Political Animals


#1

My name is Ryan Sumo, artist of Prison Architect and cofounder of Squeaky Wheel, an independent PC game studio based in the Philippines. We launched our new game “Political Animals” a few months ago. To be honest it did quite poorly, and I was hoping to take this opportunity to get some feedback on the game. We’d like you to check out the Steam Page and give us your first impressions:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/458630/

Here are the questions:

  1. Had you ever heard about Political Animals before? If yes, where did you hear about it?

  2. After seeing the store page, are you interested in purchasing it or putting it on your wishlist? If you could go into detail with your answer we’d appreciate it!

That’s it! Any feedback you give would definitely help us pinpoint where we went wrong, at least in terms of marketing the game.

I’m also happy to field any questions about the game, indie dev in general and game dev in the Philippines in specific.

Thanks for your time!


#2

I am sorry to hear that it did poorly.

  1. I had heard about it prior to release from your publishers website.

  2. it went into my wish list straight away, as I love political games of all kinds. Including election games such as president forever. I am not against a cartoony art style but it does mean i need reassurance that it will be a deep and interesting game to buy it on release day. I watched a lets play on youtube as well as read the early steam reviews and came to the conclusion (whether unfair or not) that this game sounds like a light strategy game with elections used as a layer of flavour. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, i would want an interesting simulation or dynamic sandbox out of it to get enthused. It’s still on my wish list and i aim to pick it up someday.

I hope that helped a tiny bit and would like to see you keep going.


#3
  1. No. If it’s not on QT3, RPS, or /r/Games, then it might as well not even exist to me. There are too many games. I don’t go looking for more since I know I won’t play them anyway.

  2. I don’t care for light strategy games.

The copy could use some work. One tiny example: the blurb about “we want players to find out how incorruptible they really are!” is bothering me for some reason. I think it’s the “we” where you’d expect something directed straight to the consumer to try to get an immediate reaction, like “find out how honest you really are!”

Good luck. I’m sure it’s brutal out there.


#4
  1. I had never heard of this game
  2. Unfortunately, that art style just makes the game a non-starter for me. Good luck though!

#5

Thanks for the feedback! We were actually on RPS, though they were a little meh on it. :(

With regards to the copy you said:

“we want players to find out how incorruptible they really are!” is bothering me for some reason. I think it’s the “we” where you’d expect something directed straight to the consumer to try to get an immediate reaction, like “find out how honest you really are!”

Did you mean that “find out how honest you really are!” would have sounded more natural to you? Or that it’s a weird question to be asking entirely?


#6

Thanks for the feedback! One last question. At what price do you think you’d finally give in and give the game a shot?

Thanks for the support. We’re doing one last major update to include local multiplayer and leaderboards before focusing all our efforts into a new game.


#7

It’s just more engaging to buyers that way. “We want players” is a weird thing to say in a store description. I don’t care about what you all want, I care about what I want! Anyway, it’s just a small thing I noticed.


#8

I’d not heard of it, but honestly, with the way things are going right now I’m not going to buy a game about politics that involves the U.S. or U.K. We don’t have a representative government anymore and the last thing I want is to be reminded of that in a game.


#9

You’re not the first person to say that! Funnily enough the game is actually more inspired by our own (Philippine) politics. I made the decision to feature the “US” map on the title knowing that the US has the largest userbase on Steam. Guess that backfired!


#10

Hey, Ryan. Congrats on making and launching the game. I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t performed as you would like; I hope that changes in the future.

I heard about the game probably around the time it was announced because I’m familiar with the publisher (and cliffski, who posts here). I think I probably put it on my wishlist immediately because political games are so rare and I really liked the look of the game. I wishlist games when I want to track their sale prices over time, until I finally decide I want to pull the trigger.

I’m sorry to say that this is the kind of game I’ll probably buy, but at a pretty major discount. I have such a huge backlog, prioritizing a game like this is difficult. And if I don’t think I ill play it immediately, I tend to not buy it. If it were a game that had earned a lot of praise or was highly recommended to me by a friend, I would consider paying around $10 for it. As is, $5 is probably my price point. One factor in that decision is that I’m not entirely sure how the game plays, or how the systems operate. So I don’t know what kind of replayability is has. It might be awesome! But I will wait for a lower price before taking the risk.

The game really does look spectacular, and you should be proud. As a game developer, I know how hard it is to get anything finished and released. I understand that the complements are thin gruel when the game isn’t recouping its cost, but they come sincerely. Best of luck!


#11

I am sorry to hear your game didn’t do well.

  1. Had you ever heard about Political Animals before? If yes, where did you hear about it?

I think I actually saw this on Steam when it launched.

  1. After seeing the store page, are you interested in purchasing it or putting it on your wishlist? If you could go into detail with your answer we’d appreciate it!

I usually play these kind of games MP. I also purposefully avoided any games that reminded me of politics this year. I’m fine with the art style though.


#12

I’m sorry if my answer sounded curt and it’s not your fault. You’ve made what looks to be a wonderful game.


