18 January 2012

Regional Variation

It’s interesting to look at some of the sales figures. Denmark just became our number 9 market (with 1.61% of revenue), edging out Norway. This appears to be largely due to a single review (I don’t know if this is an online review or also appeared in print).

This is a bit like the original version of King of Dragon Pass, where a review in the print magazine Pelit made the game a top 10 hit in Finland.

But it’s unlike Norway, where we got 50 sales in one day thanks to a single review (I suspect this was online only).

We can see the difference in these graphs. The bottom graph shows worldwide revenue by date. You can see the birthday sale, and the Sacred Time sale (and the overall effect of the holiday, which is to raise sales to a somewhat higher level — apparently there are a lot of new devices). The top graph shows Finland (orange), Norway (light purple), and Denmark (dark purple). All three Scandinavian countries have about the same population, so they’re interesting to compare. Sales in Finland more or less track worldwide sales, except for a bump when we got reviewed by the print magazines Pelit and Pelaaja. The effects of the Norwegian review are very obvious — but there is almost no long term change in the level of sales. Maybe nobody in Norway let their friends know about the game. But Denmark has a sales spike from the review, but then sales continue at a significantly higher level than before.

I don’t really have an explanation as to why these countries have such different responses to the game. But I think this does show that reviews are still an important way for people to learn about games.

01 January 2012

Looking Back

Although King of Dragon Pass has been available for iOS for less than a year (it was released on 7 September), this is a convenient time to look back.

The KoDP box
The game began to take form in March 1996, or at least that’s the earliest document I could find (a proposal for the game). Full-time work began in January 1997, and the game finally shipped on 29 October 1999. We sold the game through hobby game distribution and through a web store. (We outsourced fulfillment, so we didn’t need to warehouse thousands of boxes.)

Thanks in part to strong sales in Finland, we made a second printing. Our records aren’t as clear as they might be, so I don’t know when we shipped the last box (probably 2006). I do know it was to Finland.

Since some of my earliest ideas for a saga-style game had been intended for the Apple Newton, I was excited when the iPhone SDK finally came out. But since I knew King of Dragon Pass was a big project, my first iPhone game was Jigami (which I’d originally created for Newton).

Preliminary UI design
In June 2009 I started sketching out user interface to see how practical it would be to fit the game on a 480 x 320 pixel screen (recall that the original was 640 x 480 pixels, and buttons need to be much larger for a touch interface). In November I was doing some prototyping.

Coding of the app began 29 Dec 2009. The development diary shows a 5 month gap with no progress. Partly this was because I took time to do a much shorter project (DiceBook), but also I think I must have been unsure how the game would be received. But the diary notes favorable reaction from people I showed the game to, so I resolved to finish it.

Once I was pretty confident that the game would work and I’d be able to do it, I went public (August 2010). That’s when this blog began.

Unlike the original, the iOS version was a part time project (and essentially just one person), and thus the time scale was stretched out. For example, the game first hit alpha (feature complete, but buggy) in April 2011, and beta (known bugs fixed) in May. But polish and fixing bugs (including ones uncovered by iOS 5) took until August.

We submitted the game, and it was approved on 1 September. We sent out the news, and released the game on 7 September. Depending on how you count, it had been over 15 years in the making!

And it’s not done yet. The iPad hadn’t been released when we began the iPhone version, but we’re in the middle of doing a Universal build to take advantage of its larger screen.

Taking a different approach to looking back, in four months we’ve sold about twice as many copies from the App Store as we did boxes (over maybe six years). The game isn’t a smash hit (although it’s hit the top of the Role Playing Game category in both Finland and Denmark), but it’s apparently in the top 10% in terms of revenue according to Owen Goss’s survey.

Version 1.0.4 ratings
Another way of looking at it: did people enjoy the game? AppViz reports that version 1.0.4 has received 5 stars from 111 of 119 people who rated that release.

I’m also very pleased that we were able to make the game accessible to blind players.

So that’s a look at the game so far. I may take another look back, in the form of a post mortem report (writing up lessons learned). But I’m also starting to think about what might come next (after the iPad UI is done).