We recently shared our lifetime sales numbers here.
The same day, we dropped price on all of our products. Our strategy was to try and create news and attention by coordinating several newsworthy events simultaneously. Our Waking Mars update had new jetpacks to collect and play with, and enhanced support for the iPad Retina Display. We issued a press release and personally reached out to a number of folks in the press, asking for coverage. We wrote blog posts to attract attention. We dropped the price of the soundtrack on Bandcamp. We dropped the price of both Spider SKUs for the first time in a long time. And we dropped the price of Waking Mars from 4.99 to 2.99 for the first time ever.
It’s been two weeks, so how’d we do?
WAKING MARS SALE ($4.99 -> $2.99)
Here are the 15 days before the sale:
We earned $12946 in revenue during that period. There was a blip in the data on 4/24-25 where we spiked upwards — we believe this was due to a piece on a Yahoo! Games blog called “Plugged In” that featured us nicely (http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/10-must-play-ios-games-182249052.html — 484 comments on that piece indicate to me that people are reading this blog!). Normally single press events don’t seem to make a tangible difference — but some of the bigger ones do. Even accounting for that spike, we were earning approximately $863 a day for the last 15 days at $4.99.
Here are the 15 days post-sale:
We earned $25733 on sale, selling an additional 12,622 copies. That’s nearly double what we were earning over the previous 15 day window, but the trends are indicating a bottoming out. You can see that we had one amazing day at $6201 earned, and then yesterday, we earned about 1/10 of that ($647). That’s a bit better than the two Mondays pre-sale ($564 and $497) but we’re approaching a state of being revenue neutral, so we’re going to end the sale tonight.
You can see this trend on the charts as well. We got as high as the #18 iPad game, hung out at a nice chart position all week (thanks in large part to another Apple feature) … and then the rank started collapsing, and hasn’t bottomed out quite yet.
Interestingly the iPhone charts show a much gentler bump and then a flatter curve. We didn’t have a banner in the iPhone store, so that’s probably part of it, but I think our game is just not perceived as being “for” the iPhone. Potential consumers see our product and can probably pretty easily imagine playing it on a 3.5 inch screen, and they (correctly) perceive that it’s “for” the iPad. (Of course, it plays great in both places and you should still buy it! My point is more that I think consumers are looking for something a bit more approachable on the iPhone, in most cases)
SPIDER SALE ($2.99 -> $0.99)
As for Spider… we only put it on sale for a week, and the results were not amazing. The HD version — which received a retina update — did pull in approximately an extra $900. For a game that has been earning $30-40 a day, this is certainly welcome, but after the first 3 days, sales numbers were very close to where they started.
The iPhone version fared even worse, actually earning LESS money at $0.99 the weekend following the sale versus the weekends before and after the sale period. We still probably came out ahead $300-400 dollars from the initial spike in attention, but it actually seems to be the case that we are better off at 2.99 for now.
All things considered, this effort was successful — we reached a significant number of new users, (hopefully) increased the perceived value of the product, and pocketed a nice chunk of extra revenue. Long term, it’s harder to predict how much these efforts help. I used to fear that sales would serve to cannibalize your potential user base — how many of the people who just bought Waking Mars at $2.99 would have EVENTUALLY bought it at $4.99? It’s impossible to know. iOS has definitely taught people that, if they wait just a little bit, practically everything goes on sale.
This is one reason we’re more willing to play with our pricing this time around (Spider did not go on sale for over a year after its release). The market expects it, and there are gamers who may love our stuff who, for whatever reason, won’t buy it at $4.99. We’re reaching new players every day, and hopefully we’ll have plenty more reasons to make news in the coming year and keep the product on people’s minds. Staying relevant over a long period of time is, in my opinion, one of the core tricks to success on iOS.
Waking Mars has been on sale for 2 months, and we just released a big update, so it seems like a great opportunity to reflect on its progress in the App Store.
While we’re at it, we’ll also show you the sales numbers for Spider and Spider HD — something we’ve wanted to do for a while now.
I hope you find it interesting!
WHY SHARE NUMBERS?
We believe strongly in the spirit and value of sharing information. When we were starting Tiger Style, there were many ‘gold rush’ style news articles and blog posts highlighting small garage developers making significant money in the App Store.
