Analysis: World of Goo’s iPad Launch

We attempted, and failed, to bring World of Goo to iPhone in the summer of 2009. Development was sporadic and slow as we worked with a series of four different contractors who, for various reasons, did not bring the project to completion. So we dropped it.

When the iPad came out, we thought we’d try again, this time with a fresh round of confidence that the bigger, more powerful device would be able to support a console quality port of World of Goo. We started working with Ron’s brother, Gil Carmel, in November 2010, who finally got this project done. There is nothing all that remarkable to tell about the development of World of Goo for iPad, but this being our first App Store title, the month leading up to launch and the month that followed were very interesting times, as we gathered information and lessons about the App Store market that we hope will be of use to other developers.

Design

We found that the average iPhone/iPad gamer is more interested in pleasantly passing time than being intellectually engaged or challenged, at least when compared to the average PC or console player. Overall, World of Goo has been receiving very favorable reviews in the App Store, averaging 4.5 stars. But of the most critical consumer reviews, the majority express their frustration with the difficulty of the game (price too, but that will be discussed later). A sampling of our favorite 1-star reviews in the App Store:

“I don’t know how the heck you do this!!!!!!!!!! “Drag and drop to build the pipe”? WHAT???? Somebody please tell me how to do this!”

“I’m only on the 6th level and I hate this game. Levels are ridiculously hard from the start and are just stupid. I spent an hour on one level and still cannot beat it. Screw this crap. Worst. Purchase. Ever.”

“Don’t get it, it will get you very frustrated if you don’t beat a level bottom line don’t get it”

We playtested World of Goo extensively on six year olds, parents, grandmothers, and random people at coffee shops who either don’t play games or actively avoid playing them, so we know that the game is intuitive and self explanatory.  We’ve also never received this type of complaint for either the PC or Wii version. What we neglected to consider is that the iOS audience might be looking for a different kind of fast-fun entertainment, where punishment for failure, no matter how slight, is not an option, and no matter how badly you play the game you always feel you have a reasonable chance of success. To address this, an updated version included a more prominently featured “skip level” button, and allows an unlimited number of skips. Another option we jokingly considered is to ask players to pay to auto-complete levels by purchasing a Mighty Goo Ball.

Even after making it easy to skip levels, the game will likely still be too challenging for some players’ tastes, but we’re OK with that. It’s a puzzle game, not a scenic tour of Kyle’s artwork.

For exactly these cases of false expectations and disappointment, we wish Apple offered a mechanism by which a developer can issue a refund to unsatisfied customers. We sell the PC version of World of Goo on our website directly, and any time we get an email from someone who was not pleased with their purchase, we offer them a refund. We’d much rather have a happy non-customer than an unhappy customer.

Promotion

As far as we could tell, there are three ways an app can be effectively promoted:
1. Get it featured by Apple,
2. Get press to write about it, and
3. Be in the top selling / top grossing charts.

It was intuitively clear to us that the most important promotion we could get is to get the game featured by Apple. Promotion inside the sales channel is effective in both retail (the reason publishers buy end-cap space for their games and why impulse items are shoved in your face at the checkout line at the grocery store) and in digital (which is one of the reasons Steam promotions are so incredibly effective and why publishers buy dashboard placements for their XBLA games).

We assumed the same is true for the App Store, and this was confirmed by more experienced iOS devs we talked to. The only thing we could think of to increase the chances of getting featured was to build awareness of the the upcoming release within Apple. We emailed the one person we knew there and were fortunate that the news was received with excitement. We sent them a pre-release build, got some great feedback, and continued to work closely and seek advice up until release.

Considering both the quality and quantity of games being released around the holidays, we operated under the assumption that World of Goo would NOT be featured and did everything we could to generate buzz for the launch by working with the press to get the word out.

Our general approach to PR was the same as for every other platform we launched on: build up buzz by gradually releasing more specific/exciting information leading up to the release date. We asked experienced iOS devs for press contacts at the larger iOS review sites and sent them pre-release versions of the game. Because World of Goo has become fairly well known, we were fortunate to have a relatively easy time getting coverage.

The big difference this time around though, was that it had been two years since the game’s first release, and a large part of the audience that would read this news had already heard of the game, if not played it. Was there really a reason for them to play it again? We thought there was. On the large and beautiful iPad touch screen, the feeling of having your fingers dipping directly into the goo made this one feel like the Definitive Version of World of Goo. We emphasized this when writing about the iPad release and when speaking with the press.

