Bejeweled 3, FarmScapes and Cradle of Rome 2

8 12 2010

When we finished working on Dress-Up Pups I didn’t expect to get in competition with such strong match-3 franchises. Within one week you could try 4 high quality match-3 games: our Dress-Up Pups, Cradle of Rome 2, Bejeweled 3 and FarmScapes. Though we have to compete with strong franchises it doesn’t mean we don’t stand a chance*.

Cradle of Rome 2 is a big disappointment for me. Maybe I would enjoy it more if I haven’t played Cradle of Rome 1, but I have, and CoR 2 was nothing new to me. Also, matching mechanic seemed aged.

Bejeweled 3 looks pretty nice and has few new twists. I enjoyed it much more than CoR 2. I also noticed all the hard work PopCap put into promoting B3, giving out netbooks for best photo of your jewels is one example of that. Because of that it was funny to see that PopCap was late to deliver B3 download on their own site. GameHouse and iWin (maybe other sites too) offered the game on Dec 7th, but PopCap was late for some reason and delivered download links a day later.

Playrix launched their newest match-3, Farmscapes, exclusively on their own site. Initially I was disappointed that I had to go through another “I want to be a HOG but I am match-3″ scene, but luckily it was short and part after that was a bit more of point and click adventure than HOG. Still, it was surprise that I had to wait so long to play regular match-3 mechanic, but overall I liked the game, probably the most out of 3 mentioned titles.

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Know the Holidays

29 11 2010

Have you heard about Black Friday? Or Cyber Monday? I’m sure you’ve heard about xmas though :)

The world has a lot of holidays and you can’t keep the track of each of them, but it’s good to know at least the most common one (for the world) or the most money squeezing ones.

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Basically, people go out to retail stores and malls to buy things. Cyber Monday is online world reaction Black Friday. People spent their money from home.

It’s good to have the list of those holidays and make your marketing up to date. We indie’s don’t need to follow big companies, but at least we can try to get best examples of them. It’s also good to know about holidays because they may get in face of your game launch. I started the launch of Dress-Up Pups last week. I was about to send press release about it until I realized that it’s Thanksgiving day and either nobody is at work or gives a damn about my games. If I sent my PR that day it would probably got lost in dozens of emails by Monday morning when everybody gets to work.

That said, today is Cyber Morning, if you want you can take advantage of it and save 25% on your order of Anawiki Games :D

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Is casual games market still growing?

8 10 2010

I hear a lot about drop in revenues from casual games. That’s something I didn’t experience myself (luckily), but it’s something worth taking into account. The fact that I’m making more money this year than I did last year may be just fooling me.

I typed “casual games recession” in google and one of the articles that appeared on the list: Real Games executive tells how the recession will affect casual games. It’s old article from February 11th, 2009, but at least there’s a possibility to check whether it was true or false.

One thing that I noted I wanted to repeat is this line:

“The market has the opportunity to be ten times the size it is today,” Barbour stressed. “Why don’t we do something to build the bigger market?”

That’s the words of John Barbour, CEO of Real Games (at least of the time of writing mentioned article). Mister Barbour, what can we do to make it bigger?

So we’re certainly not 10 times bigger today. I hear that most portals noticed a drop in revenues, not only we’re not in bigger market, but  we’re in smaller. I make more money from my games than I did, but I don’t feel like market in general is growing. There are places dedicated to casual games that please me with their revenues and places that make me disappointed.

I just hope that we, as casual game industry, stopped price wars, and prices will eventually rise.

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Soccer Cup Solitaire post mortem

29 09 2010

Creating games is not easy and it’s always great to read some afterthoughts. I thought that I’ll share our experience with development of Soccer Cup Solitaire.

Soccer Cup SolitaireLet me say few words about the game. Soccer Cup Solitaire is a card game with soccer theme. Some say it’s not solitaire, because you just match similar cards like two Jacks or two 8’s. The mechanics are similar to Heartwild Solitaire and some bonus features are inspired by Fairway Solitaire (thanks to Orchid Games and Big Fish Games for creating those two great games).

We knew Soccer Cup Solitaire won’t be a top seller game, but we wanted to develop it anyway, to take a break from GabCab development. GabCab has been in development for second year and we had iddle moments from time to time that we wanted to spend creatively.

What went right:

  • short development time – the game from start to finish took 4 months – it could be shorter, but we haven’t been pleased with the art assets from the first art team.
  • smooth integration of soccer theme into solitaire game.
  • great music – it was a tough decision – we knew that the theme will probably kill interest of female audience, so we at least wanted to please male audience as much as possible. Rock songs from Saint of Silence did awesome job when it comes to adding tension to the game.
  • not wasting time on prototyping and place holder art – we had natural deadline (World Cup 2010) so we decided that there’s no time to prototype things. We also had top priority project in development (GabCab), so we decided that we will work on SCS only when we get final art. It shortened development time very much.
  • constant passion for the project – working with final art during short period of time kept motivation and efficiency of development on very high levels.
  • we signed deals with new portals – Alawar and GameHouse. RealArcade was very picky about games they launch and I thought that after the merge with GameHouse it will be the same at GameHouse, so I was pleased that the game was accepted for distribution.
  • development of SCS prevented possible burnout for GabCab.
  • SCS has great CR (but that’s probably because of low download ratio)

What went wrong:

  • not enough time to play test the game – Sport events and Holidays are strict deadlines, if you release the game after them you lose a lot of possible interest in your game.
  • we missed the deadline by few days, but at least World Cup lasts 30 days, not one day like xmas or Halloween.
  • we had to cut some nice features to be able to release “on time”.
  • not enough downloads, which leads to…
  • though it wasn’t expected to be a top seller, it sells below expectations.

Overall I was happy with the project. It proved to us (again) that short development times are necessary to keep high motivation and passion for the project and that switching between projects increases development efficiency while “delaying” release of each project just a bit.

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