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Pyrogon Postmortem
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braindrain



Joined: 30 Apr 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2004 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the comments Brian.

I guess we need to figure out what dollar amount we'd be happy making so that it's worth our while.. then given the horrendous royalty rates, calculate how many sales that would take. That would be the magic number.

So much of selling games is being visible as you mentioned. That's the tough part in my mind.
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brianhook
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Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 2521
Location: seattle, wa

PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2004 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

misterorange_ wrote:
He basically tears down your entire postmortem article Sad


Poorly, at that. He raises some valid points, but completely fails in some areas because he wasn't there.

His basic arguments are:

  • We didn't like puzzle games, therefore we were doomed to fail
  • We put too much control in the hands of others
  • We were wishy washy


First off, we DID like puzzle games. We loved them! It was great fun to work on something that was small, easy to ship, had good feedback, and appealed to a demographic we traditionally didn't cater to. He somehow decided that my phrase "real" games was insulting, when in fact it was a shorthand for "mainstream expensive big ass games". If anything, I like puzzle games and small games a lot more than "real" games.

We did put a lot of control in the hands of others, but my underlying point -- that our burn rate was too high -- pretty much removed the option of just slowly building up a customer base over 5 years. Partnering with distributors in the short term gave us the short term cash we needed to keep going. Keeping those customer lists, in the long run, wasn't relevant to us, because we were going to migrate to other game forms and away from puzzle games. So he's completely projecting his own business model onto another business.

We weren't wishy-washy in as much as we were reacting to changing circumstances. I guess one person's "agility" is another person's "unfocused", but whatever.

That said, I don't discount his opinions out of hand, but Thomas exhibits the classic "I have some success, therefore I have the answers" fallacy, when in fact many different people can have success using completely different approaches.

PopCap is having mad success, and they partnered very early on with major portals like Yahoo, Real, MSN, The Zone, etc. I don't see anyone exactly calling them idiots. There are, obviously, other differences between Pyrogon and PopCap, but my point remains -- one strategy isn't always the right or wrong one, there are a lot of situational variables that have to be taken into account.

In the end, burn rate is what mattered the most, because with sufficient time we could have recovered from our hiccups. But since we didn't have that time, other factors came into play.

I noticed a lot of people took issue with my postmortem, apparently because they feel that it was an attack on the indie industry, which it obviously is not, or that they have the magic sauce that makes the world go around. Given how many different companies have enjoyed success with radically strategies, that's obviously a silly position to take as well.
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rhanz



Joined: 16 Mar 2004
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've gotta back you up on this, Brian. While he does raise some good points (the value of marketing, etc.), a lot of his points would have been a lot more valid if you had the burn rate to see them through the mid- to long-term.

When you need cash NOW, devoting additional time to marketing in hopes of getting more sales over the next year+ seems like it's not such a great idea. Even if it would be in a more ideal scenario.
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brianhook
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Joined: 12 Dec 2003
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Location: seattle, wa

PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2004 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I updated the article with a section on "vision":
Quote:

Even so, I have a nagging suspicion that there is a correlation between success and the motivation for starting a company. If you start a company for reasons unrelated to the product you will be making, my belief is that you will mostly just get by and rarely be a huge success. If you find yourself saying "I want to start my own company because I can make better games" or "because I want to be my own boss" or "because I think I have a better process" -- be careful.

You need a vision, and by vision I mean "a fully realized concept with most of the relevant details sorted out". I do not mean "a vague idea of something I think might be cool". The latter is a snap shot or a single frame of a game, the former is an entire game in your head just screaming to be put into real form. You can extend the snap shot into a vision, but many snap shots don't make that transition.

We lacked that vision and focus when we started Pyrogon, but as with all kinds of hindsight, it wasn't exactly obvious to us at the time that this would be a serious impediment. If I had looked at the plethora of little splinter groups that have spalled off of game companies and noticed the strong correlation between "teams that are just teams" and "teams that want to make a specific game in their heads", maybe things would have been different.

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Stephen Zepp



Joined: 27 Apr 2004
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2004 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMO, the vision is THE most important part of not only the product, but the company making the product as well, and I think the add is a great thing!
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mzee



Joined: 20 May 2004
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2004 7:40 pm    Post subject: Greetings from the past Reply with quote

Brian,

You may or not remember me from the Apple board. We all miss your insight, as they do elsewhere on the Fool, I'm sure. I mostly lurk now anyway, as I have little time for fribble at the moment.

