What The Rovio Deal With Casey’s Contraptions Means To Me

CaseysContraptionsIconI imagine everybody reading this already knows that we sold the Casey’s Contraptions game and IP to Rovio. They’ll be relaunching the game as Amazing Alex for iOS and other platforms soon, and putting all the Rovio marketing might behind it. Exciting times ahead for Casey!

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about how it happened, how’s affecting me, and what my plans for the future are. So here’s my attempt to answer some of those questions.

The Game

It might come as a surprise to a lot of people, but selling Casey’s Contraptions was never in our minds. Miguel and I put all our energy into making a great game and infusing it with lots of personality. Half way through development we realized we had something special in hand, and when Apple selected it as the iPad game of the week and the reviews and comments came pouring in, we knew the game had connected with a lot of people. We were thrilled.

We were in for a big surprise when sometime after the iPad release, Rovio approached us and offered to buy Casey’s Contraptions. We were understandably very attached to the game we had just released, but Rovio eventually made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

Rovio is one of the biggest players in the mobile market, and sometimes people get tired of seeing the top 10 charts full of Angry Birds. I’ve always had a lot of respect for them: Angry Birds wasn’t just a fluke, it’s a super approachable game, perfectly suited for mobile phones, and crafted to perfection. They deserve all the success they got. I don’t think I would have agreed to sell Casey’s Contraptions to most of the other big game companies.

As the co-creator of Casey’s Contraptions, I’m super excited to see it reach a much wider audience we could have ever dreamed of reaching ourselves. Every developer’s dream is to see people playing your games, and Rovio can make that happen with their huge marketing power and influence. Just look at all the media sites covering the news for the Amazing Alex announcement (most of those sites never talked about Casey’s Contraptions at launch :-) ).

Miguel and I chose not to be involved in future development of Casey’s Contraptions/Amazing Alex. As an indie developer, your time is the most limited and precious resource. Every game you release takes some of that time away even after it launches: new content, higher-resolution graphics, fixing problems with the latest OS version, porting to other platforms, etc. This was a great opportunity to pass the baton to Rovio and be able to focus 100% on new creative projects.

Yes, it’s hard to let go. Not like I have experienced that yet, but it probably feels like sending your kid to college, knowing that he’s starting a new life without you. At least we can rest easier knowing Casey is in good hands. Whenever Amazing Alex becomes a worldwide hit, we can proudly point to that and say we started that game.

Cc

Personal life

On a personal level, my life hasn’t changed at all. Flower Garden has been doing a good job at keeping my family fed for the last few years, so getting more money doesn’t have a huge impact. This unexpected deal bumped up those numbers in the bank, but hasn’t otherwise changed much for me. No Ferraris in the garage, or even, for those who know me, no fancy new road bikes (still riding my trusty 12-year old Trek 5200). The only splurge was buying a 30″ Apple Cinema Display.

The deal has, however, definitely affected my future projects. At one level, it means I don’t have to worry about funding for my next few games, which is great. Both Flower Garden and Casey’s Contraptions were done on a minimal budget. Now I can afford to spend more money in areas where it can make a difference, and be able to offer people money up front instead of just some percent of royalties.

One thing I never want to do is have full time employees though. Full time employees bring constant burn rate, and start adding a sense of pressure I do not want. One of the best things about being indie is the flexibility that it brings. Collaborations with other indies have worked really well so far, and I’ll continue to do that as much as possible for future projects.

The other way the deal has affected my future projects is that there will be more pressure to follow up Casey’s Contraptions with a great game. Even though Casey’s Contraptions is the same it was a few months ago, the fact that it was bought by Rovio will make a lot of people take notice and compare it to any of my future games.

I’ve already been struggling with those effects for several months. I’ve been making and discarding prototype after prototype. More than half of those would have made for fine games, but I have no desire to release a “just OK” game for the sake of releasing something. I’ve also decided that I’m not even going to consider potential for financial success for my next game. It’s not going to be aimed at the mass market, it’s not going to be full of zombies, and it’s certainly not going to be a typical freemium game.

Whatever my next game is, it’s going to be a more personal, more niche game. Something that I can be really excited about working for however many months it takes, and something I can be really proud of after launch.


Bye, bye Casey! We’ll miss you, but we can’t wait to see what you do out there!

  • http://twitter.com/hippiemanx Bruce Morrison

    I think your ability to let go of the IP was the right one.  I know it can be hard to do something like that, but in the end it ensures two things.

    1.  Casey’s Contraptions continues to live on, meet new people and be improved upon.

    2.  It means you can get back to doing what you love.

    IP ownership is very important, but doing what you love to do is more important, and selling off some IP rather than selling out and working for the man is preferable.  Congratulations and good job.  I’m eager to see what you cook up next!

