Interview with Jake Birkett (Grey Alien), Big Fish Games Lead Programmer

11 02 2009

Jake Birkett is well known in the indie game developers community. He developed Holiday Bonus, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Fairway Solitaire. In the end of 2008 he made a transition to Big Fish Games and is no longer indie, but he still works on great games. If you want to learn more about Jake, find out what makes a best seller game and how indies can compete in todays market start reading now.

NOTE: In this interview Jake speaks for himself and not as BFG representative in any way.

Jake BirkettFairway Solitaire was published over 14 months ago. Isn’t it the time for a new release? When we can expect it?

You can expect it around the Weekend of Sat 21st Feb.  This is 100% certain now unless something crazy happens.  I’ve spent a long time on this game (about 11 months) but I’ve been pretty busy moving continent and other stuff…

Should we expect another hidden object game?

No.  BFG in Seattle makes those, we are tasked with making other games in Vancouver.  It will be fun to hear what people say about it – mixed opinions no doubt, but as long as the customer love it (and express their love with their credit cards) then I’m happy.

Ok, so how did you get started in game development?

In 2005 I went full-time Indie after making business software for 9 years in Delphi and SQL.  I’ve always made games as a hobby since the age of 8 (I’m 33 now) in BASIC, assembly, C, C++, Delphi, Blitz and probably a few other things along the way.  I reached a certain point where I realised that I enjoyed making games so much that I just *had* to do it for a living – so I stopped doing business software and started writing games professionally.  I made two downloadable match-3 games and was contracted by Injoy Games to make a 3rd, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which went well.

Match-3 as a jump start in game development career? That’s how you’ve met BFG?

The Wizard of OzEmmanuel from Big Fish Games Europe saw Oz and thought it was programmed well and asked if I would be interested in programming a game for them.  I had to think about this quite hard because I saw it as great opportunity to learn more about casual games from some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, yet I also was keen on building up my own business and working for BFG would slow that down.  Also frankly at the time I needed the money because, as many Indies will know, it takes quite a long time to build your business up to the point where you are making a half-decent living.  In the end I said “yes” and signed a contract to program Fairway Solitaire.  However, before I started work on that game I quickly launched Holiday Bonus using an upgraded Oz engine, and it’s done really well for me over the last 2 years.

Fairway Solitaire was a great success for BFG. Why solitaire? Solitaires were not so popular at that time?
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Is it really a price war?

9 02 2009

I, as many other developers, was shocked when I read that Reflexive dropped game prices below $10 (most for $9.99, but some for as low as $6.99). I was shocked not because of the price, but because you don’t need to join any discount program like you do have at BFG or PlayFirst. Price war… but is it really?
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Interview with Cliff Harris (cliffski) from Positech Games

4 02 2009

Cliff Harris is a lone wolf indie developer for over 10 years. Yes, he’s been here before the whole casual gaming thing has started. I interviewed Cliff to find out what makes his site and games so special that he is able to earn over $200k a year in direct sales. If you want to know how to become portal-proof start reading.

You made almost $200k in 2008. That’s pretty impressive for indie developer. My sales are 10 times worse. What have you done to achieve such great sales?

Cliff HarrisAhahaha. I didn’t make $200k in 2008. That’s the revenue from direct sales through my main payment provider. I earn other amounts from other deals. And then to find out how much I actually *make* you’d have to subtract all the expenses, and they can be surprisingly high when you actually pay for advertising, and a dedicated server. I guess the way I achieve it is to make games that are not easily copied and cloned, and I put quite a lot of work into promoting them. I also get very into the business side of selling games. if you sell games, and you don’t know which pages on your website have the lowest bounce rates, if you don’t know what the average CPC is for your ads and do A/B testing to increase the CTR…. and much more importantly, if you have no idea WTF I’m talking about, then you are quite simply losing sales to people like me, who study this stuff :D.

Imagine that I know what CTR, A/B testing and all that stuff is… but still my ads are not efficient. Maybe I am just not patient enough? How long do you test them before you pick a winner ad?

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Reflexive strikes back with $9.99 price

3 02 2009

I believe Reflexive was last one of the big players in the casual market that sold games for $19.99. Yesterday Reflexive announced EXCITING new pricing strategy… now I am really excited to hear for who it is exciting? But lets hear the official message first:

Hello Everyone,

We are happy to announce an exciting new pricing strategy for the games and products in the Reflexive game catalog. The prices of games in the GameCenterSolution catalog now reflect a more competitive position which we expect to represent an attractive offer in today’s marketplace. This compelling pricing strategy is intended to empower you to sell more volume, have greater customer loyalty, and ultimately increase your monthly earnings. By offering games to customers for under $10, we are anticipating higher conversion and better customer satisfaction resulting in better overall sales volume for you.

If you have any questions or feedback please contact me: …..

Michael Mei

BFG sells your games for $6.99, iWin for $9.99 and now Reflexive joins the party. I believe this would not happen if not for Amazon deal, so lets hear more:

Reflexive Games are now available through the Amazon Game Downloads store

Developers and publishers, greetings. Today I’m excited to share news that Reflexive is now providing games for the beta launch of the Amazon Game Downloads store, This is Amazon’s first step into the downloadable games space. This means that all of Reflexive’s developer and publisher partners now have the opportunity to make their games available on, in addition to and our GameCenterSolution affiliate network.

Here at Reflexive, we’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. We believe Amazon will really help to expand the audience for your casual games, by introducing all the great games you create to millions of potential new customers. Your games can now benefit from customer reviews, recommendations and all the other features shoppers are familiar with on

For more details about the beta launch of the Amazon Game Downloads store, check out the Video Games blog post.

If you have any questions about the games currently offered through Reflexive or about submitting new games to the Reflexive network and the Amazon game download distribution channel, please contact us at

Thanks for your continued partnership and support as we enter this exciting new chapter in Reflexive’s history.


Lars Brubaker
Reflexive Entertainment, Inc.

That’s actually a good news and I was really looking forward to Amazon stepping into downloadable market. The new pricing strategy makes sense at Amazon – those downloadable games have to compete with all retail games prices at $9.99 (cd or dvd case).

Now if you are Reflexive’s affiliate then go change your game prices… and forget about ~$7 per game sold earnings.blockquote

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