As for getting the game in the top selling / top grossing charts, we didn’t really give this factor the attention it deserved. At some point shortly after the game was released, Jamie Swirsky (of Indie Game: The Movie) said to us something along the lines of “This is going to be the next Angry Birds” to which we instinctively replied “There’s no way this is going to be the next Angry Birds at $10”. And right then and there it became clear that $10 was not the right price point. Which brings us to the next point of discussion…

Pricing

As proud parents, we wanted the perceived value of World of Goo to be high, and we wanted to combat the so called “price erosion” of the App Store. Plants vs Zombies was selling for $10 at the time and we thought World of Goo, being on par with with PvZ could support the same price. In a funny turn of events, PopCap dropped the price of PvZ to $7 less than a week after World of Goo was launched.

Sales held up nicely while the game was prominently featured in the App Store but started to decline pretty rapidly afterwards, as you can see here:

We were convinced that without intervention, World of Goo would fall off the charts and lose all visibility, so we decided to experiment with a price cut. We dropped the price from $10 to $5 about a month after release. We emailed press folks to notify them of the upcoming price change ahead of time, and over the course of the next 24 hours World of Goo shot up the top grossing charts from #51 to #2.  We were hoping that this new price point would find a relatively high equilibrium point on the charts, but so far it seems that it provided a temporary (but very significant) sales boost without preventing long term decline.

One unfortunate outcome of any sale in any market is the possibility of alienating early adopters, a group which likely includes the most loyal fans. Before launch, we thought it would be better to start high and lower the price, as a pleasant surprise, than to start low and then anger people by raising it. We suspect that a vocal minority would have been angered either way, but if we could do it over again we might have launched at a lower price point and said it was a temporary promotion, essentially reserving the right to raise the price, but without angering early adopters.

It’s possible that $5 might have been a better price point to begin with. While $10 is less than most people pay for a movie ticket, or lunch, it’s still seen as a very high price for a game on the App Store and turns many people off. As you can see from the daily revenue chart below, World of Goo generates significantly more revenue at a $5 price point than it did at $10 (price was halved on January 14). The counter-argument would be that the second round of press we got when the price dropped could have more than made up for the missed sales at the $10 price point.

The higher revenue at the lower price point brought about a realization about “price erosion”. The notion that “App Store price erosion is bad for developers” could be a backwards way of looking at things. What is generally referred to as price erosion occurs because developers are optimizing their revenue. If a game earns 50% more revenue at a lower price point, it’s a pure win situation as the developer makes more money AND more people get to enjoy the game. And if those two things are true, does it really matter what the sale price is? If we all charged double for our games we might all earn more money, but we could also end up earning less money because people would buy much fewer apps.

That, along with examining the top selling games on the iPhone App Store made us realize that if we end up releasing an iPhone version we would need to sell it at a very low price point if we want it to be a top seller in the long run. At the time of writing, 18 out of the top 20 selling iPhone apps are priced at 99 cents. Of the top 20 grossing apps, 15 are either free or cost 99 cents.

Release Timing

In early November we finalized the details of our development agreement with Gil and decided to crunch in order to get the game out in time for the holidays. We worked on it full time along with Gil and two other programmers from Page 44 Studios, Brian Morishita and Nick Tourte.

The rationale for the crunch was that if World of Goo was going to get featured, releasing the game on December 16 would mean that the game would remain featured for an extra week during Apple’s holiday freeze of the App Store (December 23-28).

This is the same App Store “loophole” that EA exploited by dropping the price of all their games to 99 cents the week before the holiday freeze in order to gain chart position, and the increased visibility that comes with it.

The timing worked out very well. World of Goo was featured as iPad game of the week for two weeks straight, and sales were great.

The rush to submit the game in time for a Christmas release did have a couple of downsides. There were some bugs that we may have found in testing if we had more time, and performance wasn’t as good as it could have been. Both issues were addressed in an update we released shortly after. Overall, we feel this was a good trade-off.

Rank And Revenue

Having obsessively monitored World of Goo’s App Store ranking and sales numbers after launch, one of the things we found surprising is that when World of Goo was hovering near the top of the charts we saw that the #1 app was selling about twice as much as the #2 app. This drove home the point that it’s dangerous to judge the health of a distribution channel by how much the top selling game makes.  If you’re lucky enough to reach the top of the charts, unless you’re Castle Crashers or Angry Birds, you’re not going to stay there for very long.  So what matters more than how much the top dog makes is sales distribution. How much, on average, do the top 20 make? Top 50?

To begin answering this question, we took the sales and rank data we collected since the release, and created a scatter plot. On the vertical axis is the net revenue generated on a given day, and on the horizontal axis is the rank of the game on the iPad top grossing chart:

As you can clearly see, once a game breaks into the top 10, the amount of revenue it generates skyrockets. It’s the other way around, really, but you get the picture. It is encouraging to see that when a game drops off the top 10, revenue declines fairly slowly. Even the lowest data point in this scatter plot still represents daily revenue measured in thousands of USD.

