No More Kings
On Tuesday, September 29th, I released my latest game “No More Kings.”
It’s a unique puzzle game based on the rules of Chess. In each level, players must use the pieces on the board to eliminate the king, but along the way they have to eliminate all the other pieces first. Each time the player captures a piece, they become that piece, and so must follow the move restrictions of that piece. If you’re still confused on how it works, I recommend playing it right now in your browser to get the hang of it.
No More Kings is my first game release since I worked on Draw Something at OMGPOP. That was over two and a half years ago. It has been a rocky road to get from there to here, but it feels good to finally have a new title to my name, and the response so far has been very positive. No More Kings has garnered quite a bit of press, including features in CNET, GameMob, and Install&Play, to name a few. I wasn’t actually expecting a big response from the press, but on the advice of my friend James I put together a full press kit and sent out emails to every outlet I could find.
Allow me to share some more information on the project and my learnings since the launch.
I came up with the idea for No More Kings after a friend gave me a Chess set last year. I am terrible at Chess so I never play, but I have always admired the game. One day I was looking at the set and realized it would be really cool to do a puzzle game based on the iconic chess pieces and their moves, and that’s how No More Kings came to be. I was also inspired by Neko Puzzle, in which the player has to complete a path puzzle on a grid.
At first I tried to build an automatic puzzle generator that would generate an infinite number of puzzles, but this was incredibly difficult. I was ready to give up on the project after a few months of trying to make this work. Eventually I realized that I should just create the puzzles by hand, which worked out nicely since I have much more control over the difficulty progression this way. It didn’t take long to put together a playable prototype with 5 levels that I was able to show to friends, and the response from that was very positive, which was all the encouragement I needed to turn it into a finished product.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a moment during the development of No More Kings that I was able to focus on the project 100%. It was always a side project and took over a year to launch. I often had to dedicate my free time to it, and even give myself deadlines to ensure that I would get something onto the app stores before the whole thing just became a bridge to nowhere. I originally thought it would launch in July, then August, then September and I just barely managed to get it approved on September 28th and out on the 29th.
After being out of the industry for so long I really didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately I was able to cite my past success with Draw Something which I think helped convince games writers to give No More Kings a look. Everyone had positive things to say — I think the fact that this is a completely new puzzle game that has never been done before helped a lot.
A lot of the downloads in the first few days were fueled by this coverage. I also got a lot of downloads from posting in the Reddit iPhone community, which also brought a lot of great feedback from total strangers. This one Reddit post actually garnered more traffic than any press outlet and earned me some core users that I can engage with in the future when I have new updates to share.
Unfortunately, downloads have just about dried up since the initial launch coverage. The strongest day was when I posted on Reddit, October 2nd. These days No More Kings gets at most 50 downloads per day across iTunes and Google Play.
Further, since launch I’ve only sold 22 IAP units ($0.99 for 50 levels) for a net return of $15.77 (20 of those sales were from iOS). Sadly, these are probably pretty good numbers as far as indie releases go, but I’m going to work hard to get a lot more downloads in the future.
Hindsight & The Road Ahead
Looking back, one mistake I made was releasing this game too soon after it was approved by Apple. It’s possible that if I had staged it (left it approved but not yet released) for longer then Apple might have considered it for editorial review and featured it. It’s also possible that I would have received more press in that amount of time. From conversations I’ve had recently and watching the App Store evolve over the past year it’s fair to say that there’s only two ways to get a lot of downloads for a game: 1. Get featured by Apple, or 2. Spend a lot of money buying downloads so you end up in the top 25 of the charts. As an indie developer I don’t have that kind of cash to spend (it took $80k to get Draw Something in the charts over a 3-day spend back in 2012) and it’s very unlikely that No More Kings will be featured by Apple now. It’s possible, although very unlikely, that a future update will end up in editorial review, or if I do a paid version of the app with no IAP, this version would have a shot and end up in the “pay once and play” section of the App Store, which is apparently a big deal now.
It’s also possible that I could get some traction from other App Stores. I could release a version in the future for the Mac App Store, or for Steam or Itch.io (again these would be deluxe versions with an up-front cost and no IAP), but ultimately it’s going to be a question of opportunity cost while I weigh continued development of this project against other projects I’m looking to start. Also, to this day GIPHY GJ is still commanding the majority of my time!
Still, No More Kings is near and dear to me and I have a list of updates I want to do within the next 3 months to add plenty more content and features. Even if these updates only end up going to the people that have already downloaded the game, it will be worthwhile in my mind. I don’t want to share too much about what these updates will entail, but look forward for things like a revamped level selection screen, new puzzles involving queens and multiple kings, and a much better scoring system for earning 3 stars. And I know this it’s very early to be admitting this but I already have a sequel for this game in mind. I kid you not!
Thanks for Reading
Did you get this far? Well, if you haven’t done so already you might as well download No More Kings for iOS or Android. Also, if you’d like to hear about new products I’m working on before anyone else, sign up for my mailing list. Until then, thanks for reading, and make sure to recommend this to your friends!