I’m sure a few of you have been wondering why we decided to acquire The Ship, so I thought I’d shed some light on our thinking as well as on some of the results to date. Those not of a business-like disposition look away now…
Reasons for acquiring The Ship:
Firstly, it’s a great game. We love it. ‘Nuff said.
Secondly, The Ship was (is) generating small amounts of revenue. As a studio looking to grow quickly, the value of having a stream of income – even a small one – is extremely high.
Thirdly, we wanted to gain access to data which would be otherwise difficult for us to obtain. It has always been in our plan to use digital distribution platforms, and top of that list is Steam. Thanks to having a product on there, we can now back up the various hypotheses in our business plan with some top-notch empirical data.
Fourthly, potential for a sequel – the Ship had proven appeal (and God knows we were keen) so it was likely a sequel would be well received.
Lastly, and most importantly, were the players. Not only are they a great bunch (the most discerning players in the universe, of course) there are also lots of them. The existing player base of The Ship was just under 160,000 prior to us acquiring it. So instead of starting from ground zero, we – as a studio – were keen to build a relationship with a lot of enthusiastic players like us.
A touch unfortunate, though, was the fact that a large number of players were inactive in The Ship community due to lack of updates or development over the last couple of years. So we had to come up with a way of re-awaking things.
Prod them with a claw?
Enter the Xmas Griffin:
We came up with the plan for the Xmas Griffin a couple of days before the Steam Winter Sale. The Ship was due to go on that sale but might not have gotten a lot of attention because of the other awesome games on it. So in typical Blazing Griffin fashion we thought we do something different. And we did this, which worked pretty well.
We were quite blatantly honest about what we wanted to achieve and everyone seems to appreciate that. In short, we wanted to give something away while also re-awakening the community with a bit of viral marketing.
What went right?
As soon as the sale went live and our plan was in place, we got in touch with a few other indie devs to see if they knew any press who might be interested in what we were doing. Andrew Smith from Spilt Milk Studio put us in touch with Lewie Procter and DIYGamer.com who posted this which managed to alert Alec Meer at Rock Paper Shotgun which in turn led to this. And, in the blink of our griffin-like eye, a bunch of articles popped up on the web, which was great for web traffic as well as for sales, and, critically, it simply let players know what where were doing.
With news starting to spread, some of the diehard fans, and those who had clung to the eternal hope that something might one day happen to The Ship, got in touch and expressed supreme excitement. One was particularly awesome (link).
Engaging with fans like this was a great way to spread the word, and their enthusiasm for The Ship was certainly a great thing to have on the comments sections of the web pages we appeared on.
And we sure enjoyed talking to y’all.
So did all this good stuff actually translate into new players? Yes it did. Just under 40,000 players worth. J!
Our daily average new players since last October has been just under 400 players a day, which, granted, is slightly skewed because of the Christmas period, but we’re still gaining about 120 players a day at the moment at a pretty steady level.
All in all the revival of The Ship community is going well…
What went wrong?
What we tried with The Ship over Christmas was slightly novel – perhaps not unique but at least interesting – however it was novel enough to “break” Steam just a teeny bit.
“Hey, we never touched it! It just kinda went funny.”
Due to the age of The Ship and the way Steam manages licenses, most of the players who had bought the game prior to a date (somewhere in 2008) weren’t receiving their extra keys, which was more than a pity: not only was it slightly annoying for them and for us, they were the largest portion of our historical player-base.
In the end the Devs over at Steam were able to quickly resolve the issue without too much loss of face on our part.
So, um, yeah, we caused a Steam-patch. “Go us!”
And, on the whole, the feedback from players was positive, with most being excited to just play the game. This leads us to next point….
The response we got from the internet to our experiment over Christmas was great! However it did mean that there was a lot of chit-chat in general, not just from technical issues, but players getting back to us for all sorts of conversations. Which – while it was awesome and more than appreciated – was of a scale we’d grossly underestimated. Neargh! The time it took to get through it, I thought I was typing with claws…
Needless to say we’ll try to have a more planned approached next time we do any more experiments.
Or maybe not. That’s griffins for ya.
Overall, the acquisition of The Ship and our experimenting has proven to be good for us, and we hope to continue in that vein.
“So,” you ask, “What’s happening to The Ship now?”
Well we’re almost, almost – ALMOST ready to let the interwebs know what we’ve got in store for The Ship but until then The Griffin, well he say nothing. His beak is sealed.
But, not too tight.