You guys know I'm pretty transparent about how things work at Arcen, and so far that has worked out really well. Normally companies like to play their cards very close to the vest, pretending complete success no matter what, but that's always sat wrong with me. AI War is successful, a pretty big hit by indie standards, but it's not all rosy quite yet. We're still just getting off the ground, and there are ways that you can help if you're inclined. This is a lengthy post, so if you don't care about the current state of affairs you can just skip right down to the "how can I help?" section.How Did The 3.0/Expansion Release Go?
Things have certainly changed a lot since we released 2.0. The game itself has changed a ton, and so has the company -- Pablo and I are fulltime here now, along with Phil, and we're finally working on a product that isn't AI War (while still keeping up with AI War as well). The release of the expansion went very well, within that first week we sold enough copies to amount to around 10%-15% of the total playerbase, which is awesome. Final numbers aren't completely in, and are of course still growing, so it's a moving percentage. AI War was on sale during that period and also sold very well, and I believe has pushed us over the 15,000 units sold mark (it's definitely north of 14,000). Just three months ago, when we released version 2.0, we were only nearing the 7,000 units sold mark, so we've really seen continual solid growth throughout the last while. Not stellar sales, but it's keeping us all able to work here fulltime, and it's cementing AI War as one of the more successful non-blockbuster indie games of late on the PC. We have a lot to be thankful for.What's Coming Up?
So, we're all fulltime now. We're committed. This is what we do for a living. It's a bit scary, but also really liberating. And so far, AI War alone has been carrying us, and has given us a buffer reserve of something like 6 months. Assuming that sales continue at a level equal to our "off" months (like November) in which nothing much special happens and we don't do any discount promotions, that's how long our company will survive -- six more months. Future potential discount sales, our upcoming retail releases in Germany and Russia, and other upcoming products will extend that out further.
Right now the goal is to get our next title, Tidalis, done in 2-3 more months of time. So, releasing sometime in March or April. We'll have a beta up for demo and testing and preorder within a few weeks, hopefully. That's a game that has a much broader potential audience than AI War, so hopefully it will also have stronger or at least equal sales. As long as it does as well as AI War, I think we'll be good for having enough money to complete our next title after that, A Valley Without Wind. If Tidalis doesn't do stellar, I'll have to get creative. But it's a really cool game, and already quite addictive, so we're all feeling very positive on that.
Still -- we've launched our company into the great unknown, and for a small business we're doing well and have great prospects to boot, but everything isn't completely pie-in-the-sky rosy or anything. We're on the right track, and with hard work and the smallest bit of luck, we'll be in a whole different position by 2011. We're certainly in a much improved position today compared to November!So, how you can help?
If you're into AI War and want to help cement Arcen's future, the best thing you can do for us is to help spread the word! Pure and simple. Most gamers have never heard of us. Even after an awesome review in PC Gamer, a release on Steam, and everything else that has happened, we're still most aptly described as "relatively unknown."
A surprising fact is that we've gotten about as much traffic to our site just from posts that fans have made on various other forums and sites around the Internet. Don't
go spamming, and of course don't say anything that you don't really believe, but if you're into the game then starting conversations about it is a huge help for us. Other players won't know about the game if they don't hear about it from some other source, and for us the best method by far has been word of mouth.
It's also helpful if you do (honest, informative, fair) user reviews at sites that feature AI War such as:MetaCriticCo-Optimus
These sorts of reviews don't have quite the same impact as a post on a popular forum where you are known and a valued contributor, but every bit adds up. People want to hear from other people with similar tastes, so getting your opinion out there and expressing how you feel AI War stacks up compared to other games you like is hugely valuable to us.Final Thoughts
I'm really happy that so many players seem to have forged such a connection with AI War, but just remember that everyone doesn't "get it" so quickly (though the recent major reviews certainly help set the stage). Some don't give it more than a cursory glance, some barely try the tutorials. The thing that keeps people going is believing that there is something exciting there. Some people are excited just by the descriptions of the game or the general look of it, and need nothing more. Some people fire it up and are hooked right away, or by the time they get into the intermediate tutorial (I get a lot of notes from people saying that it was the intermediate tutorial that made them decide to buy the game).
But other people are a lot more skeptical or busy, and simply don't want to give it a shot unless they hear from a trusted or semi-trusted source that the game is worth taking a harder look at. That's why both reviews and word of mouth are so important, and on the Internet both have the chance to reach equal audiences. I'm not asking everyone to go on some large campaign in support of the game, and I'm certainly not asking anyone to do anything that they are not completely comfortable with, but if you like the game and want to give back, you know what to do -- just pass the word on, in whatever fashion you are able to.
It's the players that have helped to make this game what it is, and it's entirely upon your support that Arcen will succeed. We don't have any funding whatsoever outside from proceeds from sales of our work, and that's just how I like it -- it keeps us creatively unencumbered, amongst other benefits -- but it is going to really create challenges for us if our popular support withers in the coming months. Everyone has helped to keep this going for an amazing six months so far since our initial release, so now let's shoot for another six -- I'll bring the free DLC, you bring the beloved newbies (is there any forum out there where newbies are more appreciated than here?).
My gratitude in advance for anything you can do to help with promotion, and especially to those players who have already taken it upon themselves to spread the word even before I asked (spelk was the first, and in many ways he helped to launch this game). And if you're not comfortable (or don't have the time) to help, no problem. Just enjoy the game!