#13
  1. No, I can not say I have heard of it. I go through everything on Steam (my explore list is literally empty) and do not remember seeing it. I did because it is marked “Not Interested” but it did not leave any kind of impression when I made that evaluation.

  2. No, I am not interested in it. I can not tell a single thing about what the game is by the screenshots and thus I would not generally spend my time watching the videos. I started to watch them but without any kind of explanation beyond “customize your candidate” and “select your staff” it still does not tell me about the game.

I play some political games so I am in your target market but the art style, screenshots and videos do nothing to make me interested in this product.


#14

@Nightgaunt Thanks for the kind words, and no worries re: needing it to hit a certain price point before pulling the trigger. That’s something every gamer has to decide for themselves. I’m pretty much in the same situation myself as a gamer so I can’t really comoplain!

@Nesrie Thanks for the feedback. I suspect that a lot of people felt the same as you (re: political games). The Political Machine launched much earlier than we did, and it probably did better because there was a lot more excitement and possibility about the results of the election, and people could play out their fantasy. We launched a week before the election (we couldn’t have launched much earlier due to development issues) and at that point people seemed exhausted. Perhaps we’ll do better in the midterms. :)

@jpinard Hey no worries at all I didn’t think you were being curt!

@Granath Thanks for the bracingly honest opinion! It seems we really do have a problem when it comes to showing people what the game is about. Not entirely sure what else we could do at this point. I could perhaps take another stab at the trailer.

Thanks so much for the feedback everyone. I have to say the forums here are a breath of fresh air. Really insightful and generally respectful feedback without holding back on honest opinions. I look forward to participating here more!


#15

I remember reading a short review in the Jewish media (i.e. tgb’s post). Actually I picked up the game today – before you started this thread – when I saw the price was reduced again. Politics don’t interest me (I’m British), but it sounds as if the game is fun and deeper than it looks.

Can your publisher help with publicity? I mean, what’s the point of having a publisher?


#16

Sorry to hear the game isn’t selling well.

  1. I may have seen a blurb about the game on RPS, but…

  2. …I like my games to be an escape from reality, and this theme, right now, is far too much on the nose for me to consider playing it.

Having said that, I do think it’s important that games as an art form tackle important issues and events. I only wish that doing so offered greater rewards than what is apparently the case.


#17
  1. I saw it on RPS, using animals in a political game sounded very Animal Farm to me, and that got my interest. I was amused by the crocodile reference, and now knowing you’re based in the Philippines that all makes sense.

  2. Possibly. At the time I checked it out, I didn’t add it to my wishlist because a) I am sick and tired of politicians, b) I wasn’t really in the mood for this kind of game at the time (see above!), and c) it was above my threshold price given that I wasn’t that interested at the time. To be honest right now, I’m probably even less interested in a game like this, because the rules that determine success in the game don’t seem to apply at all to current world politics, and watching how anyone can “cheat” the system puts me off the whole idea. I may return to it in the future though.


#18

@amandachen Thanks so much for trying it out! I think I’m missing an in-joke with the Jewish media thing? Positech (our publisher) is a relatively small outlet. Essentially an indie made good that now wants to help out other indies. He funded the development of the game and paid for ads/PR/etc. on launch. It didn’t pan out, and it’s hard to throw good money after bad, so we need to try to promote the game guerilla style. :) If you have any interest in the details I wrote a blog post about it a week ago.

@jostly “I only wish that doing so offered greater rewards than what is apparently the case.” < Would you mind clarifying this a bit? Not sure I got the gist of it.

@krayzkrok Heh, I know exactly how you feel. The funny thing was part of the reason I wanted to make the game was to give an abstract idea of the rules of politics, ie what do you have do do/sacrifice in order to win an election, there are rules to the game and if you want to make change you have to learn these rules, etc. But as you say, it seems the rules no longer apply. I actually wrote a blogpost about that here.


#19

I’d seen the game before, I think in a Gamasutra blog post sometime in early 2016. But that’s really not a place I visit with any kind of intent to purchase.

My take on this is slightly different. It’s not about the political theme putting people off, it’s not about the graphics. This just is what a indie strategy game will sell these days absent some very good hook. (For example a developer with an established fan base).

In Q4 2016, January 2017 there were been 99 games released on Steam with a price in the $5.00-$25.00 range, and the “strategy” tag. Political Animals appears to be the 39th best selling of those games at 3.3k copies. The median game in that list is at 2.3k copies sold. Or for a direct comparison, it’s roughly at the same numbers as Stellar Monarch (nee Pocket Space Empires), a game I’d heard of at least on order of magnitude more than yours.

If one used the same criteria but exactly one year earlier, it’s 82 games and with a median 10.5k owners. One could interpret this as the bottom having fallen off completely from this market, or as the majority of sales actually coming from the long tail in the year following the release. I suspect it’s the latter, but don’t have the historical data to back that up.


#20

I’ll echo everybody else in saying that I don’t want to be reminded of the current political climate in my entertainment. Even if I was happy with the results of our election, it was an incredibly grueling time, constantly barraged by political news, and I wouldn’t want it in my entertainment then either.