Why Failure Is No Excuse To Give Up Hope and Stop Trying

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Giving up is easy. Man, there have been so many points in my professional life where I came close to just packing it in. But even when catastrophes and setbacks piled up to soul-crushing heights, I’ve stuck with it and found new branches to pursue while staying true to who I am: a creator of things.

Failure is a natural part of personal and professional growth, and while it’s seen by so many as this big insidious mark that looms over those who’ve experienced it, the reality is almost ALL of us have failed at some point in our lives — personally, professionally, publicly.

Looking at the span of my creative and professional work over the last few decades (which ranges from releasing albums and carving out a freelance career to making games and writing books), I’ve failed a TON. Yet…add it all up, and I’ve been pretty successful on-the-whole despite my many catastrophic face plants.

I haven’t had a “normal” day job in almost 15 years, because I’ve been driven, determined, and willing to hustle like hell to carve out a niche for myself as a solo entrepreneur across a few different industries and disciplines.

For me, it hasn’t been so much about luck and getting sweet breaks as it is about setting goals, diving full force into the wall when obstacles arise, and picking myself up and repeating the process even when it nearly breaks me. It hasn’t been easy.

Looking back at past failures, however, I realize they’ve ALL been valuable learning experiences that have eventually led to breakthroughs and future progress down the road.

Take my latest project, Missile Cards, for example. Here’s a short case study in why giving up too soon can leave you with tremendous regret over what might have been.

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MISSILE CARDS: A Case Study in Why It’s Worth Sticking It Out

The six-month dev cycle for my latest game, Missile Cards, started during at a pretty turbulent patch. I had just wrapped up a major 2-3 month long freelance project for one of my big tech clients, only to find that shortly after the new year, 90 percent of my steady freelance gigs suddenly dropped off the face of the Earth due to budget cuts and shifting priorities. It happens, but this was horribly timed to dovetail with a big vortex of stress.

We had just embarked on what would be come a six-month hell journey through an over-priced and under-finished renovation nightmare to rebuild our cesspool of a kitchen (I’ll spare you the details, it wasn’t pretty).

Meanwhile, as I hustled to line up new clients to patch the leaking ship, I also threw myself full force into making Missile Cards — with the goal of creating something as cool, polished, and replayable as possible in as short a time span as I could manage. I needed a distraction, and wanted to COMPLETE something (after working for years on a few slower burning projects). Most importantly I needed a backup plan to help try to make a dent in this MASSIVE PILE OF DEBT we had just been saddled with.

I set what I thought was a modest but potentially attainable goal for the Steam launch: I aimed to sell 5,000 copies in the first month.

This would have earned me enough to basically “break even” for the six months of unpaid dev time I poured into the game, and would have potentially come close to clearing a sizeable chunk of that second mortgage’s worth of expenses we’re struggling under. Forget trying to earn enough to fund future games and shift away from freelancing towards sustainable game dev. I just wanted to punch a big hole in this stupid money nightmare beast.

I hustled hard, did a ton of marketing promo, and launched Missile Cards on Steam in April…largely to crickets.

In the first month, I sold less than 300 copies, and spent several added weeks of unpaid time orchestrating the game’s launch. I had expected the possibility of failure going in–hence the plan to keep this a very lean, short dev cycle–but it still hurt like hell. I was crushed, demotivated, and exhausted. Meanwhile, I’d been continuing my struggle to barely hold it all together income-wise on the freelance front.

It turns out that running more than one business at a time is….a lot, much less trying to grow it to a sustainable level.

Adding salt to the wound of a crappy Steam launch, a fairly notable AAA game dev who made a few games I grew up playing as a kid felt it’d be cool to publicly mock me on social media and in his secret elitist gamedev forum/cabal/whatever over my failure with this project. Good times.

I could have given up at that point. I sure as hell wanted to. That felt like super shit.

But if I had given up then, in the midst of a pretty crushing failure, I wouldn’t have experienced what happened next.

MISSILE CARDS Gets A Second Wind on iOS?

Despite crummy Steam launch sales, which I half expected given that card games are not a hot seller on Steam, the fact that a lot of people who did buy the game genuinely seemed to dig it was encouraging. Also, the #1 response I received during the Steam launch was “this would be great on mobile, when can I play it on my phone?” This gave me hope.

I took a week or so away from the thing to nurse my wounds, and then got right to work on the mobile port, which took about a month to finish. The beta test was super encouraging, and the game even managed to get a bit of pre-launch press on TouchArcade and a few other iOS-focused sites.

