I’m writing this post for several reasons. The first is that 2017 was a big, complex year for us. We had a number of successes, some failures, and some near-death experiences. It’s also useful to give you some insight into the internal workings of the company, so we don’t seem like some impersonal bureaucracy with infinite dollars that some people seem to think.
As some of you may know, Dan has long had a day-job at Redfin, the internet real-estate company. Dan is our CTO, by which I mean our only real developer. After years of burning the candle at both ends, he went to part-time at Redfin in April of 2016. Since then, rather than continuing to burn the candle at both ends, he’s slept more, which has been very good for his state of mind. He’s also rolled out a number of improvements to ChoiceScript, such as night mode, restoring from Steam to web, and the minor animations, as well as the new @multireplace function. He’s currently hard at work on our omnibus app, which I’ll discuss more in depth later.
June 30th of 2017 was Adam’s last day as an employee of Choice of Games. He’s still a partner and will participate in our annual corporate meeting, but he is no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the company. The last game that he edited, Choice of Rebels: Uprising, was a great note on which to leave the company.
I’m still grouchy. My goal in life right now is to afford to buy a house, so that my wife and I can get pregnant. I hope both of those things will happen this year. My biggest accomplishment that you might be aware of was finally getting our new accounting system online; now, authors received monthly royalty statements that show their revenues and royalties by platform. This is a huge step forward for our professionalization—meaning, we look like an actual publishing house!
Becky has been hard at work on Psy High 2. She’s also been spearheading the research into and documentation for the Heart’s Choice romance/erotica line. We currently have four titles in work for it. We’re actively trying to recruit more romance/erotica authors to try their hand at interactive storytelling.
Mary delivered her first four games for us over the past four months. We’re very excited to see this strong start from her, and are looking forward to the projects she’s managing over the course of 2018.
Rachel has taken over the entirely of the production tasks from me (thank heavens!) as well as now being pretty firmly in charge of the Hosted Games program general. Obviously, she and I are still in conversation about different games and authors regularly, but we are very happy with her performance there.
In May, we hired Abby as our new, part-time CSR—to free up Mary to focus exclusively on editorial duties. Abby has been a welcome addition to the team, and has also taken on a number of QA tasks that she’s shown a real talent for. Depending on the progress of the omnibus, we expect to promote Abby to an Editorial Assistant this year, and have her start to manage projects of her own.
Earlier this year, we finally released the long-awaited Spanish language translation of Choice of the Dragon. We spent about $10,000 on the project. We were quite happy with the translation; as best we could tell, we thought it was well done. We decided to go with Dragon because it was short and perennially popular. We figured that we would be able to determine pretty quickly if there was a Spanish-language market for our games.
In the past year, Dragon has been downloaded 20k times from Spanish-speaking countries, with significantly fewer purchases. That’s a dismal result. It would be generous to say that we’ve made back 10% of what we spent. Now, 20k downloads is a lot more than before the Spanish translation, but we would need to see 500k downloads or more to get the ad revenue to justify the expense.
Perhaps we should have done some advertising to promote the game? But once we’d already sunk $10k in the project, it seemed like throwing good money after bad. Besides, we never advertised Choice of the Dragon in English; shouldn’t it have the same appeal in other languages? Regardless, the question of translations continues to be on hold until we either come into a lot of money and want to try it again or we come up with some better way of guaranteeing an ROI.
(We’ve had ideas about doing a Kickstarter, but how would we run a Kickstarter in another language that none of us speak? How would we promote it without having connections in those languages/countries? Obviously, there’s a real chicken-and-egg problem here.)
This brings me to the omnibus app. An omnibus app, in concept, is an app (like “Choice of Games”) that would have all our individual games inside of it, akin to how Pixelberry’s Choices or Episode Interactive’s Episodes works. A year ago, we resolved to make an omnibus app for the Heart’s Choice line. It seemed like a logical step, that the romance/erotica collection would be more easily cross-sold within a single app than across multiple apps. So, the idea for this was definitely on our radar.
In October, we were more-or-less informed by Apple that we needed to do an omnibus app for Choice of Games and Hosted Games too. Dan had not yet actually started work on the omnibus app, but we had a looming deadline. However, in December, the public outcry over this rule-change caused Apple to moderate its rule-change: we’re no longer required to switch to the omnibus structure, and certainly not by January 1st. (You can read more about these events here and here.)
However, I strongly believe that this is a good and necessary change. Old games that are still really good get lost in the App Store amid the clutter. If all the stories were in a single branded app, it would be up to us to design a good UI to allow the player to sort through them and decide between them. The other advantage to this new omnibus is that your account would be with our company rather than with Apple or Google; this means your purchases would be transferable between platforms.
Dan has a semi-working prototype, but it’s very bare-bones. The next set of steps will be to beautify it. We’ll probably roll out a version to Hosted Games before our big Heart’s Choice launch, just to get some feedback on it. My larger point, however, is that the omnibus apps could really multiply our revenue—or they could tank it. Right now, we just don’t know. But we don’t want to be caught flat-footed by a rule-change again.
Notably, our ChoiceScript Contest is wrapping up at the end of the month. We’re really excited to see what you all have been working on over the past year.
Finally, I’d like to trumpet the fact that Choice of Games just paid out our 750,000th dollar in released-game royalties to non-partners. If things go well this year, there’s no reason we shouldn’t pay out our millionth dollar in non-partner released-game royalties this year. I’m quite proud of the fact that our little company has survived and flourished over the course of the past eight years.
So, here’s to an awesome 2018!