Launch a project, get millions of sales, receive wildly high reviews, and insane revenue to keep your studio running for the rest of your life.

That’s the dream.

But reality looks different. It’s not the runaway success you wanted. When people ask about results, you simply say, “It went okay,” then you quickly change the topic to the weather.

But you don’t want “okay.” Nobody wants to just be “okay!”

You’re probably running through a lot of ideas right now, shooting from the hip and hoping to find that miracle. Maybe it’s buying Facebook Ads! Or paying that YouTuber who said he’ll feature you. Or maybe it’s putting the game on sale. 20%. No 50%! How about 75%?! Got to increase numbers!

Pump the brakes, pal!

Let’s take a more analytical approach.

In this post, we’ll run through some questions to help you decide about the future of your game. We’ll cover if it’s worth putting additional time and energy into your game, or if it’s a Sunk Cost—a project you should end.


From Anxiety Overload to Strategic Thinking

You have probably lost a few nights of sleep during your launch. You’re refreshing your sales page and scouring the internet for mentions. Even weeks/months after launch, you may still feel that anxiousness. This feeling is universal. It helps you do incredible feats to launch. But the downside is that it gives you tunnel vision.

There’s a saying in the South that goes, “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar.” (Granted, I’m not from the South, but I love this quote)

In other words – when you’re in the middle of the action, your perception is restricted, and you can make knee-jerk responses without thoroughly evaluating all outcomes.

When my team failed to sell our product in Fall 2016, we went into knee-jerk reaction mode. What if we add more content? Should we buy ads? Can we get our partners and network push harder?

Once we acknowledged our situation (that we were inside the jar),
we were able to step out and think strategically (we can read the label).


So Now What Do We Do?

I created a flow chart to simplify the process of next steps:

Let’s break down the flow chart.

Are You Getting Sales

Revenue is the easiest Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to track the success of your project. I can’t think of a better way for a customer to show you how they care about your product than to open their wallet. Even if your game is free, if you’re not generating revenue, then people aren’t paying attention.

Are People Talking About It

Questions to ask yourself at this stage:

  • Was there feedback? Reviews?
  • Are people chatting about it in forums/communities or doing live streams?
  • Are you getting frequent emails from fans?
  • If you’re tracking activity, is the usage rate high?

If people aren’t talking, then go to them. For one of my company’s projects, we got on the phone with our fans who used to participate heavily in our community. We wanted to know why. Their response was simple: they squeezed all the fun out of our game and moved on. They were still happy with our project but wanted to try something completely fresh. It was time for my company to make something new.

For another project, we combed through all of the reviews (good and bad) and messaged the ones who had a lot to say to help us with next steps.

Is It Fixable

Often, bad sales are NOT a result of a bad product. The main symptom of bad sales is bad Product Market Fit (this is with the assumption that you’re not releasing garbage apps).

Example: SuperHot focused on talking to the gamer looking for a new weird experience, the type of person who would play Portal, Goat Simulator, or Kerbal Space Program. Sales would have been poorer if they framed their message similar to the macho-aggressive run-and-gun market of Call Of Duty, Bulletstorm, and Battlefield games.

Look for how your target audience perceives your work. Your screenshots, your game description, your graphics—even how you tweeted your game. Scrutinize EVERYTHING!  Go back to the drawing board, and define who exactly your game is made for. Then, look at all the games your target audience would play, and ask yourself what changes you need to make to resonate with that audience.

My team’s launch in Fall 2016 was a financial failure. Great product—but poor Product Market Fit. Much of our re-launch in 2017 involves re-honing our message and providing more clarity to who our product is for, and why it’s worth the price.

Is It Still Fun for You?

Dedicating a part of our life to a failed product isn’t my idea of fun. But are there other intrinsic motivations at play? Are you actively enjoying jumping into your project, playing with numbers and tweaking systems?

Or is this just your passion project?

Adams Scott, the creator of Dilbert, talks about passion:

Honor your true feelings. If you’re pushing yourself to work 18-hour days, you’re struggling to sleep, and you have frequent panic attacks, don’t convince yourself that this is part of the journey and fun is right around the corner. It’s very rarely the case.

But!—If working on your game brings you the most joy, then keep at it. Don’t let this article stop you!

Having gone through the flowchart, you should now know where you land and what to do next. Congratulations on stepping out of the jar, and being able to read the label. I look forward to your success.