2011 is a special year for me because this is the year I gained independence and freedom. 2011 became the year that I was ultimately in charge of all my successes and failure. I learned many things from that year. Here is a quick run down of what they were
- Better marketing is just as important as better game development. I already knew that marketing your game is important before 2011, but 2011 proved that you have to aggressively market your game using different kinds of techniques like cross promotions, running ad campaigns on the web and on the phone (using ad duplex), blogging, and twitter.
- It is hard to predict if a game will be a hit on the marketplace. I have 6 out of 14 games that are under performing. Although I would say half of those were experiments to gauge how that particular genre fairs on the marketplace. I have Armored Drive and Air Dagger, which are content heavy games do really well with daily active users. I also have 6 highly repetitive and simple games that are doing well.
- Having a cash cow that can sustain your other games so you can be free to experiment and fail without actually failing. For me the cash cow are my games with the most users playing and a high combination of ecpms (Armored Drive, Nom Nom worm, and Impossible Shoota). Being a indie game developer you need to make fun and truly worth while games to succeed.
- Running your own business is a bitch. Being an employee I only had to worry about doing what I was told. Running a business I had to figure out everything that needed to be done and make sure to do it right if I don’t want to incur the wrath of the IRS or a depleted bank account. I quickly had to learn about accounting, paying other people to do things for me, invoices, expenses, super complicated taxes, the list goes on and on… It is not like I did not prepare, but there is just so much work to do that does not directly relate to making games.
- People are interested in what I have to say, Yay! This was one of my biggest worries, I wanted to be perceived as someone who was a subject matter expert. I think I have successfully branded myself as the guy to talk to if you want to know about doing ad supported games on WP7. This has opened so many opportunities for me.
- Money is never consistent, and you can only do so much about it. The thing being ad supported is that my revenue is tightly coupled with ecpms, bids, fill rates, algorithms, market share, economy, wp7 platform status, etc … So sometimes I have very happy months where I make a good amount of money and lots of months with crappy revenue. You have to either have low monthly expenses or a big enough savings to cushion against weak income. Here is a chart of what it was like for me in 2011.
- I kept costs of production to a minimum. I did 95% of the work in making my games. Some games I collaborated with an artist to create the assets (Air Dagger, Scribble Defense), I spent some money on advertisements, and I outsource music and sound fx to www.soundrangers.com. Calculating from the top of my head, expenses directly related to creating the games would be around ~$3k
2011 has been a good year for me with lots of ups and downs as you can see from the revenue chart above. But it was my breakout year and I hope to keep my momentum going forward into 2012 with better games and higher revenue!
Updated: I added a estimate on how much I spent on expenses on the game as well as a monthly breakdown of ecpms and number of impressions.