Lazer Bears Games is currently speaking from the players point of view because developers buy games too and, in addition to that, we must clarify that we have never been in touch with the people of GOG.com so we won’t and we can’t comment on their distribution services from the developers side.
We (mostly) all love Steam, a service that has brought many innovations to the PC space, but we also love competition and Steam hasn’t had a decent competitor in a while.
GOG history started in 2009 as Good Old Games, a digital distribution service for old PC games owned by those guys behind The Witcher. It took 3 years to became a full game distributor by hosting new AAA and indie games and therefore entering direct competition with Steam&co.
GOG has continued to grow in the years but it needed something to be on par with Steam: a client and game services.
These needs have materialized few days before E3 when they announced GOG Galaxy: the optional client with auto updates, cloud saves, achievements, social stuff and multiplayer.
You may ask what’s so special about a service filling the gap with Steam with years of delay and here’s the thing:
- GOG.com is completely DRM-Free
- GOG Galaxy is completely optional
- There is cross play with Steam
- and price parity across regions.
These are pretty good reasons to try Gog.com but how could it change the PC Gaming landscape?
- DRM are always bad if the games don’t incorporate services (for instance dedicated servers paid by the developer/publisher/etc..). If the market will react positively towards a DRM-free store competing with Steam it may change how drm are perceived by publishers and distributors. Piracy will be deincentived by secondary game services available only to legal custumers like achievements, cloud saves, social interactions and similar.
- The possibility to have a drm and service free version of the game means that you can easily have a “standard edition” of the product to backup and you shouldn’t be concerned of the distributor fate. It would be like having a retail disc.
- Steam itself is changing: dozens of games are released and/or greenlighted each month; Valve is planning to replace Greenlight with something similar to personal stores which in theory is good because it won’t be difficult to self-publish on Steam like it was untile a couple of years ago but at the same time the risk of an overpopulation on the service shouldn’t been taken easily. Wheter or not the new Valve solution will be good, having ,at least , another successfull store will be helpful. Developers will have two chances to be in the spotlight, not only one. It may seems nothing but it could be fundamental for some indie games.
GOG.com is not alone…
The Humble Store is another new distributions service which offers DRM-free games but, insted of having a proprietary client, uses Steam keys when available. Fueled by Humble Bundles it seems to have acquired a decent market share.
Having three major distribution services could be the perfect scenery for an healthy competition in the PC market.
We are now Wii U Developers
We applied on the website the same day it opened and we are now able to develop on the Wii U platform with Unity and self publish on the Nintendo eShop.
Unfortunately our project pipeline didn’t had anything in an advanced state to bring to the Wii U but we may resurrect an old prototype later this year.
We find this opportunity appealing but, at the same time, we want to release something that will deserve its own space on a Nintendo console (aka great quality).
At the moment, for various reasons, the projects we have under development are built with other platforms in mind, therefore you’ll have to wait for a while to see us experimenting on the Wii U.
Currently most of our efforts go towards the unannounced PC game and the Desert Prototype.
What have we been doing in the last months?
Unfortunately it has to be put on hold, the source code will be released but due to adverse situations we can’t tell you when.
The game has been released in march on Android and iOS for the Flappy Jam IV (Info and results here), it wasn’t a success but it was expected of course.
During the GDC the Unreal Engine 4 was made available for 19.90$/month and it looked like the best thing ever so we started porting our next project into the new engine, which is…
An open world adventure Pc game. It’s still in the early protype phase but you can see an early map full of placeholders in the screen above.
More info in an upcoming post.
Unannounced PC Game
Part of the team is contributing on a Pc game which is expected to be released on a famous Pc service this fall or early next year. You will know its name later.
Release Date(s): 5/03/2014 (Android), 16/03/2014 (iOS)
The game was designed literally following the jam guidelines. Making a clone was pointless(but it could have been slighty more remunerative), therefore we aimed to reproduce the “successful” Flappy Bird formula from another point of view:
Simple mechanics + penalizing controls system + unforgiving design
The formula was translated in:
- Endless runner where you have to jump into point areas (rings)
- You have to load the jump first by tapping and then release at the right time to execute the jump. The loading time is linearly proportional to the jump height.
- One collision and it’s game over. You can collide with the ring top, bottom, deadly spikes and platforms. Rings are placed at 5 different heights and there are 14 different combinations of level elements mixing randmly.
The result was an hard game that was a bit more complex game than Flappy Bird. Internal testing showed that in Hedgy Jumper it was a bit easier to reach a minimum of 5 points (WRONG!).
The jump mechanics, despite being tuned to be responsive and scalable, weren’t seen as a great design element, but it was a jam and the project had to be shipped!
In the end the game was packed with a simple animal themed art (jumping + rings = Sonic -> hedgehog) and an ironic trailer was baked during a lunch break using gameplay footage.
The Android release went smoothly as silk wait.. not it didn’t: the game was mistakenly submitted to the Play Store in its alpha stage two days in advance (Dear Google, please don’t put the Beta and Alpha tabs next to the release one)
The iOS release wasn’t better: a surprisingly well written 2 star review in the US store crushed our dreams in the american market (I’m serious: if there were more reviews like that one, the mobile store market will be a lot better)
Budget: around 60€
A wide range of different approaches have been tempted. We knew that the app was almost impossible to market because there wasn’t nothing special about it.
- Sharing the game on appropriate subreddits, forums and other boards - Free
- Request media coverage -
Freelots of hours wasted
- Facebook Ads - 20€
- Admob - 20€
- Fiverr - 15$
- Other - remaining budget
The game was featured in two websites and reviewed together with other mobile games on IGN Italia.
I can’t say one of these approaches boosted the sales, Sharing and Admob gave some results but in the end they weren’t enough and I consider the money spent on them wasted.
Fiverr could be a powerful tool but it won’t boost your sales. In the last days sales improved because the game was featured in the new sections of the App Store in Italy and the Uk.
If you are a small developer selling a free apps is very hard to make traditional ads services profitable: you are practically paying every download and you’re not earning almost anything by it. Using ads to climb the charts on the release could be an option but it requires a LOT of money.
Following the last mobile phenomenon was a “waste of time” as forecasted( unless you develop a shameful clone sold at a lowered price shortly after the original game release).
Mobile gamers don’t seem to care about hard games even though they are very simple. Flappy Bird probably was (even more) successful because it was a viral phenomon (The success of the easier clone of Threes, 2048, fit this explanation)
The best way to be successful in the mobile market for a small developer is probably the oldest one: develop beautiful innovative game which often means to put lots of time and money on a relatively big project (unless you master minimalistic game design like Terry Cavanagh ).
However the jam experience was helpful and positive!
The time has come
If you want to try another game, Doge Run, is available on Play Store, it’s Android version is not part of the jam but it’s going to be released on iOS soon.
The sales results for the entire month of March will be published as soon the developers post them.
How to use the Admob Unity plugin with Play Game Services on Android
The official Unity Admob plugin for Unity has been updated so you can now use it together with Google’s achievements and leaderboards.
I’m using it with the Google Play Game Services plugin for Unity and I’ll show you how I integrated them:
- Install the GPGS plugin
- Install the Admob plugin without copying the google-play-services_lib folder in Plugins/Android
- Integrate the plugins in your code
The admob plugins works well except for a bug on iOS: the banner can’t be placed at the bottom.