Oddlabs Game Development Blog - a peek inside the labs

The indie business side of the Mac

Are you developing a PC game and not planning to do a Mac version? I have some numbers that ought to make you reconsider!

Enter the Fruit Machine

Five years ago I got a student job in the computer service center at my university. My job was to help somewhat computer-illiterate professors at the faculty of humanities print out their documents and surf the web. Having a lifetime of computer geek experience, the job was supposed to be a walk in the park, were it not for the fact that the faculty had a lot of Macintosh computers. Being a Linux user converted from Windows 98, I didn’t know much about this strange machine and after a short time at the job, I got the first impression of a strangely colored blob of a computer with a mouse that had only one button and a shape that made it difficult to know which direction to move it.

I have no doubt that a lot of people have a similar impression of the Mac and I admit that it has had some very strange designs, and Apple has done things with their hardware and software that seems “unnatural” to a Windows user. It has been my experience though, that the Mac isn’t all that different from other computers/operating systems, and the differences that exist are often an advantage. Judging it too quickly is a mistake that could ruin your chance of working with a machine that might just be what you need.

Macs in the indie developer business

Nonetheless, this is how a lot of business professionels seem to think, even when it comes to business decisions. Many game developers, indie or not, view the Mac as a freak that no one cares for or wants to be associated with. They look at statistics that show only 5% of desktop machines are Macs and say: “Why waste a lot of time and money for only 5% of the market?”. I think that is like saying: “Since it has only one mouse button it can only do a third of the work of a PC”. What they need to do is take a look at the contents of the potential market and not just the size. It isn’t merely 5% of all computer users, but a group of people with a different view of the software industry.

The perfect customer for an indie game is often described as the 40 year old housewife, and the generalized profile of a Mac user fits that much more than that of a PC user. I’m not saying that there are more potential customers in the Mac market, but there is a much higher concentration of them and they are much easier to find on the wild web. When a Mac user looks for games to download from the net, they have very few sites to go to (at least when compared to Windows) and a lot less to chose from. On top of this, the Mac users seem to be more willing to pay for the services they use.

Some real-life statistics

Consider this:

  • Out of the several hundred thousand downloads of Tribal Trouble. the Mac is responsible for 23%!
  • Out of all sales of Tribal Trouble, the Mac is responsible for 47%!

Not bad for 5% of the market.. And we haven’t even done any paid advertising that has been directed solely at Mac users. We have just submitted the game to sites like apple.com, macupdate.com and Version Tracker.

What this shows is that not only are the Mac users easier to reach, they also convert at a much higher rate. The Mac share probably wouldn’t be that high if the game had sold 100.000 copies, but that doesn’t change the fact that it does convert a lot better. In the indie business every sale counts and the Mac sales are really easy to come by. I simply don’t understand what makes an indie developer neglect this market. One of the best decisions Oddlabs ever made was to write Tribal Trouble in Java which gives us a port of the game virtually for free. There is no excuse. Port your game to OS X and let the Mac people have some fun!

8 Responses to “The indie business side of the Mac”

  1. mambo Says:

    wow, i didnt think that mac would make 50% of the total sales!

    im impressed!

  2. socom Says:

    thats were i found it off apple.com it looked fun so i bought it for my little sis for her b day and i played it fun fun fun ( she was dopi!! if you know her now she plays as mandy)

  3. NikonMike Says:

    Interesting and quite surprising Mac facts indeed! Hopefully this platform will gain better support.

    I don’t think your Mac port was really free - especially Elias contributed a lot to LWJGL! This is recognized and appreciated - at least by some of us…

  4. indigo Says:

    nice :D support macs! i bet the windows people will be slightly miffed… what about linux? what is their %?

  5. Sune Says:

    NikonMike: You are right that Elias spent a lot of time fitting the LWJGL to mac, but that work will not be needed for future projects. And since it is under the BSD license, everyone else can use it for free and don’t have to do the work either. So now there is no excuse :)

    indigo: 9% of sales are performed from a Linux box.

  6. macman Says:

    just for the record you can plug just about any USB mouse into a apple so you can get a mouse with as many buttons as you like also apple has design a few (see http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore.woa/wa/RSLID?aa=FFEBE8D7&nclm=MiceKeyboards )
    you guys also got a review from macworld… dont remeber which one but thats what got me interested

  7. Frank Earl Says:

    Not to mention the fact that the same thing could very probably be said for Linux versions. The big thing would be that if you pick the right path for a MacOS or Linux version, the effort will be minimal for the other- practically for free. By the way, guys, thanks for making a Linux version of the game available. I’m one of your happy customers. :-)

  8. MindFreak Says:

    Hey we are one of the Mac game development companies involved in porting games to the Mac. Nice to see people waiting for the games on Mac platform

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