Congrats on your 1st year! Amazing game by an amazing team! You are the ones who are showing what games can be and opening all manner of doors! Thanks so much for that!
Hello, everyone! This is Cesca, Producer and Narrative Designer of Contigo Games. It has officially been a year since StarCrossed first launched on itch and Steam! 🎉✨🎉✨🎉✨🎉
It feels like so recently but also forever ago… I’m sure you can relate. Time is always weird, but this year especially! To celebrate StarCrossed is 50% off on all platforms including itch, Steam, Switch, and Xbox! Please keep in touch for updates by following us on Twitter!
As an additional form of celebration, I wanted to share with you some of our memories and achievements over this past year. We’re a small team and my hope is also that this information might be helpful for anyone looking to embark on the journey that is shipping a game for the first time!
StarCrossed didn't make a million dollars, it didn't even make half of a half of a half million dollars. That was never why we were working on this (but obviously money is great please buy games and support developers).
Our goals for the project, which we identified as a team during development, were the following:
- Complete a long term game project together as a team
- Successfully publish an independent digital game cross-platform
- Be compensated fairly for our individual time working on the project
- Receive industry recognition and gain experience showcasing & talking about our work
- Use this project to make industry connection with publishers and organizations in line with our personal career goals
- Release a “successful” game with feminine aesthetics, non binary/female heroes, and queer content. Success being defined by the above goals!
✨Game Overview ✨
For anyone who is new around here, I’ll start with a brief overview of StarCrossed.
StarCrossed is an action arcade game with a magical girl aesthetic and a cooperative twist! Join our cast of 5 space-faring heroes as they travel across the stars, working together to strengthen their bond and defeat a looming evil that threatens the Nova galaxy! It’s time to team up, get sparkly, and take out the bad guys!
- Two hour Story with 10 different scripts
- Endless procedurally generated Arcade mode
- Online Global Leaderboards
- Unlockable Costumes
- Over a dozen different enemy types with procedural stats
- 4 epic boss fights
- Unique Character Ultimate Abilities
- Launched on Xbox, Switch, PC, Mac, Linux
You can find the trailer on our main itch page!
Our entire team was remote for the majority of development and we all worked part-time, balancing full-time jobs, family commitments, and academic programs. You can learn more about who we are in our Dev Spotlight Twitter thread here!
✨A Long Term Game Project Together as a Team✨
At first, we had pretty small and realistic dreams for this project. We intended for it to be a project we spent 6-ish months working on and then put out on the internet. We hoped some people would play it and maybe leave nice comments. Our focus at the time was to learn new skills and make something we loved. We never expected the scale of the project would grow to be what it is today… And that we would work on it for the next 4 years!
During development, we went through many life changes! While we were previously all based in the same place, our core team gradually spread out all over the United States. I got 2 academic degrees, I moved 4 times, I adopted a dog! I honestly feel like a totally different person from who I was when we made our first prototype, and I was able to take what I was learning in my life and bring it into this game. StarCrossed is obviously about friendship and being able to rely on the people in your life, but if you look a bit closer there are also themes of past friendships, life responsibilities, and hope for the future. I spent a lot of time these past years thinking about what I value and who I am, I think the game’s narrative shows many of those thoughts as a result!
✨Reception & Industry Recognition✨
An obvious point of pride for us… People actually liked the game! Even a year after launch, our Steam reviews remain 92% positive. We were able to showcase the game at SO MANY events, including:
- Pax East & PAX West
- Different Games Conference
- PixelPop Festival
- Boston FIG
- Play NYC
- Indy Indies
- Kinda Funny E3 Showcase
- More probably???
Our very first booth space vs. our last one before launch! It's a glow up.
Just before launch we went to PAX East as part of the Indie Megabooth, which has been a personal dream of mine for a very long time. I started attending PAX East in 2013, the year after the Indie Megabooth launched, so I’ve never known that convention without Megabooth’s presence. Over the years they exposed me to so many incredible indie games, which greatly influenced my career as a game maker. Thank you, Megabooth! I love you!!!!!!!
Attending these events put our game in front of so many people, many of which became friends as the years went by. I specifically want to shout out the lovely folks at The More You Nerd Podcast, who first invited us on to their show in 2017 after playing the game at PAX East. They continued to support us for the next 3 years until launch, which we’re eternally grateful for! Here’s us taking a photo together at our booth at PAX East in 2020 (not pictured here, me crying a lot because of how nice they are)!!!! We also joined their podcast once more in April 2020 to talk about the initial launch!
Every time we show the game, we always have a moment where young kids approach our booth and want to play. At MAGFest, a pair of sisters ran over to us yelling “THIS GAME HAS COOL GIRLS”!!!!!!!!!!! We talked with their parents for a bit while they played and the girls, seeing women at this booth showing a game we made about magical girl/nb characters, declared they also wanted to make games. That made me extremely happy.
I also recently learned that my now industry peer, friend, and inspiration Victoria Tran (Community Director @ Innersloth) attended PAX East years ago as one of her very first game conventions and StarCrossed was the first game she played on the show floor. This absolutely blew my mind! We didn’t know each other at the time but game conventions can be extremely intimidating and I’m so happy that the StarCrossed set up could be a game that was approachable in that setting!
