Releasing an Indie Game on 3 Consoles at Once and Failing Financially

89 comments since January 11, 2016

consoles-chest

In May 2013, we attended TOJam and made a local-multiplayer game called Toto Temple. About a year later, we released a first version called Toto Temple Deluxe on Ouya. We kept improving the game afterwards and released the final version of Toto Temple Deluxe on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U and Steam on September 29th 2015. The game didn’t sell very well, and we think we know why.

  1. [Update] The sales
  2. Why invest 2 years on such a small game?
  3. Was the game at least fun?
  4. Gameplay analysis (how about those other popular games?)
  5. [Update] Theme / title / trailers analysis
  6. Marketing experiments
  7. So, why didn’t the game sell?
  8. [Update from Reddit] What about the other team members?
  9. Next time

[Update] The sales

Let’s not waste your time, we both know that’s what you want to see ;) As I’m writing this update, the game has been out for 4 months (released on Sept.29th 2015). Here’s how close we are from breaking even:

revenues

Almost! *curls into a ball and cries*

We sold around 6k copies in total, which is really not a lot, as you can see. Maybe we’ll benefit from the long tail eventually, or even better, the stegosaurus tail!

Why invest 2 years on such a small game?

The truth is, we never actually planned to do anything with Toto Temple (the jam version). We were presented with a chain of opportunities, and we simply decided to take each one of them as the development went on.

Year 1: Working with Ouya

The first opportunity we took after the Toronto Game Jam (where the game ended up being one of the favorites), was taking Ouya’s money to make a full fledged game out of Toto Temple. At the time, Matt Thorson’s Towerfall was Ouya’s killer app, and they wanted to cash in on that local-multiplayer trend (who wouldn’t). We took the money and made a bigger version of the game, which we then called Toto Temple Deluxe.

The deal was simple, get a bigger game (and more experience) in our portfolio without spending our own money. The game went live on Ouya, people enjoyed the Deluxe version, we even received really nice feedback from the press at E3 (Ouya booth).

Here we were, a couple weeks after the Ouya release, with a “console friendly” game in our hands, which technically didn’t cost us anything to make. For us, this was something unusual: we used to make small Flash / mobile games, and we now had a “big” game that could be played in the living room with actual controllers. It felt like a big deal, as we could remember actually saying a couple years ago that “we would probably never be able to make console games”. At the time, we didn’t have the skills to develop for consoles, and Unity wasn’t really a thing yet.

Year 2: Porting to consoles

This is where we took the opportunity to get in touch with the 3 giants. We arranged meetings at GDC and pitched Toto Temple Deluxe to the 3 console owners. They all liked the game and things moved forward pretty quickly after that. We officially became PS4, Xbox One and Wii U developers, which still felt like a really big deal. We were in the big leagues now.

Being total beginners in the console market, we quickly realized that we would never get an interesting exclusivity deal with any of 3 console owners, since the game was already out on Ouya.

Knowing that, we decided to release the game on all 3 consoles. The decision was mainly based on 2 points:

  • Our thought process back then was that if we can’t strike a good exclusivity deal, then let’s do all 3 consoles for 3 times the revenue.
  • We also thought that we probably wouldn’t get the media’s attention 3 times for the same game (the 3 releases), so let’s release the game on all 3 consoles at the same time. That way, we would get decent attention one time and speak to all console owners at once.

Was the game at least fun?

We genuinely think Toto Temple Deluxe is a lot of fun, under the right circumstances. We designed the game to be as family friendly as possible, meaning that anyone should have a minimum amount of fun, no matter how skilled their opponents are (auto-balance system, etc). It’s also designed to be played with real people, in the same room, on the same couch. The more yelling, the better!

We also witnessed genuine fun and engagement from players who tried the game in public events, like PAX and Comiccon (see the engagement below).

We still get goosebumps over this one.

Gameplay analysis

We don’t think the game didn’t sell well because it wasn’t fun. On the other hand, Toto Temple Deluxe is still quite different from those other popular local-multiplayer games.

Intuitive controls

One of the first thing you notice when you first play Toto Temple Deluxe is how tricky it can be to effectively move around in the game (by using the dash mechanic). Even if we did our best to explain the controls in the most intuitive way we could think of, there’s still a difficulty curve that you need to overcome to really feel at ease while moving around.

It definitely comes in the way of our goal to make the game family friendly. We should either have made the controls simpler, or aimed at a more “experienced” crowd from the start. Not both.

In Towerfall, for instance, everyone can be deadly by simply pressing the “shoot” button once. It’s that simple. In Toto Temple Deluxe, you need to:

  1. Get close to the goat carrier
  2. Use a combination of 2 buttons to dash towards the goat carrier
  3. Hope that you were aiming right
  4. If not, you need to turn around and start over

It’s definitely not a problem once you get the hang of it, but it’s not making the game as easy to get into for new players.

The show

Tricky controls can actually be a good thing if they’re funny to watch. Our friends from Breakfall did just that with their game Starwhal. The game is pretty hard to control, but it’s part of the show, as you watch your starwhal wiggle its way towards your opponent’s heart.

starwhal_website_gif_teams

This game will touch your heart!

In Toto Temple Deluxe, it’s actually pretty hard to make sense of what’s happening on the screen if you don’t know the game already. I mean, look at this:

ttd_chaos

This is probably confusing if you’ve never seen the game before.

Toto Temple Deluxe doesn’t really give a “good show” by default. You never see spectacular kills like in Towerfall or Starwhal, and not many actions are worth their own replay / slow motion sequence (there are, but they’re harder to spot). It’s not making the game less fun to play, obviously, but it’s making it less fun to watch. It might not be that attractive to YouTubers and Twitchers for this reason.

Intensity variations

In most competitive local-multiplayer games where you can “eliminate” players in some way (Samurai Gunn, Nidhogg, Towerfall, Starwhal, etc), you often find significant variations in intensity.

The tension goes up as you’re fighting / trying to survive, but once you or the other player is eliminated, there’s this drop in intensity that lets you breath (and celebrate) for a couple seconds, which feels right. On paper, it would probably look like this:

intensity_graph

More variations, more time to breathe.

In Toto Temple Deluxe, the intensity graph probably looks more like this:

intensity_graph_ttd

More like a marathon, less like short sprints.

You get micro rewards / satisfactions every time you steal the goat or strike a power-up, but the game doesn’t stop nor celebrate it that much, it just keeps going. Your real reward is at the end, when you finally reach 3k points and win the match.

We don’t think this kind of intensity is necessarily a bad thing, but it forced us to reduce the time of a match to about 2 minutes maximum. Anything passed that would really drain you out mentally, and a single game was usually more than enough.

All of these elements are probably not responsible for the game not selling well, but they do have an effect on the actual feel and accessibility of the game.

[Update] Theme / title / trailers analysis

Following the release of the article, we received a lot of feedback regarding the general theme and title of the game. Here’s an update on this particular subject.

A big huge part of selling copies of your game is to grab people’s attention when they first encounter your game on website or in a store. You do that by having a good looking game (originality, style, theme, etc), which comes up in screenshots and trailers. You also need to have a good title that is both memorable/catchy and describes the game well. Finally, your game’s description (elevator pitch) also needs to let people wanting more, or at least generate some kind of wonder in their mind.

We didn’t have any of this in Toto Temple Deluxe.

