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

The scary first day

Unless you didn’t already know, we released Political Animals yesterday around 5PM GMT, its been out less than a day, its a fun, surprisingly deep election strategy game, with a website here. here is the trailer.

Right then…so how was launch?

Game launches are always terrifying. You press the big LAUNCH button, then you sit and watch a spinny cursor hoping there won’t be an error, then you immediately alt-tab to the steam sales stats page and furiously bash the F5 Refresh key like a sex-crazed chimpanzee trying to get his hands on a hareem of supermodel lady chimpanzees. Ok, maybe that was a weird metaphor, but hey…animals.

Trust me, all game developers are obsessed with knowing how many copies they sold. Its not a greed or money thing, its a panic thing. Panic that you may have bombed. panic (in the days of steam spy) that everyone can see you have bombed. Panic that ex co-workers will feel smug that you made the wrong decision to walk out of that cushy office job, sleepwalking into the scary uncertain future of sitting at home in your underwear eating crisps and typing C++ at 4AM each night. Panic. Panic.


There are a number of thresholds in getting obsessed with checking sales figures for a newly released game. here they are, in order of occurrence.

  • The fear that no copies will sell. That the sales figure will stay at zero forever, until your game is erased from history by a future maintenance script cleaning up ‘irrelevant unvisited store pages from the year 2016AD’ in the far future.
  • The fear that although some copies have sold, they are all friends and family.
  • The fear that although a bunch of copies have sold, there is no way its enough to cover the bank fees on translating that pitiful sum to your home currency.
  • The fear that although thats a good few thousand dollars, you spent way more than that making the game.
  • The fear that although you are about to break even, its still going to be obvious that you would have earned a better salary flipping burgers.
  • The fear that although thats actually not a bad salary at all, you have to pay corp tax, your own pension contributions yada yada, so its nothing to get excited about.
  • The fear that even though its now a fuckton of money, because you are a US citizen, its still not enough to afford decent healthcare.
  • The fear that although this has done very nicely thank-you, you know it was a one hit wonder and you will still be penniless in a few years eating the remains of donuts from trash cans and muttering ‘i was a game developer once’ at terrified pedestrians.

So yeah, the fear of sales figures never goes away. Try not to worry about it. Unless you are coding your game from Mogadishu and there are guns at your head unless you hit sales targets, it will all be ok. Anyone with the technical skills to make a video game isn’t going to starve to death, and having created a game that got released and people enjoyed is a wondrous thing you will never forget.

So I keep telling myself :D



2 thoughts on The scary first day

  1. Congrats and good luck on the launch!

    Did you worry any about the naming conflict with the 2012 miniseries? Not that it was hugely popular or long lived, but still there might be some at least temporary issues with the SEO and all. Then again, I can’t imagine a better name for this one.

    I’m also curious if you have any specific thoughts on the recent Steam review changes having had launched a lot of games in the past. As I’m sure you’re quite aware, I hit the Steam page and see Mixed immediately, which I think would be a “Mostly Positive” or “Positive” if you had released just a couple months ago. I released a game last week and have 5 positive reviews that “don’t count.”

    1. The reviews thing is a pain, because hardly ANYONE leaves them. If steam just popped up and gave you even $0.01 in your steam wallet for the first 5 reviews you left a month (random idea) we would get a lot more opinions and thus a more sensible system, but as it is, those who love the game keep playing, those who don’t, quit and leave bad reviews.

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