First Tree - How did David Wehle worked a day job, took care of his family and Published a Award winning Indie title?

First Tree is a game of a fox searching her missing cubs and a parallel story of a son reconnecting with his father. David wehle finished the game when he was working as a artist in a VR game company full time, raising two kids and at a low cost.

First Tree.jpg

Costs

10,250 $

Time

18 Months

Nights and Weekends

(~1000 Hrs)

Revenue

150,000 $

(First Year)

On the Day of Launch Sep 14, 2017 on steam, First tree received 200K Steam page visits and 3 million vies on the Gif that was posted on reddit. David attributes his marketing success on the launch day to his consistency in posting the Gifs about first tree consistently for 18 months. 

David was more from a design Background and not much of a coder. Prior to First tree, David has released a first person exploration game called "Home is where one starts" to see if he could ever make a game and publish it. The game did moderately well. He was able to make 15,000$ in Gross revenue for that game. More than, revenue David says he gained a lot of learnings by publishing his first game.

Below are the mistakes made during his first game release

  • Game Launched at Midnight

  • Launch Date changed in last minute

  • No streamers or Journalist published anything on launch day

  • No email list, only 200 twitter followers

  • Launched without trading cards, subtitles, other languages..etc

Low Time High Impact strategies

David attributes his success to adopting a strategy what he calls as "Low Time & High impact" . The strategy is shown below

Find Enough time to complete the Game

Use Asset Stores Effectively

No 0% Day

David Kept his office office commute time to 20 min. After returning from office he would work for 45 min in his game development. During that time he had hired neighborhood teens to babysit his kids. Few hours with Family and then 1-2 Hours at Night towards game development. On average in a week, he spent 10 Hours towards his game development.

David is a huge believer of reusing publicly available assets. That's the main reason why his game was finished. It saved him 600 Hours of effort

Doing just a bit daily helped david to complete the things he hated to do. Never have a 0% day

Cons of Implementing Low Time High Impact strategies

There were Few cons in implementing these strategies

Recognizable stock assets in his game

Extremely messy code base

But the biggest Pro was - "He finished his game"

David adopted visuals first development. A typical work week, David spends 70% of his efforts in development and 30% in to marketing. Marketing involved

  • Make Gif

  • Post Gif

  • Rinse, Repeat for 12 Months

He used hashtags screenshot Saturday and unity Friday to publish his Gifs. Unity has retweeted his Gifs multiple times from where he got a third of his followers

Marketing strategy for First Tree

His Marketing strategy involved the below

  • Find your hook before development

    • Find the people with whom you think the game would resonate. In the case of first tree, people who liked fox tend to love the game

  • Visuals first development (Gifs)

    • Get a Website, steam page, trailer as soon as possible

    • More than screenshots gifs brought in engagement with the target audience in the form of comments and retweets. Sharing gifs gives lot of data as to identify which gif resonates more with ppl and you can use that to make your trailer

  • Social Media blitz on Launch

    • Goal for the Marketing strategy was to get to the New and trending tab of steam in the launch day. There is a reason for it, because even after the 3 Million views generating 200K steam page store traffic through reddit, it just contributed to 10% of the overall store page traffic. Majority of store page traffic ~88% came from the New and trending Tab

One other strategy he adopted was to have a subscription list through the Game website, encouraging users for a one time email just on the Launch Day and not spamming them with mails. so before launch he had the below through his consistent  low time high impact marketing efforts

  • 12000 steam wishlists

  • 4700 Twitter followers

  • 4400 mailing list subscribers

  • 1300 tumblr followers

  • 100,000 youtube views on trailer

Social Media Blitz on Launch Day

On the Day of Launch, David executed what he called as a social Blitz plan and it looked something like this

  • Reddit Posts

  • Twitter like crazy

  • Email a press release

  • steam forum topics for support

  • update website

  • Email subscribers

  • IndieDB article

  • Post on gamasutra

  • Post Launch announcements on reddit

  • Facebook post for friends and groups

  • Post gifs on tumblr, imgur

  • Announcement in steampage

Conclusion

David strongly believes that working towards launching a game made all the difference. Few days after the Launch he received the below feedback from a player who had played first tree

"In that moment all resolves for me everything, the game, my life the last couple of weeks, the loss of my mother and all of it. Thanks so much for the first tree, for closure, for peace and for even if its only in the video game for the briefest moment it had given me a chance to speak to her again."

So guys, please finish your game, other people might need your game like they needed the first tree...