Race The Sun, A Month After Launch: Losing Steam

It’s been  a month since we launched Race The Sun 1.0 via our website, using the Humble Widget. It seems like a good time to talk about numbers.

Spoiler: Launching a PC game without a major distribution platform such as Steam, is asking for trouble.

BACKGROUND

For those not familiar with Race The Sun, it’s a procedural racer, with a sort of retro “Star Fox-esque” aesthetic, and an endless world that generates daily, along with daily leaderboards and a unique solar-powered mechanic. We’ve been working on it for over a year now, first launching a very early “alpha demo” on Kongregate, then running a successful Kickstarter in March ’13 to fund further development. We’ve been selling “early access” copies for most of development, and using feedback and statistics to continually improve the game. We’ve tried to go beyond the simple “endless runner” formula, by adding features such as portals that take you to other worlds, and a built-in world creator with mods hosted on our servers.

We’ve also had the game on Steam Greenlight for over a year now. Currently we are just outside of the top 100.

Here’s our launch trailer:

THE LAUNCH

Given our past experience with PR, and the high investment we’d put into the game’s development, we decided to hire Evolve PR to help with our launch to give us the best shot at success. Brian from Evolve had reached out to us after PAX East because he loved the look of the game, and some of the introductions and early media attention he was able to get for us convinced us that they were a good fit for us.

Brian had some great suggestions right away that we hadn’t thought of: We would hold a “public beta” in the weeks before launch to try and build up a fanbase and bolster our user-created content. He also planned out several bursts of announcements: The “Apocalypse Mode” reveal, previews, Let’s Plays, and reviews. He recommended us to Joystiq for the “Indie Pitch”, and got us mentioned or featured on almost every major game site including Kotaku, Polygon, Gamespot, Gametrailers, Destructoid, and others. Perhaps most importantly, he handled all of this while we were able to focus on finishing up development in the last few frantic weeks.

Finally, these weeks of planning culminated in our launch day on August 19th.

THE NUMBERS

Ok, the part you’ve been waiting for: here are the numbers.

Website Hits
Since our website is the only place to buy the game at the moment, the hits on our website are pretty important. Here’s what the graph looks like over our launch month:
Website-Hits-OneMonth

As you can see, our hits peaked about about 4k hits in a day on August 21. We haven’t gone below 1000 hits/day since then, and a “Race The Sun” google search has our site at the top. If you landed anywhere on Flippfly.com, Race The Sun is prominently displayed. The game’s homepage was simplified for our launch: Just the launch trailer, and the humble widget below it. We wanted to be sure we weren’t losing people on the website.

Reviews and Media

Despite the wide circulation for announcements, and a plethora of “let’s plays” from midsize to large Youtubers, we didn’t see a ton of actual “reviews” from major sites.

But the ones that did review it were generally very positive:

  1. Tom Chick from QuarterToThree.com had us on his podcast and absolutely loved the game, and gave it a 5/5.
  2. Kotaku did a “watch us play”, and Steve Marinconz said “I’m enjoying the $%&! out of this game.”
  3. Edge Magazine gave us an 80%, and called it “a confident genre hybrid worthy of your time and patience.”
  4. Gamespot gave us an 8/10, and said “Race the Sun is compelling in a way that could make it a daily habit.”

Overall, we sit at an 81 on Metacritic, and were previewed, reviewed, played by, or otherwise mentioned on well over 100 media outlets. Evolve did their job, and they did it well. More importantly, perhaps, the gamers who try the game seem to love it: A visit to the greenlight page’s comments section is very encouraging for us, especially compared to when we first launched the campaign – we’ve found our fans, and we’ve made them happy.

The anonymous statistics we collect tell a similar story: On average, players spend over 2.5 hours in the game in each session.

Sales

Here’s where the story gets a bit discouraging. In our launch month, we’ve sold 771 copies, or about $7,400 worth.

The sales graph:
Humble-Sales-Graph

Sales have fallen off pretty steadily as the media attention has died down. Our worst day came last week, at 2 copies sold.

