gamers' hands too. Selling at a lower point would have (likely) resulted in more sales, more downloads, and a better rating (which in turn would lead to more downloads and maybe a longer lasting spot on one of the top lists). I largely priced Nasty at 400 because of the larger amount of content (100 levels) and the long development time... consumers though did not see this as a AAA title and didn't care how long it took me to create. A better solution would have been to do fewer levels and release sooner for a lower price, thus making financially conscious gamers happy and making me (due to lower cost/development time) feel okay about a lower price.
Nasty had a lot of content, but it wasn't a lot of highly polished content. Gamers didn't always find the first ten trial levels all that enjoyable... and thus didn't care if there were 90 more of them (the old Nintendo 'Quality vs. Quantity' argument lives once more). A smaller set of levels that were more polished and individually more fun to play would have been a better bet. This is most definitely something I am stressing
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