@Slothwerks — Reflections on 2020

Image for post
Image for post

It’s been a weird year!

Spoiler alert — it’s Muldorf

Life in Lockdown

Around that time was when the COVID-19 lockdowns started. About a month later in April, I was laid off from my ‘real’ job. After 13 years of working full-time, I decided to take advantage of the unusual situation and work on games full-time before looking for a job. I figured I’d wait out the pandemic and then start interviewing after that.

Things didn’t really get better though, and I eventually started interviewing. From the time I got laid off to the time I started my new job, I got to work for about six months full-time on gamedev. This was an amazing opportunity, and was a huge help in pushing Krumit’s Tale over the finish line. It seems a bit silly to leave a great job to pursue a crazy dream, but being laid off in the middle of a pandemic (therefore having the choice made for you) seems as good a time as any to give it a try, right?

By the time I started my new job in October, I’d managed to finish the 1.0 release of Krumit’s Tale, launch it on Steam / mobile, and had most of the development of the DLC hero, Varfa, already completed. The last 10% of a project is always the most challenging, and having that time to focus on it 100% was really helpful.

Full-time Game Development

I should recognize also that I was very fortunate that I was able to maintain productivity during the pandemic.

One of the reasons I felt confident to delay looking for a job was thanks to the income from Meteorfall: Journeys which continued to be quite strong in 2020. Although it was a cut in terms of income, it did help pay the bills in the time I spent between jobs.

Image for post
Image for post
After I got laid off, I made it a personal goal that if I wasn’t going to look for work immediately, I had to treat gamedev as a job and work at least 40 hours per week on Krumit. I (mostly) succeeded

Everyone has had a different experience about trying to stay productive during the pandemic, and I was very lucky that I was able to adapt to the new lifestyle. Although I’m very much looking forward to getting together in person with family & friends and going on vacation again, being forced to stay home did help me stay productive. Without long work commutes or social obligations, I was able to put a ton of hours into gamedev. That isn’t to say I would choose to be a hermit, but I felt that I was able to make the best of a bad situation.

Ironically, I actually found that I spent more time interacting with friends during quarantine, which help me stay sane despite the distance. Getting everyone physically in one space can be difficult as people get older & their kids fill their schedules, but hopping on an evening call in your sweatpants is a easy bar to clear.

Whether it was playing online co-op games, virtual happy hours, or holiday ‘virtual dinners’ with family, connecting with folks over video was key to staving off feelings of social isolation while I was working full-time on gamedev.

Meteorfall: Journeys in 2020

Image for post
Image for post
These numbers don’t actually include revenue from Google Play Pass, which has been substantial. The longtail of Google Play seems very strong

Surprisingly, Journeys actually did better in 2020 than it did in 2019 and I’m not sure why exactly. One notable event was the first ever $0.99 sale for Journeys, which coincided with the release of Krumit’s Tale. This sent Journeys rocketing up the charts. On Android, it actually stayed in the #1 spot in the Cards category for several days even after the sale was over, posting sales numbers that were even higher than the initial release on Google Play for several days.

In all, Meteorfall: Journeys generated $62,986.52 net revenue in 2020 and reached a lifetime (3 years) total of $204,000 net revenue.

Image for post
Image for post
These numbers don’t include revenue from Google Play Pass

Meteorfall: Journeys Joins Google Play Pass

Image for post
Image for post

Halfway through 2020, Google contacted me about adding Meteorfall: Journeys to the Google Play Pass catalog. I was slightly hesitant at first because I was worried about cannibalizing sales,and I didn’t want to have to do the integration (which I thought might be painful).

In hindsight, joining Google Play Pass was probably one of the best things to ever happen to Meteorfall: Journeys. The integration was actually trivial and the Google Play Pass team was responsive when I needed some assistance to resolve a technical issue. I can’t share the revenue numbers here, but I’ll say that the revenue from Google Play Pass has been substantial, far more than I expected from a 3 year old game.

What I love about Google Play Pass as a developer is that it provides me with an alternative revenue stream, without demanding exclusivity, or forcing me to make any compromises on the gameplay. Unlike Apple Arcade, I can continue to sell my game on the Google Play Store, which is really important to me. I like that players that prefer an ‘all-you-can-eat’ subscription can enjoy Journeys, and players that prefer to buy it outright can still continue to do that.

It’s been a great experience for me overall, and I’d recommend it to any developer that gets contacted by Google about an opportunity to join the program.

Krumit’s Tale hits 1.0 on Steam, iOS and Android

I’ve written previously about the Steam 1.0 Launch & Retrospective and followed up with a reflection on the iOS and Android launch, which are good reads about the development of Krumit’s Tale overall. For this update, I’ll talk about what we’ve been working on since then.

Featured as Game of the Day on the Apple App Store!

The Varfa DLC

In October, we released the Varfa DLC, which added a new hero to the game, Varfa, and her gorilla companion Orhu. Varfa was previously featured in Meteorfall: Journeys. In addition to a slew of new mechanics, the update also added a brand new hero with 50 new tiles and several new perks.

Image for post
Image for post

For Varfa, I made the choice to add her as a $1.99 DLC rather than free. I was worried about how fans would receive the change but overall, reactions were mostly positive & folks were happy to support the game.

I felt the price was fair for the amount of content (and relative to what other games charged for similar content). Most importantly, since my fellow collaborators are paid on a rev share model, charging for the additional content helped ensure their hard work would be well compensated. The ‘cost’ of producing new content in Krumit’s Tale is also much higher than in Journeys, due to the artwork, SFX, and animations required.

