This time last week, we were happily tapping away on another article – <Read It Here>. We naively were going about our daily business knowing we’d hit the release button on the Steam back-end, and that our game 'People Cu3ed' was now selling on its primary platform.
We were a little concerned by Friday evening – we hadn’t sold a single unit, but as we went along to a meal to celebrate the launch – we put it to the back of our minds and again: went about our business (which was primarily eating and drinking – a lot).
I (the author: Lee, founder of the studio), woke up (with a little hangover to be honest) on Saturday, and the first thing I did was check our sales figures.
At this point I figured we must be going through what a lot of indie studios go through. Perhaps we’ve gotten overexcited by our own hype? Perhaps the public haven’t been as interested in the game as we thought? Are we charging too much ($9.99 for a VR game with probably at least 10 hours of game-play?) Is our trailer really that bad? Is the game really that bad??
Looking down the stats though I could see a large number of people adding the game to their wish-list. Strange things crossed my mind again, surely the price isn’t so high that you wouldn’t just ‘take a punt’ and buy it… Why would so many add to wish-list, but no-one buy?
(^One of the graphical assets used by our teleportation system in game aptly represented our feelings on Saturday)
I turned (still with a sore head) to the messages on my mobile. A half-finished conversation with someone that’s been helping with our PR is the first thing I come to, with a concerning message at the bottom:
“Lee – I can’t see a buy button on the Steam page?”
I sat up too fast (for one who has drunk quite so much Belgian Bier the night before), and pulled my dressing gown round me to get to a computer in the other room – leaving my snoozing wife still happy back in bed. Sure enough, I also couldn’t see a buy button for People Cu3ed… Still half dazed I told myself our PR lady must have been mistaken, and that I couldn’t see a buy button on Steam because it’s my account with our game already on – but a rising fear was already growing in the pit of my stomach – what if she’s right??
I quickly found an old email address and registered for a new Steam account – impatiently waiting for the confirmation email to arrive in an email inbox I forgot the password for over a decade ago. I (naively) figure I’ll just sign in as a random member of the public and the buy button will be warmly sat there glowing at me when I get to the page (giving slightly mixed feelings as I then have to accept we have sold a grand total of 0 games on opening night!) – but as the Steam page loads up – I could see no ‘buy’ button.
(^what I was hoping to see!)
I must have scrolled up and down about eleven times. I must have scoured the whole page stupidly hoping I was just being hungover and was missing it completely. Sadly though no – something had gone wrong, and there was no buy button for People Cu3ed – and although it had been ‘for sale’ for 36 hours at this point – it hadn’t actually been ‘for sale’.
I won’t bore you with the minutia of what came next – the speaking to other devs with the same problem, the desperate searching of just about every technical article about the Steam back-end to find out if we’d done something wrong (we hadn’t), the trying desperately to get hold of Valve (who quite fairly don’t work weekends)… The long and short of it was a kind soul over at Valve eventually became aware on Sunday evening (our local time) of the problem with Steam that was effecting ourselves and several other developers and publishers this weekend, and they went through and manually fixed every issue for every title in the Store.
People Cu3ed finally went on sale at about 19:00 on the Sunday evening. Not exactly prime time for releasing a new game… but there we go.
At the time (as I looked at the bills for the marketing we’d incurred to encourage potential customers of ours to buy that weekend that was now wasted), I thought the sorry saga was over.
I was wrong.
We continued to work on updates for the game and corrected some minor bugs we had uncovered, and also decided to pull together a new trailer to try to make up for the lost publicity over the weekend. On Monday evening, all of this was ready to go and we uploaded version 1.02 to Steam as well as the new trailer. We’d actually sold a few copies during this odd ‘off peak’ period which was nice, but clearly the thousands of people we could see had been to our Steam page over the weekend were mostly not still thinking about the game which was predictable, but a shame.
Tuesday came, and those low sales figures from the Monday stayed the same. Understandably so I thought to myself, who buys games on Monday and Tuesday? Wednesday came and despite pouring more money into the advertising budget – those same handful of sales didn’t increase, and again – my own lack of experience shone through as I assumed this was just a matter of it being the wrong time of the week, and perhaps the wrong game.
Logging on to show someone the latest trailer on Wednesday lunch time – my heart stopped.
The buy button was gone again.
I must have looked like a mad man to the person I was trying to show the trailer off to – frantically hitting ‘refresh’ on the page, and logging into my recently acquired new Steam account to see what I could see. Disastrously though, and unbelievably, the facility to actually purchase People Cu3ed had gone again.
Rather than the frantic but impotent aggression that consumed me over the weekend over the same issue, I now just felt defeated. By this point, I had no idea when the buy button had gone walk-a-bouts since the fix on Sunday evening, but having just authorized more spend on marketing to try to make up for the issues over the weekend from our indie budget – it appeared we’d been just throwing good money after bad.
The same saint at Valve eventually got back to us that evening and delivered the fix but also a crushing blow. When our update had gone live on Monday evening at around 18:00, the buy button had gone again because Steam hadn’t fully fixed the systemic problem at that point. This meant that People Cu3ed had been ‘released’ for 6 days, and of those 6 days it was only actually ‘on-sale’ for around 23 hours of the exact opposite of ‘peak time’.
So ended the pretty soul destroying first half of the week – and honestly speaking, we’re going to be optimistic about recovering sales wise. Every review so far has been positive, and we’ve seen and taken part in a lot of streams about the game that have been great fun. However really worth mentioning from the positive side of things is the support we’ve had from the VR community through the whole thing. It’s always tough to mention names, because you run the risk of leaving people out – but there are a few people out there I want to recognize on here who have really gone out of their way to help us either get the word out in the first place about the game and prepare for our ill-fated launch weekend, have played the game and given direct and really useful feedback to us on some of the early bugs, or even helped spread the word about our plight mid-way through this week to help bring the focus back on our little title and help try to recover some of the losses incurred by ‘launching’ a title, without actually ‘launching’ a title. They are:
Peter Graham (@brains81) and: www.vrfocus.com
The team at @VR_Roundtable: Youtube.com
Anthony also from the above at his own (new) channel VR365: Youtube.com
Aden Jones (@IndieGameCast ) from the Indie Gaming Podcast: Indiegamingpodcast.podbean.com
The insightful Ronnie (@EverythingVive) from the Everything Vive Podcast: Youtube.com
Dr Oculus (@dr_oculus) on YouTube: Youtube.com
Our twitter friend and YouTube rising star @burdenedstar1: Youtube.com
The hilarious Se7en from the @helixx_vr team on twitch: Twitch.tv
The spooktacular @DjBatprince: Youtube.com
@SalsaKstream (Salsa Ketchup) on the YouTubes: Youtube.com
And I’m sure many others that have lent a hand this weekend, be it with sharing the problem, helping with resolving the issue with Valve – or even buying the game in the very small time you were able to!
What was truly wonderful was having several of those above reach out to us when heard about our problem and share the issue with their own followers – asking that they support us, in what really was for an indie studio – our time of need. Thank you so much for that the VR community is a fantastic group, and I really hope that we can support you all in the same way at some point in future.
People Cu3ed is now fully on sale, and we are now just finally hoping for a good weekend of players playing, and people enjoying People Cu3ed. If you fancy a go – the link is below:
So as always – from the tiny and tired team at Whitway Studios (@whitwaystudios): Happy Gaming! :)