Owlchemy Labs: Jack Lumber “hasn’t been financially successful”

In August of 2012, SEGA announced a new publishing initiative dubbed “SEGA Alliance”. SEGA Alliance’s aim was to “focus on publishing mobile games made by independent developers” and to “provide participating developers with comprehensive marketing and production support as well as creative consultation”. The first of these SEGA Alliance titles was Owlchemy Labs Jack Lumber, an iOS title in the vein of Fruit Ninja that, in my opinion, went well beyond the Fruit Ninja formula and was quite an excellent game. Unfortunately, according to Owlchemy Labs founder Alex Schwartz in an interview with Indie Static, “working with publishers has been a big experiment and so far it hasn’t been financially successful for Owlchemy.” Schwartz detailed just how much of the SEGA Alliance offerings Owlchemy Labs took advantage of, as well as talked about how much freedom indie publishers have in a SEGA Alliance deal.

According to Schwartz, the game had already been funded and developed, so no production support or creative consultation took place. Instead, Owlchemy Labs relied on SEGA’s marketing push, which resulted in a booth at PAX, swag to hand out and assistance in editing and releasing a promotional video filmed at the World Lumberjack Championships. Schwartz also noted that “One of our requests was to be 100% in charge of all creative, with sign-off required from us when anything public would be shown about the game”, to which SEGA agreed. In the end, however, Schwartz conceded that “SEGA did a good job attempting to market and support Jack Lumber. Right now, our iOS platform sales are much lower than expected.”

In my opinion, SEGA did as much as they could do within the confines of the SEGA Alliance partnership in marketing the game. While Jack Lumber is a very fun title, it doesn’t quite grab you with its name, nor does it give a very good idea of what the game is all about. Once you see screens of it, it does very much resemble Fruit Ninja, which could cause many consumers to write off Jack Lumber as a cheap clone before ever giving it a chance. The App Store is a big place, and I wonder if without SEGA’s help if Owlchemy Labs title would have even had the number of sales it does now, even if it still didn’t sell enough. Important to note too is that while Owlchemy Labs dubbed the game “not financially successful” for them, it is unknown if SEGA came out ahead thanks to their cut (assuming they got one) and whatever partnership fees they earned. Also of note, we have yet to hear of any more SEGA Alliance partnerships. To read the full interview, head on over to Indie Static.


8 responses to “Owlchemy Labs: Jack Lumber “hasn’t been financially successful”

  1. Crazytails says:

    What made angry birds so succesful was the first impression it gave. First impression comes from how a game presents itself, how game looks and whether it is apealing or not. Angry birds also contained a lot of humor.

    Jack the lumber may have some pretty cool gameplay(i bought it too), but it is just not very apealing nor atracting. The artstyle is generic, the music is forgettable and overall presentation doesnt pull you back.

    I think that is what caused it to not do so well.

    • I think the art style is cool, but I agree that it doesn’t grab one’s attention like Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds or Jetpack Joyride. I gotta wonder if people are really going to be drawn to lumberjacks. I mean, they’re no jetpack or crazy angry bird or ninja. Look at Hell Yeah, now that is a game that grabs you with its look and name.

      I’d hope we see more SEGA Alliance titles, especially ones where SEGA consults with the dev and gives advice on the development.

  2. Mengels7 says:

    Can I just say I don’t want to play indie games despite whether or not they’ve been blessed with some “Sega Alliance” badge by Sega of America? Does SoA do anything successful? All their movie tie-in games, publishing deals, everything they do is a flop. Here’s how it’s supposed to go: SoJ makes the games, SoA translates them, people play them. Sega’s niche enough as it is nowadays and they need to cut the extra bs.

  3. Joel says:

    I hate Angry Birds. Just sayin’.

  4. Ben says:

    The vast amount of games released at a constant rate on iOS services will make it so that fewer and fewer of them find actual success or gain attention.

    It’s not a stable platform for a company like SEGA to base a major aspect of their business on. A few will make it huge with Angry Birds-like games on iOS services, but the majority won’t.

  5. Paul Vincent says:

    I never of this game until I read this article. You can have the greatest product in the world but if no one knows about it who is going to buy it? I wish Sega marketing department would get their act together!!!!!!

  6. Ben says:

    In this rare case, any additional marketing dollars would have been a waste, developing anything that’s not Angry Birds or Temple Run for iOS devices is like throwing money away 9 times out of 10.

    Unless you spend absolutely nothing at all and therefore create a bad game that happens to make its money back.

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