The theme

The Mayan / temple theme wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. It’s clearly overused, uninspired and doesn’t make you want to discover the game’s universe because you already know what that kind of universe looks like. Don’t get me wrong though, I think our game is beautifully drawn. We’re solely talking about theme here.

The main reason for all of this is because we chose the theme during the initial game jam. It was nicely supporting our first prototype about little servants defending the treasures in a temple for some god. You can see how the gameplay changed drastically during the jam.

We ended the jam with the Mayan theme, and we had no reasons to revisit it afterwards. Then Ouya came in and asked us to take what we had (which was good enough), and make something bigger out of it. It was faster to keep it like this and take the money, rather than re-design everything from scratch and lose money in the process.

After the Ouya version, we had a finished product that was a good fit for consoles (for the first time ever). It was obvious that we wouldn’t start over from scratch at that point. So that’s how we ended up with this theme.

We didn’t really notice that our theme was bad at the time because we were kind of confusing weirdness with originality. The whole “goat on your head” thing felt unique, unseen, so we were under the impression that our game was unique and memorable. But, yeah, we were wrong.

The character designs were also created during the jam, and we never went back to them. I personally still think they’re cool/cute, but it’s true that they aren’t as strong as other characters. For instance, I really like Candyman and Latch from Lethal League (Team Reptile). They’re unique and have strong, memorable features (thanks to Team Reptile for their feedback on the subject).

candyman

That face…

latch

A cyborg crocodile with a hoodie. Yup.

Another one of my personal favorites is obviously Burrito Bison, but I might be a little biased here ;)

The title

The title also came during the jam, and our main focus back then was to make it sound catchy (4 successive syllables starting with “T”). It was also a reference to Toronto and ToJam. Toto.

By the time we finished the Ouya version, the title had already spread a bit on Google (articles, download sites, etc). We thought that Toto Temple was still catchy, so we decided to keep it and simply add Deluxe to make it distinct from the jam version.

Back then, we thought that “catchy” and easy to find on Google was enough for a good title. We never asked ourselves if it was suggesting the gameplay well enough, of anything else for that matter.

We received a lot of feedback regarding the Deluxe part saying that it had a strong “puzzle” feel to it, which was misleading. At first I was a little bit sceptical, but a quick search on Steam revealed that it might lead to confusion for some users.

deluxe_puzzle

It’s not ALL puzzles, but I get the point.

The title itself isn’t responsible for the poor sales, but it certainly played a role in the whole thing, being one of the first things people see (usually).

The trailers

I like to think that both trailers are good. They’re not perfect, but they’re good. Again, I might be biased here because I made them myself.

The first one that came out, the Goat Interview, was supposed to teach viewers about the game’s mechanics. We wanted to do something like this because we felt like the gameplay was super chaotic and hard to understand just by looking at it.

The voice is from Julian Smith, a really good voice actor!

The trailer is a bit too long, but as first my first attempt at writing a script ever, I still think that it wasn’t that bad. We were also in the process of getting more powerful computers at the time, so the gameplay footage isn’t exactly smooth either.

The second trailer that came out was the “official” gameplay trailer, where you can see how crazy Toto Temple Deluxe is. In a perfect world, you would have watched the first one before watching this one. That way, you’d understand what was going on.

When you’re exhausted, adding WTF moments in a trailer [0:28] can help with motivation.

I might still look like pure chaos in there, but I took particular care to teach important elements in the right order. In other words, the trailers talks to you the whole time. Here’s what it’s telling you:

[0:03] This game is about a goat
[0:05] You can play up to 4 players
[0:06] The goal is to “Get The Goat”
[0:09] It’s a good game (a bunch of laurels)
[0:10] You get the goat by dashing in the carrier
[0:11] Again in slow motion to make sure you really saw what happened
[0:12] You can block your opponents to keep the goat
[0:13] Again in slow motion
[0:17] The temples have traps in them, you’ll need to handle that
[0:19] Underwater, the game has very different temples
[0:22] Special boxes, what’s that?
[0:24] It’s a flaming goat, so there’s multiple types of goats (modes)
[0:28] We don’t take ourselves too seriously
[0:32] BOOM! Oh, it was a bomb goat!
[0:35] The game has teleporters, you can use them to trick/kill your opponents
[0:37] Again in slow motion
[0:38] You know everything now, we unleash the chaos and blow your mind
[0:41] Oh, we forgot, crazy power-ups too
[0:53] It’s called Toto Temple Deluxe, available here and here and there and…

Everything’s going SUPER fast, and you might not get everything in one view, but at least it’s the idea. I used a lot of repetition and slow motion to help you catch all the details, but even that wasn’t enough to clearly see everything. By the way, if you want to hear more about “making good trailers”, I suggest you read this great article by Kert Gartner.

Another point that could have helped selling the game to local-multiplayer aficionados is including live action footage of actual players enjoying the game (like this). This way, you really get an idea of what the game is about and how it is best played.

A good example of that is the Sportsfriends trailer by Die Gute Fabrik.

Looks pretty fun if you ask me.

Once again, not a deal breaker to omit this kind of footage, but it can definitely help sell the game to the right crowd.

Marketing experiments

We tend to do everything in-house (contacting media, official websites, video trailers, community management, etc). We’ve never been fans of spending money on marketing for things we could do ourselves. We also try to come up with creative solutions to market our games to counter-balance our low marketing budgets.

For Toto Temple Deluxe, we really tried to do more than what we usually do. We went to PAX for the first time (remember, we used to make Flash games), and we also paid for PR for the first time as well. While going to gaming events and paying for PR services is pretty traditional, we also experimented a bit with other things like real goats and automatic Twitch raffles.

Paying for nothing PR at PAX East

Our first experience with PR wasn’t super useful in the end, to be honest. Even if we managed to get those services for a reasonable price (being “new customers” to a super friendly PR company), the end results left us pretty unsatisfied.

The services they provided were very good, don’t get me wrong. We managed to get a couple interesting meetings scheduled at PAX (big websites), but the snowstorm that happened that week made some of them cancel. When we got back, the PR company helped us reschedule new online meetings with the sites who canceled, but none of them answered our multiple emails afterwards.

One other big website that actually came to the meeting wrote an article about the upcoming game following the event, but they never bothered writing a review once the game released. We contacted them multiple time with no luck, which is weird, considering they already showed an interest in the game.

Giving away $17,000 worth of Toto Temple Deluxe at PAX East

We already wrote a detailed overview of this experiment, which you can read in full here.

pax_showdown_banner

Yellow warning signs: A pretty good way of getting people’s attention!

This particular experiment (the showdown system) was really successful at the event. We attracted big crowds and got noticed by a lot of players. The only problem is that we didn’t get noticed by that much press, which would have helped promote the game later down the road.

The showdown system worked so well with player though, that we replicated it at future events (like the Montreal Comiccon), and received the same type of response (only on a smaller scale).

It’s definitely something we would try to adapt to our future games, and we encourage anyone to remix this idea to fit their needs.

The Real Goat bundle

When the game came out, we had a plan to join a good cause by promoting the Oxfam Unwrapped program. Oxfam are offering to buy real animals (like chickens, goats, donkeys, etc), to provide communities in need around the world. It’s a sort of donation, basically.

Yes, a REAL goat.

What we did is we committed ourselves to buy real goats in the name of anyone who would purchase the Real Goat bundle. The buyers would also get 4 copies (Steam keys) for Toto Temple Deluxe to share with their friends.

