First Week iOS Launch Sales and Observations (Missile Cards)

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It’s been a zany few days. Now that we’re a full week into Missile Cards’ iOS launch, I wanted to share some interesting figures, observations, and updates about how things have been going so far this first week.

To briefly set the stage:

Missile Cards is a smaller game I created over the course of six months. It’s a quirky mash-up of turn-based defense (inspired in-part by Missile Command) and a strategic solo card game (a la Solitaire…sort of).

It’s an experimental and fairly niche project, made with the intention of creating something interesting and polished but tightly scoped to minimize risk. I wanted to hit the finish line on development quickly (vs taking years to wrap it up) and get a quality game to market with as little risk as possible.

That turned out being a pretty good approach.

The game didn’t sell super well on Steam (for a lot of reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts), but people seemed to dig it, and a lot of folks asked me to bring it to iOS. Which I just did. And that brings me up to this first wild and crazy week of launch.

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GAINING SALES TRACTION W/OUT FEATURING

For Missile Cards’ iOS launch, it’s worth noting that I’ve handled every aspect of this project 100% on my own. That means it’s just me doing everything from coding and art to music and design — and this extends to the marketing and launch efforts, too. I’ve saved a lot of money doing this, lowering the bar needed to make this a successful launch, financially.

On the other hand, I have no publisher, no budget, no PR or marketing team, no paid support or funding, and I also work (mostly) full-time as a freelance writer in addition to making games on the side. I’ve essentially bootstrapped this entire thing: duct tape and chicken wire are my best friends. Simply put: after week one, I’m damn exhausted.

With that in mind, I prepped and hustled like crazy the months, weeks and days leading up to launch to roll out a solid DIY launch plan. Which I think the initial numbers show was actually pretty successful in this case (though I have some observations on that I’ll share in a bit).

I’ve been very open about my goals for the project, my successes and failures along the way, and the impact that this game selling well would potentially have on my obstacle-laden professional path ahead. Blogging and sharing everything along the way in and of itself has helped get the word out about the project, and I think its helped rally energy and momentum to make the iOS launch more of a success after the failed Steam rollout.

I’ll dig deeper into my DIY launch prep specifics in a future post, but I wanted to share some observations on how that played out and how featuring has impacted things so far.

 

MY OWN MOMENTUM VS APPLE FEATURE MOMENTUM

 

To be honest, I’m surprised how solid the first day sales are, especially when you compare them to the peak single-day sales over the weekend. With just my own marketing efforts, direct outreach to my mailing lists, and the support of colleagues and peeps on social media, I sold 616 copies on launch day.

Pretty good.

Sales dropped very quickly after Day 1, by over half the following day, so without the positive press reviews and the US App Store feature kicking in late in the day on Friday, I probably would have had a much slower launch weekend, sales-wise. The excellent press and surprise app feature definitely helped prime me for a good weekend overall.

But even after the much-coveted US feature, my peak sales day so far (on Saturday) only topped out at 717 sales — not much better than what I was able to do on my own on day one. It’s definitely interesting to see how this first week has played out. I didn’t know what to expect, really.

 

Getting featured on the App Store in the US was a big help, I think, but it’s hard to say how much it has moved the needle in terms of total sales on its own. It’s entirely possible that without that, my sales would have dropped off significantly after launch day. That seemed to be where things were headed, but at the same time, the US App Store feature wasn’t the big Hail Mary I expected it might be. I also didn’t get picked up by other countries’ App Stores, so that also probably dampened some of the potential momentum.

I think that’s worth noting, since getting featured is super difficult for indie devs and a bit of a gamble to begin with. Without putting in the time and energy to build a really targeted launch plan, I don’t think the game would be doing as well as it has been. And even so, things are starting to slow down (as expected).

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SALES TO DATE & TARGET GOALS

As of right now, my most current data (which is still a day behind) shows I’ve sold a grand total of 3,560 ish copies during launch week.

That’s good? Not bad? Okay? Not mind-blowing? Great? A good start? I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I’m really thankful the game has done pretty well and is generally being well-received. It’s definitely not a runaway success, and I still have a long way to go here before I can stop being as on-edge, financially.

At 3,560 copies sold on iOS to date (not counting refunds, etc), I’m ALMOST 50% of the way towards hitting my “break even” goal of 8,000 copies. That’s decent progress.

I’m hopeful I’ll hit that “break even” mark by the end of launch month, though every day that passes beyond the initial launch window decreases sales momentum, making it harder to gain ground at the same rate I have in this first week.

Missile Cards, as of today, still has yet to fund its own initial development, much less hit a level of sales success that will help me catch up on some major bills and THEN start working towards funding my next projects (and or/content updates).

I’m hoping people continue to check it out even when it inevitably gets bumped off the App Store feature lineup sometime in the near future (presumably later this week).

SO NOW WHAT?

Honestly, Missile Cards has done pretty well — it’s easily my most successful project to date in terms of initial launch sales momentum (this includes my Kindle ebooks, too, btw). I’m happy with how it’s been doing, and if I wasn’t currently struggling with household reno debt (creating some pretty outrageous monthly expenses) and some rocky freelance/work cash flow challenges, I’d be pretty damn stoked with what MC has done so far.

It’s disappointing to be in this kind of position, because otherwise I’d be able to fund a few months of focused gamedev and make big progress on other games I have in the works. Baby steps, I guess.

Right now, however, I’m in a weird spot where I can’t really focus on marketing and pushing ongoing sales of Missile Cards, because I need to pivot back ASAP to rebuilding my freelance income streams to stay afloat. So I’m again, and endlessly, caught in this nebulous and uncomfortable purgatory between running multiple businesses while trying not to sink too deep in the financial muck.

Anyhow! Week one has been strong. I’m expecting rapid slow-down, so if you haven’t checked out the game and feel like doing so, that’d be great! Also, if you’re having fun and feel like leaving a review, that’d also be a huge help. Overall they’ve been positive, but some folks on the App Store are pretty cut-throat, and I’ve been getting dinged with 1*s for some pretty…weird and fussy things. Welcome to game development.

Cheers and have a great day!
-Nathan

 

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