The GameSalad Fiasco, the Cleanup, and Corona

Two weeks ago, an explosion happened over at the GameSalad community when the folks behind the company announced that a new service, dubbed “GameSalad Direct”, would be replacing their existing subscription model.

In short, the new system would require GameSalad users to go through GameSalad’s iTunes Connect account to publish their games in an attempt to waive the Apple Developer fee from GameSalad members.

Well, GS subscribers were infuriated by the announcement. From what I observed, I’d have to say 99% of their members didn’t like the idea (most were outraged), and the reason is because this new business model would do the following to existing GameSalad developers:

  • Once their current subscription lapsed, they would have to transfer their games from their own Apple Developer account to GameSalad’s if they wanted to continue updating and creating new games using the GS software, thus ridding developers of their “real” brand and identity—this is what most GS user’s biggest complaint was.

  • Good games would be lumped in with the multitude of bad games within GameSalad’s iTunes profile in the App Store, thus decreasing the perceived value of the more professional games made with GameSalad (ouch).

  • I saw some people defending GameSalad saying that Chilingo is a publisher and has made a lot of apps successful. I hate to be this blunt, but that argument is just downright stupid. The GameSalad brand itself has a horrible reputation among game reviewers and pretty much anyone who doesn’t use GameSalad, so I shouldn’t have to explain why most developers wouldn’t want their games listed under GameSalad’s iTunes account. There have been good games created with GameSalad that have done well, but I think it’s safe to say that the GameSalad BRAND itself didn’t contribute to that at all (if anything, it made the games less successful than they could have been).

  • The GameSalad company is horrible at even basic communication. If developers had to go through GameSalad’s iTunes account, it adds another layer of stress to the—already stressful—App Store process when they come to rely on GameSalad for payments instead of Apple.

Of course, people had more negative things to say (I’ve personally been keeping up with the entire 55-page thread) about the new GameSalad Direct service, but the four points above encompass the major things.

And it’s not even GameSalad Direct that they really have a problem with, it’s that it was supposed to completely replace the existing subscription model. Basically, GameSalad was going from being a development tool (what current GS users want), to a mandatory publishing service with a tool included.

As a result, many people shunned GameSalad and left, moving on to look at other SDK’s such as Corona and Unity. And since most GameSalad developers are looking for simplicity, naturally most started looking more closely at Corona because it’s the easiest option apart from GameSalad.

For many, it was a breath of fresh air because Ansca Mobile has much better communication than GameSalad, and apart from a tool that is easy enough for them to use, communication is something GS users were starving for.

Of course, veteran GameSalad members say that Ansca took advantage of the GameSalad situation and started communicating with their own members at that point to make themselves look good, and to make GameSalad look worse, but I personally don’t believe that’s the case. And here’s my argument:

I Switched to Corona from GameSalad Prior to All This

I was a former GameSalad user. I decided it wasn’t for me, found Corona, and have been using it ever since. This was all WAY before this “GameSalad Direct” fiasco happened. Apart from my gripes about performance and limited features, one of my major complaints about GameSalad was also communication.

And on the other hand, I’ve never had a communication problem with Ansca Mobile, and since this was way before the GS fiasco, they had no situation to “take advantage” of, per say. In one particular scenario, I emailed the Ansca CEO (Carlos Icaza) about some concerns I was having and received a VERY quick courtesy response (on the weekend!) stating that he received my email, but had some family over so he was going to wait until Monday so he can give me a more detailed response. Come Monday, I got a very detailed email addressing everything I mentioned in my original message.

Now, Ansca Mobile being the smart company they are, of course took advantage of lots of new prospects looking at their SDK and gave out 50% discount incentives, training videos, live webinars, etc. but that’s all just good business. It doesn’t matter that most of the new visitors were coming from GameSalad, it’s the fact that a lot of new people (mostly people inexperienced when it comes to coding) were looking at their product and THAT’S what they took advantage of. Once again, that’s just good business.

As far as Ansca Mobile suddenly communicating because GS user’s were complaining that GameSalad was not, I don’t buy it. Like I said, I came from GS long before all this happened and my communication expectations were highly met by the Ansca Mobile team.

GameSalad Revises Their Plan

Recently (about a day ago), GameSalad announced a change in their plans due to all the complaining:

GameSalad will be launching a new subscription and membership program that will continue to allow developers to publish under their own Apple developer accounts. Under the new program, there will be no “per app” submission costs and no revenue share. For those of you who valued having GameSalad manage the publishing process, GameSalad will still offer to publish some titles under a different program.