Despite being really well adapted to the theme of the game (goats) and being original to some extent, the Real Goat bundle didn’t sell at all. We think it’s probably due to 3 factors:

  1. The steep price of the bundle ($60 USD), which basically just covers the price of the goat. We make no money with the bundle, which actually fits the “good cause” idea. We’re giving away copies of our game in exchange for a donation to a charity organisation.
  2. We only felt comfortable giving away PC versions of the game. The game is more enjoyable / popular on consoles, but we’re not allowed to distribute console codes that way.
  3. The game doesn’t support online-multiplayer, so 4 copies of a local-multiplayer game might feel less interesting a deal if it doesn’t let you play with your friends online. We were aiming to give buyers an opportunity to simply gift the game to their friends, but we completely understand the ambiguity.

Bot Bet Battle

Following the release of Toto Temple Deluxe, we organized a 1 day Twitch event called Bot Bet Battle.

botbetbattle

We had the game’s bots fight themselves in a classic tournament, and viewers could vote for the bot they thought would win. Everything was AI controlled, so we had no input over which bot would win.

The number votes would update in real time (or almost), the names of the voters would pop on the screen for everyone to see, and the tournament would start when enough votes were entered to fill the “votes bar”.

ttdontwitch

At the end of the tournament, everyone who voted for the winning bot would automatically receive Steam key in the chat system (as a whisper, obviously). You basically had a chance out of 4 to win a free copy of the game.

We would also ramp up the amount of necessary votes from round to round, so that viewers would invite their friends to accelerate the process.

We gave away about 1,400 Steam keys during the event. Knowing that a single account couldn’t win twice, and that a lot of viewers never won a key, we know we reached a lot more than 1,400 viewers.

We promoted the event on our social pages and a bunch of related subreddits, so there was probably a decent percentage of “new customers” in the lot.

Even though the event was fun, and that we probably managed to reach new followers, we barely noticed any bump in the game’s sales.

Cameos

This one took us a lot of time and grew out of proportion pretty quickly. When we started working on the Deluxe version, we knew we wanted to include cameos from other games as a replacement for the goat (what you’re fighting for). By other games, we mean games made by friends of ours and other developers we admire and respect. We also wanted to include people in there (not just game characters), like the developers themselves.

All of this was supposed to be a small and cute addition to the game. We were adding unlockable cameos from games we love, and everyone from the team started to pitch in. This is where everything exploded. We created around 150 cameos (and by we I mean JP, our artist), ranging from game characters to their developers themselves. Here’s some examples:

The knight from Rogue Legacy

Our good friend Dom2D!

Mayhow & her monsters from Omnomnom

The one and only Doseone

We reached out to every single developer to introduce our idea and get an approval if they liked it. Some of them were already our friends, which was easy, but a lot of them were big developers we never spoke with before. Sometimes it took a lot of effort / contacts to get the missing email addresses.

We wanted to do things in a clean way, so we wrote a personalized agreement for each of them, stating that the cameos were just cosmetic additions, and that we would never sell them or make money directly from them, etc.

The agreement itself let the devs change the name of the cameos, decide on which consoles they would appear, pick the secret code to unlock them, and if they agreed with the whole idea or not. A digital signature was required, and boom, everything was set (no PDF, no emails).

A couple months later, on the actual release date, we’ve seen a lot of those devs share their cameos (and their secret code to unlock them) on Twitter and Facebook. Not all of them shared though. There was obviously no way to predict who would share and who wouldn’t, but we still saw a LOT of tweets that day.

cameo_fez

A tweet by Renaud Bedard

cameo_guaca

A tweet by Drinkbox

cameo_capy

A tweet by Capy Games

cameo_necrodancer

A tweet by Brace Yourself

It’s pretty hard to calculate how much visibility we gained through the cameo system, as we can’t access other dev’s Twitter stats, but we probably reached a lot of people who wouldn’t have been aware of the game otherwise. What we can calculate though, is how many new connections we made with developers we admire, and we’re pretty happy about it <3

Newsletter

A newsletter system is nothing new, but we also toyed with it for the first time. Okay, maybe the second time. Remember that part where we gave out free Steam keys at events? Well they weren’t really free. We actually asked people to subscribe to our newsletter in order to receive the key. You can get all the details about how we did it here.

steamkeys

A unique code is required to get your key!

We even created a sweet little backend system (with the help of our good friend Devine Lu Linvega) that automatically distribute the keys without having us send a single email. We just need to upload the keys to a database, and the system handles everything.

  1. Users need a unique code printed on the “key card” they won
  2. They join our newsletter by entering their email address and unique code in a Mailchimp form
  3. Mailchimp sends the info back to our backend system, where we validate the code and register the email if it’s good
  4. Users automatically receive an email with their key in it

We managed to gather 1,437 email addresses around Toto Temple Deluxe (not just with free keys), which all received a single email on the release date (we don’t like spam). Out of these 1,437 emails we sent, 493 (34%) were opened, and 72 (5%) got clicked. Based on certain benchmarks, these numbers aren’t that bad!

So, why didn’t the game sell?

The game was fun and players were genuinely engaged at events. We reached out to a lot of press with the help of a PR company, but barely got any coverage. We tried different and original marketing tactics, but they didn’t resulted in many changes in the sales. So, what happened?

There’s a good possibility that the game didn’t have good enough “hooks” to captivate people’s attention. Sure, “fighting your friends to put an egg-laying goat on your head” sounds funny and weird, but it doesn’t really give you a clear idea of what it’s like to play Toto Temple Deluxe.

At the end of the day, we think the biggest factor is because it’s a local-multiplayer game with no online play. The game is aiming at a pretty niche audience by requiring actual human friends to play, and we can’t ignore the impact it has on sales. A quick look at comments on YouTube, Reddit and such, and it’s obvious that a lot of people are simply not buying the game for this very reason (that along a lack of solo experience). Here’s one example:

no-online

At least it’s loads of fun!

To confirm this idea, one of our contacts from a very well known gaming site explained to us why they wouldn’t write an article on Toto Temple Deluxe. Apparently, it’s simply because local-multiplayer news don’t generate enough clicks to be worth it. We totally appreciated the honesty!

On top of all this, we also think the game came out almost 2 years too late. Back in 2014, when the local-multiplayer boom was happening, Toto Temple Deluxe’s development felt more logical. Today, it feels a bit out of place, as we think a lot of player might have bought popular local-multiplayer games in the past, then realised that they would play them less and less frequently. We definitely can’t blame them, since it’s pretty much the same for us.

Obviously, these are all based on our current knowledge and experience, and probably doesn’t apply to all local-multiplayer games. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking we missed a point, or have a different opinion on the subject, we’d love to hear it!

Porting to 3 consoles at once

Releasing the game on the 3 consoles at the same time felt like a good idea at the time. We were only thinking about it from a revenues and media coverage standpoint, which was obviously a big mistake (for a local-multiplayer game released 2 years too late with no online mode, at least).

The actual ports

The worst part in all of this is probably that our only programmer, Alex, did all the heavy lifting by himself (the guy’s a freaking machine). Making the game run smoothly on all 3 consoles took him a good amount of time and energy, especially during the certification process.

To give you an idea of the difference between the 3 consoles, here’s how we spent our time on the actual ports over the second year of development:

port-time

Well that’s not equal at all.

