Developers can have a tough life. They slave over compilers, writing code, trying to come up with that perfect app or game that becomes the next Angry Birds. The rewards can be big but more often than not, most apps never reach that level (e.g. no one thinks that out of 300,000 apps, more than a few thousand are making money in Apple's App Store).
Foundation 42, who make Word Monger, Word Explorer Dictionary and Data Locker for Windows Phone 7, had announced months ago 'Appaloosa' an ambitious game for the new platform. Flash forward a few months and the studio had to cancel the project. Reason? Ultimately it came dow to cost vs. expected return.
It's the same old story: new platform struggles to gain audience, developers struggle too. After the break, you can read Foundation42's side of the story of what happened. From our perspective, we saw their move to heavily invest in a game on such a new platform gutsy if not quite a bit risky. We would have rather seen them try 'Appaloosa' in late 2011 when the platofrm will presumably have more traction and they could recoup their costs, but we think this may have been too early to invest so much.
So check out their side after the break and even see a video clip of what could have been, with an alpha demo of 'Appaloosa'. Thanks, Derek Jenson, for letting us hear your thoughts.
Our team has 3 fulltime people (artist, game-play programmer, & game-engine engineer) and one part-time person (audio). Our team is bare-bones; we all bring senior development experience to the team. Appaloosa was in development for 3 months before we canceled it; first 7 weeks was prototyping, then the project moved into production. A 9 month development window was needed go gold. But around the 7th of January, we had to cancel Appaloosa based on the lack of numbers for WP7 and its very slow acceptance into the mobile market. We were very sad to end the project, as it is always hard to walk away from so much invested time and creative energy.
In it's current state, I would doubt anyone is making money on WP7; or has even recouped their investment. Even the break-even point for hours put into non-original ports (say NFS) is questionable. I don't have hard number data, but if you look at the situation with ballpark numbers and do some basic math... it's grim.
Only accounting for 3 fulltime devs, our project had a 9 month dev cycle. That is 27 man months that needs to be paid. That's a tight budget, very tight.
Lets look at the iPhone to extrapolate ballpark numbers. iPhone has a 65 million-ish user base. The best selling apps are games, and the best selling game is Angry Birds with 6.5 million-ish in sales. That is a 1 in 10 sales to user ratio. And this is life time sales numbers. I would call this the best case scenario; a walk-off home run.
Let's project those number back onto the WP7, and try to get the 3 fulltime developers on the Appaloosa team paid.
With 1 million WP7 users (a guess based on press), a WP7 walk-off home run title could bring in 100,000 in sales. Our game was going to be priced at 2 bucks. That would bring in $200,000. MFST gets 30% for hosting in the App Marketplace, which leaves $140,000. Divided by 3 devs, is a payout of $46,000 bucks.
Even in this very gross simplification which didn't account for any costs, excluded the audio person, ignored risk, assumed an instant 100,000 sold units and instant payment, ignored marketing, etc., the reward for working your ass off for 9 months and matching the success of the best selling game ever to grace a mobile platform would be 46 grand. A laughable number.
The WP7 product is competitive. But they are counting on Apps to make their offering into the mobile market more appealing. And I don't see a balanced equation for developers now, or in the near future. We would have loved to bring Appaloosa into the App Marketplace, we just didn't see a viable way to do so.