Brawsome's Andrew Golding argues it's easier to sell premium games on Steam than the App Store

Brawsome's Andrew Golding argues it's easier to sell premium games on Steam than the App Store
In these days of free-to-play and cross-platform gaming, developers need to much more aware issues that were once thought of as secondary, or handled by publishers.

Release schedule, marketing and PR plans, and pricing strategy are all vital, but made more complex by being spread across different gaming audiences, at least in terms of devices.

Australian indie Brawsome released its first game Jolly Roger on Steam.

Its second - the Werewolf adventure MacGuffin's Curse - was released on Steam for PC/Mac and on iOS as a universal build, published by Ayopa Games.

In this interview, founder Andrew Goulding discusses its experiences in terms of handling pricing, sales and the different selling dynamics on Steam and the App Store.

Pocket Gamer: Before the release of MacGuffin's Curse, what were your views about retailing?

Andrew Goulding: We found that Jolly Rover seemed to make 80-90 percent of its revenue when it's on sale.

When it's not on sale it still sells copies, but at a slower rate.

Pocket Gamer: What sort of research did you do in determining price position on iOS?

We wanted MacGuffin's Curse to be a premium title. We thought it would be a good thing; especially on iPad.

We thought people were interested in having more of a meaty experience, but we're finding that the quick experiences are getting the volume they need to rise to the top of the App Store. Once you've dropped off the top 100, people can't really find you. It's as simple as that.

We mistakenly thought we could have a premium game at a premium price and it would sort itself out, but that's not really the case, unless you're at the pointy end of the App Store.

Have you been successful on the App Store?

I'm not sure yet. The game has done, at the moment I think, better on the desktop side. On mobile, we're only on iOS, so we're at the mercy of the App Store, and we're not a £0.69 title either.

We're selling for £2.99, which makes people think about the purchase a bit more than they otherwise would.

I was talking to Ben Kosmina about this the other day - he's the guy that came up with the concept for MacGuffin's Curse. We were saying that there's not a space on the App Store for something that's not a cheap, quick experience.

There's not another side for a more in-depth experience. I don't know how to solve that discoverability problem, but it's like there should be two stores, a £0.69 store and another store for other price points, so you can get better access to different experiences.

If I'm on the App Store, and I'm looking for premium experiences, there's no way to narrow down what games are premium experiences, because all I see is the £0.69 quick experiences, and I would like something larger, particularly for the iPad, which I think really needs it because it's more of a console. It's a couch-mobile device.

You recently put out a update with additional content and put the game on sale. How did that go?

We thought a sale would be a good way to promote the game with the update, so ran at 50 percent off, which gave us front page exposure on Steam but nothing on the App Store.

It was MacGuffin's Curse's first sale. I like the idea of single day sales instead of longer sales because it's a lot more focussed.

New content is a tough call though. We thought that if this sale did well and we managed to move, say, 10,000 units on the day, then we'll do it again. But this is really going to be consumer driven, so if we don't do that, then we might not be as excited about supporting it with future content and sales.

Ultimately, we've got to see a return, otherwise we're being silly continuing to support it if it's not doing that well.

And was the sale successful?

The daily sale on Steam went pretty well. We made about as much in that day as we did in the launch week.

iOS wasn't a big increase though. Price alone is not a big driver of units, unless you're £0.69 or free.

Leading up to release, how much did you have to split your marketing focus between platforms, given it's your first multiplatform release?

That's interesting, because compared to Jolly Rover, we did feel like we had to do twice as much marketing.

There's two different sets of publications for the game, so our press list essentially doubled, and we had to handle two sets of press for iOS and desktop, and even more from PC and Mac.

What do you think would have helped in terms of marketing if you had to go back and do it again?

Going right back to the start, we may have been better off releasing MacGuffin's Curse as maybe a 4 or 5 part series, with each individual chapter releasing for the £0.69 price point. Overall the game would be the same price, but then you'd get different exposure and possibly more users.

Currently we could drop to £0.69, but I really don't want to cheapen the desktop experience.

If you've released your game for £4.99 on PC, and you see it for £0.69 on iOS, users could be a bit annoyed.

Are there any main lessons you found moving from Jolly Rover to MacGuffin's Curse?

Thinking about what platforms you're going to be on from the start.

I think that a lot of people start making games just to make games, without any long term view of where this is going to go. Also, considering our marketing from the start, and building that into your production pipeline.

With Jolly Rover, I didn't plan to get art done for the icon, I just thought I'd pull out a bit of art I liked and use that. With MacGuffin's Curse, we planned a week to develop the icon, and we have space in the budget for merchandising assets and banner ads.

Finally, planning on schedule. A lot of people start making a game and say we'll release when it's done.

With MacGuffin's Curse we put a lot of thought into when GDC was, when's Christmas, when is bad to release, when's good to release, when are quiet press periods, when are we going to hit our milestones, and then deciding on a release date well in advance.

Thanks to Andrew for his time.

You can find MacGuffin's Curse for iPhone and iPad, priced £2.99, here. [iTunes link]

Caleb writes about many things, not least of which is video games. Having been published on Gamasutra, GamePro and JumpButton Magazine, his next step is, obviously, to take over the world. He figures it should only take another few weeks.


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