Little Alchemy is a game developed by Recloak Games, and designed by Jakub Koziol. It was released first onto Google Chrome Webstore on December 8th 2010, where they later on expanded to other platforms, including making an official website for the game. The game is based on an extremely old tradition of Alchemy. In the game, you start with 4 elements, Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. The first game had around 100 elements to create, but since it has received multiple updates, it resulted in 589 elements so far.
How It Started
From Recloak Games:
"Every blog has to start. This one started long time ago in my head. I wanted to write for quite some time but I was always finding myself drift away from the idea due to the fact that English is not my primary language. Luckily few days ago I posted a question on r/gamedev and in the offtopic and some direct messages I was asked to share my experience with going into indie games.
So here I am. But who am I? And how I get to doing what I do?
I’m Jakub Koziol, that guy behind the Little Alchemy game. I’m 21 years old and I live in Europe. I was 12 when I started playing with some coding, html and computer graphics. I quickly ended up working mostly on html and web design, it turned into a hobby and then I realised that there’s no way back and I’m stuck with it for the long years of my life. I didn’t regret it though – it was something I loved. Looking back I see a few things that shaped me over the years and the most important ones are strong ADD and the fact that my family didn’t have much money when I was growing up. I was known for starting hundreds of projects and not finishing nearly any of those. And at the same time I had to work on my own to get anything I wanted to have. To put things into perspective it took me almost a year – literally not spending anything over what was necessary – to get my first bass guitar (around $200 at the time.) I had a lot of motivation and it helped me to actually finish projects that gave me some money. Over the years I tried a lot of things, mostly setting up various websites which kept me constantly learning even though I was constantly failing on delivering the final product.
We released it on 8th of December – the day that Chrome Web Store gone public. Due to the fact that there was not all that much content there and Google promoted its store pretty heavily Little Alchemy got some users and it generally did a-okay (we’re talking about few thousands installs over few weeks.) I can’t say I cared a lot about it. Well it was cool but nothing special. Over the time the game get some love from Google staff (thanks guys!) and it was featured in some categories. That caused it to go up on the popular list which automatically drove more traffic to it so I decided to add some new elements but still nothing more.
Then few months later when the number of installs kept getting higher and higher I realised that people actually want to play it (shocker!) so maybe I should spend some time doing something around it. I organized some time with my two good friends and we made a new version over the summer, we were just missing 5% of the game. You know how it works… the last 5% of the game – the most difficult and the most important 5%. For us it took next 5 months to launch the new version but I’ve learnt a valuable lesson about making games. The fact that I was studying and working at the same time didn’t help either but during that time I started to spend a lot of time responding to emails and maintaining the community. And that was the moment when I realised that I want to run this game even if I’ll never make a dime off it.
Then things started to move quite quickly. It’s important to understand that facts mentioned below happened over time of 3 months.
First I made a version of Little Alchemy for Pokki, based on not yet released build and I submitted it for their dev contest. I didn’t get anything from the (impressive) prize pool, but the honorable mention was really important for me.
Also somewhere around that time Google redesigned their Web Store which for most apps caused either of two: nothing or significant slowdown. Not for the Little Alchemy… during two weeks the number of installs almost doubled, sitting (if I remember well) around 200,000. And it kept going up after the release of the new version at the very end of November.
I was going through some really tough times back then. Now that I look back at that period it was worse than I actually felt it was. But those two events and constantly growing user base caused that in my head something ticked and I finally understood that I want to do something more about it. Being sure that I can’t do 3 things at the same time and do them well I decided to drop out of college/university and focus on monetizing my game and still keep working to support myself and have some backup plan. I wanted to make it profitable by the end of the year (2012) that just started. And by profitable I meant to make as much (or I should probably say as little) as I was making at my job.
I knew that the traffic was pretty high but there was no other way to make money than use ads. And the problem was that I really wanted to avoid in-game ads. I wouldn’t like them myself and I knew that the fact of adding them would cause the decline of users. Luckily I came out with the idea of the page with cheats. Googling the name of the game at the time was showing one thing – thousands of people were trying to find out how to make ‘something’ in Little Alchemy.
First version of the ‘official cheats’ page launched in the middle of January and to my surprise by the end of the month it made more than the goal I set myself 4 weeks earlier. The rest is history.
Now I’m also working directly with Pokki (check them out, they’re doing some pretty neat stuff!) which diversified my income.
That’s my story briefly. One may argue that I was lucky. Holy smoke I was lucky like hell… But you don’t get lucky by sitting and doing nothing. And it’s not the little luck that makes you successful but what you do to stretch it to the limit to make it work for yourself. New platforms always open new opportunities.
In following posts I’ll try to go more in depth with business side of things, mindset, learning curve and other things I find important. Let me know If you have any questions and don’t feel bad to point out if something is not understandable because of my faulty use of English – gotta learn and improve! :)"