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Coconut Dodge dev: iOS is all about luck

Coconut Dodge dev: iOS is all about luck

Thu 28 Jun 2012 7:24am GMT / 3:24am EDT / 12:24am PDT
Mobile

Futurlab's James Marsden explains why indie devs should head for the PSN

James Marsden of UK development studio Futurlab has urged independent developers to skip the iOS gold rush, and look to PlayStation Minis to make their mark.

"I think the Vita is a great platform for indies," Marsden told Gamasutra.

"It frustrates me that iOS is the flame the moths are flying towards -- ultimately they are doomed unless they've got enormous resources for visibility. Even though you might not win big on Minis, you're pretty much guaranteed to make some sales. This, for me, is a better first step for people getting started."

Selling more copies of its titles Coconut Dodge on PSN independently than it did with EA's support on iOS has led Marsden to believe the App Store is just a risk for smaller developers.

"If you're an indie, luck plays such a huge role that it's not worth trying."

He was eager to praise Sony's support of indies, and said it allowed the team to make deeper games as a result.

"Sony's really open for independent developers to come and publish on its platform, and I think they're probably the only platform holder that's really giving developers this window of opportunity," he continued.

"The way we see it is we want to make proper, immersive gaming experiences. We don't want to make iOS distract-em-ups. For us to do that as a newbie is really tough: we're going up against the studios that have been established for 10, 15 years."

Futurlab's most recent title is Velocity, which it also released as a PlayStation Mini, and which has over 100,000 users.

11 Comments

Greg Knight
Freelance Developer

56 49 0.9
Come on then. Sales figures?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Knight on 28th June 2012 8:45am

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
The marketing challenge of iOS is to make your own luck.

Posted:2 years ago

#2
I agree with him about Vita being a great piece of hardware and velocity looks cool. But if you make an IOS distract-em-up about coconuts falling on a crab, I'm not so sure I'd reach for cosmic bad luck as my primary reason it didn't shift zillions.

Posted:2 years ago

#3
Barry: LOL.

These kind of articles are dangerous, someone might take that without grain of salt. There are hundreds of devs whose game flopped on, say, PC. Does that mean that PC is crappy platform and success is just a gamble? Think not.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

James Marsden
Managing Director

6 1 0.2
Totally a believer of making one's own luck, but there's only so much you can do with limited resources. I say that being very confident that you'd find it hard to knock our innovative marketing efforts (http://gamasutra.com/blogs/JamesMarsden/20120618/172524/How_We_Approached_The_Press_For_Velocity_Reviews.php - also check the follow up reply and links in the comments).

Minis simply makes the job of making your *first* mark a lot easier than iOS. We were able to establish a small fan base with Coconut Dodge on minis, and enough revenue to start making our next game. Velocity was 2 years of graft alongside work for hire projects, and I was not going to risk that amount of work on the App Store, having witnessed Coconut Dodge's failure in the hands of EA. Just to be clear, I am not blaming EA for the failure, nor am I saying we had *bad luck* - the reality of the AppStore just makes it too much of a risk for someone just starting out, and needing to make something in return to keep going.

My comments also come as a result of witnessing devs around me that have spent years of time and effort making iOS games that have also flopped - whereas if they'd self published the same game on minis, it would have made *something* back for the effort invested, and allowed them to continue.

I hope all this comes across clearly :)

Edited 5 times. Last edit by James Marsden on 29th June 2012 11:08am

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Nick Baynes
Studio Head

5 5 1.0
James, I think the hardest thing right now for getting your argument listened to is the lack of other Mini's developers coming out and agreeing with you vocally. At the moment, as far as I can see, Futurlab is a lone voice proclaiming how amazing Minis are compared to other platforms for small devs (or maybe you're just the only one good at getting mainstream coverage!)

