Jason Hall, currently an indie developer and former Blizzard employee, has been sharing some really interesting stories from his long career in the industry for a while now. Some of them are truly insightful, while others may seem depressing.
Videos that Jason Thor Hall posts on the Pirate Software channel are one of those rare moments when you can thank YouTube algorithms for a great recommendation. Below are some examples of such gamedev stories.
The saddest thing about microtransactions
As Hall said in one of his videos, he worked two years of overtime on StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty. And the entire game ended up making less money for Blizzard than a single mount in World of Warcraft.
“A $15 microtransaction horse made more money than StarCraft 2,” Hall said.
It is unclear which mount he referred to specifically, but given the release date of Wings of Liberty (July 27, 2010), this is likely the infamous Celestial Steed aka the Sparkle Pony, which was introduced in April 2010.
The mount, however, cost $25 at launch, not $15, but it definitely caused a stir (and controversy) within the WoW community. Within just three hours of its release, the Celestial Seed generated a 140,000 queue, resulting in revenue of millions of dollars. Not to mention all the money the mount has made since then.
“That’s the whole meme, dude,” Hall said. “You’re wondering why these companies do microtransactions? Because dipsh*ts keep buying all of them.”
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty sold 1.5 million copies in its first two days, surpassing the 6 million mark by the end of 2012. In 2017, Blizzard made WoL free-to-play, and the game’s lifetime revenue remains undisclosed (as with Celestial Seed).
Who is Jason T. Hall?
- Hall started his career in the games industry in 2004 as a tester on World of Warcraft. In September 2009, he became a full-time Blizzard employee and worked in various positions before leaving the studio in February 2016.
- As a QA analyst, Hall designed and created automated systems for the Development, Compatibility, and QA teams and “saved the company an estimated 31,450 hours over my time working as an Automation resource” (via LinkedIn).
- He also worked as an associate test engineer and application security engineer, and is credited on games like Starcraft 2, World of Wacraft, (multiple expansions), Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch.
- After leaving Blizzard, Hall worked at Amazon Games and worked in cyber security.
- In 2017, he started indie team Pirate Software, where he serves as a programmer, designer, social media manager, and writer, among other things. The studio is known for Heartbound, an RPG inspired by Secret of Mana and EarthBound.
- In addition to game development, Hall streams on Twitch where he chats with viewers, later uploading some of these stories on YouTube Shorts. He also runs the Develop Games website focused on tips for indie developers.
Regional pricing matters, and other stories by Jason Hall
Every indie developer knows about the importance of regional pricing, and Hall proved that it is better to localize your game and its price using Heartbound as an example.
In Brazil, the currently costs $4.06, way below the US base price of $9.99 (via SteamDB). As a result, the country accounted for 20-25% of Pirate Software’s overall income.
“If you have a problem with piracy, if it’s widespread, it’s going to be an issue of cost or distribution,” Hall said. “If you have a problem with piracy, then it’s a couple of dudes [who are] usually just jerks. And the thing that’s funniest to me is that the grand majority of people that pirate the game and then come contact me are from the United States.”
Here is also a video of Hall talking about banning his guild leader after inviting him on a tour at Blizzard, or his take on game publishers, or the one where he explains why he left Blizzard. There is really a lot of content worth checking out for both fellow indie developers and game enthusiasts alike.