Monday, April 30, 2012

Avernum Out For Windows, For What It's Worth.

A few weeks ago, Spiderweb Software finally released our newest role-playing game, Avernum: Escape From the Pit, for Windows. It's also out on Steam.

It's OK if you didn't notice, as a far higher profile indie RPG, Legend of Grimrock, came out the same day. It's a lot of fun and I'm almost done with it. I'll blog about it soon.

I've taken this long to blog about it (or anything) because work stress, increasing age, and family health issues have given me a persistent case of burnout. Burnout is an interesting issue. I'll blog about it soon.

Avernum: Escape From the Pit is doing well. It is old material. It's a rewrite of Avernum, which is itself a rewrite of Exile: Escape From the Pit. And yet, thanks to iTunes and Steam, it has already, in only a few months, earned as much as either of those titles earned in years and years. The revolutionary effect of Steam and iTunes on people trying to have my career simply cannot be understated. I'll blog about it soon.

Since it's a rewrite, it hasn't gotten as many reviews, which is fair. GameBanshee wrote a tough, fair, generally positive review which makes me want to write some interesting things about video games and art. No, I'm kidding. Writing about video games and art is never interesting. Still. I'll blog about it soon.

I've also been playing Mass Effect 3, when I can work up the energy. I'm not feeling it the way I felt Mass Effect 1 and 2, but I'm sure I can come up with some interesting things to say about it. I won't bother to write an actual review, as you've already finished it and made a YouTube video about how angry the ending made you. I'll blog about it soon.

Finally, Community has been having an amazing season. I won't blog about it, as Community fans are almost as tiresomely aggressive in their evangelism as The Wire fans and bronies. Still. If you watch it on Hulu before it gets cancelled (which should happen ... ... NOW), you can be ahead of the nerd-culture curve.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The iPad. Changing Fast and Faster.

I'll get the PR puffery out of the way early. We released our newest game, Avernum: Escape From the Pit HD, on the iPad last week. There are almost no old-school RPGs on the platform, and this is a good one.

OK. Done.

I wanted to talk a little about how much changed on the iPad (and the iPhone) in the mere eight months since we released our first game for it, Avadon: The Black Fortress HD, in June, 2011. It really fascinates me.

First, everything that was crazy before is more crazy. iPad sales have taken off even more than before, and competing tablets are being crushed by its awesomeness. (Yes, I think that the iPad is the superior tablet computer. Please feel free to pillory me in comments.) My previous game, Avadon HD, is selling far better than it did 4 or 5 months ago, just from increased popularity of the iPad.

Second, developers have noticed. The flood of new games for iPad and iPhone has not slowed at all. In fact, it feels like it's increased. I don't have figures to back this up, only my gut feeling. If you have a link to hard figures, please let me know in comments and I'll add it to the article. There are dozens of new games every day, and your blessed placement at the top of the New Releases list won't last long. At all.

Because of this, even though I think I've done a far better job marketing Avernum HD and creating its store page than Avadon HD, it is selling far worse. Avadon HD was the best-selling RPG for several days. Avernum HD got to #2 very briefly and then immediately plummeted to #18. It's not THAT worse a game, but the flood of competitors cannot be resisted by my cute, niche little product.

Do not feel sorry for me. It is still, by any reasonable human standard, makin' us good money. But it's really rough out there. I am strongly considering posting detailed sales figures in a week or three, just to let people see what the money end of iPad development is like.

Third, free-to-play is where the money is.

I just looked at the RPG section of iTunes. As of 3:56 PM, Pacific time, April 9, 2012, the #1, #2, and #3 games on the Paid Apps list are at #25, #27, and #6 on the Grossing list. (The #3 game is $6.99, which is why its grosses are so high.) The #18 sales rank for Avernum HD nets it #46 most grossing. Freemium games kick ass.

This is a relatively recent change. In June, when Avadon HD was #1 or #2 on Paid Apps, this resulted in #3-4 on Top Grossing. I never made #1 Grossing, but I came close. Now DragonVale rules the world.

This makes me feel obsolete. I should write a freemium RPG where you can pay real money to get a +5 Paladin Sword of Awesomeness or whatever. But I just can't bring myself to do it. It's ironic. When I started, I was one of the young turks challenging the old order with shareware by giving part of my game away for free. Now I am one of the old, cranky reptiles being pushed aside by an awesome marketing angle I'm just too old and inflexible to take advantage of.

I love developing for the iPad. I love the device. It is, to quote an imaginary guy in a story Mike Daisey made up, "a kind of magic." And, since I'm the only person writing my sort of game for the platform (which is weird), I foresee reasonable earnings from it for me for quite a while. Not everone with an iPad wants a game where you spend 99 cents to buy a hat for your dragon.

But it's the sexiest, moneyest, most cutthroat competitive market out there. I can scrape out some dollars because I have an established fanbase. If I was just starting out, I would be terrified of making my way in iTunes, and rightly so.