Junction Gate Development & Marketing Strategy

To the Junction Gate Community:

I like the idea of open development with community feedback and involvement. It's part of how Junction Gate has been developed and I want to continue doing that going forward. There won't be a release every week, but I'll do my best to continue to provide weekly development updates, screenshots, teasers, and other potential content.

Let's talk about what it takes to develop Junction Gate and where I hope to take it in the future. At this point, I'm just one person making the game and I've been developing it since around August 2014. I'm currently doing it full-time as an indie developer, but occasionally am taking on web development contracts, software consulting, and other jobs to get by so that development can continue. This may extend into part- or full-time employment at some point in the future, but even then I will continue working on the game at every opportunity. So even though some weeks won't have as much progression as others, Junction Gate is my primary focus and will continue to be so until it's finished.

Both the alpha and beta versions are hand-coded with a custom engine in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. For the beta, I've also started incorporating WebGL via three.js. Besides new gameplay mechanics, the beta includes and will include a lot of elements that the alpha didn't: better template and data structure design, themes, reusable elements, the ability for localization, responsive design, keyboard control, accessibility options, etc. All of those improved features lay the groundwork for a better game overall and for eventually porting Junction Gate to other platforms.

There are 3 primary platforms I hope to port Junction Gate to provided everything goes well and I'm technically able to do so: Steam, iOS, and Android and probably in that order. However, platform ports inevitably bring up the touchy subject of monetization and so I want to address that early on to set expectations. I'll do my best to handle it with care and transparency.

First, the web version will remain online and remain free. Once released, the public web beta will have the equivalent of the same feature set as the alpha currently has, plus an actual end game and the other features and changes that you've seen being added to the game. There may be some limited in-game advertising like there currently is in the alpha, but I'll be experimenting with that to see if it actually is even worth it and how to best do it with minimal interruption to immersion.

After the public beta on the web, I plan to begin implementing additional features that will be included in paid versions of the game on the other platforms. Around that time, I'll apply for Steam Greenlight and am also considering a Kickstarter. If accepted onto Steam, there is a strong possibility that Junction Gate would become an early access title. Other platforms would follow after the game exits early access.

A lot of developers recommend strongly against having a demo version of a game, so what I'm proposing by having a free web version carries a lot of monetary risk to me as a developer and flies in the face of conventional wisdom. However, one of the biggest issues I see facing indie developers is one of discoverability on Steam and the various app stores. My hope is that the free web version will bring in more gamers than would otherwise see Junction Gate and that the benefits of having a larger userbase would outweigh the disadvantages of having a free playable version that is a complete game in and of itself.

While I do hope to make money from Junction Gate, I also want to do right by all of you who have been playing the game for the last year and a half. This strategy, I think, represents the best way to do both. This is the current plan, but, like everything, it's subject to change in the future. I'd really welcome any thoughts or suggestions you have on that.

As the development progresses, I'd like to continue to grow the community. The best way to do that is by producing content and previews. There are some other games out there that I really admire in terms of their community outreach and development status updates: Star Citizen, ARK, and Space Engineers to name a few. Obviously I can't match their output as it's just me doing the work and I don't want to take too much time away from development, but developing the game is only one factor in a game's success. Marketing is also essential because it's a critical reason why many indie games succeed or fail. I can't ignore it if I don't want all my development effort to go to waste.

I'll do my best to find a smart balance between marketing and development, with the bulk of my time going to development. My hope is to only spend a few hours a week producing content to be shared later that week. I'll be experimenting with different marketing and content production methods and I'm also going to try something I haven't seen done for a game before: complete marketing transparency.

I want to share with you how I'm planning to market the game, what works, what doesn't and provide status updates as we go along. While I don't think I'll be able to share eventual sales numbers due to contracts with Steam and other platforms, I'll share as much as I can.

This is the start of that transparency and my hope is that you'll become invested in the story of the development and marketing of Junction Gate as much as you have become in Junction Gate itself. Perhaps a few of you will want to share Junction Gate with your friends. And maybe, just maybe, Junction Gate will become part of your story every bit as much as it has become part of mine.

- Benjamin Kuker