When Double Fine’s unfinished Middle Manager of Justice accidentally hit the App Store, it could have spelled disaster.
But thanks to some quick thinking from lead designer Kee Chi and the team behind the studios first mobile exclusive, the release turned into an unplanned beta.
"So I was on the train heading to work this week, and I get a call from our tech director saying, ‘Hey, um, so it looks the game is live in every territory.’ And I just went, ‘What!?’" Chi told Gamasutra.
"It wasn’t what I wanted the world to see quite yet," he said. "At Double Fine, we pride ourselves on putting a solid product out there, so having something out there that was buggy and not quite ready yet was really frustrating."
But the San Francisco studio is also known for flexibility, and what could have been a disaster has become another sterling example of using the community as a resource.
"I guess it kind of just turned into a beta test," Chi said. "I mean, if people find bugs that we haven’t found internally, I’d love to know about them so I can fix them."
It’s almost impossible to imagine real honesty in such an embarrassing situation in today’s industry, but instead of pointing the finger at Apple, Chi has freely admitted his mistake to fans.
"Yeah, it was totally my fault," he said. "With the way you submit things on the App Store, you have to specify what the release date is, and a while back we had set the date to September, but at the time we didn’t know if that would be final or not.
"Once we submitted the game, we realized we had a lot of things we still needed to tweak and fix, but at the same time, we didn’t want to remove it from the process in case Apple catches other things we need to take care of, and we didn’t want to do a double submission."
It was this honesty that turned a failed launch into an impromtu beta test.
By coming clean on several message boards and fan sites, Chi opened the doors for fans to give their feedback.
"If anything, I welcome these suggestions from people, because we’re still learning and we plan to work on this well after it goes live to make the game deeper, and luckily this means we’ll get an early start on that process," he said.
When things go wrong monetization strategy or a big advertising budget only get you so far in this industry; quick thinking and flexibility can and will save the day.