Meteorfall: One Year Retrospective
What a year! This is a look back at the experience of developing Meteorfall over the past year, including sales numbers and a preview of what’s next.
Meteorfall’s been out for a year (as of Jan 25, 2019) and it’s been an exciting journey it’s been. The support I’ve received from fans has been beyond my craziest expectations, and has been a big part of what’s kept the updates flowing one year later.
I wanted to share with everyone my thoughts on the pat year, as well as financial numbers for Meteorfall, in the hopes that the transparency will help other small indies to push forward with their own projects. Meteorfall exists due in large part to the transparency of others, and its only fair to return the favor.
Meteorfall: Journeys has been updated several times since launch, and is still going strong, with more updates in works. In all, I released 3 free content updates for Metorfall, with a fourth in the works. I was able to achieve this while continuing to work on my next Meteorfall-adjacent project (more on this towards the end of this article)
To date, I’ve spent 725 hours working on Meteorfall (dev, design, support, etc… ). The game took 480 hours from concept to the initial launch, so I’ve spent an additional 245 hours working on content updates since launch.
These content updates included:
- The Necrodude Update: Added the first new hero to the game, Muldorf, a necromancer with a unique mechanic that involves shuffling undead minions into your opponents deck
- The Demon Update: Added a more challenging ‘Demon Mode’ that increases in difficulty each time you complete the game. There are 5 levels to get through, each building upon the level before it. Also added 5 new demon themed enemies and a bunch of new cards.
- The Queen of Shadows Update: Added the first ‘skin’ for heroes — Rose: Queen of Shadows. Also added a bunch of new Shadow themed cards, giving Rose a lot more options to create interesting decks.
- The Daily Challenge Update (coming soon!): Added a new Daily Challenge mode that unlocks after completing the game with any hero. Each Daily Challenge also is affected by 3 random modifiers, creating all sorts of new deck-building possibilities.
The latter two updates (Queen of Shadows & Daily Challenge) were largely made possible by the efforts of a new developer, Brett Foster. Brett was one of the top Meteorfall players and frequent posters in the Meteorfall subreddit. It turns out, he was a developer and he was interested in working on the project as well.
Brett brought a much-needed attention to detail to the project, as well as a strong eye for competitive play and balance. I’m admittedly sloppy when it comes to game design and programming; Brett is the opposite. He’s done a great job cleaning up some long neglected bugs. He’s also done a good job advocating for ‘high tier’ play and adding new features to keep long time players hooked. The Daily Challenge update was one of the first ideas he pitched to me, and he did all of the back-end programming required for the update.
(In this section, I refer to ‘proceeds’, which means ‘revenue’ minus 30% app store share. All financial numbers are presented in US dollars)
In my three month update (May 2018), I predicted based on the trajectory of Meteorfall that the game would be able to hit ~$90,000 USD in proceeds in the first year. Turns out, that prediction was pretty accurate! In it’s first year, Meteorfall received proceeds of $93,547.06 in non-China territories.
Revenue is still much healthier than I expected overall as well. In May, I’d quoted $150-$200 daily proceeds and surprisingly, that’s still pretty true. Taken across Meteorfall’s entirely life, Meteorfall has averaged $256.29 daily. That does include launch week which skews the average a lot, so I also calculated daily proceeds over the past six months and the average was $163.50 daily. That’s a more accurate picture of the long tail revenue of the game.
Despite continuing to do updates for the game, I’m still not convinced that there’s a strong correlation between doing free updates and increased revenue — but it’s hard to say for sure. The daily revenue of Meteorfall hasn’t increased above ~$160/day in spite of all the additional content added, though it hasn’t decreased either. I would like to add paid DLC in the future as an experiment, possibly a new hero and dozens of new cards, just to see what type of effect that would have on the bottom line.
