I can’t believe it’s been a year since we released Graceful Explosion Machine! Looking back it was such a whirlwind of emotions, before and after launch. So much happened at once and we never really had a moment to reflect on it. In honour of our GEM-iversary I wanted to share the story of Graceful Explosion Machine from inception to now, including our eShop sales figures and our biggest sale yet.
I began prototyping Graceful Explosion Machine in mid-2015. The initial spark was creating a shoot-em-up with multiple weapons that the player could switch between effortlessly. It started with two weapons, but pretty soon I thought “Wait, why stop at two?!” With four face buttons on a controller, wouldn’t four weapons work? It did, and everything else grew from there.
So how did a game I was prototyping on my own eventually end up on the Switch? Like most “Whoa, how did that happen?!” stories, this one was pretty boring. Literally, I just tweeted Damon Baker:
@DWBakes Hi Damon, I’m interested in writing games for the 3DS. I’m in town for the week of and following PAX, can we meet up and chat?
He said yes! That was it! I sat down for a meeting with Kirk Scott at Nintendo HQ. This was way back in 2015, and though we wouldn’t discuss the Switch until more than a year later, this is where it all began.
In 2016 we went into full production, which meant expanding the team from just me to a team of five. The game really started taking shape: Gabby took my programmer art and turned it into something beautiful, Robby came up with the perfect “intense-but-chill” musical direction, and our producers kept us on track. (Shoutout to Nina for wrangling us into a meeting room every week and coaxing status updates out of us!) We were also fortunate enough to exhibit the game at PAX several times with Indie MEGABOOTH.
We learned about the Switch later in the year (with the debut trailer, just like everyone else), and quickly put together a pitch for Nintendo. We were the perfect match: the release dates for GEM and the Switch lined up, and more importantly, our in-house engine meant we weren’t dependent on anyone else to make or break our release date. The folks at Nintendo got it. They responded to our pitch quickly and a few phone calls later we were signed on to be a Nintendo Switch launch title. Everything was going great… but then we actually had to port the game.
In a month.
On a console none of us had ever seen.
We got our dev kit and I went into hiding, determined to not emerge until I had the game running in my hands. There were many days of me sending process shots to the team, and them cheering me on. It was a pretty overwhelming technical challenge at first, but once I got the basics working everything came together quickly. Before we knew it, the whole game was running perfectly on the Switch.
All the while we were still working on finishing up the game. It came right down to the wire: we were at PAX East setting up our booth when I submitted the final build to Nintendo for certification. It was approved just a few days after we got back. (recounting this story to our current producer is giving him a heart attack) In short, it was an intense month.
The stress of shipping the game was softened by the love from press and fans. Our announcement tweet got so much attention that it crashed my Apple Watch. GEM was featured in the inaugural Nindies Showcase for Switch, we were interviewed by Polygon, and on IGN’s excellent NVC Show. When press got their hands on GEM, we received pretty flattering reviews.
(We were also featured in Nintendo’s Cat Mario Show in Japan, which may be the greatest achievement of them all)
The launch itself wildly exceeded our expectations. It’s been a whole year, but I still vividly remember everything: the game going live, watching our sales numbers grow every hour, climbing the eShop charts, and our celebratory Korean BBQ team dinner.
So just how well did it do? To date, Graceful Explosion Machine has sold just under 50,000 copies on the Nintendo Switch. This is such a remarkable achievement for our humble little game! We continued to support the game (with features like the new score screen, highlight screenshots, and video capture) and continue to be amazed by (and grateful for) the community’s support and enthusiasm. Most importantly, GEM’s success put us in a strong position to get back to work…
Speaking of which! We are definitely working on a new game, and we’re excited to share it with you… but not just yet. For now, let’s state the obvious: it’s an action game, it’s colourful, and it’s coming to Nintendo Switch in 2019. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about it.
Until then though, we want to celebrate our first year anniversary with our biggest sale yet. Graceful Explosion Machine is 50% off on the Nintendo Switch eShop (and Steam as well) starting today, for one week only.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me!
(Special Thanks to Shae Humphries for our gorgeous, brand new key art at the top of the post!)