As I mentioned earlier, 4 years is a long time to work on a project and I changed a lot over that time. A big part of this was coming to terms with my own queerness and actually feeling I was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. This will probably sound extremely cheesy, but being able to write the StarCrossed cast and explore their relationships helped me feel more comfortable with myself. We were also approached for interviews by journalists who specialize in LGBTQ+ content which was extremely validating. It took a lot of time and practice, but eventually I got to the point where I could say “Hi, I’m gay and this is my gay video game about gay magical girl/nb heroes”. Shoutout here specifically to Ana Valens (Daily Dot), Kenneth Shepard (Fanbyte Media), and Gayming Magazine! 🏳🌈🌈💖
In terms of finances, if we had been trying to sustain a studio we would be in trouble. No one on our team was financially dependent on income from this game so we never felt we needed to compromise our vision in favor of more marketable decisions. Maybe this was extremely foolish of us, I don’t really know. We’re very fortunate that our publisher, Whitethorn Games, felt the same way and supported our desire to cater to a more niche market.
Recording our Kickstarter video. Fun fact! my dog Olive was just off camera in most of these shots.
I don't think I'm allowed to give exact numbers here, but the game and game related merch made around $25k-ISH across all platforms. This total number is how much our team saw after platform and publisher cuts and includes merch and game copies sold through our Kickstarter, which raised $12,270. (Side note, thank you so SO much to Anya and the Kickstarter Team for their help with our campaign!)
It’s definitely not a lot if you think about how long we spent working on this, but considering that “An average game on Steam sells 2,144 copies and will make $9,586 in revenue after being on sale for a year” (@richiedewit, dutch game garden) we agree that as our first game this was an overwhelming success… Especially since we initially expected to make $0!
As we’re all aware, A LOT HAPPENED IN 2020. Very soon after our launch the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, followed by the Black Lives Matter protests occuring around the globe in June. We as a team did not believe it was enough to make a statement post on social media and walk away. Together with 18 other development teams, we organized a fundraising bundle on itch.io in support of Black Lives Matter and the National Bail Fund Network. The bundle saw 2,832 contributors and raised over $100,000. Later that month, we also contributed StarCrossed to the Humble Fight For Racial Justice Bundle, which sold 134 thousand bundles.
Did this affect our sales and earnings? Absolutely. 134,000 people got a Steam key for StarCrossed through these bundles and we will never see money from those people playing our game. Do we regret doing a bunch of charity bundles less than 6 months after launch? Not even a little bit. Being able to support people and causes we care about was much more important than potential sales. We made this decision together as a team and we were able to do so because we had already paid all of our contractors and contributors up front during development.
Note here also that wow, I cannot believe our publisher was cool with us doing this??? I’m so grateful we partnered with a team that shared our values enough to put fundraising and charity above profits.
✨Fair Compensation & Our AWESOME Team✨
That's another thing I'm immensely proud of! Everyone who worked on this game came away from it feeling properly compensated and proud of the work they contributed. We have good relationships with every single one of our contractors, including voice talent. Making games is often high stress and challenging, especially on low budgets. We did our best to be careful in our spending and communicative with our entire team, so everyone was aware of where money was going and what we could afford. If we couldn't afford to pay someone properly then we didn't move forward.
I’m realizing now we didn’t pay our friends who helped us set up our event booths, but I promise we did buy them a lot of coffee and bagels. Our core team was paid exclusively through profit share, which is our revenue minus our expenses (paying contractors, cost of showing at events, merch production costs, Kickstarter shipping, etc.) and we've each made a few thousand dollars.
I really hate using the word “contractor” when I talk about the team behind StarCrossed, because every single person who worked on this game was invaluable. Without their skills and contributions, StarCrossed would be an extremely different game and I’m so grateful we were able to work with these amazing people. “Contractors” here refers to people who joined the team later in development for a specified amount of time to do particular tasks. Contractors were paid up front based on agreed upon rates.
I would happily work with every single person again.
aaaaaaaaaaaaa I love this team!!!!!!!💖💖💖
I truly cannot believe how much I’ve grown and learned from working on this game. Not just the technical MAKE THE GAME part or the GET MONEY launching a game part. I also learned about how to be a good communicator, how to uplift and support my team, and how much thoughtful representation can mean to people within the gaming community. I included the prototype of StarCrossed in my grad school application 4 years ago and I put it in my portfolio to showcase my skills to employers and get jobs. It has led me to meet a truly astounding number of new friends and colleagues.
I spent so many nights lying awake worrying about “did I forget to pack something for the convention tomorrow?” or “what if nobody actually plays our game and everyone thinks it’s bad and they hate it” or “Steamworks PLEASE I don’t understand what a depot is”!!!!!!! It was all totally worth it.
I'm so grateful every single day that anyone plays the games I make. That actual humans would give my creations their time and attention is kind of unbelievable to me. Games are hard to make, and I appreciate so much that you've all taken the time to read my thoughts and play StarCrossed. Thank you!
Happy 1 year anniversary StarCrossed!!!!!!!! 🖤🤎💜💙💚💛🧡💖
Thank you to everyone who supported us, bought the game, or read this very long post!
Other cute pictures I wanted to add so I'm sneaking them in at the end!