One Last Observation…

In 2008, with the successful releases of Castle Crashers, Braid, and World of Goo, it became fairly clear that consoles were “where it’s at” for independent developers, and a lot of attention was given to which console provided the best distribution opportunities. Nintendo had the largest install base, XBLA had the largest number of registered users, and PSN had the strongest growth momentum. This discussion is still going on today and the landscape is constantly shifting.

World of Goo’s launch on iPad gave us a new perspective on that discussion. In the first month of sales on the iPad App Store, World of Goo sold 125k copies (thanks to being prominently featured by Apple). In comparison, World of Goo’s best 31 day period on WiiWare was 68k copies (thanks to a mass mailing by Nintendo), and on Steam it was 97k copies (thanks to two promotions at discounted prices). So far, the iPad version is by far the fastest selling version of the game, both in terms of number of units sold and in revenue generated.

What makes this even more amazing is that this is a two year old game released on a platform that is less than a year old. The iPad doesn’t have the benefit of an install base built up over several years.

In the short term, we still think that if an independent developer can get their game on a console it’s a safer bet than playing the App Store lottery, but one might wonder whether, in the long run, it even matters who wins the PSN / WiiWare / XBLA race.

image from world of goo wallpaper created by ryan ross of http://kidazed.com/

76 Responses to “Analysis: World of Goo’s iPad Launch”

  1. Vincent van Scherpenseel Says:

    All those numbers make me wonder… would you guys venture to share some numbers about copies sold per platform?

    Anyway, keep the goo coming :)

  2. fremachuca Says:

    awesome read!
    makes me rethink a couple of things!

  3. Gutenberg Neto Says:

    Thanks a lot for the (as usual) open discussion, guys. I’m an aspiring game developer hoping to release an iOS game in the next couple of months and it’s always interesting and revealing to see these kinds of numbers.

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  5. Stephen S. Says:

    I love World of Goo! I’m sorry that people on the AppStore think they’re ‘entitled’ to things.

    I bought World of Goo for iPad while it was on sale for $5, even though I don’t have an iPad, because I love the game. (and figured it was ok to spend the $5 even if I don’t get an iPad anytime soon.)
    I’m also still looking forward to World of Goo for iPhone, and would gladly pay another $5 for that as well.

    Also… World of Goo 2? :)

  6. Matt Hargett Says:

    Interesting article, thanks for the transparency!

    Is there any chance that World of Goo will eventually be a universal binary for iPad and iPhone 4? or released on PSN with native 1080p art and HD audio?

  7. Pavke Says:

    Really good reading material! One interesting thing… since I’m one of the owners of wogfan channel on YouTube, I have insight in view numbers:

    You can clearly see the peaks in the same time when a sale is on. Strange thing that those peaks generate only about twice the views (normally from 600 to 900 view per day), even though you sold tens of thousands of units.

    Where do those 600-900 views come from? Non-busted sales? Piracy?

    Here is the last years chart is you want to see:
    http://img823.imageshack.us/img823/9453/chartxh.png

  8. tyler Says:

    Thanks for the great info guys. I loved the game when it came out on the computer but it really is so much better on the iPad. I just wanted to second the comment above, WORLD OF GOO 2!!?!! =)

  9. Shay Pierce Says:

    Fantastic article. Thanks so much for sharing all this info and giving such transparency on your experience in the App Store… hearing about others’ experiences is invaluable for other indie developers like myself. Most of this just confirms what I’ve heard elsewhere – but even that can be very valuable, especially to have confirmation that “all is still the same as you’ve heard” in a landscape that changes as quickly as the App Store.

    Your comparison to console/Steam numbers at the end was particularly interesting, and makes me feel better and better about my decision last year to transition my career from being a developer/programmer in the AAA console gaming space and instead dive headfirst into the growing mobile games space! As you guys have proven, it’s a space where a developer can sell their game directly to their fans, with little or no involvement necessarily required from a publisher or other intermediary – a direct relationship between a game developer and their players is a beautiful thing to see.

  10. Daniel Shelley Says:

    A lot of people that I talk to remark that Apple’s 30% take on sales is high. I think it is pretty reasonable for what they provide.

    Can you compare what Apple’s app store provides operationally compared to other platforms?

  11. Matt Says:

    AppAnnie 4 Eva!
    Thanks for sharing the data guys, and congrats on your massive success!

  12. Chris Moeller Says:

    Awesome info!

    Glad you guys were successful on iPad!

    I remember reading that the PC release wasn’t nearly as profitable as hoped, and that the “pay what you want” was a surprise hit.

    Very helpful for newer developers to see a comparison of the platforms, and see where to focus.

    I’ll definitely be checking out your blog more (saw this from gamasutra)

    Thanks!