One success story in isolation doesn't mean that everyone is going to sit up and take notice and agree with you.... I'm curious as to why other devs aren't jumping on the back of your recent publicity to also shout about how great Minis have been for them? I wonder if it's because a lot of devs look at Minis as a stepping stone, or an additonal revenue stream to iOS etc whereas you're championing them as a viable platform to focus on (for which I applaud you)

Nick

Posted:2 years ago

#6

James Marsden
Managing Director

6 1 0.2
I would hazard a guess it's because it takes quite a bit of courage to champion a platform publically when you're not rich yet :)

I don't expect that any minis developers are rolling in the cash, but there are developers like Laughing Jackal, Dakko Dakko and Mediatonic that have had repeat business with minis, so they must be getting something out of it. Laughing Jackal are approaching 1,000,000 downloads of their games, most of which are on minis.

I do believe minis is a stepping stone to bigger things - that's certainly our goal - but the word needs to get out there that it is a *good* first step to take. One that rewards effort with a fanbase, reviews in major publications and... sales :)

Come on Laughing Jackal, give minis a bit of love on here...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by James Marsden on 29th June 2012 11:37am

Posted:2 years ago

#7
Hiya James,
Ha that velocity mail was great, I just may steal that sir :P
Vita makes a ton of sense now for small companies for exactly the reason you pointed out: easier to get noticed in a relatively high profile platform, so it's easier to chieve 'enough' sales to guarantee a sequal, though of course you are passing up on the selling-kabillions-on-IOS dream due to the (current) limited userbase numbers.

On your other point, I think lot of indy devs that fail simply try to make a better version of a game or gameplay they love that already exists. Where that is the route to success, and it can be, it really is a path involving scary amounts of luck and, even more useless, trend.

There are other options of course. For me I think if we are to become real game makers then that means leaving behind what's come before for new ideas, new IP, "new ways to entertain" as EA might say. You always have your influences with you anyway, so why put them on screen? Better to push the new, the special, the unique, to stand out, make your own trend.

But more basically, I just think if I'm lucky enough in life to get a chance to create something in an industry I love, I want to be like my heroes and make something brand new. In any creative/entertainment field, noone will or should care about folks just doing whats expected. People like surprise, no matter how much investors and luminaries tell us what the crowd likes is familiarity, repetition, predictive behaviour and similar sinister shite. The crowd those eejits are talking about there is themsleves.

Best of luck to you guys with Velocity anyway James. We're trying our own luck on IOS this year - maybe in six months I'll have an article bemoaning our fate :P

Posted:2 years ago

#8

James Marsden
Managing Director

6 1 0.2
Agreed, we'd much rather build a reputation for innovation and good ideas. Velocity as a project was chosen very carefully. With limited resources (no artist in-house), we knew we could push the nostalgia button whilst doing something completely new that nobody had seen before (Teleportation).

I'm also slightly (heavily) biased toward devices with physical controls. One reviewer said it better than I ever could:

"Elegantly taking down a series of switches while fending off enemy attacks and bombing a defence grid directly activates the part of my brain that makes me love games."

- Velocity has very high input intensity gameplay. It uses all the buttons on the device in quick succession, ramped up from pedestrian and easy to insane levels of proficiency: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odqiZd9P_uI

It therefore just wouldn't work on touch-only devices.

There must be others out there like me, who want to make twitch-based games, but are making touch based games because iOS represents a (potentially) bigger financial reward.

That goes against my creative sensibilities so much that it makes me feel a bit nauseous... Minis would be good for those folks too :p

--

EDIT: How rude of me not to say: Best of luck with your project :)

Edited 3 times. Last edit by James Marsden on 29th June 2012 12:37pm

Posted:2 years ago

#9
Thanks James, you too sir :)

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Daren Morgan
Developement Manager

1 0 0.0
Sorry for joining the conversation a little late 

This is going to be a little weird as we have done the minis thing first and will be trying the iOS route a little later this year. So not sure how the results will pan out. So at the moment I cannot compare the two.







And the reason for our large numbers of downloads on PSN is due to good relations, being in constant promotions and being very, very aggressive on price.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

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