I'm sorry to hear that your business is morphing to a form you don't like. I know the feeling, but I also know there is life beyond. I'll stop in from time to time to see what's up.

Best wishes for the future. Follow your heart..

MZ
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brianhook
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Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 2521
Location: seattle, wa

PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2004 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mzee:

Thanks for the kind words, yeah, I remember you (and all the others) on TMF:AAPL. Was kind of depressing leaving, but we have a fun little community here now that I'm pretty happy with as well =)

No Mac discussion though =/
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danh



Joined: 20 May 2004
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That blog did make some solid points about abdication of marketing. If you are selling a mahjongg game and you can't find it on the first page of google its going to hurt sales.

When you use a portal, are their limitations on what you can do to promote your company and its web site? Do they prohibit you from having a link to a web registration page type thing, where perhaps you give them a bit more content in exchange for getting their email address & etc?

Then again 20:20 hindsight isn't too useful Wink
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BlueGhost



Joined: 01 May 2004
Posts: 257

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

danh wrote:
<snip>
Then again 20:20 hindsight isn't too useful Wink


Maybe not for the people involved. But learning from other peoples mistakes is preferable to making them yourself. The Pyrogen postmortem thing really clarified the whole point of 'burn rate' in several minds.
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brianhook
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Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 2521
Location: seattle, wa

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

danh wrote:
When you use a portal, are their limitations on what you can do to promote your company and its web site?


Yes, immense ones, since they don't want to effectively act as a file hosting service where you get to keep the sales.

I really don't think partnering with portals was a mistake, given our long term goals. It was a very fast way to make a lot of money in the short term to boost ourselves into a position such that we could develop larger games with a different business models.

If making small downloadable games had been our long term goal I would say that deferring so much to partners definitely was a mistake.
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Linmukai



Joined: 15 Jan 2005
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know how late I am in finding this out but I just ran into the postmortem article and your Website when doing a google for Pyrogon. I am very sorry to see that it ended, at least as it was. You did some very nice work there, even if those games were more intended as a means to an end. Still, you did nice work. I am still enjoying NingPo and find it to be the nicest game of its kind I've ever played and I am not even the puzzle games type.

I found it so interesting to read about Pyrogon's history. It's funny how you two did work on titles like Quake II, Quake III and EverQuest. Now, those are my kind of games! I spent more time with those Quakes than I want to admit to and just admitting I play EverQuest probably gives me away as a hopeless addict. I've been playing EQ for a year now and it's been great although I think I am ready to look into newer titles like WoW, EQ2, etc. Wandering off topic here but I got sucked into the AO freebie myself, think that was a great idea, and I am finding it to be a great game.

Coming back to Pyrogon though, after reading about this I felt compelled to register to post here so that I could thank you both for making some nice games that I and my kids enjoy. You know, you did accomplish something good. Your titles were successful with gamers like us because of their good quality and of course because they are fun to play. I discovered NingPo when searching for something to play on Linux (that's another story for another time) and then found out about Candy Cruncher, etc.

Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say that I am sorry this particular commercial venture didn't work out. But you did produce some nice little games and so you do have something to show for your efforts. Personally, I paid for and registered both NingPo and Candy Cruncher for Linux. Later when going back to Win XP, I liked them so much I purchased the Windows versions of both of them. Then I bought Letter Linker and Fruit Frolic while I was at it. So I've been a fan of those games, which is pretty funny because I have always been a shooter and rpg kind of guy, with the occasional sim or whatever just for fun.

It must have been hard to see this ship go down and I think your postmortem about it was very good. Live and learn as they say. And I do think some external factors like the explosion of this market played a role there wasn't much you could do about.

I have bookmarked this site and will pop in from time to time to see what you are up to. I notice some interesting threads on these boards too. I wish you all the best in your next game producing venture whatever that may be and I hope it goes well for you. Smile
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MattRyan



Joined: 12 Apr 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 4:31 pm    Post subject: Late to the party, but.... Reply with quote

Thanks for the postmortem. I won't waste your time saying some/all of the things that previous posters have thought, are thinking, or are doing as they relate to your circumstances.

I fall into some/all of that, and your views are refreshing and honest. This is the first time I've been to your corner of the interweb, and tomorrow (when I'm thinking of game development as opposed to IT responsabilities) I'll return to see what current topics are being discussed.

Oh, and FYI, I got linked to your post mortem from an IGDA SIG page for indie developers Smile
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