My game iZBOT has been out on Steam now for a little over a year it’s high time for a mortem of the post variety. I’m hoping this postmortem will help other indie game devs out there in a similar situation to mine.
Firstly a bit about me, I develop under the company name of Ruxar but it’s just me. I’ve got a full time job and a couple of brats kicking around so game development is very much a part time thing.
From start to finish iZBOT took around a year and a half, honestly though that wasn’t flat out. I had a couple of extended breaks in there where I was either playing or creating other games.
I do believe that I’ve have a tenacity about me, in that I REALLY want to finish things I start. This can be good (I’m able to finish games), but bad as well (because I end up binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’ along the way).
The game is a fast platformer however it isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of originality or mechanics. This mostly due to a combination of things, my naivety of the marketplace as well as my limitations as a part time developer. When I started I’d just watched ‘Indie Game – The Movie’ and knew that I wouldn’t be able to put out something the same quality as Super Meat Boy but if I could put out something similar I might be able to grab some sales within the hardcore platforming segment without really differentiating it from the rest of what was out there, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Game Dev Process
When I was working on the game, I’d usually do 2-3 hours a night. This was a mix of programming, art and marketing through dev blogs, social media etc. If I had to divide my time it would have looked something like this.
During development I tried to be as open an engaging as possible. Lots of progress gifs on twitter , #screenshotsaturday as well as keeping a devlog on TIGSource and my own personal blog. Closer to launch I ramped it up a bit. I sent out press releases to gamespress.com for major announcements green light success, release date etc.
Aside from this I did some paid marketing on Adwords and AdDuplex. I struggled a bit with this, I think the CPA was to high and I didn’t want to throw more money at it when I wasn’t really seeing results.
Probably the biggest expense for the game was the art refresh I commissioned from Shawn (who was awesome to work with). With Art, Ads, Licences, Fees etc the total expenses related to iZBOT were around $1000. I didn’t really account for any of my time, I shudder to think of what my hourly rate calculates out to be.
This is the aggregated data across Steam, Humble Store and Itch.io. Steam made up for most of the sales. I love Itch.io, the platform and the focus on indie devs but I only got a single sale from there even when offering discounts greater than what I had in the past on Steam. The game has made bit under 4K at the time of writing.
Discounting and Pricing
My game is currently priced at $9.99 USD, in hindsight I got this wrong. When the game went on sale initially I was trying to maximise the first period, but quickly got into a fairly heavily discounting cycle. It now goes on sales for 80-90% off. I still might try and experiment with a lower price point and less of a sale discount, but currently the game just doesn’t sell when it’s not on sale.
So if i could do it all again, would I? I think the answer is probably yes. I do love the fact that I’ve made something, people actually buy it play it and even sometimes like it. If I were to do it again, I’d try and optimise the process a lot more. There are a lot of things that take a heap of time but at the end of the day wouldn’t have made any difference to the total sales of the game. In closing, I hope the data in this postmortem helps other people in their game development journeys.