Dealing with the pain of transition

It’s one week on from the switch of Fare City to Digital Chocolate and the dust is settling a little. Several people have passed comment or asked questions about the impact of the change so I thought it would be good to attempt some further clarity through another blog entry.

Here we go.

Firstly, the removal of the Finkly Interactive version of Fare City was unavoidable. There is no mechanism to allow Digital Chocolate to take over the Fare City application. To enable them to sell the game I had to create a new application bundle using their provisioning profile and they had to submit it to Apple as new. From there, there would be a clear conflict of interest if I were to keep the FI version on sale – and there is (not surprisingly) no mechanism for end-of-life, upgrade-only applications in the App Store.

So, to republish is, inevitably, to leave existing customers out in the cold. On the face of it this may seem pretty harsh, but let’s dig into the details a little.

In the four months since launch, Fare City has managed to sell around X thousand units (I won’t give the actual number but it is about average for paid apps – certainly not a number to make me rich) with most of those sales occurring in the first two months. Of course, only a subset of those copies are still being used, and without analytics we need some detective work to guess at more useful numbers.

Version 1.1 shipped about six weeks ago and by my calculations less than 1,000 copies were NOT updated. This suggests that practically all copies still on device did get updated (though as Frog laments there are exceptions). However, as many people keep stuff lying around after they’ve stopped using it, it would be a mistake to assume most people were still playing.

How about some hard numbers? The 1.0 leaderboard system included just over 5,000 entries when 1.1 launched. At 1.1 we switched to Open Feint for the leaderboard and as part of the upgrade the game submits the previous high score to the new leaderboard. So, as long as the player signed up to Open Feint they would automatically get a leaderboard entry on the Classic/Downtown leaderboard. At switch over last week that leaderboard stood at around 2,000 entries.

So, of all the copies of FC that were sold we know that at least 2,000 were run at least once in the last six weeks. This figure excludes those who play the game but choose not to use Open Feint but includes those playing pirated copies. Based on previous experience watching sales v. leaderboard numbers I am going to guess that piracy accounted for about 50% of entries on the 1.0 leaderboard but less for 1.1, and that people were more willing to sign up for the simpler 1.0 leaderboard. So my guess is that since 1.1 shipped around 2,000 – 3,000 customers have played the game.

Therefore, at this point we have perhaps 3,000 (4,000 if we are generous) people who would like to continue playing Fare City. Of these, probably less than 200 did not upgrade to 1.1 in time.

Hmm, that still sounds like a lot of people. However, at the risk of sounding harsh I want to dissect things a little further.

First, there are those who didn’t upgrade and are “stuck” with 1.0. When people bought 1.0 they paid 99c for a small, fun game that provided hours of entertainment. That doesn’t sound too bad. But, there was the promise of extra content coming in 1.1 and some bought with that expectation; fair enough. And yet, if that was a purchasing decision then presumably they would have picked up the update as soon as it appeared. Version 1.1 was in the App Store for six weeks – it is hard to imagine that many who were looking forward to it missed the chance to pick it up.

For the broader group of active players of 1.1, their problem is theoretical at this point. They are playing the same game that is available for sale; they are using the same Open Feint leaderboards and achievements. Version 1.1 has shown every sign of being stable and robust – the bug list is too short to justify any maintenance update at this time. So concerns here relate to the assumed future appearance of more content.

So the question is, how many of the 3,000 are still interested in playing Fare City when that content update ships? Not sure I am in a position to answer that one but let’s guess at 50% – 1,500.

Finally, how long have these 1,500 been playing? The sales pattern for Fare City was the skewed bell curve common to most applications, so most owners bought the game in the first third of the four months. Allowing for player attrition over time, we may assume that those 1,500 are evenly distributed through the four months – giving an average play time of two months per player before the switch over. Let’s also suppose that the hypothetical content update is out in another month. (And that is NOT a commitment!) This means the average player has had three months play time for their initial 99c outlay, one month in the worst case. And then, they can carry on playing indefinitely or pay another 99c for the extra content. Is that so bad?

In writing all this I am aware that every person’s experience is different and I am not attempting to belittle any genuine grievance. I suppose I am trying to show that considerable thought and heart-searching went into the decision to change. In the end we all want to be understood.

Thanks for listening.

4 Responses to “Dealing with the pain of transition”

  1. mArK Says:
    January 25th, 2010 at 13:24

    Are there future levels planned now that the transition to Digital Chocolate is complete?

  2. Finkly Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 12:43

    Only in the planning stage at the moment. Hopefully we will have an update (with a new map and a few other goodies) around the end of February but it’s all still tentative.

  3. Manuel Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 04:35

    Hi ! I absolutely LOVE your Game and playing it for Months now. My question: Are there any News concerning an update with new maps oder new features ? You wrote that maybe at the end of February there will be some news ?

    Greetings from Germany

  4. Finkly Says:
    March 3rd, 2010 at 20:15

    Work on an update is just coming to completion now. I’ll be blogging something about in the next couple of days but there will be two new maps – each offering a new challenge and twist to the existing game play.

    I guess if you have been playing for months then you have the Finkly Interactive version, so I’m afraid you will need to buy the Digital Chocolate version to get the update, but I hope when you see the update you will find it is totally worth the extra Euro.

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