Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Website experiment #3 red vs blue

Red buttons are NOT better than blue buttons. I have hard data for my gratuitous space battles index page demo button:

In fact they are much worse:

Nothing beats hard data. Extrapolating from this is probably less helpful, given that my page is mostly blue so it might have ‘jarred’ but I had guessed that might be a good thing. it wasn’t.

Two web sales mistakes you may be making right now…

Here are two assumptions you can (wrongly) make as an indie game developer:

1) If you show ads to someone, and they buy your game for $22, you earned $22 for showing them that ad.

2) If you spend $1000 on ads/marketing in december, and made $1200 worth of sales, you made a profit.

lets look at 1) first.

Obviously, you need to compare PROFIT not revenue, so we can assume that you got $22 after paying the payment company / portal royalty for that sale. But is that $22 the real profit from that customer? No, it’s only the start. If you release some DLC, a sequel, or just another game at any stage, you already ‘have’ that customer, in terms of them being aware of your business, and happy to purchase from you. What you need to do is to look at the average value of a customer over the customer lifetime, not that one sale. My maths tells me that a straight analysis of my google ads in December 2010 shows me losing money…. on the single purchases that derive from those ads, but I definitely make money on the long term. You don’t know the average revenue per customer? Find out…

Now 2)

There is a tendency to look at the total sales and subtract the ad budget and deduce the remains as profit, but there is another deduction to make, and thats ‘sales you would have got anyway’. Obviously we all get word-of-mouth sales, review-induced sales, and search-engine related sales. You need to look at your analytics *only* for the paid-traffic segment, and work out what proportion of sales to assign to the ads, THEN work out if you are making a return.

Don’t think that you can make assumptions there either, the paid traffic might be more(or less) likely to visit the buy page, so you need to actually analyse that. Again, my december stats look pretty awesome if I assign all my sales revenue to the ad budget, but if I only assign the sales that came from the ad traffic, it’s a different story.

These are just two more, of the fourty-million ways in which people can not know the numbers, and thus lose money on ads. This is time well spent. It also makes a change from debugging :D

Big Vision Games

A frequent piece of advice given to indie devs is to work on small games, and to concentrate on the gameplay and the balance, and then add some shininess later. This is pretty much good advice. It’s good to caution against biting off too much.

Increasingly though, I am finding myself making games where this advice just does not work. My games have become about a general ‘feel’ and ‘atmosphere’, and based on a lot of things all coming together to have a cumulative effect.

Gratuitous Space Battles obviously had some cool ideas mechanic-wise, but it also had a ‘feel’ of ‘epic space battles’. The problem with this, as a design aesthetic, is that it takes a year of coding and artwork and polishing and tweaking before you can say “yup, that’s an epic space battle alright”.

This is the problem I currently have with LB. The game is awesome in my head, and I have that big vision in there for how it should come across, but it doesn’t feel like it yet. Not vaguely. Mostly this is due to crappy coder art (for 95% of it). I’ve got another 2 weeks or so before I start getting more proper artwork for it. I have to admit, it’s tricky to stare at something that looks so messy and maintain the big vision for the game. The good news is, I know I can do it, because GSB turned out alright.

I am, however, developing enormous sympathy for people running a studio with 150 people working for 2 years on a game, telling themselves every day that “don’t worry, it will be awesome when it’s done”. Talk about stress…

Website Experiment #2

Here is another 2 variations on my GSB homepage.

New version

Old Version

The new version has some extra content at the bottom, I measured how much of a boost that gave to the percentage of people grabbing the demo. It is a small, but noticeable difference.

GWO says its within error margins, but over 10 days it’s consistantly outperformed, so I consider it worth switching to. Say GSB earns $50,000 over a year, 2.28% improvement is $1,140, for changing some html. Now you see why I do this stuff :D Imagine how much a change to amazons home page must earn them…