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

Killing the golden goose

So when I first released Democracy 2 on steam, I thought to myself ‘it might sell a few copies, would be good to prove to valve that i was right all along and it is a game that matches the steam audience’. And then it sold well, and then better, and better still, and right now it is my #1 top selling game on steam. It is not overall the biggest earner per week, that’s still GSB, because GSB is split amongst the base game and it’s various expansion packs, but even so, when you realize D2 is much *older* than GSB, it’s quite an achievement. A quick check shows Democracy 2 earned $1,900 in the last week. That’s pretty awesome.


And in a sense, it would make sense to¬† work on that game I keep putting off, or that other game I keep putting off, or the third one, and happily cash the royalty checks from valve for an old game like Democracy 2…

But goddamit I couldn’t do it could I? I just HAD to make a newer, better version. Why?

When I look at democracy 2, lots of things bug me about it. Stuff not done right, stuff not included, graphical roughness, simulation glitches, all kinds of stuff which screams out at the games creator but which most players don’t notice or forgive. I felt that there must be (surely!) lots of people out there who were playing Democracy 2 and thinking ‘he hasn’t really done the concept justice though has he?’.


So whether or not it was a sensible business decision or not, I took it upon myself to make the third version of Democracy. I’ve never done a ‘3’ before. And as I prepare to launch it into pre-orders and beta (mere days away!), I find myself slightly niggled, in a ferengi sense, that I am about to effectively kill off Democracy 2 by releasing a bigger, bolder, brighter, better version. It may not be the smartest business decision ever. I should probably have made Gratuitous Space Battles 2 instead, or made another new game, and THEN come back to the democracy series.

Sometimes you just have to let the creative part of your brain beat up the business part though :D

13 thoughts on Killing the golden goose

  1. Yes I kind of wondered why you did it :D
    I’m doing Spirited Heart 2 but I postponed it several times since the original game still sells fine, and I don’t want to hurry things (though in my case being partly story-based, is a bit different thing).

  2. Hi Cliff,
    Just because you are selling 3 doesn’t mean you have to stop selling 2.
    Maybe drop the price down to $5 or whatever, and people may continue buying it.

    You can also set up a democracy bundle with 3 and 2 for an extra few dollars/pounds.

    That way even though the sales will obviously plummet, it can keep making a (small) incremental bump to your revenue.

  3. Hi Cliff

    I bought Democracy 2 on steam this month. Though the reason to buy was directly influenced by the press previews on Youtube of Democracy 3 (shout out to Quill18).

    If you had not been developing D3 I probably would never have come across D2 and decide to buy it to tide me over until D3 comes out.

    So while you may be “killing off the golden goose”, how many extra copies of D2 did you sell just by making and promoting D3?

  4. There is perhaps a business case for saying its best to release a sequel while it’s got such an obvious and eager audience for it.

  5. The problem with letting the business side of your brain rule over all decisions is that you end up with EA :P Why bother fixing problems in previous games or innovating at all? People are already buying the game with all bugs included, and by definition you don’t have an existing market for the result of any innovation. Democracy would be the sort of series they would pump out every year with no changes other than updated stats for each nation.

    That is exactly why indie games became so popular. When a company starts up the devs don’t have an existing market anyway, so innovation doesn’t carry the same risk that big companies see. Nor do the devs have the same preconceptions based on years of producing games to a given formula. Seriously, who would think that a deep political simulator would take off? But you made it, and people bought it, and now there are three of them in the series, each better than the last.

    I would say you’re doing ok on making decisions so far.

  6. I’m here because I like Democracy 2. Selling me Democracy 3 is easy.

    On the other hand, if you’d started a new game without the politics angle, you’d have had to convince me from scratch. That’s a hard sell. For example, I haven’t bought GSB or GTB because they didn’t appeal to me.

    That’s why making sequels is generally good business sense – just ask EA, Activision or Ubisoft.

  7. Every new post of yours is killing me. I assume you pick your titles very carefully to do that. C: At first I thought it was a screenshot reading “Buy Democracy 3”.

  8. Best of luck, Cliff! A lot of support is behind you, even though it’s probably not apparent and your cats don’t say shite about it.

  9. I’m here because I like Cliff, his honesty and how open he is with sales info, and will just buy his games anyway. Having said that I do enjoy a few hours on GSB. :-)

  10. I bought 2, and I’ll buy 3, judging from the changes and–as I see it–improvements in the latest. I won’t do that indefinitely. There would have to be major gameplay changes to sell me on 4. But 3? Yes, it’s sold when it’s finished.

  11. …I should add that as I’m sure you know, the new-version-every-year syndrome is part of Japanese culture. When I was reviewing KOEI’s initial offerings in the US of Nobunaga’s Revenge and Romance of the Three Kingdoms (in a weird, high definition B&W), they were very well received, but PR told me their Japanese owners were *not* pleased at the fall-off in buying for II, and III, and IV. I was told they made a conscious decision to just pull out all stakes in the NA market except for occasional new releases in their various series that would give each game a sense of freshness. This accounts for the sudden decision to release Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI in the US, but not its successors. And not the add-on that provided better AI, and more tweaks to gameplay, despite forum requests for it. (I never did see any KOEI response in their forums. In fact, they closed them after a year without telling their own moderators about it. The Japanese are big into X Theory management, it seems, at least where grunts are concerned.)

    I’m completely unfamiliar with the Japanese market, but on the surface, at least, it sounds like a game developer’s dream: a ready-made audience that once it buys and enjoys your product will always be there for every slightly incremented new version.

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