What Am I Doing Again?

Two and a half years ago, when we started Quiet Spark, it was just supposed to be a hobby that my wife and I could work on together and, if we made a few bucks along the way, great! We went into this knowing full well that we were unlikely earn enough to become our primary source of income, much less anything approaching “rich”. And that’s pretty much how things have worked out… except, I can’t decide if it’s worth it anymore. At least not the way I’ve been doing things. It’s one thing to understand that an App Store success is a long shot, but when you think about all the effort involved, the sacrifices made, just the headache of dealing with taxes for god’s sake, it’s hard to not second guess yourself. All this for the chance of earning a customer’s $1.99 and/or 1 star review complaining that the app did not make them a sandwich. It’s hard to not get a little discouraged no matter how well you’ve tempered your expectations.

In addition I started Quiet Spark with the notion that I’d be able to write what I wanted, how I wanted. For whatever reason my brain has decided that each new app must be bigger and better than the last. That’s not exactly the perfect recipe for success in the App Store these days, except maybe the better part. Although a quick glance at the top charts may leave you second guessing that assumption as well.

Our first app, Super Speller has been far and away the most successful. Although when I say “success” we’re talking about an average of ~$1,000 a month over the last 2 1/2 years. From initial commit to initial release was roughly 1 month of work. Of course we’ve continued to update and improve Super Speller, but it was a project that was easy to work on in my spare time.

The second app, Goalposts, went from initial commit to release in roughly 5 months and has been, there’s just no other way of putting it, a magnificent failure. The biggest mistake was trying to be all things to all people and ending up serving none particularly well. If I’d given myself time to examine both the response to Goalposts and the trend towards smaller more focused apps I might not have had second thoughts before starting the next project. But I jumped on the next thing almost as soon as Goalposts was approved.

Our next app has been in development since May of last year and we should be ready to submit it for Apple’s approval very soon. This time around I’ve written a game. So, not only was there an app to develop including the art, sound effects, soundtrack, etc, but hey while were at it I’ll need an OS X based level editor to create all of the levels. And some of the levels were nearly as much work as a single app. It’s been a marathon. Remember, I’m doing this in my spare time, generally early in the morning before I head in to my “real” job and on weekends. And while I am really pleased with the results, there’s no doubt that it’s had an impact on the rest of my life.

I’m not really sure what to expect when Terrella is released. It seems that it’s an easy game to learn but hard to understand. It’s a bit thinky. It can also be a bit frustrating and may make you want to break your phone and/or punch the developer. And it also has very little to do with Kim Kardashian, so we’ll just have to see what kind of traction it gets in today’s environment.

So, as things wrap up I’d already been thinking I need to take a step back and figure out how I want to manage Quiet Spark development going forward. And this afternoon I see this post by Jared Sinclair where he talks about the difficulties in earning a living on the App Store and it really resonated with me. With a full time position to fall back on, I’m not under any pressure but my own to succeed or fail. I can’t imagine trying to make a go of it full time. There are ways to do it certainly, but do those ways exclude more complex apps or those not willing to resort to riddling an app with an assortment of in app purchases or losing focus on quality? I’m not sure at this point.