This may seem like a pretty big number to some – but keep in mind there are two of us, with families to support, and bills to pay. Additionally, the game’s online features require a back-end server, and there are monthly costs associated with that, as well as our web hosting and other expenses.

So What Happened?

About a year ago, we decided to pivot as a company, and re-focus ourselves on the PC platform, rather than mobile. Mobile has largely moved to “free to play”, and this wasn’t a direction we wanted to focus on as a two-man company. We felt that the PC audience was largely still happy to pay decent money for a good game, and so we focused our efforts on PC and Steam. It was about this time when Steam introduced Greenlight –  and at first, we saw this as an opportunity.

However, we’ve now been on Greenlight for over a year, and our launch has come and gone, and we’re still seemingly a ways off.

In the meantime, it feels like there are two attitudes that have become prevalent among many PC gamers:
“I’ll buy it when it’s on Steam.”
and
“I’ll buy it when it’s in a bundle.”

I’m just not sure it’s realistic to expect to be able to support yourself solely with self-distribution via your website in 2013, unless you’re Minecraft.

The other thing we feel is a factor in our sales, is that we inadvertently shoehorned ourselves into the “Endless Runner” genre, without realizing the damage this would do. We felt the concept of an arcade-style, highscore focused game deserved a pure, HD treatment, free of microtransactions and with a focus on depth – and our customers seem to agree. But there seems to be an immediate and general stigma around this genre (thanks to the mobile revolution no doubt) – that “runners” should be free, and they don’t belong on PC.

The final straw that convinced me that this perception has hurt us was the rejection feedback from Indiecade last week:

“I really appreciated the simple 3d visual design, and the progression was very well tuned. Also, procedurally generated levels … are a nice touch. However, this genre of game is fairly well played out. I hope you are releasing it for iOS and Android.”

Ugh.

What’s Next?

We’re still targeting Steam, as we feel it’s our best chance at success without a F2P redesign, and a great fit for the game’s social features. but we’ve got a long ways to go on Greenlight:

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 3.34.24 PM

If we can double the votes we’ve had in the past year, we’ll be in the top 10.

We’ve had talks with Kongregate about updating the web version of the game there, and we’ve even talked with Facebook, and considered how to do a mobile release. The truth is, those platforms are filled with gamers who prefer a free-to-play model, and we’re not ready to jump into redesigning the game with that model in mind – not yet.

In the meantime, we’re exploring other platforms, and distribution channels like gog.com, Amazon, and Desura, in hopes of finding sustainable income. We’re also preparing our first update, with “featured user worlds” and other tweaks, and we plan to continue improving the game. But as I write this, we’re running out of money, and will likely need to take on some other work to keep ourselves and our families fed for a while.

It’s also worth pointing out that we’ve been approached a couple different times from publishers wanting to add Race The Sun to their portfolios. These were pretty appealing, but ultimately we decided that we want to retain our independence, and keep Race The Sun as a flagship Flippfly title.

Lessons

It’s hard to say exactly what we would do differently with this game. We took a lot of risks in investing this much time in the game, and we feel we’ve created something special. We’ve stayed true to our values, and created a game that we’ve never seen before. And we’re hopeful that with continuing effort, we’ll eventually get on Steam, and we’ll find a steady enough income to support ourselves for awhile so we can continue improving the game and focus on what’s next. The truth is, there is no sure-fire path to success in game development, and sometimes there are some detours.

There you have it! We’re not anywhere close to giving up on this game, but it’s been a rough start. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that if you want to find financial success, you should not only make a great game, but partner with proven, trusted distribution platforms that can connect you with an audience that’s ready to pay.

If you do feel inclined to buy the game, you can do so here, and of course, we always appreciate greenlight votes. Thanks!
(And yes, if you buy it now, you’ll get a Steam key later if we get on Steam!)

 

 

50 Responses to “Race The Sun, A Month After Launch: Losing Steam”

  1. Jake

    Please keep at it guys! The game is really fun (and full of surprises) and you seem like really great people. As a consumer I feel bad that Race the Sun hasn’t quite caught the kind of fire that you want, and I am sincerely hoping that if you can hang on long enough you will get there. (and then can continue to make more games) Just think most bedroom devs with dreams of being able to live off of products they make don’t even get to an actual shipped product. That puts you well beyond the ‘average’ and into the ‘success’ category. It really is good stuff that you guys have done here. Hang in there and good luck!