This month I rallied my spirits, doubled down on DIY marketing prep, and officially launched the iOS version of Missile Cards on the App Store just a few days ago.

In the first 48 hours, I’ve sold over 1,000 copies of the game on iOS. That’s more than 3X what Missile Cards sold on Steam in its entire first month. This is good. Great even. Missile Cards has been hovering in the top 10 best selling Card and Board Game categories on iPhone and iPad (in the US, at least), and it’s getting a LOT of positive press and encouraging reviews — both from press and from players. In less than two days it has 16 user reviews — all 5*s. That’s killer.

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Unfortunately, Missile Cards didn’t make the cut for an Apple Feature when the App Store refreshed yesterday. This…well, to be completely blunt: threw a wet blanket on my early cautious optimism. I realize, there’s still a possibility it might pop up there, as Apple now seems to trickle out new games in the featured list across the full week. But it made me realize that if I want to succeed here, I need to keep on hustling until I drop.

Word on the street is, if you don’t get featured, your game is pretty much dead on arrival, because that coveted bit of real estate on the storefront can be worth many thousands of extra downloads (and beyond). Without that, well…yeah. No.

The fact Missile Cards has done so well on its own — without ANY featuring from Apple, just my own scrappy DIY marketing hustle, coverage, word of mouth, and the kindness of players and peeps on the internet — is something I’m super proud of. But it’s not enough. Not yet.

At the $2.99 asking price on iOS, I have to sell 8,000 copies before the project breaks even. And, honestly, I need to sell a LOT more copies beyond that before I can even consider being able to afford to continue working on my next few games on a paid basis.

So here’s the kicker: I’m exhausted, I’m pretty tapped out energy-wise, and I can’t spend the next week staring at the screen refreshing in earnest to see if I won’t be broke by the end of July. I’m down to ONE steady freelance client right now, and that’s not enough to sustain us long term. I’m burning savings and resources to try to juggle everything, and I’m burning my sanity along with it.

But I also can’t give up. Just like I’d never have made it to this point if I had given up after the crappy Steam launch, I won’t know what might happen in the weeks and months to come if I give up now on the mobile launch. I had hoped, and prayed, that Missile Cards would be a hit out of the starting gates. I’ve needed a win for a long time, and I was hoping this might be it. And all of that still might pan out, but I don’t have a crystal ball.

So I’m going to keep on keeping on with this and see what happens. Despite a few small wins this week, I have a LONG ways to go before I’m out of the fire on this.  I should be ecstatic for what I’ve accomplished this week. I am. This is not a failure, but it’s also not a success yet. Between debt and my current limited freelance income, I’m pushing a heavy cart up a long hill and hoping I don’t slip and have it all come crashing back down on me.

It you want to lend a hand and help me shoulder this thing across the finish line, your support is greatly appreciated.

Cheers and have a great weekend!
-Nathan

EDIT: MISSILE CARDS GOT FEATURED ON THE APP STORE

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Missile Cards is OUT TODAY on iOS!

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This is it! Go time. The iOS version (universal app) of Missile Cards is OUT TODAY on iOS for $2.99, which is a very reasonable price for upwards of 7-10 hours of explosive portable pew-pew. So if you like strategy card games, quirky card-based things, retro things that go boom, or the idea of a turn-based Missile Command + Solitaire mash-up, then for the love of all that is sacred, please consider grabbing the game on iOS today!

Get Missile Cards on iOS today for only $2.99

Not convinced yet? Let you eyes take a delicious sip of the brightly colored doom apocalypse:

HOW TO HELP ME MAKE THIS LAUNCH A SUCCESS

Asking for things is hard to do. Like most indie devs, I don’t really feel super comfortable with it, but I need all of the help I can get right now. How well this mobile launch goes is going to have a huge impact on my future ability to keep making cool and weird games (and paying off the big mountain of bills that is stacking up).

I’ve blogged at length about the challenges of pivoting careers towards indie development, the difficulty of turning failure into a learning experience, and the importance of minimizing risk and running a lean ship. Today, however, and with this launch in particular, I need a win. At least if I want to keep being able to do this.

Here are the THREE biggest things you can do to help me during this launch and WHY they make such a big impact.

1. Buy the game during this critical launch window

The vast majority of game sales happen during the first few days of launch. Beyond that, they tend to slow down significantly. Why is it so critical to buy on launch day/week? Sales rankings. The more sales a game gets at launch, and over time during the first few days it’s out, the higher it’ll rank on important platform sales charts. Ranking on these charts provides a LOT of extra visibility which can really boost sales and create opportunities to help drive future success.

$2.99 isn’t a lot to ask, so I hope you’ll consider buying the game this week while it’s in launch mode!