  13. Daniel Shelley Says:

    Have you thought about releasing World of Goo onto Apple’s new Mac App Store?

  14. Mark Wilson Says:

    I bought World of Goo for $10 as soon as it was available, and it’s still the best iPad game I have. I’m still pecking away at OCD for some levels. Thanks for your frank discussion of the App Store market, very interesting.

  15. richtaur Says:

    Great read guys, very happy for your success! Very impressed with how well you continue to market your game, even years after its initial launch.

  16. Trey G Says:

    Eh, I typed up 3 different posts about the price drop but I’ll just say this. I feel like you guys burned a ton of your fans and it is just a little disappointing. I can’t say I’d never buy from you guys again but I’ll definitely be waiting for a price drop next time.

  17. ShadowMystic Says:

    One of my favorite parts of WoG was the sound track (Brave Adventurers and Red Carpet Extend-o-matic are my favorites) To find it it was free was great!

  18. ShadowMystic Says:

    @Daniel Shelley They do provide some things but if Steam sold apps like the apps store. Apple would lose a massive chunk of their profit XD Steam FTW

  19. Ciro Continisio Says:

    Actually, Apple has a refund plan for the customers.
    If I remember correctly, customers have 1 week to claim for a refund, at which point the developer has to give back all the money (including the 30% that Apple will retain).
    I don’t think anybody uses it though.

  20. Stephen J Says:

    I’m not sure why 2D Boy says that iOS users are expecting the game to be easy and are posting bad reviews, and yet the average is 4.5 out of 5 stars??? Are the people giving it 4+ stars saying that the game sucks? Or is this just a completely misguided generalization? I’d also point out the new game League of Evil which is verging on being as frustratingly difficult as Super Meat Boy, yet the ratings are off the chart. Who are the people reviewing it? Don’t they hate it?

    Also, I have to say that the issue of refunds could be completely eliminated without the help of Apple: always provide a free demo. Like… hey!… League of Evil. That game is only 99 cents in it’s full form, yet the devs knew that given the difficulty they would be in for a shitstorm of negative reviews if they didn’t let people see what the game was all about ahead of time.

    Now one place where Apple does need to improve things is that they need to take the XBLA approach and *require* demos of all games sold on the app store, and further they need to make an integrated demo/unlockable full version the standard, and indeed also required, but the app store listing should list the title as “free demo/$4.99 to unlock” or some such method.

  21. Ed Says:

    Let’s have an iPhone version – it can’t be that hard now you’ve got it on the iPad!

    I’d pay again for it :)

  22. Boris Says:

    @Stephen: what you have to realize is that app store raters are, far and above, insufferable assholes. Half the one star reviews I see follow along the lines of “This game was great and I recommend it, but it’s missing [screen flipping/the ability to mute sound/some other minor thing]
    The other half are aimless bitching.

  23. Camille Says:

    I too call it the App store lottery. Unless you make it to the top, it’s really hard to make back your development costs at .99$.

  24. onipex Says:

    I’m happy that for 2D Boy, but the real problem is that you put a great mobile game on home consoles and the PC. I always thought that the games was a better fit for the DS, PSP, iphone, or any mobile device.

    Plus it is no surprise that the game sold more at a lower price. Maybe if the price were lowered on all platforms you guys would have better sales on all platforms.

    Anyway this game or better yet a sequel needs to hit all mobile platforms.

  25. Mike Bell Says:

    Fascinating writeup!! Thank you so much guys for taking time and revealing so much.

    So the basic lesson here is that iPad is a huge platform that will probably win against all other ones and that people should start writing for it instead of trying all other platforms.

    I’m guessing next 2dBoy game will be on iPad?

    OK… I’ll finally buy an iPad now… just too much good stuff to miss out on.

    Thanks!

  26. Andrekoi Says:

    (sorry for my english, but i really wanted to share some thoughts) I think World of Goo could have been even better on the PC if the game had some more marketing ideas or different strategies for the price. We can see some recent examples of amazing results for indie games on the PC, like Amnesia (which sold 200k last time i saw http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=418050) and Magicka (which sold 150k in less than 2 weeks http://news.bigdownload.com/2011/02/04/magicka-sells-over-150-000-in-first-10-days-patches-keep-coming), and these are just two recent examples, there’s more and more happening these days. Another important point is that Steam was still growing at the World of Goo launch in 2008, since then Steam got a lot bigger, and there’s a lot more of visibility and a new world of strategies for sales.

