The majority of the admittedly light traffic to this site is from people looking for a sequel to Coconut Queen. Search Engines send them here, to an explanation for why Coconut Queen 2 was never made. Basically, the publisher never recouped their investment. There are a few reasons why:
- Coconut Queen was an entry in the category of Building games, an established genre with a clear leader: Build-A-Lot.
- When it was released, it was a brand new franchise. That always takes more work to get noticed than a sequel. Like, say, Build-A-Lot 3.
- iWin releases a game a day. The budget for marketing any one title is minimal, unless strong early sales indicate that a marketing push will earn back the money right away. Coconut Queen didn’t generate strong early sales.
- The wrong marketing art went out to everyone. We had rough images of our title screen that somehow went into circulation instead of this:
they sent out this:
- The highly anticipated Build-A-Lot 3 came out the week before Coconut Queen. This was iWin’s choice, to release at that time. That made it difficult to ask people for more money for a similar game a week after they spent money on a known, low-risk sequel.
- iWin also decided to release Coconut Queen at a premium price of $20. Build-A-Lot 3 was a third of that cost, at $7.
- iWin insisted on an exclusive to their site for the first month, limiting visibility in the hopes of driving up sales at the highest profit margin.
- When Coconut Queen was made available, iWin attempted to recoup their costs by insisting that all partners carry Coconut Queen at the higher price.
- The name didn’t resonate with male customers.
It was an experimental business model that had proven successful and profitable for iWin on their established franchises such as Jewel Quest, Mah Jong Quest, and Jojo’s Fashion Show. It didn’t work. iWin attempted to find other projects to use my game development talent for a few months. I pitched several ideas, but the market was in flux as mobile games and social games were dramatically transforming the playing field and business models. After a few months without any projects being approved, I was let go.
iWin owns the rights to Coconut Queen, and iWin will not make Coconut Queen 2. End of story.
…or is it?
The business models that drive game development have changed a lot in the past few years, and very dramatically in just the past few months.
- While there are tens of thousands of game developers, the world knows the names of half a dozen. Doublefine Entertainment’s Tim Schafer is one of those names, and when he solicited game development funds via Kickstarter, the product was crowd-funded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. That kind of investment is a no-brainer for game fans.
- The Indie Fund covered the development of the game Q.U.B.E., and made back their investment in four days.
- Even more amazingly, the Indie Fund recouped their $55,000 investment in Dear Esther–which is not only not even a game, but is also a remake of a free product–in under six hours.
The major event here that allowed these amazing success stories is just that: the story
. The same held true for the remarkable indie game MineCraft
. The world paid attention to the stories of the creation of these games, and so people became engaged–and subsequently invested–in the stories that compelled them. People around the world saw opportunities to, for a few dollars, become part of the solution.
So the story of the game being born matters to people now. That’s great. Customer and Creator can connect to each other like never before. What else? There’s plenty more.
Free-to-play games and microtransactions are two business ideas that have made a huge impact. The investment risk has been eliminated for customers, and that raises the comfort level with spending a little money on entertainment. Customers can now even decide what aspects of a game to spend their money on, and while not everyone pays to play, the percentage of people who do are paying more than an estimated retail price, and doing so more comfortably.
Online updates have changed things, too. Packaging costs have gone out the window. The cost to update, at least on more modern delivery sites like the App Store, Android Market and Steam, is negligible. It used to be that patching a game was as pleasant as standing in the RETURNS line at a department store. Basically, you were there because a product was defective, and you had to go through the hassle just to have what you already paid for. What a pain!
That has changed. It’s not just bug fixes. It’s easy to update your games and apps, and developers can continue to enhance, improve and extend the game at no extra cost to you. It’s more like someone stopped by, cooked you a nice meal in your own kitchen, and did the dishes before they left!
“Wow! Andy, does this mean you’re going to make Coconut Queen 2 now?”
Yes, and no.
Here’s the no. iWin still owns Coconut Queen. They own the product, the license, the art, and the programming code. I will not make another game in that universe. That particular story, incomplete as it is, is finished. I can’t afford to fund development of such a big game. I have a day job that involves 40-60 hours a week of Not Making Coconut Queen. And my wife and I are expecting our first child in a matter of weeks.
Here’s the yes. I can’t make a sequel, and I won’t make a knockoff of my own darn game design (Cumquat King, anyone?) but I can make a spiritual successor. It will have a new world, new characters, and a new plot. But it will feel familiar. When you play at nurturing this world, you will know that it was created by the same folks.
This time around, the development cost can be dramatically reduced, as I can release the game a piece at a time. The distribution can be broader than ever before, as I’m not tied to iWin for marketing and game exposure, and I can target Macs and PCs and phones and tablets all at the same time instead of just going for Windows.
But I can’t do it alone. I need a team, and I need the time to do it. I can get both of those things with money. There are dozens of fans. With hundreds, I can begin production!
Oh, and I have to decide: will this next version start on another tropical island, deep in a forest, or at a desert oasis?