We were recently asked by a musician to be part of his Groupees bundle – this one here - https://groupees.com/remute2, with our game ‘Life of Pixel’. At the time I agreed, although I’d never actually heard of Groupees. He was a nice guy and I didn’t want to let him down, and I thought – it may get a few copies of Life of Pixel out into the wild.
My first bit of advice - really try to avoid approaching it in a similar lackadaisical way! You are in fact entering into an agreement that requires a whole lot more thought and research.
So, the bundle went live – and they then asked for Desura keys, I said sure, how many and they said 3,000 should do. At this point I panicked and thought, shit, what have I done? I’ve just given away several thousand copies of a game that has taken months to make, and so far earned only a few quid.
And looking now – on Desura; sales to date are just 12 units, with earnings of £21.54, yet there are hundreds of active keys out there. In a way it feels like I have actually pirated my own game!
At the time we also had Pixel on Steam Greenlight, although there were very few extra votes during the Groupees bundle run.
We made $150 from the bundle. I didn’t really have any expectations up till that point, but in my eyes I’d made a terrible mistake and given away hundreds of copies of my game, devaluing it in the process.
The next mistake I made was yesterday, when we finally launched on Steam. All of a sudden all the Groupees buyers were asking for Steam keys. I thought, crap, I’d never agreed to that and now I have to monitor and respond to hundreds of emails, giving more codes away. Initially I said no, the keys were not for Groupees buyers – but that didn’t go down well. As one user put it:
“If I dont get a key for the game from my bundle purchase, I will not buy your game seperatly ever, and also not your future games. And I will neither promote or vote for any of your future greenlight offerings if you make more. You wont see a cent from me, and I will make sure to share by word of mouth of your decision to screw those who supported you before.”
It seems there is a bit of a backlash with other developers not giving Groupees keys, and the opinion of many is that developers are screwing them over, i.e.
“Not giving bundle buyers steam keys is going to make you the bad guys more then anything. Very few devs have gotten away with not providing them lol”
I found this whole thing a bit of a shocker. We’d already given the game to them, earned pretty much nothing, and not even actually got many Greenlight votes from it. I was desperately trying to forget the bundle ever happened, and I really didn’t feel like I was the bad guy.
But, you can’t walk away – ultimately this will only damage you.
The other thing that has made it so hard to think straight with all this is that we (Super Icon) are completely broke, have been for months. When you can’t afford to pay rent, buy clothes for your kids, pay your bills (unfortunately all true), your sense of perspective gets shot.
Fortunately Claire, my partner at Super Icon, takes a more pragmatic view and can look at the bigger picture at times like this.
She said it was great to have so many people actually wanting to play the game; it helps get the word out there about Life of Pixel, so instead see it in a positive light. She is right, and this post from the discussion on our Steam community put it well:
“Now that you are on Steam, you and your product are exposed to millions of users and further, getting additional games on the service from my understanding is easier once you have a relationship with Valve. You act like you have nothing and yet you have everything. Mine the ore that is here, build a community and don't alienate the consumers that can curate and get your product exposure. Good luck to you and I mean that.”
So, what I can do is give the keys to Groupees and let them distribute, which takes away my problem with having to make so many email responses.
I wrote this post to share my experiences in the hope that it will save other developers from making the same mistakes as I did. Before you agree to a bundle, work out what you expect to achieve with it. Unless it is one of the massive bundles like Humble, you certainly won’t make much money from the bundle.
You could approach it as a way to build up your community. I can’t say for sure if this approach really works in the long run, as it is early days yet for us on Steam, but logically it seems like it could.
Lastly, don’t alienate your customers, work with them and make sure they are happy. The worse possible outcome is to have an angry community, you will lose out in every way.