A lot has been going on behind the scenes here at T-Go Co Games as we work on Diesel Tactics, with a lot of progress on the game being made and a lot of changes being made to our marketing strategy. Today I want to talk a little about what our plans for selling Diesel Tactics were and are now.
Let me start by saying that since the first day I conceived the idea of Diesel Tactics I had a very specific plan of how I wanted it to work and how I wanted to deliver it to players. It’s funny to think of how much thought I put into that latter idea, given that not that long ago the idea of there being different ways to sell a game simply didn’t exist. You made the game and you sold that game for a given price. If it was successful, you could release a sequel or two.
Nowadays it’s really important to decide if you’re going to charge at all for your game and how and what to sell in the game after the initial purchase. We’ve seen a lot of flux between different marketing models with lots of developers always jumping on the latest trends.
Things started on mobile devices with the battle to the bottom, where game makers on mobile devices quickly fought amongst each other to have the most appealing price tag, with 99 cents eventually being settled on as the lowest you could go. This quickly gave way to the idea of giving away the game for free and making revenue through in game ads. I figure the logic was that people were making so little money per sale at 99 cents that they could actually make more money with advertising. The latest trend was then to give the game away for free, but then to charge for extras within the game itself. The problem with this was that the best way to make money with this scheme was certainly not the best way to make games. A lot of mobile games are awful, derivative, passionless, garbage that use the newest time gating techniques to generate cash flow off of a few whales, which were made with no desire to actually make a good game.
One important aspect of all of these attempts to determine the best market strategy is this: none of them really work that well. I’m not saying that they can’t work or that they don’t work at all, but I am saying that as marketing schemes they are supported by some very skewed statistics. When you see all those numbers of the amount of money made by freemium games or ad supported games or even 99 cent games, don’t forget that 1% of the games account for 99% of that money. I made that figure up (as a general rule, if someone uses 99% in a statistic, 99% of the time they are making that statistic up), but I believe that it’s actually reasonably accurate. Look, Clash of Clans makes over 1 million dollars a day. A day. You don’t think that skews the numbers a bit for how much money free games make?
Lately there has been a new, quite promising trend in game marketing: actually charging some money for the game. A major representative of this new line of thinking was Vlambeer with their $2.99 price tag for Ridiculous Fishing. It’s kind of crazy to think that people see 3 bucks as an expensive game, but such is the reality on mobile devices. That being said, we’re starting to see more and more game charging 2 or 3 dollars or even more and doing away with in app purchases or at least limiting them in scope.
So getting back to that initial plan I had for Diesel Tactics; I had a very specific idea of how I felt the game should play, and I have been unwilling to make any sacrifices to that ideal simply to monetize the product. I don’t want to play a game where I can pay to win, or pay to skip parts of it (what does it say about your game when you decide you can charge people to not play it?), or even have a different experience from someone else if I paid a little more. I had one golden rule: I cannot charge for anything that would affect the way the game would play. No power ups or bonuses or ability to avoid time gates.
Originally I wanted to follow the Hero Academy model and give the game away for free and charge for additional armies, and this was our plan until very recently. We were going to have one free nation that every player got with the base game and then we would charge $1.99 for the other nation that we would have available at launch. Neither nation is better than the other, they just have different play styles. They are designed to be balanced.
Eventually I came to the decision to instead charge $1.99 for the game and give both nations to players right away. There were a lot of reasons for this, but one of the main ones was that I wanted to guarantee more variety in all of the matches early on in the games lifecycle when we only had the two nations, as otherwise most of a players games would be against other players using the “free” army. I also felt that Diesel Tactics has more of a niche audience compared to a pure casual game, but that audience is willing to spend some money on a quality product. Because of this, I really don’t feel I would be losing too many IAP sales by charging for the base product.
Finally, I just want to state that there will still be IAPs in Diesel Tactics; however, they will not be game affecting items in any way. We’re going to sell things like extra colours and different skins for your armies. Purely aesthetic things. Eventually I would love to add some more nations to the game, and we would charge $1.99 for those, but once again I’ll say that all of the nations are intended to be balanced against one another, so buying the new nation won’t give you any advantage it will simply give more variety. That’s sort of one of our mottos: more options, not better options.