Holiday Bonus (for PC) first went on sale in December 2006 on several casual portals that sell download games, and it did OK but not as well as I had hoped
I brought out a Mac version in December 2008, but it wasn’t a big earner, although it continues to add to the bottom line.
A Second Launch!
However, later on I managed to revive its sales by doing the following:
1) After I shipped Spring Bonus in April 2011 I discovered several portals that didn’t take Holiday Bonus when it launched were happy to take it for Christmas 2012! Times change and the gatekeepers at portals change.
2) I made a localised version in multiple European languages and sent it to several distributors and it did quite well, especially taking into account the fact that it only took me 26 hours to do the work.
3) In 2012 I made an updated version called Holiday Bonus GOLD which had 55 more levels (double the original) and a few other tweaks. Some portals just took this as an update to the original (which probably boosted future sales due to having more levels), but other portals took it as a new game and re-promoted it, which was great. The GOLD version only took me a week (49 hours) and has proved to be very profitable.
I made it because some indie friends of mine were talking about DLC and casual download games don’t have DLC (the portals prefer to sell only whole games). So I thought that I could do something similar by adding more content, calling it GOLD, and getting it out there – and it worked!
4) Every year I remind the portals to promote it and put it on sale. Quite often they do but there’s more holiday-themed competition these days. In December 2014 one portal made a bundle of Christmas games and included Holiday Bonus GOLD, which was a nice surprise.
5) In December 2011 I launched a mobile version for iOS/Android that was coded by Damien Sturdy. It’s made about the same as the Mac version, which is OK, but it wasn’t a big earner. I also put out an XBox Live Indie Games version (and Windows Phone 7 version), coded by James Mintram. It was cool but made very little as XBLIG just wasn’t the right platform for it (the game was great, but players wanted zombie games and vibrating controller games).
6) I even did a small retail deal for a German version of Holiday Bonus GOLD in 2013.
All of the above had a positive effect as you can see by the graph below. It was like having a second launch but twice as big as the first one! Note that the first year is only really one month (December), so this is 8 years and 1 month of sales.
(click image to enlarge it)
Gross Revenue = $253,000 (this is approximate as I back calculate it based on my royalties received)
Net Revenue = $90,500
Hard costs = $4,100 (I couldn’t get away with a game this cheap these days. Some of this is rev share for ports.)
Profit = $86,400
Time to make/distribute = 464 hours (This is my time. I keep accurate logs)
Hourly Wage = $186
Launch month revenue as % of total = 3.4%
First 4 years = $29,458 net
Next 4 years = $60,976 net
Future = ? (but it’s all gravy now)
What did I learn?
This game was a passion project. I’d just shipped The Wonderful Wizard of Oz match 3, and I thought there was just enough time to re-use + enhance the engine and put out a Christmas game. So I worked very hard (so did the main artist) to get it done in a short period of time. I had fun making it, and now looking back, I’m very pleased with the result.
I’ve had similar good results with other quick games (my own IP) that I had fun making. Sometimes I think if you’ve got a good idea, you’ve just got to get on and make it quickly. Strike while your motivation is hot
Important Takeaway: Your first year of sales may not be a true representation of lifetime sales. Games have a very long tail and many new opportunities present themselves over the years. Play the long game to win.
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