Band Together A Learning Experience, Says Dave Taylor
Former id Software programmer discusses the recent success of this student-developed puzzle game, along with the decision to launch at $4.99.
Game programmer Dave Taylor is best known for his contributions at id Software, where he lent his expertise on such titles as DOOM and Quake. More recently, he taught an experimental class called "Game Production" at the Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA) in the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters, where the goal was to inspire students to create and ship games on a regular basis. The most famous, Band Together, hit the App Store last week and was featured by Apple, much to the delight of everyone involved. Unfortunately, the game's $4.99 price tag may have slowed its momentum, forcing publisher Backflip Studios to lower it to $2.99 and then make it free for a limited time.
On that note, we spoke with Dave about the initial price, and what he and his students learned from the experience.
What factors led to the decision to launch Band Together at $4.99? Did anyone, even the students involved, push for $0.99?
I asked a lot of folks, and $4.99 was one of the common answers. Seemed high to me, but I figured you can always lower the price, but it's hard to raise it. We were nervous about $0.99, because we had heard there is a psychological factor to prices, and if people see $0.99 for an iPad app, they sometimes assume it's not very good.
Considering that many App Store games receive a short window of success, do you personally feel there was a bigger opportunity lost because of that $4.99 price tag?
Yup. At the last moment, the VP Marketing at Backflip Studios suggested we go $2.99, and we should have listened to him.
Was the Apple promotion entirely unexpected? What was your reaction, as well as the reactions of everyone involved?
We were hopeful, but Apple never shows its hand, and right up to the day, we didn't know if it would get featured. We were over the moon, particularly the students.
If the opportunity to gain more exposure was in fact lost, how do you turn this into a learning experience for them?
To be honest, I think we're getting more exposure now during our promotion (the game is free for a limited time) than we could have gotten at any price. We almost instantly hit the Top 10 of free iPad apps, and we don't even support the iPad 1.
We're all students on this game. This is my first iPad game, and it's been hugely educational.
Speaking of the students, what is their reaction to all this? Are they disappointed, or given the surprise reception, enthusiastic about the accomplishment? After all, many games fail to receive this sort of exposure.
I think we're all very proud of the game and excited not only to be featured, but also to be published by Backflip.
What are you most proud of with this game?
It's the first commercial game I've shipped with my students, and it feels both humbling and exciting to get it out there. I just love this world and these characters, and it's been an honor to work with such a talented artist as John Chalfant.
You mentioned there's an update on the way. What can gamers expect from it?
We got feedback from the players that they want more levels, so we're starting with that.
We've learned a ton about the market by doing this free promotion, too. Between that experience and the great guidance I've received from a host of developers and from Backflip, we have several ideas.