  27. Andrekoi Says:

    Sorry for the double post, but this comment (from Recettear’s publisher Carpe Fulgur) is really interesting to be added to my other post: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=25286916&postcount=158

  28. Darwiin Says:

    I’m also waiting for an iPhone version… I’ve bought World of Goo on steam, directly on your website. I’ve bought it for my sisters… Please tell me that I will be able to buy it for my Iphone very soon…

  29. That Fuzzy Bastard Says:

    Congrats on the iPad sales—I played and loved the Mac version (and bought it for several friends at Christmas), but if I ever hop the iOS bandwagon, I just might buy again for the sheer thrill of dipping my hands in Goo. I am struck that it sold so much better than the WiiWare version—I suppose that while lots of people bought Wiis, lots of those Wii owners have no idea how to connect it to the internet, much less buy games for it (even many of the kids I know with Wiis had no idea that WiiWare existed). In the meantime, count this as another enthusiastic vote for World of Goo 2!!!

  30. Peyjlet Says:

    @Ciro Continisio:
    While the App Store has a refund process, it’s intentionally obscure. The people who can’t solve the first five levels of World of Goo probably won’t figure out how to get a refund either.

    @Onipex:
    No, more sales are not surprising, but more revenue is. To be worthwhile, WoG for $5 has to sell twice as many units as it sold for $10 – and in this case, it did. For the full mathematics of discounting for profit, see here:
    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/08/software-pricing-are-we-doing-it-wrong.html

    Sometimes I visit the App Store looking for something new to play, and depart without buying anything because it’s featuring the same stuff all the time. Both as a customer and a developer, I wish the App Store had a ‘surprise me’ option, to display a random app in a category you’re viewing. To still have some quality, it should bias towards apps with a small number of reviews, but a high average review score.

  31. pierre Says:

    Now imagine the size of the iphone market..this is only the ipad market…
    and thanks for the figures and analysis. very welcome by indie dev like me.

  32. pierre Says:

    (Finishing my previous message) but as small indie dev it is figures and ranks that we probably will never reach…Somebody should write the same article but for an app which has less visibility (e.g. ranked between #200 and #300 like my apps ) Ok I could do that – it would be nice for my marketing! – at least my experience is that the same strategies apply (price/PR,..)

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  34. Grover Says:

    I absolutely agree with Stephen. If your game is getting 4.5 stars overall, then clearly lots of people are entirely fine with the level of difficulty. I understand the change you made was essentially harmless, but be careful. It’s human nature to focus on the complaints rather than the compliments, and to treat every complaint as a “To Do,” but you can’t please everyone and you run the risk of ruining the game for everyone that gave you a five star rating (which mean “We really like this game just as it is.”).

    @Boris I think you’re misunderstanding Stephen’s point. I think we’re all in agreement that even a perfect game will get a few one-star ratings here and there for absurd reasons, and probably shouldn’t carry much weight with the developers.

  35. Grover Says:

    Man, I really wish there was an edit button I could use to fix that crazy train-wreck of a run-on sentence at the end of the first paragraph there.

  36. Magus Says:

    If you guys are in control with the price (and not Apple), I have an idea. No clue if it’d work, or not, but it’s interesting, I think.

    Just have the price decrease over time by some formula. You can even tell people, “This game is going to start at $10, and then decrease by $X every Y days or months.”

    Then, people who want to be early adopters know what the price will be and when it’ll be, but if they want it NOW they can get it NOW.

    People who aren’t willing to pay for it NOW can pay for it later, either when it reaches the price they want or when it reaches a sufficiently low price that they can’t wait anymore.

    If this sort of thing became common, I think it’d actually spur even more game sales. I rarely buy indie games, but I bought 8 of them during the Steam holiday sales. For $1 or $2, how could I turn them down? And you know, now there are some sequels that I’m looking forward to. I probably would never have bought them at $10 or $15, but at $1 or $2, why the hell not? I’m not a regular customer of theirs, but at that price point, I sure would be.

    If the prices dropped on some continuous time curve, I could check the stores every couple of weeks and see what new games are out at the price I’m willing to pay. This would be a pro for developers since the early adopters would still pay big money for it; and it’d be a pro for customers AND developers because those customers that would typically be permanently lost after the game lost its launch-time newness would consider purchasing it at a much later date — from the developer instead of from a used game store.

    Heck, I think it’d even cut down on piracy. A lot of college students or younger really want to play a game, but if they purchased every game that they wanted to play they’d have to live on the street. So they download the game. They probably wouldn’t have bought to begin with, so oh well. But if they could just set some alert, like “alert me when this game reaches $X price point,” then after several months when it reaches $5 or $10, they might actually buy it. And knowing that someday it WILL be that price point, they might just wait until it’s cheap instead of downloading it now.

  37. Vagrant Says:

    I bought World of Goo for the Ipad (@ $5), and I dont even have an Ipad yet! (but plan on having one by May or June)

  38. FingerGaming » World Of Goo Sells 125K On iPad, Developers Talk Platform Strengths - Gaming on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad Says:

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  39. rubapi Says:

    Thanks for your “tips” guys!

