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An indie game goes freemium - when the players love the product but won't pay 99 cents

What happens when an indie game won't sell because players won't spend less than a cup of coffee to buy it? We figure out why, then give them what they want.

Last June, Cerulean Games released Tumblecaps Retro to the world. It did very, very well in playtest sessions. It rated extraordinarily high with reviewers and individuals. But you know what? It just didn’t sell. We asked around and started researching… what’s up? This game did great with everyone except the actual market. What we found was, well, not surprising… but settled some questions.

People said they didn’t want it because it cost money to buy. 99 cents was too much to spend on a mobile game. And this wasn’t a handful of people. Some metrics include one ad which had over 2000 clicks and 0 sales. Another on a major site had over 20,000 clicks with 3 sales. 500 stickers distributed at an event netted 0 sales. We had to start asking questions, and getting feedback from the public. They loved the game when they played it. Most players said they couldn’t put it down, and many have been playing it since it was in beta and won’t put it down. But very few people wanted to spend any money to download it.

Yup. Nobody wanted to spend money on a video game we had worked very hard on. That’s not uncommon in today’s market - things have changed. But it meant that as a company, we had to figure out what we could do. We asked people what they wanted. We spoke with marketing and advertisers, and we have been coming up with a pretty fun mass iteration of the product. Something that we feel will help us make our money back on the game, and something we feel everyone will love.

We found that people not only wanted - they expected the game to be free. They were perfectly fine with advertising in the game. They also wanted to see upgrades and add-ons… ways they could spend money after purchasing the product, not before. So here is what we are doing…

First - and this is the big one - the game is going freemium. No more spending 99 cents to purchase the game! In fact, we went ahead and made the game free to download already.

Second - we have been talking about adding more game modes for a while now. Guess what? You’re getting them! Arcade and Endless aren’t going anywhere, however we’re adding in the additional game modes we have been dreaming about.

Third - Upgrades! Want to extend the length of the Timesmash Energy Cap? You got it. Want MORE energy caps? Want to restart the game as soon as you get a game over? Want awesome themed Energy Caps? You got it - and so much more.

Fourth - (Yup, it goes up to four)… Cap Packs! Sure, the game has the classic pixel pack and the Winter 2012 pack… but how about the caps from the original Tumblecaps? Or caps based on other games? Guess what… we’ve got some awesome partnerships to share with you, on top of some new original Cap Packs with new art, new music and new visual FX. And these aren’t just re-skins of the game… each cap pack has a little something special included. Some might change how the game is played, some might give you new options… you’ll have to play to find out.

What do you think? Is this what you want to see in an update that makes a game freemium? Do you think these are the right decisions? What woud you do in this situation, or how have you prevented / fixed this situation in the past? Discuss!

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