    Reply
  2. Andrew

    Silly question, but if you’ve got people saying they’ll get it when it’s in a bundle, you need money and you need more attention for the game…Why don’t you get it to appear in a bundle?

    Reply
    • Dylan Washburne

      Which bundle would you want them in? The humble bundle? I would absolutely love it if they got in, but they fail to meet a single criteria: steam keys. So now it’s a paradox: they can’t get humble publicity without steam, and they need steam for humble publicity… a shame, if you ask me.

      Reply
      • Ghozer

        Well that’s silly, as there are “Indie” games on the Humble Indie Bundle that are stand alone download only, and not available on Steam..

        Or, they could do it with the promise of providing Steam keys if/when they get that far…

        Otherwise, do it via indie-gala, I don’t think they require Steam!

        Reply
  3. Craig

    A very open read which gives an insight into this business. Totally understand the reluctance to go down the f2p route. I dont think people appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating something like this. Please stick at it.. I wish you both the success you deserve.

    Reply
  4. Chris Taran

    I will echo the statement that if I can’t get it on Steam, I just don’t want it. I like having my entire PC library in one place.

    The one exception to this rule is if a publisher/developer will promise to give people that bought the non-Steam version a Steam key if or when the game makes it on that service. Then I am totally open to buying it pre-Steam as long as I can get it there later.

    That said, I will be more than happy to vote for you on Greenlight and hope to see you successful!

    Reply
    • Ryan Henson Creighton

      Have you played around in Steam to add non-Steam games to your Steam library? Any game on your computer, whether you bought it on Steam or not, can be added to appear on your Steam games list, nicely listed, categorized and instantly launchable like the rest of them. Give it a shot! It may get you over your non-Steam aversion.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Thanks for the tip! This will indeed solve my desire to have my full list of games in Steam (regardless of it being in the store or not).

        Reply
      • Alex Kunzelmann

        Interestingly, having games *appear* in my list doesn’t satisfy me at all. The real draw for me is that I can install any game I purchased on there from one place. That, and it’s nice to see an ever-growing library.

        That said, if you were to offer pre-Steam customers a post-Steam-release key, this would certainly add incentive. From what I’ve heard it can be a massive pain in the ass logistically.

        Is Desura an option?

        Other than that, there’s always “Indie Royale” which is the most professional non-Humble site in my opinion, “MacUpdate Bundle”, “Bundle Stars”, “Green Man Gaming”, “Bundle Dragon”, “MacHeist” and I’m sure there’s plenty more.

        I implore you to continue soliciting YouTubers. The cost vs potential reward here is a no-brainer and smaller channels LOVE press copies!

        I’ve been a huge supporter of you ever since you contacted me and I love the title. I believe my very first email to you was in reference to a potential iOS build (most likely because that’s exclusively what I cover.) That’s not to say that F2P is the way to go either. The model is dominating the marketplace, but in all honesty due to the limited number of ship upgrades in the current build, probably wouldn’t work in this case.

        Race the Sun is an endless runner. I know it sucks being bundled in with the masses of shovelware out there, but you’ve got to embrace that. You’re the new Canabalt (which still sells for $3 btw.)

        A lot of my viewers voice their opinions about how F2P is terrible and they’d rather spend cash up-front for a premium title. Another trend that has worked well in some instances is the Free trial. This will get you the downloads and hopefully entice conversions. Get in touch with a company like App Annie to give you advice. Contact mobile publishers too.

        How you go about it is entirely up to you. Keep up the awesome work, best of luck with Greenlight, and remember, if it were to come to mobile, I’d cover the shit out of it :)

        -Alex

        Reply
    • Karim

      “I like having my entire PC library in one place.”
      How many places is your PC?

      Reply
      • Chris Skuller

        My PC has been in MANY place. I have owned a PC since 1991 and have owned 100s if not 1000s of titles for it. Unfortunately, due to the tragedies of life, I have lost all but a couple dozen of them. If I had something like Steam back then, this would be a non issue. THATS why I’m at the point where I like my games provided by a distribution service.

