Gunner Z – Soft Launch

We’re soft launching Gunner Z, here’s why!
Hey all, we just wanted to talk a little about our plans for Gunner Z.  First off, we’re only 6 people and not tied to a publisher, so much of our timeline is of our own making… and we want to get our launch right.  There’s nearly nothing more important for a game than coming out of the gate cleanly; a bad launch can cripple hopes of a game doing well, and we want most people’s first experience with the game to be as highly polished and balanced as possible.
With that in mind, we are launching in a few test markets (as many mobile developers seem to be doing these days).  Likely those are Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, and Philippines.  The timeline for that is, well, as soon as our app is approved.
Gunner Z is very different than our previous two games, Lili and THRED, in more ways than just theme.  This time around we have a pretty complex in-game economy managing how fast upgrades and new weapons are spooled out, how enemy variants are ordered in the campaign, and how long players spend completing our 30 missions and subsequent end-game.
Also, Gunner Z needs solid difficulty balancing.  Our primary concern is keeping players progressing through the game and enjoying it and not encountering difficulty spikes.  From our experiences with creating shooters in the past, it’s really difficult to know which aspects of the game players will find difficult, especially players of a broad skill base.  If 80% of your players are unable to complete level 4 of 30, you’ve got a problem that needs to be diagnosed and fixed in hours, not weeks.
Luckily for this project we have an excellent backend in place that will allow us to quickly address those difficulty spikes, as well as feed updates to everyone very quickly.  This is yet another aspect a test launch will help us smooth out.
We plan on supporting Gunner Z for a long time.  Part of why we picked this project was the ease of which we can continually add content.  In fact, we have a rather… intense… backlog of new enemies, new player vehicles, new modes, new weapons, etc that we plan on pouring into the game very regularly.  “Life begins at ship” these days.
There was some earlier discussion online regarding the pricing model of Gunner Z and if it would be F2P.  Regardless of the final verdict on that (currently still undecided), our plan for the soft launch territories are to launch as free.  This makes sense when you consider the goal of a test territory is to get data and see how the game holds up.  For that data to be useful, it’s imperative to have enough people playing the game to matter.  A hundred players is a poor sample size, where many thousands are solid decision making numbers.  Developers routinely estimate that downloads are around 20 times higher (or more) for a free app compared to even a $.99 app.  
Here in the office and with developers who have graciously beat on earlier versions of the game during the beta, we played the game without IAP items or benefits.  We want to create something that is fun, yet challenging, for someone to play regardless of their spending habits.  As diehard shooter fans, we enjoy the hell out of it and play compulsively, but we’ll see how it shakes out in the wild.
We’ll likely leave the game running in the test markets for a couple weeks while we iterate, refine, and generally improve the game with every day it’s out there.  Ideally, when the game launches worldwide shortly after that, it’ll be a day-one experience that people will want to play for years afterwards.
So, that’s our plan.  Thanks for taking the time to check out Gunner Z!

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