Archive for June, 2009

Huge discounts on my games for 4 days

Monday, June 15th, 2009

My games are being featured on http://www.gamedujour.com/over the next four days. You can get discounts of up to 65% on the following games:

- Holiday Bonus
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Easter Bonus
- Xmas Bonus

A new game will be featured each day. My games are already ultra-low price and these discounts push them down to no brainer prices like $3.48. So please check out http://www.gamedujour.com/ and tell your friends and family. Thanks! :-)

10,000 hours required to be an expert

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I recently read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, and one of the ideas he postulates is that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. He was basically saying that innate talent isn’t enough to make you an expert at something, you still have to practice for years until people regard you as an expert. It’s an interesting theory and well explained in the book. I highly recommend reading it – it’s fun, informative and easy to read.

So realistically how long does it take to get 10,000 hours of experience? Well, here’s a quick bit of maths: Assuming that you work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week and you have 4 weeks of vacation a year (I know it varies from country to country), this yields 8(hours) x5(days) x48(weeks) = 1920 hours per year. So you’d need to work for at least 5 years to achieve 10,000 hours! Note that during the 8 hours at work you would have to work constantly on the one skill, not surf the Internet, talk to colleagues, take breaks, spend too long in the loo etc. So more realistically that 5 years could easily become 10. OR less if you were a total fanatic and worked 12 hour days and at the weekend.

I’ve been a hobbyist programmer since the age of 8 (a scary 26 years ago) and coded for crazy amounts of time before I was 20 (hours every day, all night benders, all weekend for many years). Then I’ve been a professional developer for the last 13-14 years. So I think I’ve gone past 10,000 hours a while ago, although lots of my time was not directly programming but doing related tasks like design.

Here’s something interesting though, I’ve been doing Aikido for about 12 years now and I’m a 2nd dan black belt. But how many hours does that really add up to? Pretty much I did 5 hours per week EVERY week without fail (except for Christmas and the odd illness) for most of that time, plus about an extra 7 hours once per month for special courses for at least 10 years, plus a few summer schools of 25 hours (x4 I think) and the occasional extra training session. So what does this add up to? 5(hours) x50(weeks) x11(years) = 2750 + 7(hours) x12(months) x10(years) = 840 + 25(hours) x4(summer schools) = 100 = 3690 hours total. So perhaps I’ve done between 3500 and 4000 hours. This means I’m nowhere near an “expert”, yet if you said to someone you’d been doing martial arts for 12 years, they would probably think you are. Believe me I’m well aware of the fact that I’m still on the bottom rung (or maybe the 2nd) of the ladder as the cliche goes…

So lets compare with my Aikido Sensei who runs the school: He was a full-time Aikido student for many years and trained crazy hours to reach 4th dan in the 1970s. Then for the last 30 years or so he has run multiple classes a week and trained at least 12 hours a week plus ran special courses. This puts just the last 30 years at easily 20,000+ hours but if you add on his first 10 years of crazy training then I’ve no idea what the figure is, maybe nearer 30,000. People who go to maybe 1 or 2 or 3 of his classes a week will never catch him up, it’s like he’s accelerating away in a fast car…I guess that’s when expert turns into master or grand master.

How about you? What are you an expert in or well on the way to being an expert in?

14 Ways I Increased Downloads on my site

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Someone just asked me what things I’ve done to increase downloads on my site and I replied as follows:

To be honest I made most (*lots*) of my sales from portals so I haven’t spent a lot of time optimising my site for sales, but here’s what I have done:

1) I have a front page with featured games that each link to an individual game page.

2) I put Download and Buy buttons on each game page and I used a special colour scheme where the buttons are green for “go” (instead of something like red) and they have gold on them for “quality”. Note that the whole site looks clean and professional as well, not cheap or strange. I don’t think that many people buy directly, most people download play the demo first and buy from within the security wrapper. So I believe it’s most important to encourage quality downloads. That means customers who are actually interested in the type of game they are downloading (because they’ve read enough info and seen enough screenshots beforehand) and who are thus more likely to buy than random downloaders. This saves on bandwidth and yields a higher conversion rate.

3) My game pages have a nice big colourful image of the game name/brand and some short well-written text plus a list of bullet points of fun features including how many levels there are. I also have plenty of screenshots and then a list of real comments from sites that have reviewed the game.

4) I also have a 60 day no quibble money back guarantee right under the price. This is a well known technique to increase buyer confidence. You very rarely have to give refunds and it’s certainly not worth arguing with a customer if you want to get word of mouth referrals.

5) I dropped my prices several months back from normal Indie prices of $19.95 to $9.95 and $6.95 to compete with Amazon when they dropped their prices. I got a surge in sales but it has been quiet since then.

6) I host the files myself instead of on some free crappy server which is slow and packed with adverts and popups.

7) I have a page of free games which may attract people to the site. But it could be attracting the wrong sort of people i.e. non-paying customers.

8 ) I submitted PAD files of my games to shareware sites via a shareware submission service. This boosted traffic and resulted in sales.

9) I’ve done press releases via a PR service to promote new games and that has resulted in a traffic boost.

10) I’ve got the games reviewed on other sites and as they always get good reviews, this is bound to help. However, most of the reviewers approach me instead of me asking them.

11) I’ve had my games featured on http://www.gamedujour.com and I’m planning to put them on http://game.giveawayoftheday.com/

12) I have a newsletter and I email people when I make a new game or run a special offer. This sometimes results in increased sales and is certainly an important tactic if you have a large mailing list of loyal customers.

13) My site is linked to in all my emails, my site and games are linked to in my forum sigs, and my site is linked to when I post on other people’s blogs. I also post regularly on twitter now. This may bring in a bit more traffic. I also post about my new games on BlitzBasic.com which always results in some sales.

14) I have a links page and have traded links with several other sites. This may helped traffic and page rank. Certainly having a blog helps from an SEO point of view. Oh and I put some keywords in my site metatags but I’m not sure if the search engines bother with those any more.

Other Notes

- I do track downloads and sales so that if I was to change site layout or do A/B testing or run special offers I can track the changes. Without data, you are working blind. Also it’s well known that what you track increases ;-) However, I just don’t make enough changes to bothering tracking at the moment.

- I was doing affiliate sales and that was making some OK money but I had to stop that when I became a BFG employee due to a non-compete clause in my job contract.

- I have adsense on my site which some people say is unprofessional and may even draw away potential buyers. However, I make money from it so for now it stays.

- I’ve made tons of money from selling gambling site text links despite people advising against it, although recently my site pagerank dropped which may be as a result of google penalising my site.

- I have not tried bundle deals yet and I don’t change the site content much, it’s pretty much static. I don’t have a customer oriented blog, it’s developer oriented so there is nothing to keep customers checking back regularly. I don’t use Adwords or advertise on any other sites. There’s probably tons more I could do to, but it’s not a priority for me right now. Perhaps if I spent a little time though I could boost my passive income a bit, which is always nice.