In all, the Varfa DLC generated net revenue of $1,770 on Steam (13% attach rate), $2,220 on iOS (11% attach rate)and $2,492 on Android (13% attach rate), for a total of $6,482 incremental net revenue.

Free Content Updates

We also produced a number of free updates for Krumit’s Tale, adding new perks, tiles, and mutations (custom gameplay modes)

The Haunted Spire — a spooky new Mutation added for Halloween

I love producing these content updates! One thing I love about modular games like Krumit’s Tale is that even small content updates can create new strategies or way to play the game.

The Winter Update added some new ‘winter’ themed items and a new Endless custom mode

We’ll be continuing to produce new content updates in 2021 as well (targeting monthly updates), with new tiles, mutations, perks, and enemies on the menu.

Image for post
Image for post
The spreadsheet where I plan content updates — it’s roughly planned out through March so far, although I frequently adapt as I go

Krumit’s Tale in China

One thing I’m really looking forward to is releasing the mobile version of Krumit’s Tale in China. Due to government regulation in China [Engadget], it’s really difficult (impossible) for small devs to sell in China now (besides Steam) without support from a publisher .

Our Chinese publisher, Indienova, has been key in helping us navigate the process in China, as well as managing social media and marketing efforts. Thanks to Indienova’s efforts (with a special thanks to Craft @ Indienova), Krumit’s Tale was demoed at the WePlay Game Expo in Shanghai.

Image for post
Image for post
Krumit’s Tale at the WePlay Game Expo in Shanghai
Image for post
Image for post
Krumit’s Tale @ the Indienova booth in at the WePlay Games Expo
Image for post
Image for post
Keychains?!

We also recently launched a demo of the game (featuring a great Chinese voice actor for Krumit(!)) for Android on TapTap (a Chinese app store for Android apps), helping us generate a lot of visibility for our future release.

Image for post
Image for post
The Krumit’s Tale Android demo debut on TapTap (China)

I’m really happy to have Craft and the team at Indienova helping us out with this process, and I’m really excited to release Krumit’s Tale on iOS / Android for Chinese players!

Summary

In all, Krumit’s Tale was a success that far exceeded my expectations, generating $169,174.48 USD net revenue in 2020. This was lead in big part by a really strong mobile debut, that’s manged to consistently generate net revenue (on average) of $1,000 USD (iOS + Android) per day since release in August.

Image for post
Image for post

Although iOS and Android didn’t launch until late August, the revenue from each of these platforms was nearly equal to Steam’s revenue (which was on sale from Day 1 in 2020). That said, all three of these platforms have been really critical to the success of Krumit’s Tale, and I plan to support all 3 for future games.

Image for post
Image for post
Somewhat surprisingly, a nearly equal split between the 3 platforms where Krumit’s Tale is sold

The top countries varied by platform as well (shown as ‘Units Sold’ below).

If I was localizing the next Meteorfall, I’d prioritize Chinese, followed by Korean, Japanese, and Russian (for Steam). I was especially by the really strong performance of Krumit’s Tale in Japan and South Korea.

Once Krumit’s Tale launches on iOS and Android in China, I anticipate it’ll be #1 or #2 on those platforms.

Image for post
Image for post
Table above shows ‘Units Sold’ in 2020 for the Top 3 countries. For Steam, it’s a bit misleading — China generated gross revenue slightly less than the US ($30,000 vs $38,000), since the game is cheaper in China. Still, a very important market for Krumit’s Tale overall. Russia and South Korea were also just behind Japan on Steam.

What’s Next? (Meteorfall: Artifacts & Escapades)

This time, you’re going on a road trip!

Artifacts & Escapades will look a lot more familiar (as a card game) than Krumit’s Tale, and players that enjoy deck-builders like Slay the Spire and Monster Train will find themselves right at home. It’ll feature similar deck-building run-based gameplay like you’ve seen in Journeys and Krumit’s Tale, but with a fresh take on the genre.

In particular, one game that was a huge influence on me this year was Hades. Hades is an incredible game from a mechanics standpoint, but what really hooked me was the story. I loved how characters would react to certain items you were carrying, or after you achieved particular goals. It was remarkable to me that Hades could tell a coherent narrative in the roguelike gameplay loop.

I’ve always wanted to expand out on the lore of Meteorfall. We did it a bit in Krumit’s Tale with a ton more flavor text for items & abilities, but I’d love to double down on the lore and actually have a story for the game. Hades showed that telling a story in a roguelike format can be done, so look forward to a lot more story in Artifacts & Escapades.

One of the many new characters you’ll meet in Artifacts & Escapades

Evgeny and Danny are already hard at work on building the world on the creative side, while I (Eric) figure out the game design & programming. I don’t have a lot to show because I’m using placeholder art and I’m still prototyping new mechanics to figure out exactly what this game is, but stay tuned as we share more in 2021. It’s a culmination of everything I’ve learned about game design in the past 3 years, and it’s easily our most ambitious game yet!

Thank You!

I want to thank all the fans for supporting Meteorfall over the past several years. Whether you bought the game, filed a bug in Early Access, participated in the community or told a friend about Meteorfall, you’re a big part of where Meteorfall is today, and I’m humbled by your support.

Every day, I’m energized by fans talking about the game, which keeps me exciting and motivated to keep working hard (even when I’m working on the parts that aren’t so fun!). I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting us, and letting us work every day on this labor of love ❤️

Written by

Indie game dev working on a roguelike deckbuilder called Meteorfall and prototyping an exciting new project called Artifacts & Accessories

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store