Posts Tagged ‘linux’

It’s been very clear over the last six months that the direction Textfyre needs to go is mobile. Desktop products are extremely difficult to sell without physical media and selling physical media requires a marketing budget, a luxury we don’t have.

Our plan to sell directly to the education market has been moved to a back burner, if not entirely removed from the plan. Selling directly to schools or school systems is nearly impossible without the right connections. With those connections,  it’s still a nightmare. I’d been warned by other people that trying to sell to schools is impossible. I guess they were right. The closest I came to tapping that market was a connection with Follett Library Resources, the people that offer a search engine of product to schools. The lead dried up almost immediately.

To move to a more generalized publishing market, I’ve directed everyone developing content for Textfyre that the restrictions are mostly off. There’s no need to direct our stories at middle-school students. I’ve asked them to simply develop great stories that can be appreciated by any reader.

We’ve made a splash in online sales and those will continue. With more marketing, we can reach more customers, but that still will take more time (and money). But I have other opportunities coming up that may move online sales to a back-burner as well.

The mobile market is composed of phones like the iPhone, Droid, and any other phone that has some way of publishing an application. We’ve been working on an iPhone application for a while now. We haven’t looked at the Android platform, but are likely to in the future. The iPad is obviously very interesting and the iPhone code that Andrew has been developing can target it as well as the iPhone (as well as being a desktop OS X application).

The problem with the iPhone and iPad is that there are so many applications available that it’s extremely difficult to get noticed and to be able to price your application above $.99. Some people may think it’s a good idea to sell IF at $.99, but I’m not one of them. That would be an unsustainable price point, at least for initial sales.

I’ve also been talking to Microsoft about partnering for the new Windows Phone 7 launch coming this fall. In fact, they called me and they have a strong case. With assistance, I could easily port our Silverlight implementation of our games to the WP7 platform. The UI would take some work and we’d have to run through very rigorous testing, but we’re automatically closer to publishing to the WP7 marketplace than any other.

The last mobile device, the Amazon Kindle, is probably the sweet-spot and I am now talking to the Kindle team about publishing Textfyre games to the device. They opened up a Kindle Development Kit awhile back and although we haven’t gotten into the beta program, I have been able to get Amazon’s attention and we’re discussing the technical details. I should know more in the next week or two.

Of course working with Microsoft or Amazon might require contractual obligations that limit our publishing capabilities (they may expect exclusivity in exchange for support). It’s a business afterall and if I can land a partnership that enables us to build the business, then that’s the direction we need to go.

No decisions have been made, but the fork in the road is coming quickly. I’ll know more about Microsoft and Amazon soon. I already know where our iPhone/iPad strategy is as well as online and physical media sales. I also know that we’re done focusing on schools and students, for now.

Once I know where we stand with Microsoft and Amazon and with the iPad development, it will be time to choose a way forward, rewrite the business plan, and Textfyre will shift into an entirely new business model.

I’ve talked often about hurdles in the development of Textfyre as a business. We’ve had to work through procedural issues, development issues, content issues, game engine issues, artwork issues, investor issues, and user interface issues. We still have marketing, sales, partnership, and other issues on the horizon.

In late 2007 I was finally able to hire Jesse McGrew for the game engine, but I still couldn’t find anyone to fit into the development of the user interface. This is obviously one of the most critical components of Textfyre since the vision is to present something that is easy, attractive, and yet retains the simple beauty of interactive fiction.

After trying to get a local Flash developer involved, then trying to hire a consulting firm, I finally contacted Peter Mattsson, the creator of Flaxo, a Flash-based z-machine interpreter. Peter is going to help finish the Windows version of the user interface. Peter also has offered to help build a Flash version of uor games for Linux and Mac environments, but we’re still trying to figure out the technical details.

On the investor front, we’re getting ready for a presentation on February 20th with a Chicago-based angel investor. This Saturday, Mike Gentry and I are having dinner with Janny Wurts, a noted fantasy author who I’m trying to entice into helping with content or to become an advisor. I’d also ask that if anyone knows of a potential angel investor to talk to them about Textfyre and get us together.

On the marketing front, I’ve been developing the advertisement plan for our launch and this going very well.

The development of Textfyre has been exciting and every time we fine ourselves facing a challenge, we have always managed to define it, plan a course of action, and meet that challenge head on.