        While I don’t only support Steam, I tend not to buy games that aren’t on some kind of platform for the reasons listed above. Steam is without a doubt my favorite platform, but I also support Desura, Xbox Live, GOG, PSN, Nintendo eShop & Origin. If Race the Sun could release on ANY of them, I would be more than happy to buy.

        Reply
        • ryan moszynski

          humble store is pretty great also. as good as gog in mu opinion. i would really like an auto update system from gog and humble store though.

          Reply
  5. Derek Littlewood

    Sorry to hear the sales haven’t gone as well as you’d hoped. I’m a developer myself and I know how hard it can be to get noticed in today’s market, even with positive press coverage.

    I confess though that I haven’t yet bought it myself, although I was aware of it and it is on my list of games to buy ‘at some point’. I think the biggest reason I didn’t buy it when I read the review was because there was no demo (that I could see at least). To me a demo makes a huge difference as to whether I will buy a game or not – even with the best reviews in the world, actually playing and enjoying the game is a far bigger motivator to purchase for me.

    Reply
  6. fur

    If I were in your position, Id do a re-launch, this time on Steam. Couple of months later, give it to HumbleBundle. Than work on v2 of the game, and learning from mistakes, it should be a much greater success.

    Reply
    • lemmy

      Great ideas! While they are at it they should consider putting it in a prime location near the checkout at Walmart and on the shelf marked #1 at Gamestop? :P

      The whole point of this article is they are finding it tough to get through the Greenlight process so are unable to GO on Steam, and Humble Bundle organizers aren’t sat there unable to get people to go on their bundle, it’s a huge deal for indie devs getting the opportunity to go on Steam and Humble Bundle, and it’s safe to assume both of these are things any indie dev is likely trying to get onto.

      Aaron, sorry to hear you guys have had a tough time. All I can say is Desura have been wonderful to us and we wouldn’t have gotten Greenlit if it wasn’t for the Desura community, and with their recent buy out they are only going to get better.

      Go there, and make sure you do lots of community building stuff around you map creation stuff / competitions / frequent updates, and hopefully your followers on there will begin to grow.

      Over a couple of months of updates on there, hopefully you’ll begin to get a Desura following that will help push you over the edge on Greenlight. Best of luck!

      Chris

      Reply
  7. Detoksik

    Very interesting to read, but I feel the marketing absolutely failed. I read a lot of websites that write about games and I actively watch youtube videos by various youtubers. I saw few videos about your game long ago, voted on Greenlight and then NEVER heard again.

    I’m checking your website, if I was a generic user I would enter the site, look around for a second or two and leave. The button is uninteresting. There’s no big texts screaming “AWESOME RACE TO SUN AVAILABLE NOW!”, a lot of people who visit websites will only look at the first site. Your buy button isn’t inviting me at all.

    If this have been the case, with the visits you’ve gotten, I doubt many people have even bothered to look if it was released. They’ll just quickly browse over the site and leave.

    side note: Also this capcha mutant you have makes me feel like skipping the commenting too.

    Reply
  8. Tom Ohle

    @fur – the problem is that you can’t just get on Steam. It doesn’t work that way: you have to go through a publisher (who will take a big chunk of revenue) or you have to go through Greenlight, which means you need to generate a ton of awareness and get people to vote/like it.

