On the 25th of February, we finally released our first game, Under the Sun. There were a lot of unknowns prior to release, especially as it was our first time; but 50 days later, we’ve had 430,00 downloads and there have been 2.8M levels passed. But more importantly, people seem to be enjoying it!
It’s pretty different from a lot of games on the app stores; maybe not in the concepts or mechanics, but in the amount that you need to use your brain. Random clicking or paying money won’t get you past our levels. I even tried to write a program to solve them, but for levels with more that 6 or 7 steps, it took way too long; the human brain can be much quicker. Knowing that our game was a lot harder to dive in to than a lot of other games out there, we didn’t really know how it would be received.
We’d tested around 10 of the levels 3 months prior to release, and had had a chance to tweak them, removing parts that were overly confusing or clunky. We knew most people liked these. We then added another 50 levels, some of which were in the day before release. We only tested internally, so over 80% of our game had only been tested by its two creators! This is not usually how things are done. It seemed a recipe for a ton of bugs, shortcuts (there is meant to only be 1 shortest solution per level), and levels that might just not be very fun. The kind of things you find out when people who don’t know what they are meant do, do stuff. Very surprisingly, pretty much everything worked. There were a few shortcuts, but these didn’t really affect the solution process for those puzzles. There we no critical bugs, at least nothing big enough that we’ve had to push out an update to fix things (yet).
Are far as discoverability goes, we were really lucky to get featured on Apple’s App Store. This jumped us up from 50 downloads on the first day from friends and family, to 50,000 downloads the next day from all over the world. I’m not sure why we got featured; maybe it was because GDC was on, and not many companies were releasing that week; maybe our isometric puzzle style rode off the success of Monument Valley; maybe it was because it hardly had any words so could be featured in lots of different countries; maybe it was just a good game! Either way, it is cool to know that so many people around the world are playing it.
The uptake on Android has been a lot slower, iOS having around 10x more downloads than Android. Additionally, only 10% of the Android downloads have actually been through Google Play Store, with most being downloaded “unofficially” in China (this doesn’t really bother us). It probably didn’t help that we staggered the Android release by a week for resourcing reasons; it means that the inertial press coverage didn’t contain any links to our Google Play page and we had to go around emailing people to try to get them to update their articles a week later. In the future we’d try a lot harder to either synchronise the releases, or have them either further apart to focus on each individually.
And now the future; we have just finished localising our game into 7 other languages. We are also adding in a bunch of ideas that we didn’t quite get into our first version; we think it’ll add a lot of variety and interest for you all. We’ll do another post soon with a few more teasers, but for now, here’s a beanie you’ll need for the colder areas…