A few days ago, it was MonsterUp’s first birthday (happy birthday MonsterUp!) and a little more than a year since we released our very first Windows Phone title, Tetrada (R.I.P.). Tetrada was developed using a Zune HD originally, since we had no access to a Windows Phone, but when we did get access porting it was a relatively easy process, since both share similar technologies. When Tetrada was released, most comments were positive and many people also compared it to the “official” Live title Tetris, actually preferring our implementation. Of course, Tetrada was nothing more than what it was, our first try at Windows Phone game development, and as such, it fulfilled its destiny. It also put Karios Games on the WP Games map, where we have stayed since then.
After than came MonsterUp, our flagship product. MonsterUp was based on the simple “always-jump-on-never-ending-platforms-and-get-as-high-as-you-can” idea. It was accepted with very good comments, even winning a Game of the Month award, the month it was released. But we didn’t stop there. The game has got 13 updates since then, adding new game modes, extra characters, extra themes, special powers, online scoreboards and so much more. The game received numerous awards, including the honor to be the only game in the Top 10 of Microsoft’s App Challenge which took place in Los Angeles during the annual Microsoft Worldwide Conference in July 2011. The game was definitely a success, having received hundreds of reviews and keeping a constant 9/10 mark on the reviews average. We have learned a lot from MonsterUp, but I think the most important thing we have learned is that we have to make games for gamers and the gamers’ opinion matters. We tried to respond to feedback as best as we could and we took your ideas seriously when developing the next iteration. I mean, when you think about it, it makes sense that when you create a game, the end users are the ones who are going to play it after it gets released. So why not keep them happy? This was exactly our goal over the past year, and we hope we have succeeded in doing just that.
Our third game, Galaxium, was released in summer 2011. With Galaxium we wanted to see how rapid we could come up with a complete game, using our experience and engine elements we have been developing with our previous games. The answer was a little more than 1 1/2 weeks. Immediately after its release, Galaxium won the first prize in the competition which inspired us to create it in the first place. Since Galaxium was a rather simple game, a top-down space shoot em up with powerups, spaceships and asteroids, we decided to try to keep it simple even when updating, and also provide an ad-based free version alongside the ad-free paid version. This allowed us to take a look at the ad-based business model and have an opinion on the viability of such projects. The things we have learned were not surprising. First of all, people love free stuff. Not only do they love them, but they can also get quite demanding, even though they paid nothing for them :) People also, some times, confuse price with value and feel that if something costs nothing, it is of no value. As an example, our free version has an 7.5/10 while our paid version has 9.8/10. And it is exactly the same game.
After Galaxium, we decided to experiment a little bit with apps on the Windows Phone platform. As a result, we have released 2 apps, one companion app for current or prospective students of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and another one for enjoying your favorite Aesop Fables wherever you go. Although we are game developers at heart, we rather enjoyed the apps development enviroment, with XAML and the combination of Visual Studio with Expression Blend proving to be quite a powerful combination for Apps development.
So looking back we want to share the following to current or wannabes Windows Phone developers.
-Listen to your users and consider their feedback
-Designing and developing your app/game is most of the time less than half the work you have to do. If you don’t have someone dedicated to promotion/advertising etc, prepare to work a lot after you release it.
-Don’t expect a return of investment right away. In fact, it might take a while since Windows Phone will start to take off, in our humble opinion, this year.
-Enjoy the Windows Phone development platform. At the moment, it is a large part of the satisfaction of developing for it.
-Experiment with the different business approaches you can take. Go paid, go free, go ad-based, try and see where it takes you.
-Learn and adapt along the way. We all do it :)
So what happens in 2012? Many things! First of all, we are really excited with all the Windows Phone news, the Nokia devices, the larger-than-average satisfaction rate of Windows Phone users and the positive things that finally start to show in the media. We have a lot to look forward to, including Skype on our devices, an awesome Windows Phone – XBOX – Windows 8 ecosystem and, of course, fantastic devices to support all this.
Finally, from our part, we will continue to support the platform. The sequel to MonsterUp, called MonsterUp Adventures, is progressing quite nicely and we expect to launch it sometime in Q1 or Q2 at the latest. And it’s going to make a big splash, we promise :)