Before we get to the post, check out the Speedrun Spooktacular. You could win a $50 Steam gift card! Complete rules on the NewCity Discord. Ends October 30.
When I first started to market NewCity, I committed to selling it the same way games were sold in the 90s: a single software product, purchased for life, and if we were to sell additional content, it would be a significant amount of content sold as an “Expansion Pack” (as opposed to DLC). We even considered the slogan “No DLC, always $19.93”. However, once we started receiving money from Steam and the company had a regular budget, I instantly understood why the industry has changed.
90% (at least) of initial game sales happen when someone first hears about the game, such as through social media. When someone popular streams the game, or a reddit post goes viral, large numbers of people are made aware of NewCity and some of them purchase it. I wanted to include a screenshot of our sales graph, but Steam would not allow that, so please take my word for it: our sales graph has a number of very big spikes, with a lower rate of sales in between.
The fact of the matter is, dear mayor, this is no way to run a business. How is a business owner to know how many employees to hire, or how many resources to commit to the future of a game, without a reliable, predictable stream of income?
The games industry at large has found a way to make the income stream more regular: microtransactions. I’ve heard advice for business owners to “see how many times you can get the customer to pay for the same product.” The ideal case is a subscription MMO: the customer pays every month, over and over again, the same amount every month.
An alternative model is for players to buy in-game items ala carte. This has the benefit of extracting more money from the most committed players, since not everyone wants to (or is able to) invest the same amount of money into a game.
Marketers know that different people are willing to pay different amounts for the same product. They would like to extract the maximum they can from each customer, but the law does not allow them to do so. Microtransactions make it possible in a roundabout way.
This also explains the rise of free-to-play games. The biggest problem for anyone in the entertainment industry is acquiring mindshare. We appreciate anyone who is willing to play the game, even if they are unable to contribute financially – as long as they bring attention to the game on social media. This is also why piracy is not such a big deal.
Many gamers, myself included, pine away for the glory days of the 90s when games came on CDs. The developer was obligated to actually finish the game, and debug it, before the CDs could be pressed, since downloadable patches were not a thing back then. What you bought was a complete software package, and you owned it for as long as you could keep the CD unscratched (assuming you kept the CD key written on a post-it with the disc.)
I’m writing this post because I think you, the players, are interested in knowing this. We don’t plan to introduce microtransactions. We will still hold open the possibility of an expansion pack or sequel – but only after we shake out the bugs and complete NewCity 1.0.
And I’m not complaining – being an indie game developer is a wonderful experience, and I could not ask for a better team to work with. I intend to stay in the games business for a long time. Working for yourself is so much better than working for a faceless corporation, and I recommend entrepreneurship to everyone.
So to my team, our community, everyone who has bought the game, and even everyone who has merely posted about the game on social media – thank you for joining this journey with me!
At Lone Pine Games we are always looking for feedback to improve our game! The best way to provide it is through the NewCity Discord.
We are thankful to have such a lively and dedicated group of Mayors participating in discussions regarding new features, city planning strategy, development news, and just about anything else.
Steam Reviews are always appreciated as well!