These articles (viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism and pragmatism) were useful to us, and helped steer our business toward the App Store, rather than some other distribution or hardware platform. Looking honestly at the available information about the marketplace, and considering our faith in our own ability as game developers, we entered into the iPhone market believing that there was a legitimate chance we could make a living, given the right approach.
By giving back, perhaps we can serve as a data point that other developers can use to make informed decisions in their own business.
The App Store has been a boon to a small independent developer like Tiger Style — we can choose to create any kind of game that we want and the barriers to selling our product globally are minimal. We don’t need to pass through the strong filters of a more closed ecosystem, nor do we need to appeal to some publisher’s idea of a nebulous target demographic.
As a result, we take on a lot of risk. We care a lot about innovating and inventing new forms of gameplay and moving the medium forward in some small way. Broadly speaking, these goals have been of greater importance to us than the goal of “being a mega-profitable business.” That said, we always keep an eye on the market and our own ability to make an impact there. For Tiger Style to continue its existence and stay independent, we literally HAVE TO sell copies of our games. Lots of them, in fact.
Our very existence should hopefully demonstrate that it is POSSIBLE to survive with a company focused on innovation and gameplay, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to do. By sharing our sales numbers with the public, perhaps we can encourage others to take similar risks — with a cautious eye on the potential pitfalls.
HEY, OVER HERE!
This week, we coordinated a bunch of efforts in order to make news. An update with iPad retina assets and new jetpacks. We commissioned an updated app icon from our excellent graphic designer friend Cory Schmitz. We updated Spider for the iPad. Maybe we can generate some news and goodwill and interest simply by virtue of openly sharing information with the public.
Your support is truly valuable to us. We’re a tiny company and we’re really committed to staying 100% independent and continuing to do meaningful work. Every week there are literally dozens (hundreds?) of new game experiences clamoring for your attention. It’s hard work to stay relevant and visible in such a crowded gaming landscape.
If you haven’t tried Waking Mars, please consider checking it out. If you think this post is worth sharing, please share it. Any way we can reach new people is valuable to us.
TWO MONTHS IN THE APP STORE
Waking Mars was released on March 1, 2012, and we sold it at $4.99 for the entirety of its first two months. We sold over 44,000 copies, which puts our net revenue at approximately $150,000 USD.
$150K in two months would be amazing if the curve was flat and we were guaranteed that income forever! Alas, the curve — as you can see — is not flat. We earned more than half our total revenue to date in the first 7 days. During this week, we were featured by Apple as both the iPhone and iPad Game of the Week in the US. On the iPad, we peaked as the #9 top selling game in the US store, whereas on the iPhone, we peaked at #35 — both on our second day of sales.
Let’s look at Spider’s sales over the first two months of its existence, starting back in the stone ages (umm, August 10, 2009):
Spider for iPhone earned roughly $244k in its first 2 months of existence and has gone on to earn $577k to present day.
Looking at the Spider-iPhone chart next to the Waking Mars chart highlights some interesting differences. Waking Mars actually peaked at a higher single-day revenue, but the revenue fell off much more sharply than Spider’s.
Some theories on why this is the case:
- Waking Mars sold for $4.99 instead of $2.99. Casual gamers who might be willing to make an impulse purchase on a game from an unknown, indie developer at $2.99 are less willing at $4.99.
- The marketplace is significantly more crowded, with a higher quality bar, and there is greater value available at lower price points (including free). In particular this makes it harder for long-form single-player games to succeed over time. Waking Mars is not a game that was created to engage people repeatedly over a long period of time; it is designed to be played and (hopefully) appreciated over 6-12 hours. When you’re done exploring the content, there are few reasons to continue playing indefinitely.
- Perhaps Spider simply has a broader appeal, being a game that is grounded in the present day and a familiar environment, whereas Mars is sci-fi, built around the strange and unfamiliar. We believe that we were smarter about designing specifically for the iPhone demographic when we built Spider, whereas, by comparison, Waking Mars is a deeper, more traditional console-style game that might have been a more natural fit on another platform.
$4.99 — A QUESTIONABLE DECISION?