Next week, we are also launching a new “Professional” tier subscription, replacing the current “Pro” subscription. Further, the current “Express” subscription will also be seeing significant tweaks as well. We are pricing the new subscriptions competitively and users will be given a fast and cost effective way to upgrade from their current subscriptions.

The new memberships will go live concurrently with GameSalad 0.9.0, coming soon.

I half-way expected the above to happen, simply because a company has to see impending doom when most of their once-loyal customers are cursing them and looking at competitors—who wouldn’t make some changes?

Just about all of the GS members are happy about the announcement, as anyone would expect. But what about the one’s who purchased a Corona subscription?

Some Will Stay, Some Will Go

I don’t really see GameSalad as a competitor to the Corona SDK. I think they both target completely different audiences, so I think whatever members Corona does retain from this whole situation can be looked at as a bonus.

The bottom line is, GS users generally don’t like code, and some are even afraid of it—this doesn’t strike me as the audience Corona was targeting to begin with. More on that in a moment.

For developers who DO code (which is all developers who don’t use GameSalad), Corona is a much faster and simpler solution than anything else out there, so that’s who Corona is targeting.

If someone is familiar with an existing scripting language such as PHP, ActionScript, etc. then Corona is a great way for those developers to produce top notch apps without having to climb the Objective-C mountain and stray too far from their current skill-set (or sacrifice performance).

And for those who have climbed the “Objective-C mountain”, then Corona provides a way for those developers to reduce development time by up to 90% without sacrificing the performance.

Corona and GameSalad Target Different Audiences

I look at it this way. From a structural standpoint, with Corona you get a blank slate as with Objective-C and just about any other programming language. As a programmer, you have complete freedom to do whatever you want, however you want.

GameSalad, however, is like a coloring book page. You are bound by the confines of what’s placed in front of you. You have full control of how well the final piece turns out, but you must do it a certain way.

Is this a better option for those who don’t know how to draw? Absolutely! But for artists who have their own way of doing things, a coloring page—no matter how well it’s put together—is simply not something that’s going to allow an artist to use their creativity and express themselves in ways they are used to (or ways they’d even want to, if they were to get used to it).

In the above analogy, GameSalad would target non-artists who either are afraid to learn how to draw, or simply don’t want to, but still want to produce artwork. Corona’s targeting the artists who simply want to get things done quicker and easier while sticking to a medium that’s both familiar and reliable (e.g. Corona’s performance is comparable to that of apps programmed natively in Objective-C, and code is written using the same tools).

What if GameSalad Fixes Performance?

Even if GameSalad matched Corona in performance one day, I would still use Corona because I prefer being able to easily type or copy/paste code (and easily re-use it later) than dragging and dropping “behaviors”. I personally find dragging-and-dropping to be very limited compared to what I’m used to, and it also wears on my overall focus.

I think most programmers would agree, so once again, I think GameSalad is in a completely different ballpark.

The only way GameSalad and Corona would cross audiences significantly is if GameSalad included some kind of scripting capabilities within their software. Of course, that’s if and ONLY if they were to match Corona’s performance, graphics, networking, and physics capabilities. By the time they were to do that though… well, let’s just say I can’t wait to see where the Corona SDK is by then :-)

And all of that isn’t even taking pricing into consideration, which this article assumes GS will be fair with—but I could be wrong about that.

Corona is for Programmers

Corona is targeted for 99% of programmers who would see it for what it really is: EASY. Not non-programmers who are afraid of it and don’t like the idea of writing code.

On the flipside, however, Lua + Corona does make a great first language for those who want to learn a programming language and SDK.

So for the GameSalad users who went to Corona and then BACK to GameSalad after the company’s recent announcement, I think those users didn’t really want to use Corona, they simply felt like they had no choice because it is the next easiest option. That strikes me as the type of subscriber that might have not had the passion to learn to code and therefore probably wouldn’t have renewed their subscription anyway.

I don’t see GameSalad’s recent announcement as a blow to Corona because as I mentioned before, I think any new subscribers Corona DOES retain from that whole mess can be looked at as a bonus—customers from an audience they weren’t even targeting to begin with (the non-programmer audience).

UPDATE Nov 1, 2010: The promotion mentioned below has ended.

While I’m on the subject of Corona, today is the LAST DAY to take advantage of their generous 50% discount they are offering to new subscribers. If you want to get Corona for half-price, visit the Corona website and use the following coupon code upon checkout: CORONA4YOU

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