In our last blog post Paul went over our collective pre-launch thoughts on Chubbins. We're now coming up on a month since the game hit the eShop, so it seems a good time to talk about how things have gone post-launch. This could be considered a postmortem of sorts; I'll be tackling the project in sections, looking at what we did wrong, what we did right, and other aspects of the project and its reception worth noting.
Prior to the game's release, Chubbins had 10 reviews averaging 6.8/10. At present we're aware of 21 reviews averaging 6.58/10. While the average hasn't changed much, watching it drop 11 reviews later has hardly been encouraging. Still, getting that degree of coverage from 21+ sites was great regardless of what they said. We've said so before, but it really is an awesome change from the iOS world.
Speaking of which, that peculiar pattern we mentioned from the pre-launch reviews has held pretty true. The pattern in question? Negativity towards the game's unfortunate iOS origins. Our most positive/fair and constructive reviews have made little to no mention of Chubbins having been an iOS game, while many of the harshest reviews are frequently quite stuck on that fact and make a point of underlining it, if not throughout the review then in the conclusion. While we fully understand the distaste Nintendo fans have for iOS games coming to the eShop, it really has been frustrating to see both reviewers and commenters bash Chubbins because Nintendo wasn't a publishing option to us back then.
Of course, the negativity isn't exclusive to the game's iOS roots. Opinions have varied wildly across the reviews, and I'll be going over general opinions in the following sections. Regardless of what reviewers say though, it's interesting to note that they don't seem to affect our sales much. Getting a wonderful review doesn't seem to boost sales any more than a damning one hurts them. Not really sure what to make of that yet.
The most consistent complaint we get regarding gameplay is the lack of an in-world save system. Admittedly, we blundered pretty badly with this one. Such a feature was actually in the iOS version to accommodate dying phone batteries and enhance the pick-up-and-play value, but we removed it from the Wii U version. The decision was based partly on technical obstacles, and partly on the idea that console gamers who sit down and power up their Wii Us for a gaming session would be prepared to spend some serious time on the game.
Chubbins also takes off from NES classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, where you had eight worlds with loads of levels that had to be completed entirely in one saveless run. We've seen other modern games praised for that approach--"just like the good old NES days!"--but, we again underestimated just how difficult (and in turn frustrating) the game is for new players, and we got a lot of flak for this decision from both good and bad reviews. Definitely something to incorporate in an update should we do one, and definitely a lesson learned for future projects.
Otherwise, the gameplay always has been the most well-received aspect of Chubbins. The level design, engine precision, unique concept, and keeping a limited number of obstacles fresh received high praise from the majority of reviewers--even some who didn't recommend the game in the end. Sadly there's the other side who find the levels bland, annoying, repetitive, etc., and some who mistakenly assume some obstacles are based on luck and fry the game as a result. Safe to say we simply made the game too hard for many players (even with the addition of Soft Mode).
Even beyond the difficulty, it seems likely that this was the game's biggest downfall. We've already talked about Chubbins' graphics in decent depth in prior posts, so I'll just reiterate that the graphical style was intentional. It wasn't done out of laziness or low budget; it was an art style meant to be simple, clean, smooth, colorful and psychedelic--while not too busy (it's essentially a block-themed game).
A few reviewers and commenters have appreciated what we were aiming for with the graphics and liked it as we do. Unfortunately it seems that even with our efforts to polish things up for the Wii U, most potential buyers are looking at the promotional imagery and echoing the complaints we heard before release. It's true Chubbins doesn't look like a current-gen console title, but it wasn't meant to. And judging by the graphics of many a popular title out there, it really shouldn't have had to.
It's difficult to walk away with a lesson learned when you don't really understand where you went wrong, but the experience does seem to support a sad theory we formed while on the iOS market: simple 2D is perfectly acceptable, but simple 3D is not.
Like the graphics, the audio was appreciated by some, but generally criticized. The audio-visual combination was summarized as an "awful presentation" among many reviewers.
Neither of us have any real experience in music recording or production, so admittedly this is one area where a budget to hire a professional musician might have enhanced the quality. But there was no budget, and the Chubbins soundtrack was composed and recorded entirely by Paul (the graphic artist/designer). All things considered, we thought it turned out pretty well. One reviewer even thought the boss theme worthy of their iPod, which was quite cool.
We chose to give each world its own unique tune rather than scatter tracks around various levels. That may have been a mistake, as we now wonder if a lot of the audio negativity stems from how long players ended up listening to each track across multiple levels--which ties in to our underestimation of the length/difficulty.
The sound effects haven't been mentioned much either way, although opinions of the shrieks made by Chubbins upon failure have ranged from "adorable" to "jarringly depressing". Not sure what to make of that. It was supposed to sound cute/funny. ;P
After carefully considering what Chubbins has to offer compared to other games on the market, we gave the game a $5.99 price tag on the Wii U eShop. As with all aspects thus far, here's another area where the results are hard to figure.
Some people fully approve of the price, if not for the game's value then simply for the cheapness that it is. The 9/10 review from Wii U Only went so far as to say, "It is a great game at a great price. It would be a great game at twice the price". There's always that other hand though, where folks feel it's too expensive for its value, some saying it should be $2.99 or cheaper--often referencing its App Store origins again (which should be irrelevant, as it's an entirely different market with absurdly low pricing standards).
We still feel that $5.99 is an appropriate price for what Chubbins has to offer, and there've been enough positive reviews and satisfied customers to back up that opinion.
If you bought Chubbins, then you are awesome. If you bought Chubbins and enjoyed it, then you are even more awesome! We are most grateful, and we've really appreciated all the satisfied feedback we've gotten on this game! Sadly, there aren't enough of you out there. While we're unable to disclose actual figures, suffice to say that Chubbins is not selling as well as we need it to.
While we assume the graphic style and challenging nature are the main elements deterring potential buyers, again we must say that feedback has varied so wildly that it's impossible to judge just what we did wrong and what we did right. There is, fortunately, one aspect of the game we can readily change and get quick results as to the effectiveness: the price. Starting tomorrow and running for a week, Chubbins will be on sale for just $2.99! We're very interested to see if a smaller price tag overshadows whatever doubts may be preventing people from buying the game.
Thanks for reading. I hope it's been an interesting read and a potentially informative one for fellow developers. If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to drop us a line below.