1. RBourne
    April 11, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    Great article, but I’m surprised there isn’t a mention on the humblebundle / indie bundle deals as they started to get popular roughly at the time of Wave’s release? Do you think it would / still will have a major impact if your game is included in one?


    • Rob
      April 11, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

      Absolutely but more because it would put the game in front of a few hundred thousand pairs of eyes that have never even heard of it before not because it’s cheap.

  2. Donncha O Caoimh
    April 11, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    Great post mortem. Thanks for being so frank about the numbers and congrats on the 15k sales.

    I didn’t buy your game and I was oh so tempted to but I was one of those “but I’ve played Geometry Wars and Beat Hazard” people. Have you updated the Steam demo as well as the main game?

    PS. glad to see you’re using WP Super Cache, hope you get lots of traffic to this post!


    • Rob
      April 11, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

      All the fixes that have gone into the full game are in the demo as well but it’s still just the crunch time mode.

  3. Brainwaves: Rob Hales Offers Sobering Postmortem on ‘Waves’ | The Indie Game Magazine - Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads
    April 11, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    […] Whether you’re interested in Waves or not, it’s all a tremendously intriguing insight into the muddy waters of video game marketing and finances, one that translates superbly into the difficulties faced by any developer without the financial backing of huge third parties or publishing firms. It’s a great read too, and I’d strongly urge anyone to take a look at it here. […]


  4. Nicholas Lovell
    April 11, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    Can you capitalise on the existing user base. You’ve got 15k people who like what you do?

    – Make a new mode and sell it as DLC for £5
    – keep the global leaderboards, but make new weekly ones. People will come back to stay at the top each week. A global leaderboard says to people “I’m never going to reach that level, what’s the point?”
    – without having played it, and based purely on your piece, it strikes me that there be a steep difficulty curve with limited handholding from you. Have you looked at places where people get stuck? Could you make a patch to smooth the difficulty curve?
    – It is important to keep existing fans happy. It’s also important to make enough money to live on and to make your new game. I would aim for a balance there, rather than not making changes for fear of alienating existing players.


    • Rob
      April 11, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

      The weekly leaderboard thing is something I’d like to do BUT my hands are tied by the functionality Steamworks provides and such a thing isn’t possible with their systems right now.

      People pick up the game very quickly when they play and there isn’t really a learning curve problem. It’s very easy to do OK at the game but alot of people don’t stick with it long enough to start to understand how to to do really really well at it. I actually tell you how to play the game well in many points inside it already. People who bounce off Waves tend to do so because there is nothing left to see that’s new (despite the fact that you can get a lot of value out of Waves if your goal with it was to get good at it not just “Complete” it).

    • Rob
      April 11, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

      The more I think about the short-term leaderboards you suggest the more it makes sense. When people gather around an arcade machine they have competitions amongst themselves over a short period of time and if somebody happens to break the top spot then it’s a big event. You completely lack that when it comes to a single global leaderboard. The person at the top may never play the game again and stay at the top.

      Online leaderboards however will never compensate for alot of what made Arcade games great in the eithgies and nineties and that was the Arcade itself with crowds of people watching you play. It put a great emphasis on trying to be good at the game and and it’s something you lose when you’re sitting in your pants playing alone in your living room.

  5. Steven Duda
    April 12, 2012 @ 2:45 am

    First of all I’d like to congratulate you on your 15k sales of Waves. Now I’ll be honest here and say before I came to this blog entry, I have never heard or seen of your game. Nor have I played the demo yet (I’m currently downloading it though). It seems like your game is hiding in a corner to gamers eye’s so to speak. As you mention in the “Why am I not rich” section, There are no Youtube videos for your game. Only two, the trailer and TotalBiscuit’s video (which was not good for your game). Youtube has a HUGE ammount of gamers posting videos about games with their voiceover/realtime-reactions on their videos. You should try to capitalize on that. You could do that by giving a free copy of your game to a youtuber with a “big” number of subscribers and ask them if they could do a video on your game. You may think thats a lost sale but is it really a “lost sale” if there was never a sale in the first place? Or you can try Reddit to spread the word of your game. Make a post to /r/Games and I’m sure it would pick up steam from there. Now this can all backfire on you and not make any sales from it. But you can’t get a reward if you don’t take any risks. Also have you considered making a GOG.com release for your game? While I applaud you for making on Steam (Which makes a bunch of PC Gamers happy) but Steam itself has a really big market. The only way for someone to find your game is if they actively search for it. GOG.com just started to sell indie and new games. So it’s market is not as big as Steam’s. Then again thats my two cents on this, now I’m off to try the demo. Take care!


