Decal King Postmortem
Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Hi all! We recently published our first asset package on the Unity Asset Store: Decal King. Overall, we are very proud of the product so we encourage you to check it out on the asset store. There should be a link at the end of this article. However, since this was our first package I think its fair to say we encountered a lot of obstacles that we did not expect to encounter. Hopefully if any of you are looking publish on the Unity Asset Store you can learn a little bit from our experience. Since I mainly focus on art and marketing I'll probably focus more on that kind of thing. Chris will also write a postmortem that will focus more on the technical aspects of Decal King's development.
What Went Right
1. Team Communication
Chris and I kept in very constant communication with almost daily updates on each other's progress. There was almost never any time that I did not have an idea of what needed to get done in order to best support the development of "Decal King."
2. Research on Unity's Standards and Guidelines
I read through Unity's documentation for Unity Store uploads. I made sure that Decal King adhered to the guidelines as much as possible. Unity also has a "Unity Asset Store Tools" which is required to upload something to the asset store. I made our publisher account and uploaded all the necessary thumbnails, icons, screenshots, and media that Unity requests and to give Decal King a professional looking presentation. In addition I did all the necessary registration to set up the receiving of payments from sales. Pretty much as soon as Chris sent me the final version of Decal King, I was able to send it on to Unity for review. It took about 2 weeks for Unity to review Decal King and approve it. It was never rejected which allowed us to save valuable time getting it live on the Asset Store.
Side note: In researching this, I discovered the "Unity Affiliates" program. This program allows members to generate commissions if people make purchases on the Unity Store through your links. There appears to be absolutely no downside to this, so I would recommend enrolling if you are going to be trying to direct users to the asset store anyways.
3. Focus on Usability
A significant portion of the development time for Decal King was spent in this cycle.
Chris makes a version of Decal King
I try to use it to set up the demo scene and make notes of what I found to be confusing/inconvenient in using the asset as well as any glitches I found in implementation.
Chris takes my notes and addresses them and sends it back to me for another review
The result of this process is an extremely user friendly product that is not only technically impressive, but actually very useful for common Unity developers. We also released some tutorials in the hopes of supporting potential users. These tutorials seem to also get a lot of web traffic in general, and hopefully help people get a clear understanding of what Decal King can do.
What Went Wrong
1. Time Estimation
We had initially thought that this might be a 1-2 week distraction from our main game project. However, in reality it took us over a month. The reason we were so bad at estimating the time is mainly due to the fact that we are fairly inexperienced. Just the fact that we were developing it on the most current version of Unity and then tried to move backward to Unity 2018 cost us over a week of time that was completely avoidable. In addition, I think it was just difficult to for us to comprehend how much more work goes into making something usable. In the past we mainly focus on having our tools "functional." As long as Chris knows how something works, it's not really a problem for us. However, for this project we had to try and make things more intuitive. In addition, since we initially thought this would be such a short project we did not do very extensive initial planning which could have at least given us a more accurate estimate of time required for this. I've heard a good rule for estimating time is to take how long you think it will take and multiply it by 2. We probably should have taken that approach here.
2. Sales & Marketing
We have made exactly one sale, so are sales are not great. I hope this is not the case, but I think in general sales of digital products spike at launch and then decrease over time, meaning that we might not be expecting more sales. I don't consider the marketing campaign we had a complete failure, we did increase traffic to our website and our asset was prominently featured close to the top when searching for "Decals" in the asset store, probably due to a good asset title and tags along with an initial promotion on social media (Most of our traffic coming from Reddit). I hope that the boost to our social media channels can be sustained into the future to support our main game development projects. However, being that about 1/2 of my time on this was spent on different aspects of marketing (and I'm not finished yet) and we have almost no sales I can't say that this was a success. Some of this can be attributed just to being inexperienced and having to spend time on fixing mistakes. On the other hand, I think I made some clearly bad decisions in marketing the asset.
