Some of my ramblings on the story of HedgeHogers...
I launched HedgeHogers, my first mobile game, three weeks ago. I spent the previous three years making it. With the typical indie developer marketing budget of €0, I spent about five months working on social media marketing etc. This earned me about one day at the top of the Puzzle and Family charts in Ireland, with overall chart numbers 5 in Games and 8 in Apps. It was very exciting and humbling to be on the same page as classics like Monument Valley and Plants Vs Zombies. Two days later my first reports from Apple arrived. I had visualised reading those reports for the past few years, trying to estimate how many downloads I’d get and how much I’d have earned for all my hard work. 55 downloads and €100. I’d estimate 45 of those downloads were friends and family who I had threatened to disown if they didn’t buy my game. So about 10 people in the world bought the game because they actually wanted to. It seems that ranking on the App Store chart in Ireland for a short time does not require too many downloads.
So were the three years spent making HedgeHogers worth it?
From a financial point of view, I’ve done the maths and it doesn’t appear that €100 for over three year’s work is financially sustainable going forward.
It works out as a gross salary of about €33 per year or €0.09 per day. That’s before tax and doesn’t take into account any costs like purchasing an iMac, iPhones, iPads, external hard drives, software, annual apple developer membership, website hosting etc. As someone trying to make a mobile game in their spare time this might not seem all that enticing, however, as the sole income for a 40 year old father of three it’s not a sound financial strategy. Tough decisions need to be made.
From a learning perspective HedgeHogers was more beneficial but, as with the financial success, not as much as I’d hoped. I have learned a lot in three years. I may be a master of none but I’m now a jack of all trades regarding coding a game, level design, 3D modelling, animation, music composition, video editing etc. These are all areas I’m interested in and so it’s been a fantastic experience to get to grips with such a wide variety of skills within one project. However, I had hoped I could reuse more of the nitty gritty I’d learned like the game frameworks or Objective-C or the way I’d integrated a level designer or textures but, as with politics, three years in the tech world, particularly in the mobile world, is a long time. Apple’s tutorials are now in Swift instead of Objective-C. Game frameworks have come and gone, the handling of images and textures seems to change with each iteration of iOS and XCode. Game engines that support multiple platforms are now very popular, like Unity and Unreal. So while I will certainly reuse the high level skills I’ve acquired from HedgeHogers, there needs to be quite a bit of new learning done regarding the best way to proceed if I’m to make another game.
Finally, from a strategic point of view, HedgeHogers has been a great success. One of my main reasons for working for myself and choosing a job that could be done at home, was to spend as much time as possible with my three children during their formative years. People without children may want to turn off at this point. My kids are now aged five, seven and nine and I’ve been here for them growing up. My youngest can’t remember not having Daddy at home.
It’s been an honour and a privilege to be with them so much and it’s not an opportunity parents get very often.
Now, minding a three year old every day has its challenges and constant trips to the doctor with three children does somewhat disrupt workflow. However, I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I just need to find a way to improve that financial aspect.
Feedback from the complete strangers who bought HedgeHogers has been fantastic. They really enjoyed the game and even felt it should be featured by Apple. I need to get it into more people’s hands and I haven’t given up on it yet. With my three kids now in school I have more structured time to work and who knows, if the bank and my infinitely patient wife are willing, I might make a second game that could buy us a nice meal for two.