I apologize in advance for the strident tone of the upcoming message, but we have to make a decision and soon:
If our business were measured in bandwidth used, we'd be able to
employ 10 people. Our sites are now, as a matter of routine, serving
1700 episode downloads a month (yes, that's over 50 a day), and up to
(and often exceeding) 15GB of data a month. We opened an entire new
server to handle the capacity, and it's (now meager seeming) bandwidth
was gone in a matter of days.
They click on the wallpaper, and they click on the video and they click
on the character pages, and the graphics, and the glossies, and...
then they come to the registration page, and leave.
I don't think we've done a poor job of promotion. Our traffic is up
12,000% (that's a comma) in the past year. But the development costs are
not being covered by the sales of our product, and I frankly am out of ideas
I don't think we're releasing episodes fast enough, although we're at or
I think at some point we got the words "KIDS GAME" stamped on our foreheads,
and have since been ignored by most of the adventure game fans.
Despite the mammoth amount of data that leaves our web sites every day, when
it comes to sales and responses/reactions from adventure fans (and most other
people who we presumed would be interested in our game), the line is as
flat as a calm lake, and I can't understand it.
Sorry to say it folks, but this is NOT a market that can be subdivided. If a
company goes out and makes an adventure game, they need every single adventure
game fan, and then some, to buy it, or there will be no sequel. Period. We
cannot justify developing a game for the "kids adventure market" even if there
were such a thing, which there isn't. We have no publisher pockets to fall
back on if we don't get the unit sales we need, and if adventure game fans
are going to adopt a "wait and see" attitude about new development
companies, then there will be no more adventure games.
It really is that simple.
Either fans of these games open their wallets, or the future will consist of
about three publishers making $40 million sequels and clones of FPS games that
stopped doing anything original almost 10 years ago. If you look around,
you can see it happening already. There are right now about seven viable
publishers left, and they're all in a headlong race to see who can lose the
most money the fastest in an attempt to become Hollywood.
People complain and whine and moan that corporate products are dull and boring
and repetitive, but when the time comes to ring the cash register bell, the
sign on the building always says "Big Company Inc." and the little guy is out
of luck. It's very simple: If you want original, non-corporate products,
you have to BUY them. Not ask for them, not complain.
I cannot convince a game publisher to make more original games unless I can walk
in with 10,000 unit sales. Unit sales shut down the skeptics. Unit sales
shut down the bean counters. Unit sales shut down the uncooperative executives.
"Yeah, but everyone wants a new adventure game" might get your parking validated,
but that's about it.
I've been studying and working in the game industry for about five years now.
There are two ways to get a game made: either pitch to a publisher with "it's
just like _______ but with a twist" or fund it yourself. That's why the entire
market is the same eight games with different titles. The little guy cannot
go up against Electronic Arts and their eight-figure per-project payrolls, so
it's sequel city, and nobody is going to listen to the complaints.
Now we spent three years working on LadyStar. We spent 14 months doing market
research, about eight months on the engine and over a year on the story and
characters. Sounds like a long time, but Electronic Arts we ain't. We can't
afford to throw 18 people at a project, and most of us have day jobs, so it's
nights (long, late nights) and weekends. The amount of work required to build
and release a finished product is absolutely staggering, and I have to hand it
to the rest of our team. You had to be there to believe it.
But for all of that, we just can't get that buy button clicked no matter what we
do, and if we don't start generating sustainable, bankable sales soon, and I mean
soon as in days or maybe a couple of weeks, we're going to have to drop the
adventure portion of LadyStar and make it into a linear story, more like a visual
novel or something similar. A handful of registrations a month will not
feed the bulldog.
The work required to build and populate 70-location puzzles with corresponding
inventory and graphics, and the days and days of playtesting required is just
too time-consuming, and it really doesn't seem to matter to anyone.
In the time it took us to develop the third episode, we could have finished the
first volume if it were in a linear format, and I think it wouldn't have mattered
a whit to the visitors on our site.
Our best (and only) reactions come from the graphics, story and characters, and if
that's what people want, then our decision is made. I say that because the only
reactions we get are the occasional "wow, this is cool" in our guestbook. That's
great, and we appreciate the compliments, but when our sales to downloads ratio is
dropping like a rock, and the 1700 people a month
who download episodes are just sitting on their side of the table with their arms
folded, there's nothing we can do. Even if someone were to say "this game is
awful and here's why" and 20 other people agreed, that would be useful, because
that's fixable. We're willing to work hard to make fun games for people, but
now that we've taken the risk, we can't find the reward.
Our (bug fix) announcement on this forum, with the exception of the
administrator's announcements, for example, is the only one on the
main page with 0 responses.
Women say they want games with more female protagonists. We got SEVEN of them.
Women (and girls) say they want more games for girls, but the only company they
buy from is Mattel.
Adventure game fans say they want more new adventures. We're building 52 episodes
of more new adventures.
Game players in general clamor for more original games, then when some company
goes WAY out on a limb to provide what they are demanding, they wander off.
Now it could be that we're just new and we need more time to develop a market, but
at this point I have no reason to believe that 10 more episodes or 20 more
episodes is going to convince anyone to buy LadyStar. I'd be more likely to
believe that "we're too new" if we weren't serving up 1000 page views a day and
50 episodes to go with them.
Besides, we're talking about a price equivalent here of two lunches for some
four dozen hours (we estimate) of entertainment, and you'd think we were
selling Cadillacs for the amount of effort we have to expend to get one sale.
Things will either change or we will go out of business. It's that
simple. If you aren't seeing what you want in our products, we're
listening: often and intently; but we don't hear anything.
Now I don't want sympathy registrations. If the game has problems, then
we'll fix them as long as they don't require a total re-think of the entire
concept. Small companies like ours are absolutely dependent on unit sales.
We can't just cancel the project, write off the cost and lay everyone off.
But if we don't start generating regular, sustained sales, then we'll have
to go in another direction. Again, I apologize for the strident tone, but I
want to see adventure games succeed too. Comments are appreciated.
Thanks for your time.