Considering that we made about equal revenues on each consoles so far, you can see that one was definitely more expensive to port to. This might change in the future though, as this was our very first time working with consoles. We also received a lot of help from our friends from Chainsawesome Games for the Xbox One port, which saved us a lot of time and headaches!

Another factor that greatly extended the port process was having to jump back and forth between the different versions of the game. Yes, Unity makes it easier to port to multiple platforms, but the requirements for each console were so different that we ended up having 3 different Unity projects / branches to support them.

giphy1

Fixing and patching and fixing and…

We lost a LOT of time patching little mistakes here and there, like details we added or fixed on one version but forgot to include in the other, etc. With only 2 team members skilled enough to handle the “technical stuff”, you can surely imagine how this inefficient workflow became extremely messy during the certification process.

[Update from Reddit] What about the other team members?

We mentioned that most of the ports were handled by Alex, our programmer, with a lot of additional help from Dom (certs, store metadata, etc), so a Reddit user asked “what were the artists/other non-programmers doing during that time?”

It’s a totally legit question, considering I didn’t cover it much in the article. As you already read above, JP, our artist, handled all the cameos. He drew around 150 in total, with a lot of them being “caricatures” of real people (kind of harder to draw). I was overseeing the whole cameo thing with Dom, but I was also in charge the 2 trailers.

My answer on Reddit: “We made our 2 trailers in house, and one of them was a frame by frame animation / cartoon with scripting and voice acting. We also needed to render, submit and rate both trailers, for 3 companies, split in 2 continents (American and European divisions are all separate entities), which all have different requirements depending if it’s a storefront video or a website video, or a YT channel video, etc. Each company has a required set of video encoding setting that differs based on what I just listed, and we’re not even talking about legal lines at the end of trailers, rating icons (ESRB, PEGI), console logo placement / colors / size requirements (because that’s a thing). Here’s a screenshot of the list of all the different renders we made for just 2 simple trailers.

Screenshot on 1.14.2016 at 9.02.54 AM

I was happy we chose to only do 2 trailers…!

A lot of that year was spent f*cking up and trying to fix things. Big AAA companies usually have complete departments dealing with certs and all that kind of stuff, they’re used to it and they know what they’re doing. We don’t ;)”

Obviously, the rendering of all these videos is nothing compared to 3 actual ports, but if you’re thinking about doing it yourself, it’s useful to know that it might take you more time than expected.

Burning out

We spent 2 years, full time, working on Toto Temple Deluxe. The first year was about developing the game and its content, while the second year was about porting it to 3 different consoles at once. That second year is where we started to feel the burn.

We’re a team of creative people, and we get our motivation and energy by exploiting that creativity. We like to create things, invent worlds and mechanics. That second year of development was all about paperwork, unusable console portals, technical problems, bugs and desperate searches for information (consoles and their documentation are not really easy to navigate).

giphy (2)

Uuuugh…

Once we shipped the game on Sept 29th, we all went home and did nothing for a least a week. Porting Toto Temple Deluxe really drained us out, especially for Alex who did a inhuman job all by himself (seriously, a machine).

The process of porting the game was hard by itself, but following up a year of non-creative work with a launch that doesn’t make much noise, nor sell a lot, was pretty hard on all of us. We’re slowly getting back in shape for a new project (winning the prize of the most addicting game with Right Click to Necromance for Indie Speed Run shook things up a bit), but we can still taste the bitterness of the unsuccessful launch.

No deal, no help

Back in the days, when we were young and naive, we pictured console storefronts as big marketing machines with lots of users and traffic (remember, we were doing Flash games). We realized pretty quickly that it’s not how it works!

nicksuttner

Talk by Nick Suttner, screenshot by Rob Fearon

Since we couldn’t really strike an exclusivity deal with any of the consoles, with the Ouya version already available, and we were porting to all 3 consoles at the same time (no “semi-exclusivity”), Toto Temple Deluxe probably wasn’t perceived as a really interesting deal for any of the consoles. Sure, they were getting a new game for their system, but that was pretty much it.

Because of that, we weren’t really able to get a featured spot on any the storefronts, except for Nintendo who actually featured us on both the American and European front pages. Thanks Nintendo!

wiiu1

Oh, look at that! Photo by Tim McLennan

wiiu2

Wow, twice? Photo by Tenkoman

What’s also interesting is that being featured twice on the Wii U eShop actually ramped up the sales of the game to almost equal numbers with the other 2.

Next time

We’ve learned a lot with Toto Temple Deluxe, and there’s a lot of things we’d do differently (or not at all) for our next game:

  1. No more local-multiplayer
    • They’re easy to make in a game jam, but super hard to market if you don’t add online play.
  2. Strike a deal first
    • If we’re to make another game on console, we’ll make sure to strike an exclusivity deal first, so we can get a bit more help and visibility from the console owner.
  3. Only one console
    • It goes without saying that with we’ll only do one console if we strike an exclusivity deal, but even without that, we wouldn’t port to 3 consoles at once ever again. It’s a LOT of hard work that didn’t really paid well in the end.
  4. Design from a marketing perspective
    • Visibility is getting harder and harder to come by, so we’ll try to design our games with marketing in mind from day one. Having a solid hook and making sure there’s a potential audience for your game is super important. I suggest you read this great article on the subject by Ryan Clark from Brace Yourself.

I think it’s easy to think of Toto Temple Deluxe as a failure. Even worst, a waste of time and resources. Sure, the game only generated a fraction of what we spent on it, but we’ve learned a lot. Now it’s time to get up, dust off our shoulders and get the creative juice flowing again!

yowan_stamp

• • •

Look for other posts about Development, OUYA, TOJam, Toto Temple or Toto Temple Deluxe.

Leave a comment. Do it.

Woah, 89 comments!

  • Sasha Puck Reply

    Hello guys, you’re awesome so please hold on and make cool games as you do! There are a lot of your fans so what do you think about a donation button or something like that for people who want to support you? We love you, good luck!

    • Yowan Reply

      Thanks, it means a lot!

  • Dope Reply

    Finally I discovered the reason for you guys don’t make a new extraordinary game.It is a long long paper,I just read the start and the ending to know it.Happy to know that you are out of the game and trying to get a new start.Inform me if the new game out,I am just can’t wait to playing Juicy Beast’s game!

  • Egor Reply

    You have a great games

  • William Reply

    Hey juicybeast, I have been following your work for a long time now and really enjoyed your games. You should really treat Toto Temple Deluxe as more of a learning process and not a failure.From a laymen’s perspective, I think that one of the biggest flaws that hurt you in the long run was the lack of online multiplayer (something many people picked up on). Also, I think that as you learned, porting to every platform is ridiculous and that you should rather try to choose which one would work the best. The obvious choice right now is probably the PS4 as it has the largest consumer base out of the consoles, increasing the chances of the game selling. However, you should also think about which platforms are very easy to port to. Now, I don’t know the nitty-gritty details of development, but it seemed like porting the game to the wii u was the largest time and effort sink, and didn’t pay off really, but porting to the PS4 looked like a much faster and easier process. Furthermore, you guys spent a lot of money on marketing, and I think that you underestimated how much fans will look forward to your next game and will come to you. Anyway, now after your first major console game I think that you will have a larger presence and following anyway, and I hope will make it much easier to get the news out and heard than before. I believe that you guys have learned your lessons and that your second game like this will come out much, much better, as they ususally do for studios new to the big league. I wish you the best of luck for the future, and always remember that you could always look to other places to find the money for your next project (hint, hint, kickstarter or patreon). You’ll do great guys.