Regardless of whether updates have increased the bottom line or not, I’ve definitely had fun doing them, and I think it’s helped to build a healthy community around the game. The Meteorfall subreddit is at nearly 500 subscribers which — by Reddit standards — is small, but still really satisfying in my book. There’s been a lot of great strategy and discussion about the game, and I don’t think the game would’ve had such a community without the additional updates.
Additionally, because I’m working on future games that take place in the Meteorfall universe, there is some work that is reusable in terms of character development and other conceptualization. I kind of consider the updates to also be an R&D & marketing cost for future Meteorfall projects.
Android vs iOS
I also wanted to talk a little about how Android and iOS compare in terms of financials. iOS was an absolute monster during the first week, accounting for 82% of the total sales during that period. Over the course of the year however, the lead had shrunk — iOS 66%, Android 34%, with Android gaining every day. There are many days when Android actually does better (at this point) than iOS (iOS launch numbers are unmatched, though).
Overall, I was very satisfied with the performance on both platforms. I worried a lot about whether Android users would pay for the game, or if I should’ve adopted a model more like Card Crawl, where you can download for free / pay to unlock. It’s hard to know if I made the ‘right’ decision, but Android has been a solid platform for me overall.
In December, I increased the price from $2.99 to $3.99. I was inspired by a post from Tinytouchtales (Card Crawl, Card Thief, Miracle Merchant) where Arnold increased the price from $2.99 to $4.99. I wasn’t quite ready to go to $4.99, but I increased the price by a dollar and the results seem good.
It’s a little hard to tell exactly how much effect is the price, because there are a lot of variables here:
- Queen of Shadow update release
- Christmas bump
- Media coverage of the upcoming Daily Challenge update
Still, even after the big Christmas bump, there seems to be somewhat of a small step function in terms of revenue, which I attribute to the $1.00 increase in price. In the months leading up to December, there were quite a few days where Meteorfall made less than $100/day. Since the price increase, Meteorfall has pretty regularly made $150-$200/day.
I have a few thoughts on this. First, there’s a lot more content in Meteorfall than when it launched a year ago, and all of it has been free. I felt pretty good about raising the price, because there’s just a lot more replay value at this point than at launch.
Second, from a business standpoint, I think it makes sense because Meteorfall is relatively ‘established’ at this point. It relies less on people randomly taking a chance on a weird indie card game, and more on people looking for it specifically. I’ve thought a lot about game prices when I buy games and when I already know that I want a game, the price is kind of an afterthought.
Last, I feel good about the fact that I’ve contributed to help (in some small way) other indie developers succeed by not participating in a race to the bottom in terms of pricing. I think it’s important to establish a fair and reasonable expectation of quality for a given price point, in order for premium games to continue to succeed. I also feel good that early adopters can be confident that they’re getting a great value, and that the game isn’t going to go on sale a week after they gamble on it at launch.
China continues to be an important part of Meteorfall’s success, and contributed solid overall numbers in 2018. At this point, I’d consider China, at the very least, a third platform: iOS, Android, China. If someone told me that they were developing an iOS game with no Android support in 2019, I’d tell them that they’re leaving a boat load of money on the table. I see China the same way.
ZPlay was very helpful to get me some pretty key features in China. In an earlier article I wrote about Meteorfall’s first month, I talk about how ZPlay worked with Apple’s marketing folks to secure an ‘App of the Day’ promo for Meteorfall which was huge. They’ve continued to help localize and test the Chinese version of the app as well.
What’s Next — Meteorfall: Journeys?
Next up for Meteorfall is the Daily Challenge update. The idea behind this update is to give players a reason to keep coming back to the game, even if they’ve already finished the game with all the heroes. By introducing new ‘modifiers’ to each challenge, the game can play very differently. One of my favorite modifiers is simply called ‘Draft’, and it allows you to draft your deck before you start your run — using Meteorfall’s simple swipe-left/swipe-right mechanic. There’s another mod called ‘Klepto’ that sets your HP equal to the number of cards in your deck and prevents max HP increases. This is a really interesting one that encourages you to pick up as many cards as possible, which is really unusual for a deck building game. Not all the mods are this wacky, but there’s a good set of them for the initial release, and I’ll probably add more later.
