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GDC Day 2: NinjaBee's Top 10 Development Lessons

Brent Fox of NinjaBee (Band of Bugs, A Kingdom for Keflings, Outpost Kaloki) presented his top 10 development lessons during today's Indie Game Summit.

Brent Fox of NinjaBee presented his top 10 development lessons, they are as follows:

10.) DLC Doesn’t Make Any Money

After releasing DLC for almost all their games, Ninja Bee has found that the effort and time put into making the DLC is not worth the sales you get.  The highest conversion rate they’ve seen in their games is 18%.

9.) Microsoft Avatars Get Attention, but Don’t Sell Games

The avatar implementation in Band of Bugs was something that took a lot of work and time, and granted, it did grab a few new players; it once again was not worth the work involved.

8.) Build Relationships With Publishers and Get Along with Them

He encouraged becoming friends with publishers.  NinjaBee developed a free Doritos game for Microsoft, but it made them much closer partners, and they learned quite a bit about some new tech.  Playing “nice” is also important, although you may have a certain view on your indie status, you don’t want to force it on your publisher making you difficult to deal with.  Lastly, help your partners and publishers meet their goals.

7.) No Doesn’t Always Mean No

NinjaBee's newest title, Ancients of Ooga.

If you value a feature or a game idea, don’t be afraid to not take “no” as an answer.  NinjaBee had to fight Microsoft tooth and nail over their level editor in Band of Bugs.  After building it even though they were told not to, they gained some supporters, and turned out being the first game on XBLA with a level editor.  Their newest work in progress, Ancients of Ooga, wasn’t green lit at first.  They put in six months of additional work and finally got it approved.

6.) A Picture is Worth a Million Bucks

If your art isn’t finalized, don’t be afraid to make mock up images to show investors and publishers.  They almost always have a higher WOW factor than those unfinished screens taken directly out of your demo.  Secondly, good video of a game demo is just as good, and at times, better than an actual game demo.  If you can polish a video of your game play, do it.

5.) XBLA is Hit Driven

Strive to get your app into the top 20 on the XBLA homepage.  This is critical as it’s where the most sales occur.  Getting into these spotlight pages will greatly assist the sales of your game.

4.) Focus Testing is Huge

Focus testing increases your conversation rate.  It allows you to focus on things that need to be improved in order for consumers to want to purchase your game.  Find out what they dislike and fix it.

3.) Plan to Go Over Budget, and to Take More Time

Most developers think that after it happens for the first time that in each subsequent project they’ll do better, or it won’t happen at all.  Fox advises that it happens EVERY time, so expect it, and don’t get too worried.

2.) View Everything as a Sales Pitch

Every opportunity you get while speaking to someone at a publisher, in the press, or an investor talk about how awesome your game is.  Don’t hesitate to bring it up, you want to develop these connections any time you possibly can.

1.)  The Rules Change All The Time

Never expect things to be the same on each project.  The industry is constantly changing and you need to be prepared for change.  Fox said that he feels digital distribution is the future, and that within three years the market on distribution will have radically changed.  Using EA as an example, he presented his reasons why.  EA has been laying off people in packaged goods areas and has said that digital downloads will over take console within the next year.  With the landscape changing, he advised developers to not let them take over their domain, keep doing what you’re doing, and do it well.