This month begins the second year of Muse. While we started making games in 2009, we formed the company and started selling our games in 2010. So 2010 was really officially our first year.
And how was it? Well, everything was hard. What else could we have expected! Of course it was hard. Looking back, we made some great strides. We started in 09 just making free games, still finding our way with the technology, the distribution, and building the team. In 2010, with Guns of Icarus and Creavures, we established a lot of great partnerships. A bit of luck was definitely involved, but looking back, it was also a lot of hard work. I think what made it all worthwhile was not just that we had opportunities to make money. It was also about the people. Through it all, we met some amazing people who genuinely took interest in what we did and believed in us.
We’ve always taken the approach that relationships are to be built to last. In business school, negotiation was always taught to not leave any money on the table. Here, we’re the complete opposite. How can taking all the money off the table all the time be the foundation to building lasting relationships? It can’t. We want to be treated fairly of course, but with the partners that we believe in, we’ve learned not to be hard-assed or near-sighted. Sometimes, too much negotiation of the minutiae can make people lose sight of what is really important and jeopardize what can be long lasting. With the help of our partner to feature our games, we had some success with both Guns of Icarus and Creavures. Guns of Icarus was a profitable project, and Creavures had good initial sales on Steam and Mac App Store.
With the help of our partners, we finally felt that our games were out on the market, for people to see and judge. Our games were finally being tested in the marketplace. With a game truly out in the market place, the customer support was critical. We had a few screw ups, but I’m proud to say that we didn’t let what was hard get in the way of what we believed in. Pretty much from day 1, we made a conviction to get back to everyone as fast as we could and address feedback as much as we could.
When Guns of Icarus was released, we had a lot of great support, but of course there were also tough feedback as well. We spent about 4 months developing the game with a small team, because that’s really all the resources we had. When people got a feel for the multiplayer, they invariably wanted more – campaigns, pvp, etc. And so there was a perception for some that the multiplayer for Guns was half-assed. That was pretty tough not only because we invested a lot emotionally, but also because it hit the mark. And we knew that it was right, but we didn’t have the resources to do more. That was really frustrating. And with each update, there would also be bugs – compatibility issues with some old graphics card we didn’t have the means to test, multiplayer server going down, level balancing off, etc. We felt that with customer service, we couldn’t slip. After all, this is people’s hard earned money we are talking about. Once this point became crystal clear, trying to accommodating wasn’t hard. We just had to understand where people were coming from.
As an example of us still learning and not always doing things as well as we could be, just look at Creavures on the Mac App Store for the last 2 weeks. We released an update, and people had trouble downloading the update. Fresh installs worked, but updates? Not happening. 1-2 star reviews started coming in, and we really didn’t have a good way to reach out to or interact with people who were having trouble through Apple’s interface. At the same time, we struggled to find a fix. As a result, our sales suffered a bit. Lesson? Find a way, any way to communicate faster. Our response was to find a fix fast, but we didn’t communicate fast enough. No excuses. We are now nearing a solution, but it will likely take another week to go through the review process. In the meantime, we just really have to focus on communication to frustrated customers. And apologize. If we screwed up, of course we should apologize. That’s the least we should do.
In 2011, there are a lot of exciting opportunities in store. We are returning to the iOS with Creavures. The Nest is close to release. Guns of Icarus online is full steam ahead. We’ll take what we learned last year, and do better this year.