Since I started on Alteil in 2007 – oh, wow that’s 10 years ago – I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve been a GM, the game manager, the game producer, the project manager, the product manager, one of the game designers, a programmer… I’ve pretty much done everything at some point. But, no matter what hat or hats I wore there was only one goal – make Alteil successful. Since all of you are here, and many of you have been with me for a good chunk of the ride, I’ll give you all a bit more of an explanation.
Working to make Alteil a success, we’ve poured over a lot of data, and we’ve spent a lot of time talking to all of you. we’ve also consulted professionals up and down the stack – game designers, product people, game economy specialists and marketers to name a few. Also keep in mind this game was once owned by Coreedge, then Media Blasters, and then GamePot before us, and I was able to either access the data or speak with the data manager from each of those companies. We’re not the types to make decisions lightly! There are a lot of things that make a game work, obviously, but for Alteil the numbers are surprisingly consistent. Alteil’s ‘Silver Bullet’ (as shared is by most similar games) is bringing in a steady stream of new players – spending less money on each then the average income per player.
Having a stream of new users seems pretty simple, at least in theory. You can, of course, increase the turnover of new users into consistent users – and even into paying users – but this is only effective up to a point and you start seeing diminishing returns. Even the cheapest form of paid advertising is significantly too expensive to fit the formula, although I’ve been told that for big budget games an advertising budget can reach the critical mass that makes it worth it. Long story short, for indie games, it’s all about getting the traffic for free – generally this involves getting a lot of free press. We actually had some success with the press, as you can see by are relatively nice list of quotes from gaming sites and such that we put in places like the Steam store page and our Kickstarter page. However, that never translated into any traffic for us.
The other way to get free traffic is good word of mouth. This is one area where some bad calls on my part hurt us. Not that lots of mistakes weren’t made! We made plenty – and by that I mean that _I_ made plenty! But mistakes can easily be turned to your advantage when you learn from them, something we’re _totally_ experts at by now. But the one time Alteil legitimately took a hit from my mistakes was with good word of mouth – we didn’t get much, and since it’s something that generally originates from ‘launches’ and ‘firsts’ it would be an uphill battle to get a significant amount at this point.
Lucky for us and many of the great indie game companies in business today, there is Valve. Valve had an unbelievably generous plan for those willing to release a game on their Steam platform – they offered free traffic. Not just a little free traffic, either. Games were seeing half a million views every other month on the Steam store. A small game like Alteil could thrive and grow on those numbers with ease. Like I said, it was unbelievable generous… and also, completely unsustainable with the huge volume of games flooding the Steam platform on a daily basis. I knew that going into this, but I had hoped they would be able to keep it up for a few more years, enough time to either build up a self-sustainable player base, or at least come up with another plan. Unfortunately, luck was not on Alteil’s side, and Valve changed their system only a few weeks after Alteil launched on Steam. I don’t blame Valve for it, and it’s very important not to think they’re the bad guy or something — actually I’m quite thankful and impressed they offered the traffic for the time they did; so many great indie games thrived because of it.
All the improvements we could make wouldn’t count for much without our Silver Bullet. It was just bad luck, but the situation with Steam has in many ways put Alteil back on Square One. For almost a year we’ve focused our efforts on getting on the Steam platform, and put our finances in pretty rough shape so we could make it happen.
So after the Set 14 launch, we went over all the numbers, looked for hints of any trends and mapped some possible trajectories. Even before taking the sorry state of our resources into account or the amount of time to pivot, it looks like there isn’t anywhere promising to go. Obviously, there are still things to try, but the chances of success are low and costs are high. Even something free but would just take time would end up being a problem because of the monthly server bills pilling up. And while we were doing all of this our LLC has encountered a bit of possible legal trouble – unrelated to Alteil, but something that could escalate and cause it problems. In addition, in the past year each of our remaining staffers has had at least one major life and priority-changing event. I won’t speak for my fellows, but I can tell you I had one good – the birth of my second child – and one bad – my father suffering a pretty severe stroke.
I promised not to give up on Alteil until we had tried everything within reason, but it looks like after ten years of playing Alteil, we’ve finally run out of cards. As of today, Gran will no longer be for sale. Alteil will remain operational for the next 90 days, and for the last month we’ll make it a free-for-all, with everything in the shop costing 1 FM. On May first, the Alteil Horizons servers will cease operation.
I’ve said this so many times over the years, but what made Alteil worth it was all the amazing players we met along the way. On behalf of the entire Alteil team, Coreedge Japan, and my family, thank you for taking this journey with us. It has been an honor.