    Reply
  9. Oskar Swierad

    Sad news from you. Though, this price point suprised me – i feel it’s a bit high.
    The game sounds perfectly done, guessing from reviews and very good demo. But it’s simple – I won’t expect extra layers like deep story or mindblowing technology behind it, nor it’s breaking boundaries of games as form of art. The sole reason to buy it are the pure gameplay mechanics. I want no ‘campaign’ to get in my way. Such pure games can steal dozens of hours (like Trackmania), but I actually expect that I can get enough after an hour and never return.
    The fact you released demo on Kongregate confirms that it’s for short sessions. The graphics do it, too – minimalistic, making a pleasing background. They get out of the way, rather than shock like Fract or The Last Pheonix.
    Incredipede came to my mind now. The art style has taken it to a next level – where not only the puzzle games audience could be interested. I showed its trailer many times to friends, because the visuals are weird, ridiculous. (Still the price of ~$15 seemed way to high. It was released on Android recently for $4!)
    Company that I work at is releasing Airace Speed for 3DS eShop tomorrow. It’s focused around the challenging gameplay and online rankings. I’m curious how it will do. Its prequel is a game from DSiWare and still brings some income on 3DS. I think the platform is OK for such games. But of course, we will know in several days. I think eShop clients expect short time per session and single theme per game.
    Personally, the indie games that I buy on PC tend to be experimental, super fresh. I don’t like to boot up PC to play 30 minutes ;) Or exactly in the niche I’m interested in, often with years of feedback from fans and devs experience.
    Of course, I could be proved wrong with the price when you’ll eventually get onto Steam :) Anyway I wish you to see the deserved protif sooner then later

    Reply
  10. Luke Stephenson

    Good luck getting on Steam guys. I was a backer so have the game, and would like to see you succeed with it. Although Steam is of course a big deal, I can’t help but feel that you’ll still see a huge spike in sales if you get onto somewhere like GOG.com.

    While 1000+ hits per day on your website is good, GOG.com gets 30,000+ per day, going from some rough numbers CD Projekt put out last year. You’re also going to get more people on there with spending money in mind, and a lot of ‘window shoppers’ that you probably wont see on your website directly. So even if you struggle to get on Steam, there’s plenty of hope. But the conclusions you draw about it being unrealistic to sell on your site alone are probably accurate – you need to have the traffic in the tens of thousands that a big distribution site is going to have.

    Reply
  11. Karim

    I find it odd that developers are pushing Steam towards a monopolistic situation while there are other avenues like GOG and Desura, among others, who deserve visibility and are willing to take chances on smaller games. I wish you the best, but you have to realize that you’re making things worse for yourselves in the long run by taking the lazy Steam-only attitude, just like many gamers do.

    Reply
    • lemmy

      I totally agree with you and respect that position, but whatever way you spin it the sheer numbers you’re talking about on Steam make it complete madness from a business perspective not to make getting on Steam the #1 priority.

      If it was remotely sensible we’d love to stay on Desura alone, but it’s just crazy to even consider that from a business / financial perspective. Unless, to quote the article, you’re Minecraft.

      I certainly think you should push for getting on these first though, because they all contribute toward how many greenlight votes it’s possible to get.

      Reply
    • Aaron

      To be clear – we are pursuing other platforms as well. Our time as a two-man studio where I am the sole programmer is limited, and these things just take some time.

      Reply
    • Scott

      Hey i’m Scott from Desura. Couldn’t agree with you more Karim – developers really need to endorse and promote other platforms (be it us or others). Sure we don’t have even a fraction of the reach Steam does, but how will this ever change if developers never put as much effort into us, as they do their Steam strategy?

      We will always do all we can to help our publishers and customers, and have a number of ideas coming. But first and foremost we are dependent on stocking great games and developers realizing that endorsing a marketplace that isn’t just Steam and bundles is good for everyone in the long run.

      Reply
  12. Jason Seip

    Thank you for the informative (and sobering) write up. Some thoughts/comments:

    1. I totally agree with those suggesting you spread the game around. Desura, Gog, and a number of smaller digital distribution sites can help build not just sales, but awareness of your game. Similarly, there are multiple bundle opportunities out there (like the Indie Royale Bundle) that may not be as prestigious as the Humble Indie Bundle, but every bit helps. Also, check out IndieGameStand – some games on there have made thousands (even tens of thousands) of dollars.

    2. I think a way to stand apart from the Endless Runner genre for Race the Sun would be if it had a ‘sandbox’ mode where players could fly any direction they choose, at a more leisurely pace, and the challenge would be staying airborne for as long as possible by avoiding shadows that sap your ship of energy. Of course, the player would have to take calculated risks and occasionally enter shadows for power-ups/checkpoints/short-cuts/etc.