  • Jairo Rodriguez Reply

    You are awesome and generous enough to share all this information! Unbelievable! Never give up, your tenacity will lead you to better deals. I have no doubt on it.

    Pd. I will kill for a new Burrito Bison entry (seriously, i cannot stop playing that freaking game…)

  • Jonas Reply

    So sorry to read about the expenses, my 3-yo son wanted to play it on Wii-U.. but then you blew up a goat. We weren’t really your targeted market ;-)
    Wanted to say I love couch Co-Op. (this is not Co-Op but still). And a slightly more kid friendly game with a capture the flag feel would interest me at-least, I might be one of few tho. Truth be told, I came to see if there’s a new version of burrito bison coming.. or a planned release to Wii-U.

  • Jean-Claude Reply

    Je cherchais un idle game -> zombidle -> Berserk -> Lachhh -> entrevue sur epeelegendaire.com -> discute du developpement indie -> mentionne juicy beast -> vos jeux -> cet article.

    Ca devient de plus en plus clair pour moi que d’aller chercher des degrés de compréhension supérieurs c’est ce qui est le plus payant dans les marchés matures / là où il y a beaucoup de compétition. Je vous remercie pour cet enseignement précieux (et gratuit!)

  • Eisa Reply

    That’s so sad..
    This game is a heck of fun and what makes it fun is that you can grab anyone and enjoy it with since it’s simple.

    It’s also sad knowing that we won’t see those kind of games again from you guys.
    Sadly, many people don’t agree with my taste.
    My favorite Juicy Beast game was Flippin’ Dead and still is along with this maybe and both didn’t work out so well.

    I’m looking forward to see what you guys come up with next!
    Thanks Juicy Beast for all of your efforts, and for the entertainment and fun you always provide!

  • ROBOTunderscore Reply

    well that was depressing

  • Rickard Reply

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

    I didn’t know about your game until this post was linked from NeoGAF, and I’m thinking about how that could realistically have been different. On PSN, one way would have been to simply(?) have a demo for it. Right now, the demo section for PS4 has only 26 games, and with “most recently released” as the default sorting order, you would have instant visibility. Anyone checking for available demos would see it, and I imagine I’m not alone in doing that from time to time. People checking for demos are probably quite willing to download them as well, and if it’s a game you really need to play to understand why it’s fun, it seems like it could make a difference. But perhaps the cost of having a demo on PSN is prohibitive?

  • Anon Reply

    I’m one of the ones that didn’t buy cause of lack of online multiplayer. I think Screencheat (a game in a similar vein as Toto)’s solution would’ve surely helped your sales, they’ve a hybrid local+online multiplayer system where you can have both at the same time, and that really made a difference in terms of hours played (at least according to my steam account). Better luck next time!

  • John Smith Reply

    Very good and candid article, but I can’t completely agree with your conclusions, most notably the second one. I work for a small company that ‘struck a deal’ with Sony last year and for us it turned out the worst thing we could have done, especially because it locked us out from releasing on other platforms for a substantial amount of time. We were a featured game on PSN Plus, but the initial payments we received from Sony didn’t cover our development costs and subsequent sales were so low that we had to resort to other financial means to stay afloat. Our next game, which we now have to develop under a very tight budget, will never be an exclusive deal ever again. Any of the big 3 and most notably Sony, because they now have an image among the ignorant gaming public where they can do no wrong, will try and trap the unsuspecting and fresh developers into their portfolio. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS because even the exposure you get with these deals is very sparse. That’s where my second point comes into play: Don’t do your own PR and marketing but hire a competent firm with experience to do it for you and don’t let it be the platform holder because with all the games coming out and their devs doing the same, you’ll still be hard to find.
    The other conclusions I can pretty much agree with: Focus on one platform first, preferably one with the most potential customers (which, going by the numbers, could soon be the Windows Store with Xbox combined if Microsoft’s rules remain fair). Don’t make the OUYA your priority because it essentially screams smartphone port to the public now.
    Not to hate on your game, but the experience of short burst of fun also gave off that impression and then the local multiplayer only doesn’t help one bit. If it’s a longer game with more diversity, say Four Swords as an example, people will invest more time in it but even then online multiplayer will get you that much further in this day and age.
    The best advice anyone can give you is ‘Be unique’. Unfortunately that is something that is very hard to do and I sympathize with you being in the same situation.
    I wish you good luck on your future endeavours! Please don’t give up because the industry needs all the talent, which you certainly have, it can get.

  • Nobody Reply

    The point about intensity caught my attention. I think you’re absolutely right. As a diehard StarCraft fan it’s a topic that is occasionally blamed in part for the games decline. StarCraft would have a very similar intensity graph as your game. It’s extremely stressful to play at every level. It’s a much less appealing experience compared to the more popular dota-style games that, despite being stressful in their own way (probably due to their team based structure), have the rises and falls depicted in your other example.

  • Sebastian Reply

    Played Toto Temple Deluxe at your PAX East booth last year and loved it. Added it to the note I was keeping in my phone “Favorite Games of PAX 2015” and ended up buying it on release for PS4. Everyone of my friends I’ve shown it to, those who play games regularly and those who don’t, all have had a ton of fun with it. It bummed me out reading this article but you’ve got real talent for making a fun and accessible game, I’m excited to see with what you come out with next!

    Sincerely,

    A fan

    • Yowan Reply

      That’s awesome, thanks for spreading the word Sebastian!

  • timm Reply

    Super interesting read. I dont think theres anything wrong with local multiplayer modes but if thats your only mode its going to be an uphill battle to put it lightly. If your bread n butter is local then you have to have the accessibility and reach of mario party.

  • MitchyK7 Reply

    This was an interesting read. I’ve seen many like this recently, the only difference being they all blame somebody else. Sunset the game was awful and boring to be honest, but it was our fault as gamers cos we didn’t “get it”. If gamers don’t get it, that’s a failure of design on the dev’s part. Your post was more honest, and self reflecting. This industry is currently at a point where cynical corporations like ubisoft or EA are just churning out the same game every year as a sequel, and when people get bored, they won’t accept any fault for that! Your post is an example of how developers should be. Aceepting where you went wrong is the only way to do better in future. Also, couch co-op games are a dying breed right now as all the big names push online services, so I’d suggest sticking with that theme, as in our home games like Halo 3, or Fusion Frenzy are favourites despite their age because they actually have couch co-op and couch vs. Some great rivalries emerge and real world tactics like controller interference are encouraged in sudden death battles! lol. I will be following you after reading this, and hope for great things in your future.
    Good luck guys!

    • Yowan Reply

      Thanks for nice words (and for following us) :D

  • Daniel West Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, it resonated deeply with my experience releasing my game Airscape.

    Best of luck with your next project.

  • Space Giraffe Reply

    Guys, I follow your work since I was in college, you are very creative people and inspired me a lot. Is a pit the Toto’s Temple was sell well, but I’m really sure you guys will work very well with this experience and create something awesome! Cheers.

