Recently, a fan of Coconut Queen contacted me to ask about the sequel. It’s true, we tried setting the game up to end on a cliffhanger, with lots of unanswered questions, to help push for a sequel. We loved making that game, as the subject material was rich with humorous opportunities wrapped around a very solid mechanic.
But the sequel was not meant to be. As I explained to George T., the game was a critical success but a commercial flop. I won’t go into the reasons, but the game made back less than 10% of what it cost to develop it, by my calculations. Under those circumstances, no sane company would throw more money at a franchise, and I’m not one to disagree! To compound things, the publisher owns the rights, but has gotten out of the casual games industry in favor of a new core competency, and I am no longer with that company.
For George and the few other fans, I dug up my notes on CQ2, and will share them here:
Liz made her way to the other side of the island, to find a mirror image setup of the situation she was in, only with a man on the throne, surrounded by beautiful women.
What players would have found out next is that Arthur (yes, the protagonists are Queen Elizabeth and King Arthur) had a similar situation. The natives, who were transplants from Colorado half a century before, had established the original Lui-Lui resort, but had been unable to agree on how to rescue their island from financial and ecological disaster. The natives had finally agreed to try two approaches–tourism and agriculture–in relative isolation from one another. They did their best to pick “clean slate” candidates, and give them nearly completely free rein in tackling their respective problems.
CQ2 would have focused on Arthur’s story, starting a little bit before Liz forced the eruption of Mount Kaba-Lui (an event that one of the level designers with a degree in geography assured me was utterly impossible). Where the first game had you more or less banishing the ugly industrial side in favor of better looking tourist attractions, CQ2 would have you focusing on how to make the best of the food production aspects of life on Lui-Lui.
You would get to meet the female counterparts of Kane, Manu and the rest of the gang on the other side of the island as we poked fun at concepts of “male fantasy” this time around. Picture beautiful women in CoCoCo Coconut Bikinis, an emphasis on gadgets to solve problems, bamboo hot rods and motorcycles (which we cut from the original game), and more.
I wish I could have continued the story and the type of gameplay, as I like “Environment-as-character” mechanics. It’s not entirely out of the realm of likelihood that a sequel could be made, and retroactively boost sales of the original, thereby justifying the investment after the fact. It happened with Westward, another of my games.
But game development is not free. The cost to you, the player, is $7 to $20 for a few hours of entertainment. The idea is that a game will make back its development costs through a high volume of sales at a low price. And there’s no guarantee that we could bring that gang back together for a project. Even if I heavily reused the art and engineering from the original, I’m talking $50,000 to develop, at a bare minimum. It would take 5,000 people paying $10 each and then waiting several months for a return on their investment. I think Coconut Queen, at her best, sold 3,000 copies.
You might think “How about going episodic? Sell each episode for $5-$10, and let each one fund the next?” I’d be for it, but that effectively shuts the door on the major distributors like Big Fish Games. The casual game portals will not sell partial games, modifications to games, or expansion packs, only complete games. They understandably don’t want to be in a situation where a developer forces them to carry a certain product, because it’s required by another product. Every game must be a complete, standalone experience.
That being said, I’ve seen some remarkable crowd-funded projects. This one’s a bit daunting, though.
So there you have it. The passion was there to make a sequel, and the people who played the game enjoyed it, but the numbers didn’t add up to make a commitment to develop it.