    3. Pricing…that’s a tough one. It’s really hard for a developer to judge what his game is ‘worth.’ I’ll throw this out though: if decreasing the game’s price by 33% to $10 would double your sales, it would totally be worth it.

    4. IndieCade. Okay, deep breath. It was painful to see the response you got from them, because we received a similarly tactless response to our upcoming game Let There Be Life. I don’t know if the large number of entrees let to very brusque reviews, or if we both got the same reviewer having a particularly bad day. :) Whatever the case, I can see the quality in your game, so I just wanted to say ‘good job’ and you’re not alone!

    So best of luck to you with the game – I think you deserve success and look forward to your next creation!

    Reply
  13. Rob Gomes

    So I purchased and reviewed the game earlier today.

    It has an austere aesthetic, tight controls, a reasonable skill ramp, good (not great) music, and is well paced to give you a break between the increasingly intense regions. It’s a very well-polished, pure game experience.

    The unfortunate reality is at $10, even on Steam, you’re competing with games like FTL, Gunpoint and Terraria.

    Additionally, the audience that would most appreciate it are those like myself — 30+ and grew up with the NES, where a game like this back then would’ve been a breakout hit. Nowadays, you have some of the other indie titles I just mentioned, competing not only for dollars, but attention. At the end of the day, people only have so much time, and those who play a lot of video games are drawn to a more complex gameplay experience. The bar has been raised quite a bit over the past few decades, and players expect more.

    It is however, a great mobile candidate. You can have a good session (getting to region 6+) in about 5 minutes. I don’t think free-to-play is necessarily the answer either. It might be because he’s Terry Cavanagh, but Super Hexagon makes this title seem incredibly complex, and Terry has no issue still getting people to pay $3 for a mechanically very simple game with Chipzel’s utterly infectious soundtrack.

    Reply
  14. Gerald Hibbs

    How much time would it take to finish adding Oculus Rift compatibility? Right now there is a real dearth of content for the Rift and some 25,000 users who’ve proven they are willing to spend money. At this point, if you could add tweak for the Rift and get a demo out you would probably be up on the Oculus Share website as a featured demo. Sorry, I’m not sure how much work/effort it would take to get this type of thing done but if it could be done fairly quickly I wouldn’t be shocked if you wound up with an extra few thousand dollars of sales pretty quickly. If it would take weeks I could see it being a gamble. If it could be done in days then definitely worth it. In fact, I’d then approach Oculus about being on the Share site as well as using your game as one of their demos when they go to shows. If you could make that happen that would garner a ton of great press to keep the ball rolling. Your game seems like just the ticket for a simple to operate and quick to learn game that people could pop in and out of and be very visually impressive. Though, if all that rolling and such would cause nausea then maybe a difficult sell. But, from the Pax coverage that seems like it might not be an issue. God bless and good luck.

    Reply
  15. J. Scott

    Thanks for the article. I was a backer for this game on Kickstarter, so I’m definitely in favor of this getting attention. Though I’m at work right now, I just logged into Steam, found your page on Greenlight, and said “yes” because I really feel other people should see this game.

    Good luck! You’ve made something really cool, so I hope it succeeds.

    Reply
  16. A. Paschoalin

    Hi , guys keep it up, greenlight voted you on steam, hope everything gets better!

    Reply
  17. Mark

    I have a tip for you.

    Art design.

    Your game will stand out if you add another layer to the art design. I’m not a graphics junkie but the look of visible polygons gives the game a rather dated look. It’s fine if you’re going for that. You’ll get the retro gaming crowd. But you won’t get those who sit on the fence by sheer visuals alone.

    If only you could find a way to procedurally modify (post processing) the look of the geometry. I personally would rather prefer a 2D or graphic novel visual filter than have it barebones as just polygons. How ’bout a painterly look? Or a squiggly look that don’t make them look so rigid and block?

    That’s just my opinion of course but I want to share with you what would make me love the game more.

    Thanks for reading.

    Reply
  18. flip

    I just came over from IndieGames.com to say thanks for this post. I’m not a game developer but have sold digital products online and have recently got out of it for similar reasons to what you’re having problems with: selling stuff online is incredibly difficult given that people expect it to either be free or cost a few bucks. Your post captured, summarised and revealed much of what I’d been thinking or feeling without really being aware of it; especially the need to move to a different platform in order to increase sales.