  • Doug Sjoquist

    Congrats Noel!  Thanks for posting this, your fans have enquiring minds and just had to know :-)

    Doug

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, and I think most people who like being independently creative will totally identify with your decision. I loved Casey, it had exactly the right blend of user creativity and gameplay that I really admire. Being able to be free to do something completely different, while still seeing your creation evolving and developing in hands that you trust, is simply the best of all worlds. Best of luck!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, that’s awesome! Have fun getting to make games just to make them!

  • http://www.lapthorn.net Barry

    Congrats Noel.  Well deserved.  Not sure about Rovio’s new name for it though :)

  • http://twitter.com/RyanYDing Ryan Ding

    Congratulations!. Rovio is much more decent. Setting a good example on how to play the game by big players…

  • http://twitter.com/jrtb jrtb

    Congrats Noel and Miguel – you guys deserve it! Can’t wait to see that next game!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/jdmunro James Munro

    Congrats! An interesting decision not to remain involved with the development. Looking forward to the new games!

  • http://geekanddad.wordpress.com/ Dad

    congratulations! Casey was very creative and well done.  Geek & I look forward to your next creation.

  • Anonymous

    Congrats! It was the best decision. Though I like your graphics better. (Casey’s brighter skin color, and the lovely pencil behind his ear)

  • http://whackylabs.com chunkyguy

    and that also puts a sudden death to all the speculations about Casey coming to iPhone.

  • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

    Cool story and congrats to you guys! I think my biggest issue with this whole thing is that I absolutely HATE the new look of Cas- errr, Alex. Maybe it will look better in the actual game, I dunno. Also, in the original Casey’s Contraptions you could just FEEL the love that was poured into it, I hope that feeling isn’t lost in Rovio’s hands. We’ll see!

    Anyway, by chance do you know what will happen to people who already bought CC? I understand you will probably be able to download it from your purchase history like other removed games, but if it ever breaks because of a new OS version will it be fixed? Will the user created levels still work? Would be a shame to leave previous customers out in the cold.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jared,

      Thanks! I don’t think we’ll be able to update Casey’s since it’s not in the store. It would be great if Apple had a way for us to provide updates but not have it for sale. Let’s just hope it doesn’t break.

      You need to check with Rovio on the other ones. The plan was to have a smooth transition for current users of CC to the new game, although I don’t know if that will extend to having the current levels work on the new version (technically that might be _very_ difficult). I know Rovio wants to make current customers happy, so they’ll come up with something.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Ah, kind of what I figured, thanks for the reply. I think Apple really needs to devise a solution for these kinds of situations where a game needs to be pulled from the store, since there are some very valid reasons for needing to remove a game but the people who bought it shouldn’t be punished. Anyway, still looking forward to Amazing Alex and whatever new stuff you have coming in the future :)

  • RR Anderson

    so cool.  way to go dudes!  follow your dreams!!!

  • Michael Maitlen

    Nicely done!  It’s great to hear about the successes out there, gives me hope that my own aspirations have some merit.  If I could have a small percentage of the success you had with Casey’s I’d be pretty happy.  Cheers! 

  • Anonymous

    awesome , congratulations! 

  • http://twitter.com/esaulgd Enrique S. González

    Possibly the single piece of advice directed at creators on older media that I’ve most heard repeated over and over is: “Keep your IP”. 
    However you’re not some wide-eyed youngster, so your choice has made me reconsider the validity of that.

    • Anonymous

      The advice is to keep the IP when a publisher or someone else is funding your project… so you have the ability to do exactly this and sell it to someone :-) Otherwise you release your game, and you get some revenue from sales, but you don’t own much beyond that. That’s how companies get stuck going from publisher to publisher.

  • http://twitter.com/karnakgames Karnak Games

    Congrats Miguel & Noel! It’s great to read this :)
    The only thing I’ll be forever curious is how much was the deal?

    Not that I want to know about what you have in cash, but I’m curious to know what is the price of an IP when sold to a big player like Rovio.

  • Eric Kolenwijn

    I’m sorry, as a customer who bought Casey’s Contraptions on the first day I’m not happy at all with your decision. Well, let me rephrase, it’s absolutely without a doubt your right to sell. However, I think you’re not treating your current customers fairly for several reasons.

    You wrote: “Every game you release takes some of that time away even after it launches: new content, higher-resolution graphics, fixing problems with the latest OS version, porting to other platforms, etc.”

    I was expecting new content for Casey’s Contraptions but it never came, even though it has said “Coming soon” on the level screen since day 1. You have been teasing with screenshots from twitter and never came through with it. I’m not saying the “Coming soon” message is a binding contract to provide new content, however I feel like CC never got the attention it deserved. The attention I had hoped to support by buying the game from day one and recommending it to friends. By doing that I actually hoped to support 2 great independent developers. You promised an iPhone version as well, but never communicated on it ever again. When asked on Twitter you replied it was “coming soon”, but it never came.

