Why Altidudes Undersold
So it's just recently passed the 6 month mark of the commercial release of Altidudes, a one-button arcade game about skateboarding up a mountain. I'd say the premise sounds pretty intriguing! But then again I made it, so I am a little biased.
So in reference to the above title I want to say no, the game has not done too well. I haven't broken even on it, and I haven't hit the minimum threshold on Steam to start receiving payments which is $100 gross. As unfortunate as this may sound, I never actually intended for Altidudes to do well or make me money, at least not for a very long time. But let's talk about the main problems I am aware of now:
Steam Was the Wrong Market - I knew publishing on Steam was a gamble because your average PC gamer is playing on a phat gaming computer that has rainbow lights on it, and you just don't need something like that to play Altidudes. You could be on a potato machine at your local library or using a quantum computer in the government and there wouldn't be any difference in performance or graphics. Coupled with the fact that this is an arcade game and I don't typically see people playing them on Steam, that was another problem. Of all the old Genesis/Nintendo arcade-type games I have researched on Steam, they are seriously lacking in reviews, which leads me to believe that there just isn't a huge group of people looking to play old arcade games on their computers (Unless they have some modern updates like leaderboards, online interactions, etc.).
Marketing Inexperience - I read up a lot on marketing during development, and I did my best with the time I had, but I want to make one thing clear: I was terrified of posting on social media because I needed to sound cool, perfect, funny, quirky, interesting, and sexy all at the same time; Or so I thought. This all stems from my days in high school where Facebook was all the rage, and being irresponsible one year we all started passing around answers for our Religion midterm. I felt gutsy so I posted a comment and yeah I know, it was reeeaallly stupid. Once the principal caught wind of that I got suspended (Not even detention! I f'd up so bad they kicked me out of school for a day). After all that I had massive reservations about using social media again, but I've grown since then and I'm way more comfortable making posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media.
Was the Game Even Good - This is a difficult one to parse, because the creator opinion is always a little skewed when thinking about their game. Of course it's fun if you play it right! But honestly I don't know if Altidudes is good. I think I created a fairly polished, technically adequate game with a working gameplay loop. When compared to early arcade games which were my inspiration, it probably would have done great back in the 80's. It's decades later though, and I released about the same time as Cyberpunk 2077, why would anyone play my game when a behemoth titan like that is out? I'm still glad I made it and I'll always keep it close to my heart as the first game I ever sold. Even better, I can always use Altidudes to show off quickly at trade shows or GDC. I don't even need an elevator pitch, I'll always have it on my phone so I can whip it out to people and they can play it themselves! Speaking of phones...
The Mobile Market - If this was gonna succeed anywhere, it was on mobile. Maybe that's why I was steadfast in my resolve to port it, but I don't even remember at this point. All I know is that porting to ios and Android was such a pain and I hated it, but I'm glad it happened. Something that always ate at me was not spending money to market this on mobile, I really only posted the mobile versions in my newsletter and Twitter, so only those ~200-300 people heard about it. Since I wasn't sure about how much money I would make from the banner ads in-game, I didn't want to throw cash at driving traffic to the mobile store pages, so I waited to see how it did organically. It was not good.
There is a silver lining to all this though, and it's that I have had a secret plan for the game now that my company owns the Altidudes IP. I fully intend to work with Altidudes again in 5-10 years, but for now I am going to focus on creating my first horror game, Playback Trauma.
From day one of making Altidudes my bar for success was hitting $100 in sales on Steam. It hasn't happened yet. but I know it will someday!