    • Rob
      April 12, 2012 @ 7:26 am

      I have actually tried to do exactly what you suggest and there are videos exactly as you describe on Youtube. The problem is in finding them and only people specifically looking for the game on Youtube will ever actually dig them up. These are normally people who are already customers.

      Aside from Total Biscuit and Yogscast I don’t know of any Youtubers with the number of subscribers that would make this strategy really work and I’ve already approached those two about this (Total Biscuit isn’t interested and the Yogs are pretty much only about Minecraft these days). I had great difficulty actually finding any of the big Youtubers out there beyond those two.

  6. james
    April 12, 2012 @ 5:24 am

    How long did it take you to make the whole game? do you think had you done it in half the time and cut some of the features that the success would have felt more balanced after release? or do you feel the quality would have been so impacted that it would have sold nothing?

    Also the Geometry Wars thing did get to me a little, not because it looked like geometry wars (which it only does a little), but because it had the same name as the GW included in PGR4 (or was it 3) Gemoetry Wars: Waves. I don’t buy PC games, which is actually the only reasopn I havent picked this up. But if you hack on to iOS I’ll be grabbing a copy for sure. I did see it mentioned a few times before release, and was interested in it. Good luck with your next game 🙂


  7. Rade Martinović
    April 12, 2012 @ 7:05 am

    I liked your article verymuch. It gives good insight into financing and getting your game outhere for true indy developer.

    Maybe one feature that could help your game is saving replay files or videos of playthroughs? This could be replayed, captrured and uploaded on YT and showed off to your friends. Or maybe even someone could start an online tournament in Waves and people could send their replay files and compare them between themselves.

    But, in the end, having the game on the consoles or in the Humble bundle would mean so much. That is probably the only thing you could have done to improve marketing of the game without breaking the bank.


  8. SimonHawk
    April 12, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    I watched TotalBicuit’s WTF is Waves and then I downloaded the demo. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to buy the game next time I have some money in spare. I think it unfair to say that TB made 150000 people not buy the game (I would never have heard of it if i didn’t watch the video), but at the same time i think that he missed the point of the game, or at least the time mode.


    • Rob
      April 12, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

      Total biscuit isn’t the only person who exaggerates for effect. My point is that while I no doubt got a handful of sales from his video if he had liked the game the potential existed for his channel subscribers alone to pin it to the top sellers list on steam for a day (from where it is likely to self perpetuate its position from the increased exposure).

    • zotquix
      April 14, 2012 @ 11:07 am

      I’ve never quite understood the allure of TotalBiscuit. I find his reviews lacking in critical thinking. He’s a style over substance guy and is far too taken with himself. An accent and lots of opinion do not a great reviewer make.

      Anyways, hopefully this is all a stepping stone for you Rob. You grow your fame a little with each awesome release you make, right? Getting rich happens when some critical mass occurs in your body of work where people are saying, “Should I check out this game by this developer?” and someone in the crowd answers “Oh yes, he made that excellent Arena Shooter, Waves!” Then suddenly you have someone buying two games from you instead of just one.

  9. Lc
    April 12, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Great article thanks for sharing what some would consider private figures! As this has been picked up by penny arcade report it should get you a big enough ‘advertising’ boost just from readers, after all I’m off to Steam now to find your game. GL in the future.


  10. Waves developer blogs postmortem | The Player Character
    April 12, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    […] Squid in a Box via Gamasutra Help us save the world: Tags: Indie […]


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