It’s worth remembering that the install base of iOS devices is multiple times larger today than it was in August of 2009. Considering that factor alone, we’re a little disappointed in the sales of Waking Mars. I often think we would have brought in more money AND had more users to show for it if we had launched at $2.99 instead of $4.99.
The flip side of launching at $4.99 is that we have a bit more room to maneuver with the product. The critical response demonstrates that most of our players seem to think there is at least $5 of value in this product, and moving an average of 250 units a day at this price point over the past month is nothing to sneeze at. We can now experiment and see if dropping price is a long-term net positive. And, like everything else we’re doing this week, dropping price is a great way to get previously reticent gamers to jump on board.
Waking Mars is also a product that will adapt more naturally to other platforms, and we are taking early steps to bring it to PC/Mac/Linux later this year. Launching at $4.99 also reinforces the idea that the game is serious and significant, and that it’s not “just a mobile game.” We hope that this game’s long tail will extend out beyond the App Store.
Success is a matter of perspective. Considering the man-hours spent (at last count, over 12500) and the revenue earned to date, some may look at our numbers and think we are failing. Tiger Style is comprised of two owners (myself and Randy Smith) and we continue to pay royalties to over a dozen part time contributors. For a business that is 3.5 years old, our income gets stretched a bit thin at times. But we continue to hang on!
From a creative standpoint, we feel very successful — we are accomplishing our goals and doing meaningful, rewarding work. We’ve released two critically acclaimed games (launching two original IPs in the process) and have reached hundreds of thousands of gamers.
From a business perspective, we consider it a major victory just to survive and create another day. We run our shop in a very non-traditional manner. We have no office space and we pay no salaries — instead, we are fully distributed and pay royalties to our many amazing and talented contributors. We have never taken a dime of investment capital — being able to pay our bills and run our business on our own terms is tremendously rewarding, even if it can be a wildly inconsistent roller-coaster at times.
As you may have heard, we just dropped our price. $4.99 is still considered a steep price in the App Store, especially on the iPhone. Spider was the #4 overall app in the US App Store as $2.99, and we’re optimistic that even in a marketplace that is skewing ever more towards $0.99 and free-to-play, we have a chance to sell many more copies and reach thousands of new gamers at a lower price.
Or perhaps it’s true that Waking Mars is simply too niche for sales to scale up dramatically at lower price points. When choosing $4.99 for launch, we convinced ourselves that it would help filter out gamers who were looking only for disposable entertainment, and that it would help communicate that the product is more substantial and serious than much of what’s on the App Store. Differentiating can be valuable.
Our first day on sale was pretty excellent. Now we’ll see if we can sustain any of this newfound momentum.
Check back next week to see how we’re doing at $2.99!
It’s May Day, and big things are going down!
Waking Mars is available for just $2.99, starting NOW. It’s a perfect moment to push it on any skeptical friends you couldn’t convince before.
Today also marks the release of the big May Day Update we’ve been slaving away at for weeks. What’s in this update? New jetpacks!!
For extra fun and increased maneuverability, the May Day Update features brand new jetpacks you can use to hover in place, speed rapidly across Lethe Cavern, and write your name in vapor trails (assuming you’re a good enough pilot, of course). The jetpacks are unlocked when you reach certain story encounters, so if you load a saved game where they’ve already happened.. well, you’ll see for yourself.
This update also has incredibly detailed art for the iPad Retina screen! Click on the screen shot below for a close-up!
The iPad Retina may well be the highest pixel resolution commercial device of all time. When we started designing iPhone games we thought it was going to be a breeze to make graphics for a 480x320 screen. Now we’re up to 2048x1536! Fortunately, we don’t mind generating 3.1 million pixels sixty times per second, for two important reasons:
1 – Our graphics look amazing on Retina screens. All that detail! That screen shot above is cropped.. on a new iPad it would all be crammed into just a couple inches.
2 – All the lifeforms and environments of Waking Mars were hand painted at HUGE sizes and then shrunk down to fit the game. That’s what gives our art its unique look, and so making high resolution art isn’t as hard as it could be.
How huge is huge? Well, click on this Phyte.. this is still scaled down considerably from the source material.
If you’ve already downloaded Waking Mars, then please enjoy this May Day Update! If you haven’t checked out Waking Mars yet, then we hope we’ve managed to tempt you.