I also plan to add more ‘skins’, something I started with the Queen of Shadows update. Evgeny is prolific when it comes to character designs, and we have a bunch of concept art that could add some fun variation to the existing heroes. Tweaking the starting deck in addition to just the look of the hero is also a fun way to keep the game fresh without a ton of extra development time.
Later on, I do want to add the Hunter hero, Varfa, Meteorfall’s take on a ‘hunter/ranger’ type class. In my design notes, I’m up to “V4” on ideas for Varfa, so she’s gone through a lot of conceptual iteration at this point. I’m trying to capture two main themes with her — how does Meteorfall handle ranged weapons (bows, guns) and how would a ‘hunter pet’ work? With regards to the pet, the Necrodude Update introduced Muldorf, who’s a pet class the involves swarming the enemy with summoned skeletons. Varfa, on the other hand, has just one pet, but has a deep bond with it. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make that hunter/pet bond feel interesting and different compared to Muldorf.
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (more Meteorfall?!)
I’ve posted about my next project on Twitter over the past couple months, which we’re calling Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Krumit is the ‘green dude’ in the screenshots below) . It’s not a sequel to Meteorfall: Journeys, but it does take place in the same universe, and you’ll see & learn more about many of the characters.
Krumit’s Tale is also a deck building (with ‘tiles’ instead of ‘cards’ — but same thing) game, similar to Journeys. You pick your hero and then delve into the dungeon with a simple starting deck. Your hero’s deck is then shuffled into a
dungeon deck’ consisting of enemies to fight. The dungeon deck is then dealt out into a 3x3 grid. Items and abilities from your deck can be acquired from the dungeon by paying a cost. Monsters can be defeated in combat, and give gold when defeated. As items and monsters are removed, a new card is dealt from the dungeon deck. The goal in each dungeon is to defeat all enemies in the dungeon deck.
Between dungeons, you’re given an opportunity to improve your character. This might include buying new items/abilities for your deck, or choosing a perk — a passive ability that changes the rules of the game to your advantage. With your newfound strength, you delve into the next dungeon, and repeat, until you’re strong enough to defeat the final boss.
Although Krumit’s Tale plays very differently than Journeys, I wanted it to feature many of the same elements, so that’d it’d appeal to the same audience that enjoyed Journeys. It still features cards (tiles) that you build your deck with. You’re still battling enemies, and improving your character by adding cards to your deck. It’s still turn based. At the same time, the game is also very different — enemies have a set of moves / attacks that they can perform in battle instead of a deck of cards. The game is laid out in a 3x3 grid of tiles instead of with a deck of cards. Players will find that the game feels comfortable familiar and ties back to characters they love, but still feels fresh at the same time.
Meteorfall has such a colorful and interesting set of characters, courtesy of Evgeny Viitman’s creative eye and I thought it’d be a shame not to explore the world further in a new game.
Thus far, I’ve spent about 400 hours on this game, which is only 80 hours less than the initial release for Meteorfall — kind of crazy. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more work to do! This game has been a lot more difficult than Meteorfall in terms of the game design, and I’ve had to iterate a lot more to find a formula that works. I think I’m pretty close now in terms of the core gameplay loop, but need to spend the next several months adding a lot of content. I’d like to try launching on Steam this time in addition to mobile, so I’ve been trying to design the game with both landscape and portrait modes in mind, as well as keyboard /controller support.
I wanted to again thank all the fans and Meteorfall community members for all the support this past year — I seriously couldn’t do it without the help of the community. The fact that people put together strategy articles, post ideas for the game, and ask about the updates puts a responsibility on my shoulders (one that I gladly accept!) to keep delivering. The worst fear of any indie developer is to release something that no one is playing or talking about, and it’s really thanks to all the community that Meteorfall has made it this far. My sincerest thanks for the support!