Friday, September 8, 2017

Breaking Eggs - Making Omelettes

The transition from 3DS to Switch is upon us! Today is September 8, three weeks after Chicken Wiggle released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. I was confident all of the effort we poured into Chicken Wiggle for 3DS would pay off. The excitement level built up from releasing screenshots, and then short video clips, ultimately culminating with the trailer and footage of new gameplay features seemed to have folks excited about the game. My calculations were very wrong, apparently.

First day sales were shockingly low. Worldwide sales for Chicken Wiggle on day one were about 10% of Xeodrifter's day one sales in North America. Xeodrifter’s numbers dwarf Chicken Wiggle’s, but Xeodrifter’s numbers weren’t particularly impressive compared to what is considered a “success” on the 3DS eShop. Chicken Wiggle’s first day sales were so low, I thought there was an error in the sales report. Many of my developer friends thought the same when I shared the news. “That can’t be right!” echoed in my mind.

I gave it a few days to see if the report changed the next day or the next, hoping there was a delay in reporting and the real day one numbers would catch up. Sadly, the numbers never changed. It was indeed the real data. The next logical step was to hope that sales would increase the following days. Maybe the release day was just a slow day for sales? Nope. Less copies were sold on day two, and even less on day three. It continued to drop each day. As of September 8, the number of copies sold worldwide in 22 days is a little more than half of what Xeodrifter sold on its FIRST DAY in North America. Wow!

Clearly, I misjudged something. Perhaps the game is not appealing to the 3DS eShop audience? Perhaps it is overpriced? Perhaps the 3DS eShop audience has moved onto the Switch? Maybe it is one of these things. Maybe it is all of these things. Maybe it is something else that I am unaware of. It is shocking, to say the least. Trying to find answers, I am torn between trying to find someone else to blame and asking myself what mistakes did I make? It’s not a fun place to be, but it is important that I try to find answers and learn from it so I can try to avoid it happening again.

This feels all too familiar to Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. After tremendous effort in the development of the game and what I thought was a successful PR campaign, the sales results were less than stellar for Super Challenge. At least I could blame the possible confusion with the name of the game. Was it a sequel or an expansion? Should I have called it Mutant Mudds 2? The other factor that seemed to contribute to low sales was the increased level of difficulty. Most people felt that the original Mutant Mudds was challenging enough. Ratcheting the challenge up even more was simply not interesting to many players.

I can’t adopt the same reasoning for Chicken Wiggle. It was clearly a new game – no confusion of it being an expansion. The level of difficulty is purposely approachable, but with some challenge to keep it interesting. Most folks seem to be able to make their way through it and enjoy it without too much trouble - remarking on the variety of gameplay from level to level. So, I don’t think the game itself is the main issue here. I feel confident that if you liked Mutant Mudds and/or Xeodrifter then Chicken Wiggle would be appealing to you. I could be wrong on that, though. Price is always a tricky thing, but so far the feedback that I have received suggests that it is priced perfectly, if not too low according to some. Maybe everyone is just being kind and supportive. Based on the data I have recovered, it leads me to believe that the 3DS audience has moved on.

Here's what the press had to say, prior to the games’ release:

10/10 “You need Chicken Wiggle in your life." - Games Reviews.
9/10 “Excellent platformer that fans of the genre should not miss.” – TodoJuegos.
4.5/5 “Atooi has proven it still has that magic touch.” – Oprainfall.
4/5 “Everything about this game is so lovingly crafted.” – Nintendo Okie.
8.5/10 “Novel play mechanics offer varied gameplay dynamics.” – Nintenderos.
8.5/10 “Great platforming and game design tools.” – Pure Nintendo.
8.5/10 “One of the best games with a level creator out there.” – Shigeru News.
8/10 “Blends simplicity with sophistication into a cohesive whole.” – Cubed3.
8/10 “Fun, adorable platformer with some genuinely clever features.” – NinMobileNews.
8/10 “You start playing and you can not stop.” –

While big titles like Miitopia and Metroid will surely sell more than Chicken Wiggle on their first day, they are Nintendo titles that have a strong brand and marketing budgets behind them. Sadly, I believe the Nintendo 3DS eShop is dead for “Nindies”. The audience that buys indie titles on Nintendo platforms has moved on to the Switch. I expected the Switch would impact the success of Chicken Wiggle on 3DS, but not to the extent that it has. I would be amiss if I did not mention the fact that Chicken Wiggle was nowhere to be seen on the main 3DS eShop shelf in North America for the first two weeks. It could be found inside the New Releases folder, and the Newest Videos folder. That was all. Whereas in Europe, Chicken Wiggle scored the premium landing slot. It literally couldn’t have been positioned better in Europe. I am extremely thankful of NOE for supporting my game this way. The crazy thing is that the breakdown of day one sales is 75% in North America, and 25% in Europe. Go figure!

The low sales of Chicken Wiggle has prompted me to put the game on a flash sale for two weeks to see if it gains some extra exposure and/or energizes folks to buy it. It's worth a shot, right? It feels way too soon to put the game on sale, but I don't have any other options right now. There are over 300 user-created levels on-line to download. There are tons of excellent creations - some added to the "Atooi Favorites" search category. It is a joy for me to play and experience them. Thank you if you are one of the eggcellent few who has already purchased the game, and another thank you for the eggstraordinary levels that have been uploaded. They have exceeded my expectations. It's a good time to pick up the game and enjoy all of the great content.

I think it should go without saying that I have no plans to release any more titles on the 3DS. This saddens me, greatly. I love the 3DS. But, if a polished title like Chicken Wiggle can’t find a home on the 3DS - a 3DS exclusive at that - I don’t know what indie game can. Anyway, I do want to say thank you to those players who have contacted me to tell me how much fun they have had with the game. The levels that you have created and shared on-line are truly impressive. Many of you are doing things with the level editor that I have not seen before. It is very exciting to see.

Chicken Wiggle will go on a two week flash sale in North America starting September 14. The price will drop from $14.99 to $9.99 during that period (33% savings). A two week flash sale will start in Europe the following week, September 21, also with 33% savings. The eShop game page is located here.
I have already revealed that we’re working on Mutant Mudds for Switch as well as Treasurenauts for Switch. I am very excited about both titles. I will have more news to share soon on them.