    I wish you all the best with your game!

    Reply
  19. Alex Kunzelmann

    Thanks so much for the insightful post-mortem. I have a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

    Interestingly, having games *appear* in my list doesn’t satisfy me at all. The real draw for me is that I can install any game I purchased on there from one place. That, and it’s nice to see an ever-growing library. That said, if you were to offer pre-Steam customers a post-Steam-release key, this would certainly add incentive. From what I’ve heard it can be a massive pain in the ass logistically.

    Is Desura an option? Other than that, there’s always “Indie Royale” which is the most professional non-Humble site in my opinion, “MacUpdate Bundle”, “Bundle Stars”, “Green Man Gaming”, “Bundle Dragon”, “MacHeist” and I’m sure there’s plenty more.

    I implore you to continue soliciting YouTubers. The cost vs potential reward here is a no-brainer and smaller channels LOVE press copies!

    I’ve been a huge supporter of you ever since you contacted me and I adore the game. I believe my very first email to you was in reference to a potential mobile build (most likely because that’s exclusively what I cover.) F2P isn’t necessarily the way to go either. The model is dominating the marketplace, but in all honesty due to the limited number of ship upgrades in the current build, might not work in this case.

    Race the Sun is an endless runner. I know it sucks being bundled in with the masses of shovelware out there, but you’ve got to embrace that. Consider yourselves the new Canabalt (which still sells for $3 btw.)

    A lot of my viewers voice their opinions about how F2P is terrible and they’d rather spend cash up-front for a premium title. Another trend that has worked well in some instances is having a free trial with limited gameplay or ads (yuck.) This will get you more downloads and possibly entice conversions. Get in touch with a company like App Annie to give you advice. Contact mobile publishers. Have a chat with Paul Pridham also. He’s been very transparent about the not-so-successful launch of Punch Quest (My 2012 iOS GOTY.)

    How you go about it is entirely up to you. Keep up the awesome work, best of luck with Greenlight, and remember, if it were to come to mobile, I’d definitely cover the shit out of it!

    -Alex

    Reply
    • Alex Kunzelmann

      Oh, one more thing. IndieCade.

      Go there anyway. Hand out fliers, give away promo codes. I saw loads of people at E3 doing this, so certainly can’t hurt at a much smaller venue.

      Reply
  20. Charles

    Why not go freemium, with an option to fully unlock the game features? This way you can earn from non-paying players (ads), freemium players (pay for stuff) and full players (ones that buy the one time unlocker and play the full game)?
    In my view is a perfect win-win-win. Everyone plays it and you will see income in every way possible, without necessarily hurting your vision and values – that i totally get, because i hate freemium most of the time.

    Reply
  21. Vanilla

    I think it’s your price point.

    Every day sites like Steam, GMG, Gamersgate, Gamefly and GOG have sales where they sell games at less than $10. So every day you are facing competition for that $10 spend. It doesn’t matter how fair you view the price you have set the simple fact is that a person can pick up a game with many hours of gameplay in it for $10 or less.

    Cut the price by 50% for 2 days. Tell people there is a sale on. Make sure you post to places like reddit’s gamedeals, CAG, Slickdeals. Make sure people know it’s a Humble Store purchase (as that is way better than BMT Micro / Fastspring).

    If you need people playing to get word-of-mouth sales then you need to get people playing and I do think that changing the price is something worth trying.

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  22. Hendar23

    Yeah I have to say I saw this on RPS and I was interested but you lost me at ‘endless runner’. I don’t like game where I just chase my high score. There is also the problem of market saturation. I’m still catching up with games over five years old. A game has to be very special to warrant my attention these days.

