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Hypership Out Of Control for iOS - A Postmortem

A postmortem summary of the launch of my first title on the iOS App Store, including some early sales numbers.

Hypership iOS Screen 1

It’s been two weeks since we released Hypership Our Of Control iOS into the wilds of the Apple App Store. Sales have been good, and the critical response has been fantastic. I spend a small chunk of time each day scouring the web for information, and I’ve found positive reviews of the game in Russian, German, and Swedish. That is pretty crazy! I'm glad to have been a part of bringing Hypership iOS to life. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done, and for the first time I don’t feel foolish when I say that I’m a game developer.

I’m very happy with how Hypership is selling. As of September 27th, we have 2603 sales. It isn’t the next Tiny Wings or Angry Birds, but considering that I’m a hobbiest with dreams of someday being able to go full-time indie, these sales are great!

Here's a nice daily sales graph: (click for full size)Hypership iOS Sales

What went right

Working with an existing game
Hypership wasn’t an original game for iOS. It was originally released on the Xbox Live Indie Games service by Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games. (He later released it on the Windows Phone 7 marketplace as well, though most people are more familiar with the XBLIG version.)

Using a complete game for reference rather than a design document meant that I already knew that all of the mechanics were fun and we didn’t need to do a bunch of rounds of prototyping and testing. Plus, all of the art and audio assets were already assembled and ready to go.

On top of that, Hypership had built a small but very loyal fanbase. When we announced that the game was going to be coming out on iOS, the response we received was fantastic. I knew that we needed to deliver a game that lived up to their expectations, but also that they would help spread the word when the game was ready to launch.

iOS development tools
I’ve been using Windows and Visual Studio for nearly all of my development for well over a decade. Switching to using Mac OS X and Xcode was a particularly scary idea. Even now, I’m still not as comfortable as I would like. That said, the other tools that come along with Mac/iOS development are amazing.

I love the framework package system, compared to the dll nightmare I’m used to running into. Xcode comes preinstalled with all the tools and libraries needed to start coding, and you won’t need to install any libraries on your customers' computers, as they are all packaged along with your application bundle. I’ve been singing praises for Instruments since the first time I used it. This is an area where Visual Studio is definitely lacking in comparison. There are awesome profiling tools included in the professional versions, but they aren’t nearly as easy to use. And Instruments is completely free!

When I built and shipped Kris the very first build of Hypership iOS, I found it to be an annoying process. From explaining where to find the unique device id, to using a wired connection with iTunes to install seemed confusing to me.

Luckily, that was right when Josh Whelchel introduced me to TestFlight. TestFlight completely automates several of the steps, and makes is very easy to install the test build wirelessly. They recently made the service even better with a ton of great features that I’m looking forward to using in my next game. If you’re an iOS developer and not already using TestFlight, you should definitely check it out.

Apple support
We were really lucky with our launch. The day after we released, Hypership was featured in the “New and Noteworthy” featured section in the iPhone App Store. Then a week later, when that section rotated new games in, we appeared in the “What’s Hot” featured section. Apple also mentioned the game on the official AppStore twitter account, which is followed by 470,000 people. (In theory, anyway. I suspect a large number of those followers are bot accounts. Twitter is odd like that.)

We couldn’t have asked for better support from Apple. It’s a little overwhelming, and we realize just how lucky we’ve been.

Media coverage
We’ve gotten great reviews on a ton of sites. 148apps (4.5/5) said “Hypership Out of Control is a gem of an iOS game.” PocketGamer (9/10 gold award) wrote “there are myriad little touches that make Hypership so compelling.” TouchArcade said "It's crazy fun." We’ve heard that it’s likely that we’ll see reviews from some of the mainstream games press in the next week.

Hypership iOS Screen 2

What went wrong

Pre-release marketing
I think this is our biggest mistake. While Apple did a lot of work to support our release, there’s been a large delay in getting coverage on some of the bigger sites. (And the bigger the site, the longer that delay is.) Getting early sales is really important in rising high on the top games charts, and getting early coverage seems like a great way to help generate those sales. Now that we’ve dropped off of the charts, the coverage might not have as much impact as it could have.

Many of the sites we’ve contacted have suggested that they are interested in receiving information before release, and in some cases, they’d be willing to play a pre-release final build so that they could have a review ready at release time. I’ll be taking them up on that for future games.

Outside of the press, I think I’ll also try to build up some early interest by putting together some video development diaries. I’m a huge fan of what Wolfire has done in that direction.

Steam rejection
When I first approached Kris about porting the game, our goal was to build Windows and Mac OS X versions of the game so we could submit it to Steam. There aren't a whole lot of shooters on Steam, but my thinking was that the Mac games library is still pretty weak compared to the Windows side. Even so, they weren't interested in the game. We knew it was a long shot, but I wish I'd gone directly to working on the iOS version, instead of spending a lot of time getting it to run well on the other platforms.

Device support
It wasn’t until near the end of testing that we learned that the game doesn’t work on second generation iOS devices. (iPhone 3G and 2nd Gen iPod Touch.) It would have been a difficult process to fix this, including buying a second generation device. With the fifth generation devices right on the horizon, it seems many developers are dropping support for the second generation devices, so we chose to do the same.

Based on my research, I don’t think it would have made sense to do all that extra work for such a small number of players, but I’m very sad that there are people out there who want to play the game but can’t.

Overall, I consider Hypership iOS to be a tremendous success. I'm really happy with how everything turned out, and I'm pleased with the iOS platform in particular. I've already started prototyping ideas for what my next game will be, and the future looks really bright.

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