Sometime in mid-2013, I had a hankering to play a particular kind of RPG on my iPhone. I wanted a game with these features:
- Turn-based combat.
- Portrait orientation, and thus playable with one hand. (e.g. while eating with the other hand.)
- A single protagonist/hero. One thing I don't like about party-based RPGs is that typically, a couple of your party members need be KO’ed before you feel like the team is actually in any real danger. This doesn't tend to happen against non-boss enemies in most games, and thus those games often end up feeling uninteresting for long stretches.
- Interesting decision-making in combat -- even vs. non-boss enemies -- something beyond the typical RPG trope of "do basic attacks / target enemy elemental weaknesses / heal self when injured / repeat."
- No hard-to-use on-screen virtual D-pad for character movement. Give me a way to move my character that’s designed especially for a touchscreen, not one based on a traditional physical controller’s tactile D-pad!
- A combat system built around LOW numbers and visible enemy HP / stats, so I can calculate that if, for example, that enemy has 9 HP left, then I can perfectly finish it off by doing my 4 and 5 HP attacks respectively over the next 2 rounds.
- FAST combat. No waiting on long combat animations; no wading through multiple menus to kick off a combat round. This is my phone; let me whip it out when I’ve got 30 seconds, and actually accomplish something quickly.
- No save points. Why not just always keep my game saved automatically? (Even mid-combat!)
- Game designed with a goal of fun, not of corporate revenue generation! Absolutely no IAPs or premium currencies or ads or stamina timers.
I couldn't find that game on the App Store.
So... I decided to write it myself!
After spending most of my evenings between 10:00pm and midnight (after my day job, spending time with my family, getting the kids into bed, and daily chores) for about 18 months designing and writing the game – learning the Objective-C programming language and the whole MacOS / iOS development ecosystem along the way – Vigil RPG was released in November 2014!
|Here’s Vigil RPG’s combat screen, which illustrates the realization a lot of the points noted above that I wanted to achieve with the game. You can check out more screen shots and info about the game at the Vigil RPG website!|
Lifetime App Store Sales Stats
I don't really have any reason to keep them private, and I thought it might be insightful for other #indiedev folks and industry observers, so without further ado, here are the lifetime sales statistics to date for Vigil RPG (iOS)! According to my developer account at iTunes Connect:
- Released November 2014 at a price of US $2.99
- 354 paid copies sold, almost entirely at $2.99, with a few at $1.99 in a "birthday sale" in November 2015
- Total gross sales: US $1004
- About 70% of the lifetime sales of Vigil RPG came in the first 30 days after release.
- Vigil RPG got about ten 5-out-of-5-star community reviews on the App Store (and no 0-through-4-star reviews) immediately after release; it’s gotten zero community reviews since then. (Vigil RPG has no “review nag” prompts, which was an intentional design decision.)
- The second big spike in sales was after the 4-out-of-5-star TouchArcade review (which I was thrilled with, and found to be extremely on-point and fair – much respect to the reviewer, Shaun Musgrave). TouchArcade was the only major site to do a review.
- The little spike in November 2015 was the beginning of the $1.99 sale. Sales dropped off again rapidly even though I left the price at $1.99 for a while.
- Outside of the initial release and $1.99 sale periods, Vigil RPG sold at a rate of roughly 1 copy per week.Net proceeds after Apple's cut: US $707
- 3 x $US 99 of Apple annual developer licenses to develop the game and keep it live on the App Store = $297. Net proceeds after Apple dev license fees: $410
- Other misc. operating costs -- State of Michigan incorporation fees for Aggro Magnet Games LLC, web hosting for http://aggromagnetgames.com -- of around $100 to date. Bottom line proceeds to date: About $310
- 122 free copies redeemed (promo codes sent to review sites; a few free giveaways to try and drum up visibility and community interest)
- I didn’t bother trying to keep any stats on piracy rates, but at least one site out there (fairly readily findable via Google search) has the binary of the game posted for free download.
Given a very very rough estimate of about 600 hours spent creating the game, $310 in net profit works out to a wage of about $0.50/hour. Not exactly enough to quit the ol’ day job! (Fortunately, I already have a day job which I love!)
I am, however, honestly totally fine with that performance. I made an intentional decision up front for my goal for the Vigil RPG project to be to "make the game I wanted to play" – with no design compromises being made for the sake of monetization. So no IAPs, no ads, no other typical "freemium" features (or “anti-features,” as the case may be) such as premium currencies or stamina timers.
Consistent with my initial goal for Vigil RPG of prioritizing fun over profits, as of today, for the first time ever, the App Store price for Vigil RPG is reduced to $0.99! I’m hopeful that this will allow more people to enjoy the game – assuming there’s a segment of folks out there who are interested in iPhone RPGs, and are unwilling or unable to buy the game at the $2.99 price point, but will go ahead and pick it up for $0.99.
The main reason I didn't just cut the price all the way down to $0.00 (free) was that admittedly there's somewhat more cachet in being able to say "The game I made is for sale on the App Store!" than "I made a game and I'm giving it away on the App Store since no one was really buying it!"
It would also be nice if Vigil RPG’s proceeds would at least cover the annual $99 that Apple requires to keep it listed on the App Store. To that end, I might bump the price back to the original $2.99 at some point if sales at the $0.99 price point don’t generate much increased volume relative to the 1 sale/week or so of the $2.99 price.
“Buy It Now!”
Hopefully this detailed peek into one game’s iOS App Store performance was helpful, or at least mildly interesting!
If you’d like read more about the gameplay of Vigil RPG, you can do so on the Vigil RPG website. Or, you can check out the full 5-to-10-hour adventure firsthand via Vigil RPG on the App Store if you’ve got an iOS device, and can scrape together enough loose change to join the exclusive club of premium iOS game owners!
You can also hit me up with any questions you’ve got on Twitter at @AggroMagnetGame, or below in the comments!