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  23. Paul Priest

    I was one of those 771, and sadly I know it. I was pretty shocked to see how few others had bought it – it seems like ~150 people are playing it on a daily basis, and that I can trivially get into the top 50 players on any given day with a small amount of effort removes the desire to play it much (my time actually becomes more valuable than completing a game). As fun as it is, it is only a bite-sized morsel with a simple mechanic, and a limited set of visuals to experience. I think you hit the nail on the head with the ‘endless runner’ comparison. As a developer I recognise the work put into it (from the relay mode, to the decals on the ships, to the rich GUI), and it’s stable and bugfree too. I just think you may have invested too much in too thin a concept.

    I do think your best bet is sadly a bundle (which _has_ to be a Humble Bundle since the others don’t draw a fraction of the attention), which will give you a one-time payout and will need to tide you over to the next game’s conclusion. I could be wrong, and getting Greenlit might turn out to be a better deal, but I can only assume that after wave after wave of Greenlit games people are seeming an increasingly slim return on getting games approved and it’ll shift from being a sure-fire return to being more like the mobile app-stores with a long-tail.

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  24. Barts

    I have read your story in here and found it informative, interesting and a bit sad. I wish you all the best and I would gladly help – I have logged to Steam, first time in ages, just to click on that Greenlight thingy, first time ever.

    That said, I am reluctant to pay full price for the game. Yes, it looks interesting, it has that retro vibe to it, something that brings up the memories of Tron, Space Harrier and Mysterious Cities of Gold at the same time, but at the same time I’ve bought much bigger games for ten bucks and less. Used copy of Vanquish (PS3) or Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3), Stealth Inc. (Vita) also known as port of Stealth Bastard, and so on and so forth. Bundles and price-cuts too: FTL for 3USD, Hotline Miami for 3USD, one of recent Humble Bundles for 5USD. It might be worth noting that I am Polish and the average salary over here is significantly lower than in US or UK.

    In short, the expected value of entertainment I estimate for this title compared to the monetary value falls short of ten dollars. I know, I feel like a cheapskate writing this, I know you probably lost whatever friendly feelings towards this particular commenter, but still, that is probably the explanation: most people are spoiled by bundles and sales in digital world (myself included) and are reluctant to pay what they perceive as qutie a bit of money for the title they guesstimate not to be as full of content as some of their other recent purchases.

    I think that there are three ways out of this. One is getting the title Greenlit and I know it is easier said than done – but this article, reprinted in many places is a good starting point. Second one is taking part in Humble Indie Bundle, which I assume is the easiest option. And another one is getting in touch with Sony – they welcome with open arms indie developers. If this appeared on Vita/PS3/PS4, it would surely earn more than meagre 7k dollars.

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  25. Forest

    Hey all, sorry if your comment didn’t show up right away – it was not intentional at all! I just found a couple comments that were accidentally held up in our system- sorry :\

    Reply
  26. RawSteelUT

    Have you guys tried gog.com or DotEmu.com yet? Desura, maybe? Steam may be big, but they’re not the ONLY game in town.

    Reply
  27. GG-Niels

    Hey guys i’m niels and i am a new youtuber i really love your game ever since i saw your game at steam greenlight, i regularly visit it and i gave you a yes vote. Also i bought your game and gonna feature it on my youtubechannel with my friends. We might not have alot of subscribers but your game looks good and i want to help you out. So i hope it will help and that every of our 68 subscribers will buy it!

    GL! and ps: the message “we could not verify you are human” is kind of annoying.

    Reply
  28. clayg

    The visual ascetic and “hardcore” gameplay of this title caught my interest back before launch; and I was checking in to see if would be possible for me to play it on a platform where I normally purchase games (I don’t game on my laptop – I spend money on games for my console and my phone) … when I found this article.

    I think your point about Steam is great, people want to purchase through familiar content channels – but for me that’s XBox Live Arcade and the Apple’s App Store. I do occasionally catch wind of games on Steam that I feel I’m missing out on (like Race The Sun) and it can be frustrating, but apparently not so far enough to make me try and hook up a controller to my laptop and my laptop to my TV. People are lazy and stingy, it’s a real problem, maybe Steam Box will solve it.

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  29. Apocalypse

    Ironic that I bought that game in a sale?
    Well, kind of. Sales are limited offers, and are this one little source of more games than you can ever hope to play.

    I might have bought the game still earlier if I would have known earlier that the game was released already.

    Reply

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