  40. Jonathan Says:

    I’m another person who bought it in the sale even though I don’t (yet) have an iPad. I have the Mac version so know the quality of the game and respected the views of Touch Arcade that this is the best version of the game to play. The multi-touch aspects in 2D Boys promo film also sold me on it too…

  41. Colm Says:

    Great analysis guys, cheers for sharing the goo :)

  42. jrodman Says:

    I think the ‘difficulty’ in many circumstances would be better served by allowing time slowing/pausing and/or infinite undo. The game often had execution challenges which were not interesting or fitting with the core gameplay concept.

  43. rjejr Says:

    Great read.
    I bought this on Wiiware, where it probably didn’t sell as well b/c it wasn’t made by Nintendo, (3rd parties sales suffer), and if I remember correctly you were the VERY FIRST 1500 point game, and of course no demos back then.
    I also bought this on a Steam sale b/c it was fun playing the demo. Well I bought it for my 4 yr. old b/c he loves building and toppling stuff in the free play area.
    This should sell on PSN but only with Move support @ $9.99. Fans not happy with PvZ $14.99 and no Move support.
    Wow, you guys do refunds? I hate buying games on PSN – Wakeboarding – and then can’t get past the first couple of levels. That skip level option is also a huge plus – I don’t understand why Nintendo gets so much hate for it’s “play thru” feature.
    Thanks for the game and the insight.

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  45. Blake Says:

    This was the best entry ever written by The Sign Painter.

  46. DEFE Says:

    One of my favorite websites, Tested.com, put up an article about the game in case anyone’s interested.
    http://www.tested.com/news/the-lessons-learned-from-launching-world-of-goo-on-ipad/1800/
    I’m really glad the game continues to get attention. Great job, 2D Boy!

  47. Hank Says:

    Thanks for sharing all these insights into the process, your thoughts and the reactions. It’s a great game, on any platform and I look forward to your next game.

  48. Dale Says:

    Just a question: how can a free game be top grossing?

    I have legally bought the game on PC and Mac and will grab the iPad version. I didn’t play it enough on the computers in the house but it definitely appeals as a touch experience.

  49. lucas Says:

    Very interesting read, thanks.

    I was actually someone who pirated the ipad version when it came out (I’d already paid for it on pc, although I’d barely played it on that platform) and quite enjoyed the game, so when I saw the price drop I actually went and bought it properly for ipad (so now I own it for two platforms, though I’ve only come close to finishing it on the iPad so far).

    no price drop would have meant no sale (to me at least). I tend to pirate games to see if they’re any good, and then if they are I’ll buy them when they’re $5 or less

  50. Ron Carmel Says:

    @dale the top grossing chart includes revenue from in-app purchases, so free games can climb the top grossing charts too.

  51. Anton Gully Says:

    Just on that difficulty issue… I did hit a point in the PC version early on where I no longer have the hand eye coordination to beat the level. I have RSI in my wrist and use a relatively funky looking mouse which is generally fine for shooters and whatever but not accurate enough for World of Goo. That’s not a criticism of the game, obviously. I’ll have to check out the iPad version because I love gaming on that and with no wrist trouble ever.

  52. Anton Gully Says:

    Oh, that flag… I’m in Northern Ireland and will salute either flag but you’re making a provocative political statement flying the union jack for some who might comment from here. ;)

  53. Frances K Says:

    Interesting that you got a contact inside Apple, as the Apple employees employment contract states they can’t show any preference to contacts or people they know. I know people very high up in Apple and they said no way could they look at our iPhone app as it would breach their contract.

    It’s a good job you didn’t name them! :)

  54. Bryan Stealey Says:

    Great read. We’ve just gone through a very similar process, and arrived at almost identical conclusions. My publishing company partnered with Swedish developer Turborilla to release a universal iOS game called Mad Skills Motocross, which had previously existed as a PC/Mac/Linux game. It had a loyal but relatively modest fan base.

    Despite the fact that we’re both complete newbs to mobile gaming, by the end of our launch day we were the #1 racing game in the USA, and the #29 overall app in the USA. We were able to accomplish this not only because it’s a remarkable game (many think it’s the best racing game for iOS ever), but also because we had a very comprehensive marketing plan. We were able to accomplish all three of the Promotion opportunities mentioned in this post: we did well on the charts, we were reviewed by almost every major app-review site in the world (including a stellar Touch Arcade review on launch day, which didn’t suck), and we were also featured in the App Store feature banner in a bunch of countries, including the USA, for both iPad and iPod.

