Over 1 million copies of FEZ, a puzzle/platform game developed by independent software developers Polytron Corporation, were sold. The game was first launched for Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade) in April 2012, and a year later became available on Steam. By that time, the developer of the game, Phil Fish, starred in movie and announced FEZ 2. We look into the success of the game and evaluate the potential of direct sales from the developer’s website.
Phil Fish, along with Ian Bogost and Jonathan Blow, is one of the leaders in the indie games industry. FEZ was first announced to the world in 2007. Its interactive demo version was presented at Independent Games Festival a year later, in 2008. And after that — nothing. Polytron, lost its funding and encountered legal problems, mainly due to Fish’s business partner leaving the company and threatening legal action. Fish also encountered personal and family problems.
In 2011 things got back on track: the game was finished, financial and legal issues were resolved. Phil Fish starred in a documentary, Indie Game The Movie. In 2012 the game finally debuted on Xbox 360, but that was just the beginning.
It turned out that the game was far from perfect. In 2 months, Polytron released a patch that seemed to fix several bugs; it was tested and certified by Microsoft. Players, however, complained that the patch corrupted their save files and forced them to start over. As a result, Polytron warned players against installing the patch if they had not already done so. The company refused to release a patch that would fix the problem as its recertification would cost them tens of thousands of dollars.
By April, 15 2013, only 200,000 copies of FEZ were sold. Meanwhile, Polytron was getting ready to release a PC-version of the game and launch direct sales.
«Fish should have launched direct sales from the very beginning. The game had a huge audience by the time it was launched. It took Polytron many years to develop FEZ, and thousands of people heard about it at conferences, expos, read articles online, and viewed demos. These people could have been the most organic traffic for FEZ. Moreover, direct sales would have generated more revenue for the developer than sales through Xbox Live or Steam,« — says Alexey Fedorov, CCO at Xsolla.
By the end of 2013, over 1 million FEZ copies were sold. The game is now available for Windows, Linux and OS X. Developers got a chance to run their own sales and promotions, set prices and sell packages, and, finally, to work with a wide variety of payment systems of their choice. All this could have happened should Phil Fish launch direct sales when the game was still in the testing stage.
«We have successfully helped Hammerpoint Interactive self-publish their MMOG Infestation: Survivor Stories (formerly known as WarZ). We partnered when the game was still in Alpha-stage and the gamers’ community was just starting to form. Everyone was waiting for the release! So, the sales were launched from the official website first, and the game was featured on Steam only in December 2012. This the great example of how game sales should be organized,« — adds Alexey.
Unfortunately, Fez did not turn into a successful sequel. In his personal Twitter, Phil Fish announced that Fez 2 was cancelled and he himself was getting out of the gaming industry.