Tomorrow is the day I’ve been working towards for the last 15 months. The day Terrella will finally be released on the App Store. I’m nervous of course. For the usual reasons, but also because of the decisions we made with regards to trying to monetize this thing.
I first had the idea for Terrella back in May of last year. Actually it was called Fours back then, but before I could finish, this little game called Threes came along. You may have heard of it. Anyway, it wasn’t long after we had a proof of concept that we started talking about pricing. For a while some of the gameplay was even being driven towards making a buck instead of a great game. We talked about expansion packs, consumable power-ups, features that you could unlock, advertising, all of it. It wasn’t long before we decided, look, let’s just focus on creating the kind of game and experience that we want, and worry about how (if) we can make money with it once we’re done. This is almost certainly contrary to the way the big name game studios go about designing games these days. Many big name studios employ psychologists to help craft compulsion loops designed to extract the maximum amount of money possible from their players. It seems to be working, but it’s not the way I wanted to do things.
Instead we ended up with a game that makes the majority of the content free, has no advertising at all, and charges $0.99 for a single expansion set that includes 12 additional levels. The other 18 single player levels are free. The multiplayer levels are free. The only power-up we have, Boost: also free. The levels can also be played in any order. No need to bother completing the prior level or making another IAP for this privilege as some games do.
Even with the name, we could have stuck with Fours and maybe gained some exposure from people looking for more games like Threes, but it didn’t feel right especially having read this. Although the game is nothing like Threes I felt we needed to change the name, though I really truly hated to let Fours go. We kicked around a series of uninspired names until one day, while reading up on magnetism, I stumbled across the wikipedia entry for Terrella and it seemed perfect. Little Earth. Now you know how Terrella got her name.
But back to the whole money thing. Not going to lie, I wouldn’t mind having a big pile of money to roll around in, but my expectations have always been tempered when it comes to my independent work, even before some of the posts that went around last month. However I hope that there are some gamers out there who, even if they don’t believe Terrella is a great game (bias alert: it is), might consider plunking down their $0.99 for the single IAP just on principle alone. That is, a vote for more games that take this approach. And who knows, maybe Terrella does take off and others can look towards it as an example that maybe you don’t have to nickel and dime your customers to death to have a successful game/app.
Anyway, I just wanted to toss those thoughts out there this evening as I wait for the countdown to reach zero. And, whatever happens, this has been an amazing journey and I’m anxious to finally have a chance to show you all how Terrella turned out.