Rubicon: Porting to Windows RT only made us 52

"If other developers get this treatment, that store is going to look mighty bleak for a long time to come"

Paul Johnson, of UK developer Rubicon, has slammed the Windows RT marketplace after a port of his well received game Great Big War Game made just £52 from the platform in its first week on sale.

Johnson estimates the port to have cost the company somewhere in the region of £10,000.

Writing in a blog post on the developer's site, Johnson expressed extreme frustration at the lack of support he felt he received from Microsoft, making it clear that not only does he recommend other devs steer clear of RT, but that Rubicon will never be producing a game for a Microsoft platform again.

"A week after release we have made the princely sum of £52 in sales," he writes. "That's not a typo. And despite this, and the fact that GBWG is one of only several halfway decent launch titles, Microsoft have confirmed they will not give us any promotional features or help us with visibility in any way.

"If you're familiar with their new store, this means our app is forever consigned to the garbage bin, presumably earning us less than £52 a week in future. Even if that rate is sustained, it will take just under two years before we recoup the salary paid to the guy who did the port."

"We have wasted a lot of time, resources and money on supporting this platform and all that happened was we got spat on."

Paul Johnson, Rubicon.

Microsoft, feels Johnson, are putting out titles on the tablet OS to die, failing to offer any merchandising support and leaving developers feeling massively under appreciated.

"Apple regularly promote our apps," he continues. "Android regularly promote our apps. Even RIM (Blackberry) regularly promote our apps. We enjoy working with those companies and it's nice to see them acknowledge that we bring them some small amount of additional value to their setup. Firms our size need a bit of a leg up, and we go out of our way to show our gratitude to the above for helping us out in this way from time to time.

"Microsoft on the other hand clearly do not value us at all. Even whilst there's almost nothing to promote, they will not feature our title for bizarre admin reasons. And this is whilst their store is empty and they need developers like us to fill their store far more than developers like us need them to pay us £50 a week."

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Latest comments (15)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
That tagline is a bit harsh, we were talking just about Windows RT. However of course once MS see this story it might come to pass exactly as quoted!
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Dan Pearson Product Marketing Manager, Genvid8 years ago
Sorry Paul - the strap has been changed.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
Thanks Dan.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 7th December 2012 2:09pm

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Show all comments (15)
Rodrigo Contreras General Manager, Gamaga8 years ago
Mmmmh, I know it sounds bad from their point of view. But, doesn't it sound good for indies? I mean: No one receives special treatment (except Rovio, of course).

I don't know the "featured" system, but I think that "Microsoft have confirmed they will not give us any promotional features or help us with visibility in any way" is exactly what indies need to succeed. Only the best games will.

Never the less, I don't know the platform and MS' management enough to confirm that this happens to all developers. Companies like Rovio, Gameloft, Zeptolab, Ubisoft, etc; have really big wallets.
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Ross Gouldthorpe Contract Programmer, Echo Peak8 years ago
Just looked on the store and I can't even find the game, and if the feature system is anything like WP it randomly picks games / apps to show so everyone has a fair shot at getting featured.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
@Rodrigo - we're about as indie as you can get. The reason MS have expressly denied us the possibility is because the game is Windows RT only, not because they hate us or anything Machiavellian. And that's a snag that a lot of indie mobile devs are going to fall foul of. To go beyond RT only, you have to redesign and push out a PC version at the same time. And that doesn't "just work" either.
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Rodrigo Contreras General Manager, Gamaga8 years ago
@Paul - Thanks for claryfing. This means that they are really jerks. The platform it self isn't dev friendly at all (or that's what it seems).

I feel your pain, and I'm with you, Paul.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
np. This story seems to be exponentiating around the internet now but a lot of what I said is being misunderstood. Clearly I'm not the writer I think I am.

The key point in all of this is not that I'm whining about crap sales (which is true), but that porting a mobile title onto windows tablets, only, is guaranteed to get you no support from the features team. Combine that with low sales volumes (hey it's early, I'll give the benefit of the doubt there) and you're in a situation where you make no money and definitely won't get any help to publicise. Not exactly a good proposition for small studios right now.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 8 years ago
A timely wake up call to those that hadn't worked it out yet: the cross platform sales pitch for Win8 really is more 'sales pitch' than reality, wholly dependent on coercing developers into maintaining the illusion. The only surprise is MS aren't being subtle about it, no gradual tightening of the shackles, just straight to the total control they lust after.

If they're behaving like this now from a position of weakness in the market would you want to deal with them if Win8 succeeds?
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Jeff Wayne Technical Architect 8 years ago
Interesting article and a tough break for a dev that was brave enough to take a chance on it. Personally find it a bit mind boggling that Microsoft aren't going out of their way to court anyone that takes a chance on it.
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Piotr Zygadlo Producer, Artifex Mundi8 years ago
That is interesting. Maybe they used wrong technology? :) Speaking for Artifex Mundi here - we are not spending even half of this for Windows 8 porting and our games brings more income with EVERY day EVERY title!

I am not saying, that sales are high. They are not even close to anything "good". But hey - we don't spend much for porting as we had iOS and Android ports already.
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Adrian Cummings Founder and Owner, Mobile Amusements8 years ago
What a bummer of an outcome really for you guys :/ That said, I'd have to say well done for getting in quick on a new platform but in it's RT form the tablet has got off to a real slow start and even dare I say with a future that looks somewhat doomed sadly! Hope not as I'd like it to do well but as a much smaller developer myself have decided not to jump in until it picks up a bit after similar experience elsewhere. Good luck and least they heard your voice/rant!

Whilst I'm here: I recently got some carrot dangle mail from MS regards developing for RT and they seem to want devs to knock stuff up quick for Christmas. Now whilst I can see they want to attract developers by offering prizes of RT tablets and whatnot, they need to get into the mindset that they would have to 'give/loan me' an RT tablet now 'before' I would even consider porting anything to it in that timescale rather than write and app to fill their store just to 'win one' sorry but bugger that it's a lot of work to actually do it like yes? Jeez!

My crystal ball tells me this is not going to go so well so for now I'll sit on the fence and watch the store fill up 'slowly'.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adrian Cummings on 8th December 2012 11:22am

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
They need to make a tablet store imo. All the others have them. I've passed that wisdom up the chain so I'm sure mr Ballmer will be right on it... :)
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek8 years ago
Mobile games development is a blood bath.

Its a little off topic but when reading this article and comments it makes you realize how something so simple as a store can make or break a whole platform.

With the next generation consoles right around the corner and digital distribution becoming even more dominant I can't begin to imagine how much Microsoft and Sony will charge for the top store advertisement slots. I worry about the closed platform, with retail stores you have options. All that money publishers pay for premium advertisement spots in Gamestop, Bestbuy etc... When they are gone Microsoft and Sony will be the only ones left and they can begin to change whatever they like.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Gardner on 8th December 2012 9:01pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
Putting my gripes specifically about RT to one side, I actually welcome this wider app store thing tbh.

It seems a bit ridiculous to me that every platform in existence, even the crappy littly gizmos in our jacket pockets, have a built in store to buy stuff. Well, apart from the one that everybody uses all the time. Steam is ok, but because it's private it has its own problems with closedness, and 3rd party solutions to obvious problems should not be needed.

It will of course add more challenges for developers, especially the bigger ones such as yourselves who don't need the app store bear pit yet. But shit, what's one more issue when added to the pile! :)
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