While working on Forgotten Ones I decided to turn it into a small indie company a while back, we are currently a team of 3-6 (depending on what day of the week it is) but still funding is hard to come by, especially these days early in the process. Nearly everyone works a full-time job and helps out on the project in their off time so we decided to turn our attention to the Unity Asset Store.
Since there seems to be very little information for emerging asset developers I decided I’d write a little a little on our experiences with the Asset Store.
Disappointed previous customers
When we first started developing assets we figured it’d be a good idea to sell them on our own website as well as the Asset Store to reach more people, let me just say BAD IDEA! Ok, well maybe it’s not a purely bad idea, some publishers manage this quite well, but for us it was bad…really bad.
The thing about the Asset Store is if you want your customers (or if they want) to be able to download through Unity or get updates through Unity then they have to buy it through the Asset Store. There is no possible way that you can give it to them for free if they purchased it from you before hand. This was a major down-side for us, since after selling a couple of copies on our website a few customers wanted it through Unity, and sadly we had to tell them to purchase it again. It was out of our hands! Sadly, we did lose a few people because of that.
No instant updates
When you first publish something on the Asset Store it understandably has to go through a review process. During this process they check for a large number of items. The bad part of this? Each update you push has to go through the same review process. Most of the time it only takes 2-3 days, but we have had items sit here for weeks. When we first published DGSave a customer pointed out a bug with the serialization process, we quickly got it fixed and sent it off, three weeks and several emails later it was finally published. While we were waiting for Unity we tried to get in touch with all of our customers the best way we could to get them the fix.
Like I said, the review team is usually pretty good about getting stuff out quick, but even 2 or 3 days it too long to wait for someone that’s waiting on a bug fix. I believe they could easily fix this by allowing instant updates, but that’s not my call to make.
Who bought what?
Another thing that really bugs us is that unless a customer gets in touch with us somehow (email, PM, forum, etc), we have no way of knowing who bought what! Sure we see the sales figures, but the publisher dashboard does not show any user-names, emails, nothing of those that buy your assets!
Thankfully Unity did implement a measure for publishers to verify invoice numbers, but nothing farther than that. So if there happens to be some issue (like I mentioned above with DGSave) you just have to post on your website or in the forums and hope that your current customers see it.
Hard work – Little pay
If you do plan on developing middle-ware to place on the Asset Store keep in mind that you will be doing work for very little pay. Now I’m not saying there aren’t success stories (take a look atJuha Kiili’s blog for a great one) but they aren’t very common. We do fairly well, enough a single man could make a meager living off of, but keep in mind we’ve only been doing this for a few months. Most people think: “Oh! I can put this up there and make a lot of money!”. Well, I’m sorry to say it doesn’t work like that. Sure if you make something great expect a decent amount of sales at first, but you also have to think about the support.
You’re not just selling an asset, you’re also selling support for that asset, and you have to keep it up and running. You could make a program where your customers just tell it “Make the most awesome game ever!” and it does! But, if you don’t take the time to help people that don’t understand it, help people that are having issues with it, then you WILL see sales drop, and quick! Customers are a business’s life-line, if they get mad at you, you will lose them.
Keeping up with the technology
This section kind of ties into the previous one. Each time Unity updates their editor or API you will have to go back and double check to make sure everything works the way it should. Being an asset developer your customers are looking to you to make sure that everything works if they decided to upgrade to the latest and greatest edition of Unity, and it is your job to not let them down.
As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions feel free to let me know!