  • Max Reply

    I hope you guys haven’t lost faith gamedev.
    Because your games rock!
    I remember the time I got Knightmare Tower on iOS, it was like:
    1. [10:00 PM] Let’s give it a try.
    2. [10:15 PM] Hell, this game is hard.
    3. [10:50 PM] Oh, I’m getting pretty good at it.
    4. [11:30 PM] So, which one should I upgrade first?
    5. [02:45 AM] One more luck upgrade and I’m going to sleep.
    6. [03:10 AM] Ok, let’s get this final stage luck upgrade and I’m gone.
    7. [04:20 AM] Damn it’s hard to get money with all this monsters killing me all the time, mb I need to upgrade armour a little.
    8. [06:30 AM] I have almost all upgrades now, time to beat that boss’s ass.
    9. [07:00 AM] ****, that boss is really tough!
    10. [08:30 AM] Almost!
    11. [08:45 AM] ALMOST!
    12. [08:30 AM] OMG, Finally!
    >running around the house with my phone screaming “take this”
    >ran into bedroom where girlfriend was sleeping
    >immediately regret this decision
    >pretending I was doing a morning warm up
    >laying in the bed, trying not to move

    … What was all that about?

    Oh, Yeah! Continue to make a great games!

    Much love,
    Max

  • Tim Maitland Reply

    I think your game didn’t do too well because it looks like so many other games. The game play looks interesting but artistically/aesthetically it seems boring. The temple design and goat characters are really forgettable.

  • John Axon Reply

    Sorry to hear it didn’t sell. I loved playing it at Gamercamp. How’re you gonna fund your next game? Are you gonna make a prototype and try to shop it around to different console companies? Good luck, Juicy Beast!

    • Yowan Reply

      We still have multiple options (publishers, Canadian funds, tax credits), plus it’s not like we’re making zero money with TTD. We’re just really far from recouping haha.

  • Angelo Yazar Reply

    wow, thanks for writing this. We’ve had similar experiences with our games, and as a fellow Wii U dev and TOJammer I was curious as to how TTD was doing. We decided to port ESJ: Groove City to Wii U since there aren’t many games on the eShop, but we also struggled to capture the interest of the audience. Given the amount of work it took to port to console it wasn’t worth it, especially when you compare that to the amount of effort required for the other platforms we supported. (iOS, Android, Steam)

    • Yowan Reply

      Sad to hear that! I think it’s getting clearer and clearer that you NEED visibility, even on consoles. They won’t magically bring you traffic :|

  • Mikael Forslind Reply

    I would too want to see sales numbers. What do you consider a financial failure? 200 copies? 2000 copies? 20 000 copies?

    Still a brilliant article though. Thanks!

  • Luidls Reply

    Thanks for the awesome post. As an future (at least hoping to be) game designer was really helpful in a lot of aspects.
    Thanks again and good luck.

  • Sean Siem Reply

    thanks for sharing your experience, especially the rough parts! this is valuable stuff all devs can learn from.

  • Rich Reply

    Great post and great insight. Don’t think of this as a total failure though, you have to look at the fact that you now have a ton of knowledge that you wouldn’t otherwise have. You have relationships with other developers, relationships with the big platforms (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) which will surely help on your next game, and you have invaluable experience. Keep your heads up! You’re awesome people who make awesome games, we all know that :)

    • Yowan Reply

      Thanks Rich! You’re right, we feel like we’ve never been in a better position before (except financially haha). Our next game should be better executed!

  • Martin Brouard Reply

    Indeed an excellent article that I can really relate to. There are so many common points with our situation with Chariot that it’s scary :-). And we pretty much came to the same conclusions. Sadly, even though local multiplayer is SUPER fun and that people say it’s really cool, especially at big consumer shows like PAX, the vast majority of people will just not buy local multiplayer titles and major gaming website will only cover a few of them in passing and almost never review them. (Just look at Metacritics reviews for Knight Squad, Runbow, Chariot and even TowerFall: Ascension, and you won’t see many BIG gaming sites reviewing them except for Destructoid who does a pretty good job at this. #IDARB is probably the exception here).

  • Ryan Reply

    Thanks for sharing your postmortem, it was an educational read.

    I’d like to give you some perhaps unusual feedback after reading your article, and I don’t want to sound harsh by any means, but I don’t think the title of your game, Toto Tower Deluxe, really lends itself to conveying to a potential buyer what your game is about. I asked 4 of my friends the same question: “There’s a game I saw called Toto Tower Deluxe. What type of game do you think it is?” Each person thought it would be either a puzzle game like Bejeweled or a mahjongg style game. I think the reason for this is that Popcap Games have pretty much named as many of their games “Deluxe” as they could get their hands on. If you search for “Deluxe” on Steam, you will find the majority of results are titles like Bejeweled Deluxe, Peggle Deluxe, Bookworm Deluxe, Zuma Deluxe (also temple-themed), etc.

    The reason I am mentioning this is because the most pertinent and immediately available information to a buyer about games on the Steam page, Wii U store, and I’m assuming Xbox and Playstation stores, is the title of the game, the accompanying graphic, and price (which is a non-issue for my feedback, but it completes the trifecta of store page information). So I think it is critical to be able to grab someone’s attention when they’re browsing games. You could be offering the greatest holy grail of local multiplayer experiences, but if someone who is looking for that type of game thinks your game is a puzzle game, and is not convinced otherwise by the Steam/Wii-U/whatever store page art, they will scroll right past it. They will never see the summary of your game, your trailer, or any of the hard work you guys have prepared to wow and amaze the buyer like you have been able to do successfully in other forums such as PAX.

    This is all of course purely anecdotal and unmeasurable. It’s really just meant to be food for thought, and I hope that it helps your future games.

    I have huge respect for you guys and thanks again for the insight into your project.

    • Yowan Reply

      You’re right about the title, it’s far from being perfect! We’ll try to add a short title analysis in an upcoming update. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Emma Larkins Reply

    I’m sad to hear about the game not performing as well as expected. I saw it at a bar after a Playcrafting event in NYC a few months ago – I didn’t get a chance to play it then, but it looked so compelling I snapped it up when I got home. I’ve played it several times with friends, but I suppose I might be in the minority of people who love and have the opportunity to play local multiplayer games :)

    Hugely appreciate you writing this – as a company about to launch a multiplayer game (Blade Ballet) there’s a ton of useful info for us here. I think the ‘no inherent sales’ thing is key – I’ve chatted and worked alongside dozens of indie devs, and there’s a strong mentality that if you just make a good enough game, it will sell. But no matter how good your game is, community building and marketing is an essential, often overlooked every day thing, day in, day out, sharing, connecting, writing, repeating.

    I think adding an online option can help a game spread – I personally learn about most multiplayer games by playing them online with my gamer group, even if I later play (and enjoy) a local mode. Important to note, though, that a multiplayer game that’s fun locally won’t necessarily translate to online play. I’ve heard that some devs have had more success with adding a single player mode over networked multiplayer (especially when it comes to the time and expense of maintaining an online game).

    Excited to see what comes next from these learned lessons!

    • Yowan Reply

      Good points! Thanks :)

  • Ali Reply

    I follow you since the Flash days, and I am kinda angry at you!

    I don’t know why you wasted your time with consoles when your gamedev style excels with more casual devices like mobile phones/tablets.

    Studios like Ironhide or even the guys at 1Button has made it on mobile, you could do like them or maybe even better! you could have made a larger fan base happier making your games for a more accessible devices .

    please get back to casual mobile games, in those 2 years you could have made at least 2 new games for mobile that would be played by much much more players and possibly much much more profits.