2. Leave an App Store review

If you buy the game and are enjoying it, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take a quick second to hop over to the App Store and leave a short review + rating ASAP. It doesn’t take very long, and it’s INCREDIBLY helpful for letting other players know that this game is worth their time. Why? Social proof.

Most App Store browsers are leery of buying games that have no reviews, a small number of reviews, or too many mixed reviews. The more reviews I can get on the board this week, early in the game’s launch, the easier it will be to get the attention of people browsing for their next game to play.

And honestly, only a VERY small percentage of players ever take the time to rate and review games, so it means a lot to developers when you do!

3. Spread the word

If you dig the game and feel strongly about it, don’t forget to let your peeps know! I always appreciate it when other people recommend my games to their friends and spread the love on Twitter and other social networks. If you’re inclined, I’d love it if you could include the game’s App Store link when you share it! Most people check Twitter and social media on their mobile phones, which makes the fact Missile Cards is now on iOS a MUCH easier quick grab than the PC version was at launch.

Thanks so much, this is a huge help.

(Here’s the link, BTW:)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/missile-cards/id1240790443?mt=8

Those things might sound like no brainers to some people, but they’re honestly three of the most helpful things you can do to support your fave indie dev peeps when they’re in the thick of a challenging launch week.

Thanks again for reading and I hope you enjoy the game! Peace!

-Nathan

 

 

 

 

 

How To Help Missile Cards Succeed on iOS Launch Week

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Here I stand, at the precipice of another intense launch week: excited, anxious, ready to hustle like crazy, and entirely unsure of what the future holds beyond the next few days of battleprep. Missile Cards launches on iOS this Wednesday (6/28). *Gasp!*

Getting the game out on mobile is my second (and probably last) chance to try to hit (and hopefully exceed) my “break even” sales goal to cover the project’s development. Beyond that, I’m really hoping it does well enough to help establish a strong baseline that lets me release more of the unique mobile card games I’m continuing to work on this year.

If you’ve been rooting for me, or want to help see the game succeed, this week (and the month beyond) is a great time to pitch in — in any way you can. More on that in a bit.

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Missile Cards Launching on iOS on 6/28

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ONE WEEK. One week from today, Missile Cards will be launching on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. That’s crazy. I’m excited, and a little freaked out. Since it launched on Steam in April, a lot of people have been telling me they want to be able to play this intense strategy card game I made on their iThingies. So yeah…SOON! That is a thing that will happen. More specifically, next week, on Wed. June 28th this year of 2017.

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Game Maker Studio, Indie Dev Tips and Indie Entrepreneurship

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Happy Friday! Just wanted to pop in for a sec to share this super fun podcast interview over at the GameMaker Podcast, where I chat at length about my past in games writing, creative entrepreneurship, shifting over to indie development, making small games fast, using Game Maker Studio, Touchfight Games, making and launching Missile Cards and much more!

If you’re interested in making games, Game Maker, or solo indie development in general, give this episode a listen (and check out the show in general, it’s a lot of fun) right here:

http://thegamemakerpodcast.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-gamemaker-podcast-episode-6.html

Wanted: Missile Cards iOS Beta Testers!

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Whew, what a month! The iOS version of Missile Cards is FINALLY almost ready to go. Exciting stuff! So…I’m running a very quick Beta test this weekend to kick the tires and test this thing out in the wilds on various iOS devices.

The Beta runs from 5/25 (tomorrow) to 5/30 (Tuesday)! Slots are limited, so if you want to sign-up read on!

A few quick notes first:

  • First, you’ll need to grab the free Testflight app and signup up for a free account – This only takes a sec. Be sure to take note of the email address you signed-up with. I’ll need that to ping you with the beta invite straight in Testflight.
  • Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is Sign up for my Beta Tester list and provide the deets requested. I’ll be sending out the beta code through Testflight tomorrow, so once you get the email with the link, you can download it on your device, play it a bit, and file any feedback or bug reports. Cool? Cool.
  • The Beta version will only be playable through Tuesday. After that, it’ll get turned off — so this is more of a chance to get a quick taste of the game, and help me ensure it works smoothly on all devices (vs getting a freebie). The game will only be a few bucks at launch, though, so I appreciate your support if you dig it and also feel like buying it at launch. Anyhooo!

Once you’ve got your Testflight stuff setup:

Sign up for the Missile Cards iOS Beta right here!

Thanks a bunch! Your help and support is greatly appreciated! Hoping for a solid launch on iOS next month. Fingers triple crossed!

Cheers,
-Nathan