Success or Failure Sign

The Surreal Mix of Prelaunch Emotions

This is a quick post…just to capture the experience I’m having. I’m sure it hits all developers when they’re close to launch so I wanted to try to put it in words.

I’m quickly approaching the launch of my first indie game…well, my first serious, complete, indie game at least. It’s a bucket of emotions, to say the least. One moment I’m exhilarated to finally be close to finishing the project I’ve been focused on for 6+ months of my free time. The next moment I’m terrified that the launch will be a disaster and users will hate it.

My soon-to-launch game is Thru-Hiker’s Journey, an Appalachian Trail backpacking simulation game which will simultaneously be released for Android and iPhone. I have a well defined audience, a popular blog willing to feature the game on release, and a small number of super passionate fans. I released a simple web version of the game 3 years ago and it has over 60,000 plays by 27,000 users. To this day, with no updates or marketing, the game gets 10-20 plays each day. I’ve done everything “right” but I’m still terrified of failure.

How I’m Fighting My Fear of Failure

  1. I have a well-defined metric of success. This is a little easier for me than most first time developers, since I have my old game to use as a reference. It’s very important that your success metric is a scale rather than a Pass/Fail. No matter how much data you have, there’s no way to truly predict what will happen when you launch. And you don’t want that metric to be a cause of more stress if your launch day is a bit slow.
    • You can measure success in a variety of ways. Revenue, downloads, social media shares…use the one you have the most information about and is easiest for you to track! I’m using downloads, since the app stores provide that information. However, I’ve also converted downloads to expected revenue. All of my assumed variables will be wrong, but money is what resonates with me.
  2. I’m focusing on the positives. When I hear my brain spit out a negative thought, I attempt to counter with “Yeah, but the graphics are awesome this time!” or “Yeah, but I did no marketing with the web game and it has 60,000 plays!” Your opposition thoughts will have to be unique to your game and situation. This won’t solve your launch anxiety, but perhaps staves off the depression that could follow all the negativity. Fight fire with water!
  3. I realize a bad launch isn’t the end of the world. I knew there was a risk when I started working on the game. Hopefully more people than my friends play the game, but maybe not. In any case, life goes on. I can start working on my next game or follow another passion project. I’ll be proud that I made something and released it for the world to see. Obviously I’d be happier if more of the world sees it, but at least I will have made something tangible that I can be proud of.
  4. I’m planning actions to avoid failure. I’m converting my anxious energy into planning my marketing strategy. I’ve already started reaching out to additional media sources. Sending someone a tweet or an email isn’t hard and you’ll be feel better knowing you’re improving your game’s chances of reaching the next bar of your success metric.