    One significant way to promote an app was left off of this post, though. There is a lot of benefit to be found through alliances with social-media influencers. We got our game into the hands of top action sports athletes and even some celebrities, and because Mad Skills Motocross kicks butt, most of them talked about it publicly. We also formulated a social media street team of some of our more influential Facebook fans (the Facebook page for the magazine we make has 225,000+ fans, so we had a lot to work with). One person with 700 Facebook friends might have a minor impact on sales, but if you can put together 20, 30, or 50 people with that many friends, who love your game, then you’ve got some juice. And what promotion is better than personal recommendations from people you trust?

  55. World of Goo Sells Like Hotcakes – Blog – 148Apps – iPhone App and Game Reviews and News Says:

    [...] via 2D Boy Official Blog [...]

  56. Wen Says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your marketing experience with us! It really helps!

    I think both console and iOS are super platforms for indies and the most important thing is to find the suitable platform which fits your gameplay at best. Both World of Goo and Braid are fantastic games, however the touchscreen of iOS is better for the WoG’s gameplay but not for a platformer with direction control like Braid.

  57. Ashenkhar Says:

    Wow.. the people whining about the first 6 levels being too hard should be ashamed of themselves. My five year old has almost finished world one…

  58. afootballlife Says:

    I think it is less of a lottery than you make out, you should look at the amount of thrashy, badly made apps there are. From a software engineering point of view as well as from the time and care put into the apps look and feel. If you take those apps out of consideration you get a much clearer view. Quality sells!

  59. DevLinks: Inside Out « DIYgamer Says:

    [...] 2D Boy — Analysis: World of Goo’s iPad Launch “We attempted, and failed, to bring World of Goo to iPhone in the summer of 2009. Development was sporadic and slow as we worked with a series of four different contractors who, for various reasons, did not bring the project to completion. So we dropped it. When the iPad came out, we thought we’d try again, this time with a fresh round of confidence that the bigger, more powerful device would be able to support a console quality port of World of Goo.” [...]

  60. Xepherys Says:

    Great info… thanks! I’m enjoying WoG on my iPad quite a bit, and was happy to buy a two-year old game – since the game is damned awesome. I’m pretty sure I only paid $5 for it, and I think at $2.99 or $1.99 you may see another ridiculous sales boost. I understand that a large point of it is to make money (I mean, you can’t pay rent on fan love alone), but iOS does seem to be a tricky market. I’ll be honest, unless it’s a game I KNOW I’ll love because I’ve played it already (WoG, Peggle, Angry Birds), I won’t typically buy a game for over $0.99 and almost NEVER over $1.99. I see how that might be frustrating for some developers, but it’s a different market.

    As a comparison, on Steam I will rarely pay more than $10 for a game. I typically prefer indie games on my laptop, so it’s not often a problem. Magicka was a no-brainer, even with all the bugs I felt $10 was a great price point. On XBLA, I rarely pay 1200MSP for a game unless, again, I’m very familiar with the developer or I get several rave reviews from friends. 800MSP, however, I will gladly drop for a game I’ve never heard of if I think it looks cool. Ridiculous, right? I can’t answer why, but I thought I’d toss those numbers out there.

  61. Val Says:

    Android port now please!

  62. Bobby Says:

    I just like to note I put a 5 star rating/review on the app store in December about the price point and the ability for WoG to be in the top 3 iPad games…pretty much stating that $5 would be a better price, especially for people who’ve never heard or played WoG before. And Shazzam!!! Bingo!! Bang!

    For whatever reason $5 is a sweet spot for me…I’ll consider it less of a loss if I get crapped on. $10…! …I’ll end up spending two weeks before I even decide to purchase. I may even forget about it by then.

    I spent the full price only because I KNEW WoG is a good game, I just couldn’t imaging someone who’s looking at the game for the first time might think.

    Good job on the iPad port and WoG is much better game than flinging birds around anyday. WoG 4 LIFE!!!

  63. Dan Says:

    Thanks for one of the the insightful and transparent articles on the subject yet. It cemented most of my opinions with facts and reinforced the findings in our own (much less successful) iOS debut. Great enough that I went to the app store and bought a copy as thanks!

    BTW – one more data point for you… it only takes about 180 sales per day to hit the top 200 in all games. Scary long tail. That’s the biggest issue with the price erosion – totally win or loose situation that forces developers to be VERY conservative with the development budgets. Whether that’s a problem or solution for most developers is yet to be seen.

  64. Dan Says:

    Thanks for one of the the insightful and transparent articles on the subject yet. It cemented most of my opinions with facts and reinforced the findings in our own (much less successful) iOS debut. Great enough that I went to the app store and bought a copy as thanks!

    BTW – one more data point for you… it only takes about 180 sales per day to hit the top 200 in all games. Scary long tail. That’s the biggest issue with the price erosion – totally win or loose situation that forces developers to be VERY conservative with the development budgets. Whether that’s a problem or solution for most developers is yet to be seen.

