J.K. Riki

The Morning After The Despair

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Rather than dwell on that, let me jump right to what I want to share today.

Yesterday I decided to be a responsible adult and begin monitoring the statistical data of our first three Weekend Panda apps. I’ve checked in now and then as we’ve produced games during this past year, but for the best results in business data must be analyzed and wise decisions made for the desired outcome, whatever that happens to be.

First of all, the data is extremely confusing. I can find no simple stat like “The number of people who have downloaded the game is _______.” Because of this I’m unsure if I’m even right in my current judgment or analysis.

BUT it seems that the number that maybe (?) represents “The number of people who have downloaded the game is _______” says that the number of people who have downloaded our latest game, Corgis vs. Kittens, is 31.

Thirty one people downloaded a game that took us months to create, and is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

There are several things to say to this. Let me start where I started: This is devastatingly low to me.

To have put in the effort and see this return is disheartening. Our livelihood depends on our ability to “make it” as developers. If our business venture fails, that will be the end of this. Mortgages and light bills and groceries do not pay themselves, so this little dream will have to be abandoned for the sake of responsibility.

Last night, faced with this, I fell into a state of despair. Thankfully not DEEP despair, which I have experienced before, but the low-level buzz of anguish that accompanies mismanaged expectations.

The reason I mismanaged my expectations is because The Death of Mr. Fishy, our first game, managed more than 100 downloads (which is the goal I set for it). I, perhaps foolishly, assumed that a bigger game with more effort put into it would at least manage that marker. Probably even surpass it, now that people knew about us!

Alas, no.

The truth is game development takes a lot of work during development, but also a great deal post-development. I did not do a good enough job marketing Corgis vs. Kittens. The people who played it truly seemed to enjoy it. But apparently only 31 people even gave it a go.

I don’t want to discount the 31 who DID play the game. One of the lessons I learned from years of work on FredtheMonkey.com was that “number of viewers” was an easy statistic to mull and obsess over. I discovered great joy in learning the approach that it wasn’t about how many people watched the cartoons, but about those cartoons meaning something to the people who did watch them.

I suppose a key difference between then and now is that Fred never needed financial success in order for us to keep our house. Weekend Panda does. That puts a different lens in front of my face. A lens that, last night, declared doom.

And yet, today is a new day.

Let me tell you about the morning after my despair.

I woke up before dawn today, and unlike many days when that happens, I stayed up. I took a breath. I spent time praying and thinking deeply. I did some reading. And from this quiet time of reflection, I realized how absolutely grateful I am for the opportunity I currently have.

There is no time in human history where I could work as little as I do and survive as abundantly. That’s not to say this work is not hard (or constant), because it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked (and right now I am at my desk more than I am NOT at my desk). But it is also practically a walk in the park compared to the hard labor of those who lived before me. This perspective is important to keep in mind.

There are also other factors I need to hold in the forefront of my brain, like how much I enjoy my job in spite of the challenge. Plus how much I adore my co-worker, who I happen to be married to.

Another silver lining is that IF I am reading the numbers correctly, Corgis vs. Kittens has made about $80 in revenue from in-app purchases and ads so far. ($73 IAP and $7 in ads, to be clear.) If that is true AND the “31 people downloaded the game” number is accurate, that result would be amazing to me, far exceeding my expectations. (I expected maybe around $100 only with a userbase 100 times what it currently is, to be honest.)

Those numbers make no sense though, which is why I think I am reading them wrong. Or once again my expectations were wonky, perhaps. I will continue to research this and try to make heads or tails of it. I really think I have to be misreading something.

At any rate, there is so much to be thankful for this morning. Whatever the future holds, I am glad I started looking at the data (confusing as it is) and am renewing my efforts to do even better on a number of business-related fronts. If it all flops, at least I’ll know I couldn’t have tried harder!

Frankly there are too many lessons rushing at me to type.

My fingers cannot keep up with the number of words flying through my head regarding these past few hours, so I will leave with this: If we are kind, loving, and compassionate to those around us, that is a wonderful “job” to dedicate our lives to. Money means survival, and that work is necessary. Yet at the end of our lives – whenever that may be – it will be the kindness and love that really and truly matters.

So among the things I am rededicating myself to, today I am rededicating my efforts to kindness and love. I certainly invite you to come along. Either way, a very happy Monday to you, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this day brings.

Be well!

PS. If you have not checked out any Weekend Panda games yet and wouldn’t mind supporting my wife and I with the simple action of grabbing one or two (they’re free!) on the app stores, I don’t want to be pushy but I would smile and give two thumbs up to you doing that. It really does mean a lot on this side of the screen. (Which is another lesson I learned and something I want to try to do better at in support of others who are chasing their dreams! I am going to go find a few aspiring developers and try out their games this afternoon.)


  1. Matthew Milson

    I can definitely relate to this. Obviously it would be brilliant to get thousands of downloads for each game right off the bat. But I think what’s important in the early stages for your studio is just building up a library of games. First: it gives you experience that you can’t get any other way. Second: the quality of your games will increase with each shipped title. And third: when you do have a game that takes off, your players can then go back and discover all your previous titles just waiting for them.

    I have to keep reminding myself of this, but so much of it is just about establishing credibility. I have people that only ever ask me “how are the games selling” whenever they see me, but that’s not the measure of success for us right now–as strange as it may seem for a business. It’s just a matter of perseverance. You’ll get there in time, I have no doubt.

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      Thanks for the encouragement! It is most appreciated. You’re right, on all the accounts you listed there. I think I just got ahead of myself. I knew this would be a long process, and somewhere in there I forgot it was only the start, ha ha. Sigh. Perseverance, as you said. 🙂

      On the plus side, having a good attitude about it really makes life a lot better!


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