    • Yowan Reply

      I get your point, we would have made more of our followers happy by sticking to a genre they know us for. Totally right. The thing is that we’re not in this business JUST to make money, we’re artists and we like exploring and making new things. Sticking to a single type of game/platform for ever, or until the market changes, isn’t really who we are. We’re probably going to keep exploring for our future games, and we get that each follower won’t necessarily be attracted by all of our games.

  • Wallace Reply

    Dudes you probably don’t know me but my little studio have a lot of your game concepts on it. I’m a big fan of your work.

    I really appreciate your postmortem, it’s very complete and unique, specially in the PR and promotion ideas, thank you for sharing with us.

    Probably one think that you might don’t think about is the scope. Adding so many features and get the game so big with no experience in this areas (consoles, events, and so) have a big price in terms of time and efforts.

    But I believe the next game you’ll release will be a great success because it’s hard to find in these days a game studio so competent and with this awesome flash identity.

  • Vinnie Dee Reply

    As a loyal friend of the Beast Family, played Toto’s on the Ouya and Steam

    There is still a lot of people searching for local-multiplayer games to play at home. I was searching for great games that are fun to play in gags at home during the holidays and theres is not so many out there, you have to get either a Wii for that kind of amusements, PS’s game don’t really reach that kind of target… ( i can be wrong but i’m demonstrating a client story ).

    Would it be interesting to considerate the local multi-players with bots and online multi-players to fill the blanks in another game you would create?

    P.S. #look-at-this-photo-graph #original-prankster

  • Robin Reply

    Interesting article.
    But i wonder why you never put your graphic / narative/ overall artistic direction of the game in question.
    Towerfall is not only a good game from the mecanics point of view. The artistic direction and minimal narratives were great.
    By “minimal narratives” i mean :
    – “Fight to survive and be the last one alive” is more of a goal than :
    – “Catch and keep a random animal”, wich make a lot less sens.
    The narratives may be minimal in party games / vs games, but i think they are great part of fun and motivation… and for me part of a buying reason.

    As i see it (never played the game, just read the article and seen vidéos, so it’s more or less a buyer point of view), there’s a lack of attractivity in the two main naratives choices of the game :
    – placing the action in “a kind of maya place”, wich is generic and already seen a million time. The players had to empathise with sort of statues, singularized mostly by their colors…
    – choosing a goat as a funny goal, wich is a big trend recently in indie games (i mean, zombies and goat have become generic things, that you can put almost everywhere).
    None of these two make me want to play, or compete.

    Of course, that don’t mean the game mecanics will be less fun when experienced, but maybe some won’t want to try them at all for those reasons.

    • SentryDown Reply

      Thanks for the article, it’s a great post-mortem. I second your thoughts on the theme, Robin ; I first heard about the game with the UI article, which is one of the best design articles I ever read but I was like “well, another retro-ish maya temple and goat game..”. The game is probably super fun (and I was already sold on design basically) but the wrapping isn’t strong enough to make me purchase it and motivate my non-hardcore gamers friends to play it. And as Robin said, the narrative is a great hook, When Vikings Attack has one of the best in the genre in my opinion.

    • Yowan Reply

      100% right, thanks for the feedback!

  • Alberto Belli Reply

    Great article. The question is: why learning things paying for 2 years, knowing to start with a huge lack of marketing/production dynamics? Why not asking things at the beginning, trying to sort out things with a production running? That’s the real indie-mistake IMHO: everyone knows that is going to do something wrong but continue this way to say at the end “we learnt a lot of things”. Anyway, good luck for the future

    • Yowan Reply

      The first part of the article actually answers that. We kept on going because we were presented with a chain of opportunities that felt like good decisions at the time AND from our current standpoint (being a Flash game developer and suddenly having access to consoles). To be honest, you also never really know for sure what’s going to happen next ;)

  • Stu Reply

    I recently picked up TTD on my Wii U, and it has quickly become one of my favorite local co-op games on a console that is packed with them. I have a 6-year-old niece who I play with a lot and she wholeheartedly agrees with me as to the quality of the game. It genuinely pains me to hear that the game was not a success for you guys because the amount of heart that was put in is very evident. You have made a fan out of me with TTD and I will be keeping a keen eye out for what you do next. After a much deserved rest, of course.

    • Yowan Reply

      Feels great to hear that kind of story :) Thanks Stu!

  • Drin Reply

    Interesting story, this article opened my eyes, i thought console ports were as easy as just releasing but hell no that isnt true, thanks i really appreciate this article and good luck for your next game !

  • Matt Reply

    Hey there! Great article!
    Would it be possible if you guys would actually give us some sales numbers?
    It would be very interesting what you guys consider a “financial” fail, because I think this is also “just” a point of view issue.

    Anyways, I think, although its almost 4 months since your release that you shouldn’t say yet that it’s a financial fail. I personally don’t believe that the “local multiplayer market” is dead. I think this market just has a longer tail and it REALLY is a great plus for you guys that you ported on all 3 consoles. I bet this will show in the future.

    I wish you guys the best of luck!

    • Yowan Reply

      You’re right, we never know, thanks Matt!

  • keimax Reply

    I actually didn´t buy it since I already own enough local multiplayer games like battle block theater, castle crashers, magicka etc. – And yours – from the perception of the customer / gamer – is just another crazy fun platformer to play with friends – I personally didn´t need another one.

  • Aang Reply

    Nice post mortem, helps a lot for indie developers!
    You guys are awesome!
    Time to get up and kick’ass!!!!

  • Bari Silvestre Reply

    Thank you for this post. I am a follower of your games since flash days (fellow flash game dev here, I made Pretentious Game and Kill the Plumber.) We were planning on local multiplayer version of Kill the Plumber but now we will scrap it due to this. I really like what you did in conventions and I might employ similar style. Best of luck on your next projects!

    • Yowan Reply

      It’s sad to hear that we kind of killed your project :| But yeah, if you don’t add online-multiplayer, you might end up loosing money in the end (always depends on the amount of time you put on it).

  • Sylverstone Khandr Reply

    Solid postmortem.

    I actually found out about Toto Temple Deluxe from my time messing around with the Ouya, and I double-dipped on the Wii U because I knew it was a great match on a console with big local multiplayer strengths.

    It’s really sad that there’s no real market for these kind of games anymore. I miss grabbing some friends on a couch and just having a blast.

  • Russ Reply

    Interesting thoughts, mine:
    – #1 reason it didn’t do well is controls – it’s too complex for local multiplayer. Yes you “can” get it. However, the difference between multiplayer online and local is controls. SO this is really just rewording what you wrote, but a key point. The game needs online multiplayer b/c it is too complex for local.
    – #2 visuals are great!
    – #3 Do you think the Nintendo feature on the eShop helped sales on other consoles? Between people who cross-owning consoles and Nintendo fan sites being starved for content, I wonder if the Nintendo audience helped your general awareness and sales across the board. 2nd piece here, WiiU is a system people pull out for local multiplayer. I wonder how many people who bought on another console first played with a friend on Nintendo (since word of mouth is a key viral component of any local multiplayer game).

    All the best to you, I have to say this was the MOST refreshing post-mortem I’ve read in awhile. You guys blamed yourselves. That is totally original in this day and age. I’m convinced it will lead you to success in the future!

  • Googleygames Reply

    Too bad one of the best games of all time didn’t sell very well.