  65. Richard Says:

    The article and background add to the wonderful World of Goo. Obviously I’m a fan, but the charts and revenue points remind me that, yes, there is a bottom line to any gaming business.
    What I find fascinating is that you considered [and may still be] having this game in the iPhone category – I’ve only used it with my iPad and feel it’s a natural fit.
    I’m glad you published the 1-star ratings, because it provides a broader scope of what goes on behind the scenes for any new developer.
    The World of Goo is engrossing, mind-expanding and beautiful to view and manipulate – I very much enjoyed getting to the fianl chapter. What I would have liked is a bit more consistency with the themes – it seemed that after chapter 1 we were going to solve the world’s energy dilema, but hey, I’m OK with killing major corporations … please keep the next version [Goo Too ???] within the $3-$5 price range.
    Thanks
    Rp

  66. Zomby Says:

    Now if they can just release an Android port of the game. Spaghetti and marsmallows is fun but I want some goo love in there too.

  67. c3p Says:

    That your 2 Year old, well tested and graphicaly polished game makes it too the Top of a Platform on which most native Titles lack this quality is not surprising to me.
    I guess the best way to do it is:
    Build the Game for a platform (but keep portability ;)
    Release it there and make money <– start with highest earning platform first
    then release it on the cheaper ones.

    Question is: what is the best selling?
    Rockstar always releases their games on console and ~1 year later on pc, although I guess that piracy isn’t that big of a deal for an indie developer, because of the sympathie bonus.

  68. Anonymous Says:

    When all the AAA games turned console-ish, we PC gamers stoped playing that crap and began to enjoy the independent games. What a nice universe, all that the AAA titles could not afford : new concepts, and games polished by love and awesomeness as much as sometimes outstanding visual arts or stories. It was a real light of hope on the PC universe.

    And now, the indie developers are making their games for XBLA, PSN and iOS.

    Damn, what are we gonna play now on PC ?

  69. World of Goo – The Developers’ Story | 148Apps.biz Says:

    [...] [Source: 2DBoy] [...]

  70. David Norcott Says:

    Thanks for the informative and transparent post! This is really helpful to anyone looking to develop independent games and apps.

    I think another key takeaway for indie developers is to grow/use your network. Your connection at Apple, relationships with the media, and support of your community all helped you get better coverage.

  71. KoFFiE Says:

    First time I heard of the game was when I got my hands on a pirate copy. Had never heard from it, but I loved it. Same week, the indie game bundle promotion was up, and I gladly payed 20€ for the bundle, just for WoG. I however never finished it on pc, I forget I have it after a few days and simply don’t start it anymore. On pc, when I have the time, I am more of an fps gamer. But when I do launch it, I am hooked for a few hours.

    Now when I bought my iPad 2 and saw WoG was available for it I immediately bought it, I just had to have it. I notice I enjoy playing it on the iPad a lot more than on pc. It really sucks you in and captures your attention… I also progressed a lot quicker in the game on my iPad than I ever did in the pc version, and I notice I keep launching it. Maybe that’s because I take my iPad everywhere with me, and it’s an “instant on” device, perfect for a game like this. I think a lot of the popularity on the iPad is simply due to it being the absolute perfect device to play this game on, as if the game was really designed for this platform. The difference with on pc is that I can put the game away after playing one level. But I also launch the game a lot more often…

    For this reason – I have only one major gripe with the game: please let me skip the intro by tapping on the screen when relaunching the game… I want to be playing as quickly as possible :p

  72. Graham Says:

    I don’t really know why you felt the need to insult your customers and tell them they prefer not to be intellectually challenged.

  73. World of Goo HD for iPad Is Fastest Selling Version of Award-Winning Game | The Bob Clark Says:

    [...] A very nice success story. The blog post goes into lots of great detail on pricing and promotion strategies that 2D Boy employed for World of Goo HD. Check it out here: http://2dboy.com/2011/02/08/ipad-launch/ [...]

  74. Como um jogo de 2 anos de idade fez mais sucesso no iPad que no Wii e PC | Gizmodo Brasil Says:

    [...] acordo com o blog dos desenvolvedores: No primeiro mês de vendas na App Store, World of Goo vendeu 125 mil cópias (graças a ter sido [...]

  75. World Of Goo Coming This Thursday For iPhone | Apps Affair Says:

    [...] You can read more about the development of the iPad development and the experience 2D Boy gained from the App Store here. [...]

  76. 2D Boy: I love you, 2D Boy! » Blog Archive » Is XBLA Past Its Prime? Says:

    [...] couple of months after the release of World of Goo on the iPad, I wrote an analysis of the game’s iPad launch, and among other things, created a scatter plot of the relationship between rank on the iPad top [...]