A Dark Room: From Sabbatical Year to $800,000

Hey! I am Rich Clominson, co-founder of Failory. We have just published an article, written by Amir Rajan, in which he tells the story of his mobile game, “A Dark Room”, which hit #1 on the AppStore and grossed over $800,000.

Sit down and read his success story.

Then. A Dark Room went viral. Out of nowhere it made $800 in one day. Then it made $1,200 in one day. Then it made $5,000. Then it made $8,000. Then it hit the #1 spot and I woke up to a $20,000 sales report.

I feel somewhere in between “Then” and “went viral” a two or three paragraphs are missing explaining what lead to being viral or the #1 position.

You see, without explaining what specifically made it go viral, via what channels, and so on - the whole story just reads as a story of a dummy who did not apply any brain to it at all and just happen to stumble upon a gold mine.

One certain lesson is that the guy was smart enough to take an already existing good game from web to mobile. I.e. he did not start from a blank plate, but repackaged an existing good product. If I understand correctly, he just asked a permission to use the sources (for no charge) including all the storyline and dialogs that are so praised by the players. (Did he share his earnings with the original author? Doesn’t look so. Not cool if he didn’t.) That kind of work can be done by a skilled mobile developer in a week, methinks, so one can theoretically have such games on a conveyor.

Another possible lesson is that without a system for delivering games one cannot count on repetitive success.

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I don’t know why he didn’t talk about the marketing strategies. I should have asked him. Anyway, he explained a bit about in on another interview:

I chalk up a lot of my success to luck, but then I look back at all the marketing I did. Throughout the development and release of ADR, I kept a developer log and was extremely transparent with regards to monthly revenue and download numbers.
With all these long form entries, I took to Reddit and stayed active in the /r/gamedev and /r/apphookup communities. I’d give out promotion codes on /r/apphookup if they’d read my entries, which provided a means for users to see that I was a real person and not a nameless company. On /r/gamedev I spent most of my time talking about revenue and the inner workings of the App Store. This “marketing” helped me keep a strong following and helped my future titles become successful. Here are some of the posts I’ve done:

I rely heavily on people knowing who I am as a person (and how much I care about game development, the end product as much as the progression). Interacting genuinely with people that reach out to me has become an incredibly important component of my “brand”. You can’t fake this, so don’t try to.