Sunday, July 4, 2010

iPhone App Game Development Blog #31

iPhone App Game Development Blog #31

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180 for iPhone - Yep, our game is still kicking - it's true! What more is there to say on it?

Things with 180 are good. As I've discussed recently, the promotion is essentially over and it's difficult to get much attention on it as it has been just past 2 months since release. Our campaign has been hugely educational for me, as I've learned a lot about the do's and don't's of promotion. I'll be sharing a lot of this in a nicely fleshed-out post-mortem (when there's time to get to that). To be quick, I'll say this much - a lot of our promotion has been badly damaged by forces beyond my control, and rather than whine about them, I am doing my best to pick up the pieces and salvage what I can. This means rather than turn off the lights with the whole thing and move onto something else, it makes sense to wring the thing out a little bit more. On a side note, with any development (large or small) "forces beyond one's control" will always intervene, sometimes in good ways but more often in difficult ones - so be prepared for a certain amount of it, don't let it totally take the wind out of your sails, and do what you can to pick up and roll with the punches.

As an appendix to that, something I have learned from my years in development - never wait for something to come in and save you, that's not going to happen. Be it a feature which you aren't sure of and "hoping to figure out," if there's something of any merit riding on it, best not to consider that it will ever show up. Keep that relegated to R+D where it belongs! Stick with what you know how to handle already, and do the best you can to deal with all the problems that will pop up on that side of things. And in this line of thinking, do the best you can to bolster all of your systems with backups as much as possible. If something's possibly gonna fail (even if it seems pretty failsafe), have a backup plan. Maybe two or three depending on the severity. You can have umpteen projects under your belt, but the unexpected will always rear its ugly head.

Back to the Future, then - all of our contests for 180 have wrapped up, see here for the Winner's Circle. The whole thing didn't quite play out like I was expecting, but overall it was a wonderful experience and I am happy with how it's ended up. As mentioned previously, I could have handled some things differently with this experience but I feel it was a tremendous learning experience. For me personally, it was quite a rush to compete with my fans in the top score contest. It was actually a lot of work :) I almost got my butt handed to me!

As for the next step with 180, Ben is interested to put out some kind of update this month. I am obviously quite interested on expanding on what we've done, but I don't want to repeat the previous development cycle, so I think it will be pretty stripped-down. I am talking to a few external parties about some inclusions in the next build (branding, external promotional aids) and that is obviously very important to supporting the game's lifespan, so that's the big priority. Also, I am planning to rework the Point of Sale (as it were) elements, namely the icon and iTunes screenshots, and description. That (lighter stuff) should all come online within a week or so.

One thing I am considering is a whole different approach to marketing, that is pouring some real money into it and seeing what can happen. I have tried a ton of guerilla marketing, grassroots, etc but it is not putting me where I need to be. "You've got to spend money to make money," which is true always. Not sure if that is the right method either, but it is something I will at least do some research on. I realize now that you can't market a game like 180 to the hardcore gamers, you need to target the casual players and they are not inhabiting the same space! If there is anyone out there reading this who has some perspective on this particular situation (positive/negative) please be in touch, as it's quite important and I have a lot to discuss.

What Else is Going On - there's a lot to think about, going forward from this point. It's been such a crazy time (lots of good, lots of bad) but mainly my focus is that I have enjoyed this entire process and all that it's got me so far - I'd love to be able to continue on with this thrust, with this scene. I am extremely busy with other matters (trying to keep the lights on) so Headcase development has been in a bit of a holding pattern for a long time now. I am very excited to pick up and go forth with another programmer, he's extremely capable and I know we have some incredible potential together, after all that has happened. I am doing my best to not try and keep him happy while he waits for me to move forward with those all-important next steps. This is so crucial to moving this whole development any further, and though I might make it sound very light, all that's going on right now has proven to be one of the most trying points in my entire career. If the course can be maintained, then some awesome things will happen :)

Otherwise, I have rebooted the Free Daily Apps Twitter Contest (LINK). This is really my big experiment with Viral Marketing and I feel like I could write a book on just this phase alone. It got off to a very messy start (see above, "Forces Beyond my Control") but still feels like perhaps one of the most valuable weapons in my arsenal, so to speak. Using my actual games to grab attention has always been negligible in many ways, but using other people's games seems rock-solid. Very excited to see how it all plays out - very excited!

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