I worked part-time (a few hours a day, with many days off) on the game from December to May/June (6 months). Before that, I worked on another cancelled project for 2 months. This projects allowed me to create a base engine that I used for Spring Up Harmony. Spring Up Harmony was approved about 1.5 months after being completed. I just made a few bugfixes during this time, I was working on other stuff at the same time.
What Went Right
– Developing a sequel to a previous game was efficient because I had less game design troubles than usual. Some part of the work was just “basic” porting from C++ to C# so this went quite quickly. I decided to re-do the level design and modify some gameplay elements but that was very beneficial to the final game. I think the improvements made to the original were good.
– I now have a proper 2D Game Engine to use in future games. It also includes a physics engine (Box2D). The main change that will be made to the engine will probably be the particle engine that is currently not properly integrated in the game.
– Spring Up Harmony received many reviews, and most of them were good. I got a lot less reviews with PC/Mac games.
– XBLIG platform is well done and doing the game on Windows then porting on X360 is really easy. However, even though my PC is not really powerful, I still had to spend about two weeks to optimize the game for the console (see various posts here and here about optimizations). This was interesting to do, though.
What Went Wrong
– Sales: after three weeks, the game sold only 62 copies (49 after the first 7 days).
– Downloads: after three weeks, 1184 downloads (954 after the first 7 days). The conversion ratio is acceptable but there should have been more downloads.
– Peer Review: the system of peer review used to get an XBL Indie Game approved is a good idea (basically, other developers try the game and pass or fail the game if they find crashes). However, the multilanguages process is really a failure. The first release candidate I made supported English and French. After getting the proper number of positive reviews, the submission process stopped to progress because none of the reviewers were speaking French. I decided to remove French support.
Possible reasons of the poor sales
– Price: My last PC/Mac game was initially sold for $20 (it’s now $7) and sold a few copies at that price so I was not used to ultra-low prices of XBLIG games. I had a few reviews noticing that the price was not the “usual” 80 MSP ($1). I think people really expect 80 MSPoints games. Selling the game for 240 MSP ($3) could have been a mistake.
– Game design: Spring Up Harmony may not be what people are looking for in Indie Games (lack of originality?)
– Cover picture: I don’t think the cover picture shows the genre nor the quality of the game. I mostly make this assumption because of the low downloads. I could be the game name too.
– Releasing during the summer: as Indie Games are seen whenon the “new releases” section of the Xbox dashboard, because of summer holidays (released 26th, July), I may have missed a few downloads.
Estimation of profit/loss
Some of these numbers are approximative for various reasons (exchange rates, not getting paid by Microsoft already…)
– Creators Club Membership : $126
– Art: $500
– Music/Sound: $91.13
– Estimated at $130 for now
That’s the first time I loose money on a game. I will probably still make another XBL Indie Game trying to avoid some mistakes and see how it goes (to be honest, the game is already in development ;)).
Feel free to comment!