The dismal sales of Zombies Ala Mode and the success of Float has really taught us a lot about the business and process of making mobile games. Our ideas have drastically changed in a short amount of time and I want to share with you our approach. Side note, this post is not our recommendation on how you should approach making games, rather its simply our thinking on the subject and what you can expect from us in the future.
I’m not sure how people perceive our company, but here is the truth…Crawl Space is a side company that we are trying to make our full time gig. We own a small design studio doing branding and web design for clients. We are making games in the time between client work and we are working very hard to make the leap to full time game development.
Prior to the release of Float, none of our games have been able to recoup the development costs. Lots of time was spent learning the software, developing our process, and all of the ins and outs of making mobile apps. Some of that is to be expected with venturing into a new industry, but some of it was bad business decisions. On Zombies Ala Mode in particular we threw a lot of time and money at a game that yielded disappointing numbers. Float on the other hand is a simple game developed in the course of month that will most likely bring in around $40,000 this year. Not bad for a silly little balloon game.
So we are approaching making a mobile game business in the following ways. First, we have made the decision to limit the scope of our games to something we can create in one months time. Two, our games will be simple games with one or two mechanics. Three, the games will be 2D. Four, we will spend as little as possible on assets for the game upfront.
We came to all of these decisions based upon our need to lower the risk of making games. Like all indie developers, we have very limited time and resources, so we need to make wise decisions to really maximize them. For example, the one month time limit was self imposed to help us fight feature creep. Its very easy to keep coming up with cool new features and ideas for a game and before long the scope of the project has ballooned way past the original game idea. This happened to us with Zombies Ala Mode. We added more modes, and art, and cool little touches that extended our development time by a couple months.
The choice to make 2D games comes from the simple fact that 2D games are easier to create and take less time. Our first game, Knife Toss, was made in 3d using Unity. Since that time we have focused on 2D games because its a lot faster. Modelling, texturing, rigging, and working out the camera system all take time. 2D games are simpler to make and more approachable for casual gamers. Take a survey of the top selling mobile games and the majority of them are 2D.
The funny thing about all of our constraints, self imposed or otherwise, is that they force us to be more creative. The fact that we choose not to spend very much money for assets forces us to create our own. Our self imposed one month time limit forces us to find the fun in an idea and focus on that. And the very fact that we are limited to making simple one or two mechanic games is actually perfect for the mobile market. We’re taught to fight constraints and think outside the box, but by embracing the constraints and thinking within the limitations of the box actually produces better products.
So what can you expect from us this year? Currently we have five games sketched out and all of them fit in the model I have described. And if we can make a few games a year that do around the same success level as Float that will enable us to cover a few salaries and hopefully make the leap to full time game development.
Are you an indie trying to make the same leap? Let us know your plan we would love to hear it.