Maciej Sawitus, the developer behind Melbourne-based indie, Pixel Elephant, has written a series of blog entries on his latest mobile physics puzzle game called Monstaaa!. Monstaaa! was released in late June for the iOS to some favourable reviews from critics and gamers alike, with scores of 8/10 , 4.5/5, 4/5 on app review websites.
If you haven't read Maciej's development updates on Monstaaa! yet, it is highly recommended reading. Maciej started his indie journey after his four year stint as engine/technology programmer at Blue Tongue ended when the studio closed up in late 2011. He outlines the costs involved with setting up himself as an indie developer, and what tools SDK's he chose to use and why, all of which serves as useful tips for indie developers out there. Pixel Elephant has also released one other game, a great Sokoban inspired title called Puzzled Rabbit, late last year.
For the release of Monstaaa!, Maciej was able to gather a whole lot of stats from those playing it, making for some extremely insightful charts on the behaviour Monstaaa! gamers, how many will complete levels, and how many will retry after failing, with some surprising conclusions....
(Maciej) Only 70% of all players completed the first level, 62% completed second level and only 10% completed the 9th level. And just so you know if haven’t played the game – the first and second levels are really easy – you have to really try hard not to complete them and there’s no way you can fail!
So, what are the conclusions here? On one hand this doesn’t look very good because it means most people only play the game for a very short time. But on the other hand we should probably take into account the characteristics of average iOS/Android players – it is very common for them to buy the game, run it once or twice and then stop playing it forever.
There are additional sales charts which show where sales spikes happened, and nifty pie charts showing the split on the platforms that Monstaaa! is running on both iOS and Android.
iOS sales in general eclipse those on Android for the same titles, and the reasons for this have been put down to the reluctance of Android consumers to pay for apps, so it's with this mindset that Maciej decided to release Monstaaa! on Google Play for free but have an in-app purchase option to buy the full game. It sounds like a solid plan, but unfortunately, for the three weeks that Monstaaa! has been available in Google Play, it has only managed to gather 22 sales, despite the Android version having a whole lot more players than on iOS.
Maciej admits that the Android version received relatively little in marketing, with the most reviews for Monstaaa! were for the iOS version.
While Maciej found the sales numbers disappointing for Monstaaa!, he isn't pessimistic about indie development and plans to have another go some time in the future. For the meantime, he's heading back into the studio...
My experiment with indie game development hasn’t worked out financially so far but I didn’t even spend a year on it and, fortunately, I also didn’t spend too much money on it. By making and releasing two games I learned a lot about mobile game development and I do plan to try again in some future! In the “meantime” I’m going back to more stable life joining one Electronic Arts studio in Melbourne which I’m sure will be another exciting chapter on my game development adventure!
In a way, it's a cautionary tale which echos similar to Tony Takoushi's comments on app development. Great reviews don't always translate to sales. it's a shame because Monstaaa! looks like a very polished and fun title that deserves so much more success. If you haven't grabbed a copy yet, it's available on the App Store for 99 cents here and Google Play here.