I think our biggest shortcoming was the failure to get our product reviews quickly. We do have some professional reviews lined up which I'm hoping will pay off later. Unity provides sellers on the Asset store 12 free asset vouchers for their assets, so I thought it would be better to try and distribute them to people with large social media followings or online communities. I still think this was a good idea on some level, but I should have been more proactive in getting a review up immediately, as people who do professional reviews need to take time to prepare content. In the meantime, when people view "Decal King" on the asset store, they see it's our only product and it has no reviews, on top of that it has a not inexpensive price tag. It is probably a tough sell if there is not reassurance from a positive review that they will get their money's worth. Especially since our competitors not only have good reviews, but endorsements from professional game studios. For some reason I thought it would be better if we just garnered reviews organically. I don't know why I guess it just felt more "wholesome." However, my advice to other people trying to sell digital products is to get over it, and get some reviews on your product by any means necessary.
Words of caution: be suspicious of people soliciting vouchers. Upon announcing "Decal King," I was immediately contacted by people soliciting vouchers for various reasons. Luckily I did a cursory background check on e-mail addresses that would solicit me, and a significant portion of them seemed to be people who just turn and use your voucher code for "giveaways" without actually leaving a review or getting much traffic to your asset. Even when communicating with legitimate asset reviewers, if they request to be paid I would recommend asking for data on how much traffic and sales they could generate for your asset. Then scrutinize the data. One reviewer asked for 700 USD for a pre-roll that was estimated to produce about 1200 clicks (not sales). Being that we made 28 USD in profit per sale for selling our asset, we would need to make 26 sales to overtake 700 USD. At that point we had gotten about 100 people to our store page and made one sale (very very very small data sample). Therefore, we would have very optimistically made 12 sales (324 USD) from their offer. Our finances are not at a point where I can afford to just throw 364 USD into the fire.
Speaking of the price, we wanted to avoid the strategy of undercutting our competitors. We believe that in reality our product is competitive with the more expensive options. We thought that undercutting our competitors in price might send a message that our asset was of a lesser quality, which is not the case. Even the Unity store guidelines mention that 50 USD assets are some of the most successful on the platform. We settled on a price of 40 USD, which is not the most expensive price for decal handling systems on the asset store, but it's pretty close. At the very least I should have set the price to 39.99 USD for the sake of appearances. In reality, because our competitors have the aforementioned established user-base and reviews to vouch for them, I think when comparing products side by side its difficult for people to really tell that there is a significant difference. I think when the average user compares Decal King to its competitors they see our competitor has a 30 USD price tag with a lot of good reviews, and "Decal King" has a 40 USD price tag and has no reviews. We wanted to make a case that our asset offers advantages for efficiency and render pipeline compatibility that I believe our competitors do not (we were just going off of their store page descriptions and reviews). However, we either failed to communicate our advantages effectively, or our potential customers don't see it as a strong enough point to justify the higher price tag. We now think that since we are not established it would be better to try and undercut our competition.
Because of our shortcomings during the initial launch we are working actively to get some reviews on the store ASAP. In addition we have lowered the price to 24.99 USD, making it one of the cheapest options for decals on the Unity Asset Store that I am aware of. So if price was holding you back, now is a good chance to check out Decal King.
We will be publishing at least one more asset to the asset store, so hopefully we will see more success with our second asset. However, judging from the initial performance of our first asset I have a pessimistic outlook on the viability of the asset store as a realistic means to supplement the funds for Fun Freighter Games.
If you are looking to try your hand at the Unity Asset Store, a guide was recommended to me by Toni Li of Pixel Crushers, a Maryland group who themselves are have a prominent collection of products on the Asset Store.
The guide from Soomla is a little outdated, so some of the advice is not applicable any more, but I don't know of any better resources to look at aside from the Unity Asset Store's official guidelines. http://blog.soomla.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/The-Unity-Asset-Store-Complete-Publisher%E2%80%99s-Manual.pdf I may try to take advantage of its advice regarding cross-promotion and voucher give always in the future.
Final note: I don't pretend to be an expert on things, so if you have more advice, or you think I have come to some erroneous conclusions, please leave a comment. I (almost) always appreciate feedback.