    By the way, when I say “I expected new content” I should add that I did NOT expect to receive that content for free. I was happy to pay for it using IAP or something. My problem is purely the promiss of additions and never being able to play them.

    Frankly I’m dissapointed to see the original game I supported to be discontinued. For one I prefer your artwork over Rovio’s style, as far as I’ve been currently able to witness from the video.

    I wish you all the best, the deal with Rovio is very well deserved since CC is an outstanding game. However, as a first day customer I feel left out. All of that could have been avoided by better communication. Even now I still don’t know where I stand as a customer: will CC be updated or will I have to purchase again? Will the original version still work when iOS 6 hits (or 7, 8.. 9?). Having supported CC from the beginning I just wish you had treated me with a little more respect.

    • Anonymous

      Eric, I understand your frustration. If it makes you feel any better, the re-relrease from Rovio I think will include new content we created. But the most important thing is that Rovio will continue to update it in a way that Miguel and I would have never been able to . So in the long term, you’ll get a much better game than you would otherwise.

      • AdamP

        What would be cool is if you could get Rovio to give free copies or some other deal (free DLC?) to the people who bought Casey’s Contraptions.

    • Clarky07

      You act like you spent a ton of money on the game. You got months and months of work from this guy for less than the price of a coffee and somehow feel entitled to more? Come on. I too was looking forward to new levels, but I was thrilled to see these great devs get an awesome offer from rovio. And for less than another coffee I can get the game again and have far more updates than noel could have ever given us. This is really a win,win,win.

  • Mills

    Have to say the whole story is inspiring – I think we will see more of these types of deals which I think serve the dual purpose of giving indies financial boosts for their quality IP and allow the bigger studios to promote innovative and quality IP to the world. App discovery is very hard and this deal is pure win win

    @millsustwo
    CHIEF WONKA

  • ken wong

    Congratulations! Having read a large percentage of your blog, and being a budding indie dev myself, I can’t be more happy for you guys. I’m sure you’re receiving a more than a few comments suggesting you’ve “sold out” – I don’t think anyone with this position appreciates the risks and dedication it’s taken you to get to this point – you deserve to reap the benefits. I also think these detractors also probably don’t realize that a) Rovio released dozens of games before they made it big, b) despite rebranding the game anyway, they did the right thing and bought the game from you; less savoury companies would have simply ripped you off.

  • http://www.johannesvuorinen.com/ Johannes Vuorinen

    Congratulations! Great, inspiring story.

  • http://twitter.com/kuyimobile Kuyi Mobile

    Congrats Noel and Miguel! This is a truly inspiring story! I couldn’t agree more with the majority of the posts–I kinda like Miguel’s artwork more than Rovio’s.  Rovio’s looks more commercialized and kind of missing that “personal” touch.  At any rate, I wish you guys all the best and I’m looking forward to what you will come up with next!

  • Thiago Brito

    Congratulations Noel!
    I’m really very happy to see your success!

    I’m really curious to see your next project… I’m sure it’ll be so good as Casey’s Contraptions is!

    Thanks !

  • Dave

    Well done Noel!  You deserve it!

  • Benny Khoo

    Congrats to both of you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=680062454 Pavel Shevaev

    Congrats folks! Your attitude towards game development is very inspiring. Thank you!

  • Mgsirgo

    Barbaro!!

  • http://twitter.com/lxcid Stan Chang Khin Boon

    Congrats!

  • http://twitter.com/bearc0025 Bear

    Congrats to you both and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m 100% behind you on this.

    I really like your intentions for your next game and feel confident that your ability to focus on quality, not the masses, etc. is going to produce something very special.

  • Angel Cordero

    Congratulations! It has to be hard to be a model for indie developers, but you are doing quite well. Please enjoy it!

  • maksa

    I’ve been reading your blogs since the C++ days (really loved the review of different C++ unit testing frameworks, and I finally settled on UnitTest++ that served me really well in those days) and always thought “this guy deserves to make it big”. I hope that it just gets better for you!

    • http://www.gamesfromwithin.com Noel

      Thanks! Much appreciated, especially from a long-time reader :-)

  • http://DaneHomenick.com/ Dane Homenick

    I’m glad I found your site, and I’m really glad I found this article in specific.  I’m happy for your success, but more importantly, I’m happy that you care enough about your stuff to ensure it truly is in inspiring and worthy of such an acquisition.  Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  • Jake

    Congrats Noel!! I am the guy that sold the Apple 30 display to you.(Starbucks @4s ranch)