I 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.
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.
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!