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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
Being Rejected by 36,261 People Feels Really Bad
By Robert Basler on 2019-10-02 13:39:07
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

So on Friday Hacker News turned its firehose of people on the One Man MMO Project blog - thank you larksimian whoever you are! The blog made it to number 1 on Hacker News around 9am, and had dropped to #13 by the time I found out about it late Friday night. The 100+ comments on the Hacker News page were entirely positive, which was really nice.

I was also pretty pleased that the blog's hosting worked exactly as it is supposed to and happily served up tens of thousands of pages to all those people without falling over.

So if you don't do this for a living, this is an astonishing number of people to visit an indie game. I've been at this ten years and this is 100x larger than my previous largest traffic spike. A post from a smaller news site typically generates only a couple dozen visitors. A spike like this Hacker News one will typically generate sales to support months of work. If I was paying for ads to get that traffic, Adwords would charge me on average $97,542. My ISP charged me $23 for the traffic.

So at this point, people usually talk about sales funnels -- how many of those people were "converted" into paying customers. The best funnels turn 11.45% of visitors into customers, so if they bought Standard Editions, they would have purchased $165,796. If I had an average sales funnel, that's 2.35% or $34,028. If just 1% of those people thought "hey that's cool I'd like to support that" it would have been $14,480.

My actual total sales for all those visitors was zero. That's crushing. 36,261 people looked at my game and every single one said, "nope, don't want that."

I looked pretty hard at that number on Saturday morning.


The first inclination is to give up in despair. If the sales rate is < 1/36,261 the business is dead. We don't have a hope of attracting enough customers to make money at that rate. Just to be clear, Secret Lair Games is a business. We're not independently wealthy or retired or anything. We're just some regular people who've invested a whole lot of time and money to make something new that we believe in.

Then I told my wife. She was also not happy about that result.

On Monday I repeated all my market research and reevaluated everything in the business plan. There were no surprises there. It should be working better than it is. Since someone's sure to ask, Free-to-Play just isn't a viable strategy with this game.

My wife and I walked and talked for a couple hours yesterday. I think this experience hit her harder than me. After a lot of consideration, we have decided to continue work on the game. We think it's a good game. We got some actionable feedback and we have some ideas of our own to improve the funnel. (I have been working on what I believe is the key issue since February.)

I have always had low expectations of Miranda's Early Access funnel, but this was a very expensive way to learn that it is completely broken.

Well, not quite. We got 4 new signups for the mailing list, 17 new followers on Twitter, one YouTube subscription, one Itch follower and two Facebook comments.

Welcome new people, and thank you everyone for your interest.

By Robert Basler on 2019-10-02 14:06:15
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
P.S. I debated quite a while about posting this at all, but bad things are also part of the indie gamedev experience and often people don't talk about them.
By CR on 2019-10-03 16:57:50
Homepage: email:calebgrollins at gmail dot com
Some thoughts as someone who was brought here by HN and buying it didn't even cross my mind.

1. It wasn't immediately obvious to me where to get this, or that it was available to the general public at all yet.
You need an eye catching "BUY" button. For that reason, I didn't even look at the store page until now.
This is a nit, but "Shop" brings to mind physical merchandise.

2. Your page should be more visual. You should have gifs or videos that immediately show what sets your game apart. Then the text can provide more detail.

For example, "Create the base of your dreams using standard buildings, or custom design your own" sounds really interesting to me, but I have no idea what that would actually look like.

What I see is some screenshots of vehicles and buildings. Frankly, the screenshots aren't visually appealing and don't mean much to me.

3. Again, really emphasize what sets your game apart. Many of the bullet points (Complete Missions, Collect Achievements, Win Loot, etc.) could apply to almost any game. Then one of the most interesting parts (the single-shard design) is at the bottom - long after you lost my attention.
You've got to get people's attention first, then provide the additional details if they want them. Order the bullet points by importance.

4. The sidebar should have quick bullet points for what each edition includes, similar to a Kickstarter page. If you really want someone to drop $500 on you, you've got to make it as frictionless as possible.

All that said, the court of public opinion voted against your game. I'm sure it hurts. It should be taken into consideration. But after looking into this further, I'm interested and I've bought the standard edition. I don't think you made it clear to the casual passer-through what makes this game worth buying.

You're passionate enough about this to work on it for ten years. You need to demonstrate to people what makes it that special.

Thanks for the blog.
By Robert Basler on 2019-10-04 13:10:20
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Thanks for the detailed feedback, that is really helpful. I hope you enjoy the game. There's another big update coming pretty soon now.

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