Dealing with Popularity

In the early days of Sally Face (starting over three years ago), the game had gathered a small cult following. That following grew quite a lot over time and continues to grow. With the release of Episode Four, in November 2018, the fan base significantly expanded. As a solo developer and solo business owner, it’s been a huge change in my life. Even though this has been a dream come true, it’s also been very overwhelming and at times very stressful.

THE FANS

fans1

In the beginning, I was able to connect with every fan, answer every question and every message. And I really enjoyed that connection and seeing their excitement. Now, I get so many messages that I can’t even read them all, let alone answer them all. When more started coming in, I tried to keep up with it at first. I really wanted to continue to talk with everyone and continue to interact with their posts of fan art and cosplays. But it began eating up so much of my time (hours a day). It took me a little while to stop putting so much time into that. I felt an almost sadness at not being able to answer everyone. Especially since I often get messages saying really heartfelt things about how much Sally Face has changed their life, or saved them from depression, or saved them from suicide, or helped them in some way. My fans in general mean a great deal to me and these kinds of letters really mean a lot. I think that strength to get through tough times is already inside of us but if my game can help bring that out in any way, that’s something really amazing.

For my own sanity and for the sake of productivity, I had to learn to cut back on fan interaction. Though, I still like to engage when I can. I very much enjoy seeing the cool things Sally Face fans create and how much they get into the story and characters. I even set aside a few hours one day to answer fan questions on twitter, which was a lot of fun. And in the future, I’d like to do more conventions in order to get out there and meet more fans in person.

TROLLS

trolls

My interactions with fans have been overwhelming positive overall. Though, with more attention and bigger numbers, of course I’ve started to get some negativity and trolling. However, it’s really such a small proportion.

There was a rumor started about Episode Five releasing in the summer, even though I had been saying “end of 2019” in all official channels. And when it didn’t come out in the summer there were some people who were mad at me for “lying” or “delaying the game”, even though neither were true. I’ve also gotten some reviewers saying that by having DLC that makes me “greedy”. This really shows me that they don’t understand game development.

In fact, me charging only $15 for Sally Face is pretty cheap. That’s about 5 years of work for $15. I initially thought that the episodes would all be shorter but I wanted to make it the best I could, so more production value went into it. Despite that, I didn’t want to raise the price (even though I probably should have) because I wanted to keep it fair and accessible to players. Not to mention, I really only take home less than 50% of the game revenue (that’s a topic for another post). So when people call me “greedy” for “charging so much” it seems unbelievable to me.

I’ve found it best to not engage in with trolls and just to ignore them. Especially the ones that are just spewing meaningless anger in my direction. Which does happen sometimes but, again, it’s pretty rare. My thought is that they are most likely kids who are not happy in their lives. And I hope that they will someday find happiness.

MERCHANDISING

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With the rising popularity also comes new opportunities such as merchandising and other exciting things I can’t talk about just yet. I’ve partnered up with Brand Central, who is handling Sally Face merch. Through them I’ve signed deals with Hot Topic, Funko, BandMerch and others. I’ll share more details on those things as they progress. All of these new opportunities are great, though they also take up extra time as well. Including flying out to LA for meetings. So even though it’s all exciting it also adds to the stress of managing a healthy work / life balance.

Along with the merch, also comes other companies (especially Chinese companies) selling counterfeit Sally Face merchandise and stealing my work. It’s a shame that people do this to anyone, let alone a solo artist such as myself. This has caused a lot of frustration, stress and a ton of time wasted fighting these companies. Fans purchase these counterfeit items, without knowing they are fake, and that harms the future plans I am trying to build. The money raised through merch sales goes into making the next game. When other companies steal my work, they are directly affecting my projects. To be clear, I don’t blame fans for this, the issue here is 100% on these counterfeit companies for being a bunch of shady bastards.

YOUTUBE

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I’ll be honest, before releasing Sally Face, I didn’t know much about Let’s Players, Streamers, “Content Creators”, etc. I knew they existed and I knew a little about the controversies between them and game developers. They have definitely played a role in my journey with Sally Face, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on this subject.

I’ve spoken with and have met a lot of these people and it’s always been a pleasure. Everyone has been super nice and it seems like a great community. In the early days, bigger YouTubers like JackSepticEye, Gloom Games, John Wolfe and others really helped to spread awareness of the game. I even put little Easter Eggs in the game, to show my appreciation for them:

ee

Some developers think that these Let’s Plays and Streams are a big negative force for the game industry. Basically because more and more people are watching games instead of playing them. Which is stated to be a big reason why single player games are “dying”. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I mean, this issue is undeniably a double edge sword: on one hand the exposure can do great things for small indie developers and on the other hand it could hurt more linear, story driven games. It’s very important that players, who are able to, support the games they love by buying them. Otherwise, those developers won’t be able to make more games. Of course playthroughs can be great for those who don’t have the means to play or want to see what a game is like before purchasing it.

As of right now, my view is that these gameplay videos are a net positive for small indie developers but that the process can use some improvements. YouTubers should definitely be sharing the link to any games they play. I think most of them do this already. And if they enjoy the game, they should encourage their viewers to purchase it. Not everyone does this, as they are more concerned with promoting their “like, comment, subscribe” mantra. I get it and that’s important but promoting the game is also important if you want to see more work from that developer. I don’t think that’s asking much at all and I believe most YouTubers/Streamers would understand that point. If we got some help with reminding their viewers of the importance of purchasing games they like, I think that’s a good first step (and I do recognize that some already do this, which is great).

Like talking about piracy (which is another can of worms), this is a delicate subject matter. People tend to take sides and be very passionate about that. But I think it’s important to look at both the pros and the cons of gameplay videos online and to continue to have a conversation about it. Whatever your opinion, for better or worse, this is definitely changing the game industry in big ways.


To close this out, I’d like to say: Even with the added stress, I’m excited to see Sally Face growing and I can’t wait to share Episode Five with everyone on December 13th. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out:

Thank you for your continued love and support!
💙 Steve

Published by

Portable Moose

Artist and indie game developer. Creator of Sally Face.

7 thoughts on “Dealing with Popularity”

  1. As I read through this I’m very impressed in your writing.You are always so open with your fans showing just whats on your heart.Your journey so far has been awesome to watch. Though it hasn’t always been an easy one, your dedication to the game and your fans has been overwhelmingly satisfying for me as your dad to follow. You deserve all that’s coming you way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. when i watched jacksepticeye play sally face i saw the dedication through all of it. i am super excited for the chapter five to come out. i usually don’t instantly buy games, but when i saw how well it told a story and how well everything was put together i knew i had to. everything you do is amazing and the dedication you put to your fans as well just overwhelms me. thank you for creating a masterpiece and i am so glad that sally face has grew so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve, you are an amazing person! There is so much light and kindness in you.
    I have never met an author who would be so kind to his fans. Thanks for this project. For this game.
    I wish you a lot of strength and inspiration for new games!
    (sorry I don’t know English at all, but I really wanted to write this comment)

    Liked by 1 person

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