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.
For me, setting goals has always been vital to measuring success and having something to constantly work towards. Having massive long-term bigger picture goals on the horizon is always useful, but it’s also critical to set smaller short-term goals that are closer within reach.
Nothing I’ve ever done or created has been a 100% runaway success out of the starting gates. But by amassing small wins and building momentum over time, I’ve always been able to eventually get to where I wanted to be, both professionally and creatively, through hard work and sheer determination. Now that my latest game Missile Cards is out on iOS and seems to be doing pretty well-er-ish, it’s a good time to bring back my original goal for this project: The Quest To Break Even
LOOK I made a janky info-graphic! Wheee! It’s not the prettiest thing (actually it’s kind of awful looking, hah).
THE QUEST TO BREAK EVEN (PART II)
I’ve blogged at length about how Missile Cards was originally designed to be a short project to minimize risk and hit the finish line quickly while making something neat I could be proud of. My original goal with the Steam launch was to sell 5000 copies, which (at the $4.99 Steam price) would have basically paid for the six months of time it took to develop and launch the game.
That, as you may also recall, didn’t happen. I sold less than 300 copies in the first month (though we’re now closer to almost 500 copies sold on Steam several months out, so…woo?!)
The newly launched iOS version of Missile Cards, on the other hand, has been doing PRETTY DARN WELL. So far, at least. In roughly four days, I’ve sold over 2,000 copies. Now we’re talking, right? WOO!
Getting positive review coverage and landing a much-coveted slot in the App Store feature lineup has been GREAT. Checking the numbers today (sales data is a day behind in the store backend), I’m starting to see the positive impact of Friday’s feature, and I’m REALLY hoping this continues into next week.
Things are going great, but I’m not out of the frying pan just yet.
BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH (or 8,000 sales)
My quest to “break even” on development, if I’m being honest, is really only the first hurdle to reaching my long-term goals. Missile Cards may not ever earn enough to let me shift gears and make my next few games on a paid FT basis (that’d be ideal), but I’m hoping that it can at least pay me back for the time I took to make it.
So now that the game is actually selling on iOS, I’m back on the saddle of my quest to pay for the game’s six month dev cycle (not including an added month or so to port the iOS version and orchestrate this launch craziness).
At the lower $2.99 price point, I need to hit 8,000 sales to break even.
That sounds like a lot of sales (and a lot of money if you do the math), but in reality — I get $2 per copy sold, roughly, and after taxes (33 ish percent), my actual take home put-it-in-the-bank from 8,000 copies sold technically wouldn’t even knock out the smallest chunk of debt I’ve got right now, much less allow me to work on Missile Cards updates or my next games on a paid basis.
But it’d make a good dent in it, so that’s what I’m aiming for right now.
To REALLY start to be in a good spot where I can knock out some serious bills, get caught up, and finally be able to carve out paid time making games, I’d have to sell closer to 20-30,000 copies. Which…is possible, but going to be a challenge even with this good initial momentum.
WHY SETTING GOALS IS KEY
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Why should you care? I’m not sure, other than it gives me something tangible, a target to shoot for. Whether you’re interested in cheering me on and helping me succeed or are just curious to grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and see what happens next, this puts some visibility (and a nice reality check) to what this process is REALLY like for a small indie developer struggling to get traction in the industry while juggling debt, a day job, and the ups and downs of the creative life.
So. That’s where I’m at! Optimistic, but still anxious, determined, and in need of any support I can get. I realize that’s asking a lot, but folks who know me, know that I’m more than happy to pay it forward and help others as I’m able to. That’s been a core part of my professional career over the past 15 years and something I genuinely enjoy doing. It’s also why I’ve been so transparent throughout this messy, challenging process.
And hey, I got to make an info-graphic, right? Wasn’t that fun?
Top 3 ways to help me out right now if you want to (the TL:DR version):
- Buy the game
- If you dig it, please leave an App Store review
- Tell your peeps and maybe spread the link around on social media if you can!
Here’s the link, BTW:
Thanks again! Appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement this past week (and going forward). It’s been a wild, exciting, and challenging month, and there’s still a lot of work to do ahead.
Cheers and have a great (and safe) July 4 holidays!
Yesterday started off with a lot of questions about how the rest of this iOS launch for Missile Cards was going to go. I wrote up a lengthy post about failure, how it’s a normal part of the creative process (it absolutely is), and why you shouldn’t give up easily. Then, later in the day, a bunch of things all exploded at once–driving that point home in some powerful ways.
Getting featured on the main page of the App Store is HUGE. I thought Missile Cards didn’t make the cut when the store shifted over on Thursday, but then last night a bunch of new games were added…including my own. This will make a big difference in launch momentum. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly WHAT this is going to do to my sales, as the data is still a day behind and the changeover happened later in the day yesterday.
But DAMN. This is…good. Very good. V GOOD BOY.
Other good things that are good!
Getting featured is A BIG DEAL, considering it’s my first solo iOS game, I’m not working with a publisher, and I’m doing all of the marketing and launch hustle on my own. But it was also actually was a perfect surprise ending to a day that started “meh” and gradually ramped-up with cool things piling on top of the “meh.” Turning that “meh” into a “YEEAAAAHHH!” (Sorry, I haven’t slept much).
TouchArcade named Missile Cards it’s GAME OF THE WEEK, which is SUPER COOL!
That was another really nice surprise.
On top of that, a bunch of press coverage and reviews for Missile Cards dropped yesterday, and reviewers seemed to really dig the game on the whole! Here’s a few of the reviews I’ve found so far:
9.6 / 10 – AppAdvice Review
4 / 5 – Gamezebo Review
4/5 – 148Apps Review
So far this is also all super encouraging. The extra coverage is great, and the fact folks are pretty positive about the game is awesome. I feel pretty good about it.
So now what? More hustle.
Getting featured is great, and all of the positive press and coverage is killer. Missile Cards is at the top of charts in both Card and Board Game categories, and is gradually climbing its way into the top 100 paid charts for the entire app store.
I won’t know what impact this has for a few more days when I’ve got more data and things have settled in a bit. Right now, I’ve sold over 1350 copies in the first 3 days or so, but I won’t really know what effect the featuring has until I get through the weekend.
So, even with this great news, I still need to keep my head down and keep on hustling this week to maintain positive momentum and push higher.
Everyone’s support has been so very appreciated, and if you feel like keeping up the love into next week until I REALLY know where things are at, that’ll continue to be a big help. If you’ve bought the game, don’t forget to leave a review, and tell your peeps!
Thanks so much! I’m a bit more optimistic about the path ahead! Let’s do this!
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.
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.
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!
EDIT: MISSILE CARDS GOT FEATURED ON THE APP STORE
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!
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:)
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!
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.
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.