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Why I'll be in Indianapolis Next October

We indie developers can be a pessimistic bunch.

Almost every week, there’s a new doom and gloom story brewing. One recent example: Monument Valley Forgotten Shores. Sold as a $1.99 USD in-app purchase (half the price of the original title), the new levels are insanely well crafted and allowed me and many others to rediscover much of what we loved about the game.

But a few hours into the release, Monument Valley was getting some 1-star reviews from disgruntled customers. How dare they charge another $2 for brand new content? You know the usual argument, if you want to call it that.

My reaction? I headed over to the App Store, gave the new version a 5-star rating (and a rare written review as well) to combat the complainers, and then I took to Twitter to voice my opinion, as usual.

Forget the 1-star reviews. That tells us nothing we didn't already know. The sales are all that matter.

— jcieplinski (@jcieplinski) November 13, 2014

In other words, let’s wait it out. Let’s see if these negative reviews are really anything to be concerned about. If they don’t effect the sales of the game, who cares?

But people were already convinced. Developers can’t win. Adding the in-app purchase was a mistake. Negative reviews will kill any app’s sales. Apple has made it impossible to make money on the App Store. No one values software anymore. And on and on.

Fast forward to a week later, and we get Daniel Gray, one of Monument Valley’s creators on an episode of Myke Hurley’s Inquisitive Podcast, explaining that the new levels are a hit. The negative reviews turned out to be a small minority of customers, and the game is selling better than ever.

In light of this revelation, how many of us indies are looking at this as a success story? How many are able to look past our initial anger and realize that this has proven that asking customers to pay for value isn’t impossible?

It’s so hard not to give in to that temptation to believe the worst whenever something goes slightly wrong for any of our fellow indies.

This is why I wanted to create a conference with Charles Perry next year. I want to be a positive influence in the indie dev community. I know I don’t have all the answers, but if I put the smartest people I can find into a room for three days and invite a hundred or so others to join us, I’m pretty sure we can all walk away with a much more uplifting outlook on what it is to try and make a living selling software. Because the success stories are there. Some of us are defying what the naysayers are preaching. And it’s not through magic.

The folks at ustwo didn’t get lucky. Their success is not a fluke. They built a loyal following with tons of hard work that went way beyond the product itself. Yes, the App Store presents a unique set of obstacles that we all wish weren’t there. But we can learn to navigate through them. If we can start learning the right lessons from these kinds of events, we can focus on building better businesses for ourselves.

Join our Release Notes Mailing List to get more information about the conference as it is announced. And join us in Indianapolis next October. It’s going to be enlightening.