  • Holammer Reply

    Great article or post mortem on your game.
    I’ve seen the game on Steam multiple times and turned it down every time because it’s a local multiplayer party game and it’s good to see that you realize the market is limited or simply isn’t there for that type of game.
    Indeed, I reckon the market for even co-op games is limited as well. This occured to me just recently when I played Chariot on Steam. It’s a great game but it’s designed with two player co-op in mind, which is really irksome to lone players as myself. Sections of the game are straight up impossible or near impossible to complete as a single player, while these 2P sections are optional they stung every time I had to skip them, as I’m not getting the full experience.
    So when I finally finished the game I checked the global achievements stats for Chariot and it turns out only 36% of players got the ‘Honeymoon’ achievement for completing a stage with two players. That means a minority played the game as it’s meant to be played and the number might be smaller still as achievment hunters can still get the achievement with some minor extra work.

    So I fully support you guys focusing on a good single player experience for your next effort.

  • David Reply

    Is sad to read that this game isn´t selling well. I play on PC and Wii U, and I can say that my Wii U is the perfect console for videogame parties (I have this game so we play it along other games).

  • Louis-Simon Reply

    It’s hard to focus on your creativity and keep away from the distractions of running a business in itself. I have a lot of respect for what you guys do, it takes guts to work with a large team for so long on something. Cost of life piles up fast. It seems like you learned from your mistakes. I hope you get back on your feet and create more cool games!

    • Yowan Reply

      Hey merci Louissi ;)

  • James Coote Reply

    So many similarities in your story to my experience in the last year (coming off the back of making a game for OUYA, putting a game jam game on console, disappointing sales).

    I think the key things are that 1). As identified, local multiplayer games don’t sell well, and 2). Game jam games (even if super fun) rarely actually make for good full commercial games. Not quite sure why though.

    • Yowan Reply

      2) Unless you have a solid design that supports a lot of depth, game jam games are usually super tight mechanics revolving around a single goal, which doesn’t always expand very wall afterwards (imo).

  • Marcus Reply

    It’d be really interesting to see a breakdown of sales per console, especially considering you only got front page marketing on Wii U.

  • wut Reply

    2 years and no multiplayer? yeah no amount of marketing, promotions, give away can fix that

  • Hugo Caron Reply

    Wow, what an odyssey! While the outcome with Toto Temple is far from being what we’d all hope. No one can deny you gave it your best shot (at every levels). Kudos to you all, thank you for sharing your precious learnings, and all the best for 2016!

  • Bernardo Boeira Reply

    This actually made me want to play the game. XD

    • Yowan Reply

      It wasn’t the idea behind the article, but it’s a nice bonus! Thanks :)

  • Stephen Reply

    Interesting article and I know many who will be happy with your #1 conclusion. But also bad is bad online multiplayer. It needs to work really well.

  • Dion Koster Reply

    Thank you for sharing. With Lethal League, we’ve been very satisfied with it’s performance on Steam and we’re currently working on console versions. So this piqued my interest. Lately, I’ve been seeing more developers struggle with finding the faults in a disappointing release. In favor of maybe helping them out, I’m starting to break my usual silence of critique.

    I think you’re right in blaming no online and bad readability of the gameplay. Those are the major issues. I think the characters are good, but not appealing enough, a bit too abstract (Burrito Bison is someone I’d rather be). I think the premise is too out there and not clear. And I think the Real Goat Bundle is misleading because it leads people to think they have to actually take the goat in.

    I believe these points are a part of the general appeal instead of being only hooks. It’s all opinion of course and not to say we nailed these perfectly ourselves. If you like I can go into it some more via email or if you got tips for us (hit me up). Greetings from Team Reptile, we like your games! And shoutout to Niddhog and Starwhal devs!

    • Yowan Reply

      You’re totally right! We’ll try to cover that in an upcoming update. Thanks Dion!

  • Jack Lennard Reply

    As a quick aside, i was aware of your game and excited to purchase it, but it never came to European PS4 store front. :/

  • Simon Lahaye Reply

    Interesting read. I was sad to learn your game did not fare well financially. We love Toto at our home. My two daughters (8 and 10 y/o) and I love your game and we play it regularly on the wii u.

    • Yowan Reply

      That’s awesome news! We love hearing about kids playing the game :)

  • Gnobrin Reply

    Great article. I would imagine that Nintendo paid more attention to you with putting you on their marketplaces for US and Europe simply because that’s the bread and butter of their present console. It’s designed and marketed for folks to be in the same room, screaming at one another and having a great time. You made a game that’s exactly that.

    Keep up the great stuff, guys/gals. Keep learning from the process and keep kicking ass.

  • Antony Reply

    Keep the blog posts going, I love to read these updates from you guys!

  • Matt Roszak Reply

    Sounds to me like the main problem is that you made a game that was drastically different from your previous ones, which were: Single player, very accessible to casuals, and had free versions to advertise them.

    I think I’m in a similar situation with Bullet Heaven 2 (also has local co-op, haha – but it’s not the only mode), which is a game that’s much different from the games that my fans usually expect from me. But luckily I just published it on Steam and left it at that. I’d like to publish on consoles, but I’m well aware that it’s a lot of work for a small developer, and there’s no guarantee of any success.

    Thanks for this post, and I hope your earlier games are still selling well and you can get by on those!

    • Yowan Reply

      Thanks Matt! You’re right that suddenly aiming at a totally different market can have an effect on sales (based on our current followers). The thing is that we like to explore new things and we’re probably never going to stick to a single type of game. I think we’re doomed ;)

  • Diego Reply

    Very nice article. I’m about to release a local multiplayer game on Steam and Xbox and I’m going mad with anxiety!

    I know it’s kind of a delicate topic, but what do you mean by “failing financially”? Did the game not sell enough to cover your expenses? Could you provide, if it’s not asking too much, some kind of sales numbers? Even if it’s just an order of magnitude (hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of copies…).

    Cheers,
    Diego

    • Yowan Reply

      We’ll do an update on the sales soon!

  • Tanya Short Reply

    Really great article — thanks so much for writing it. I’m so sad Toto didn’t do well. You all seem to have some really great marketing ideas. I love the cameos thing especially! Maybe we should have The Goat as a cameo in Moon Hunters…! Let me know if Juicy Beast ever wants to collab with Kitfox… maybe we should mix it up for Global Game Jam?? :D

    • Yowan Reply

      Thanks Tanya! Of course it would be awesome to see the goat in Moon Hunters ;)

  • Jason Nuyens Reply

    SUPER excellent article.

    Having gone through the whole process on Starwhal, I’ve had lotsss of time to think of the “stickiness” of ideas and what becomes popular on Twitch/Youtube/Reddit. In some respects I feel like silly ideas sell, but more specifically, the “what in the world IS THIS!?!” brand of silly does well. The thing is, Toto Temple Deluxe IS a silly game, but it’s more of a “genuinely smile and laugh with your friends at the charming action on screen” silly. That is NOT a bad thing, really. The game is absolutely awesome, to the point of having tons of brilliant design paradigms people should ape for years to come (boarding new players by *playing* the menus!)

    However, to construct a game from the ground up in order to be the precise formula of silly would be somewhat difficult. It would be like trying to generate a meme, which we all know can end badly.

    All that to say, it feels like getting just the right brand of “wtf!?” is rare. Balancing between being yourself with being a marketing machine is really damn tough, but at least being the former gives you warm feelings when some people do connect. It’s just hella risky for the bank account :)

    Cheers to the Juicy Beasts!

    • Yowan Reply

      You’re spot on! Thanks Jason :D

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