Plague Inc. is one of the most successful games on the Apple AppStore and was recently released on Android. Little is known, however, about James Vaughan, who comprises the entirety of Ndemic Creations. Was this his first game? What are his plans for the future of Plague Inc. and for Ndemic Creations’ next game? Does he now swim in money like Scrooge McDuck? Is he single? These and other burning questions are answered herein.
With over 1.6 million copies sold since Plague Inc. went live, can you tell us a little bit about how this has changed your life? Do you get to swim in money like Scrooge McDuck?
Heh – I didn’t make Plague Inc. to make money actually. I made Plague Inc. as a personal challenge for myself – to make the mobile game that I wanted to play and the project would be a success if I actually managed to release the game.
Obviously, it has done incredibly well and it is still pretty hard to believe. I haven’t touched any of the money yet – it is all sitting in the company until I decide what to do with it.
So many developers have stated that it’s next-to-impossible to get noticed in the App Store. Plague Inc. came out of nowhere and, pardon the pun, went viral. Having spent weeks atop the App Store, what did you do to promote the game?
Yes, it is incredibly hard to rise in the App Store – I believe that Plague Inc. shot to the top of the charts so quickly because it is a high quality, challenging game that is very different to most of the games on the App Store.
I spent no money marketing/promoting Plague Inc, did no pre-release hype and have never been featured by Apple. (pro-tip – don’t copy this bit ) Since the release of Plague Inc. – I have had one simple tactic to promote the game: Engage completely with the players.
I talk to players via email/twitter/Facebook/forums/reddit etc in order to help them progress and understand what they like about Plague Inc. and how they want to see the game develop in the future. They really appreciate this and are much more likely to tell their friends about it as a result.
At the end of the day – it is the players who decide if a game succeeds and I’m incredibly grateful to the millions of players who have helped Plague Inc. become such a big success.
Since you’re a one-man show with resources at his disposal, are you planning on expanding your operation?
I am the only person in Ndemic Creations but I used three very talented contractors to help me produce Plague Inc. (Mario – coder, Sofia – graphics, Joshua – sound) and they are still around to help me add new content to Plague Inc. (and hopefully work on new projects as well!).
Whilst I would like to expand the company in order to do more things at once – suddenly buying a big office and hiring loads of people would be inefficient and a form of vanity. These things take time to do right and I hope to begin looking for more top quality people in the next month or so.
Are you still handling technical support for end-users? If so, have you considered bringing in someone just to free up your time?
At its peak – we had thousands of people emailing us each day and this was fantastic – people were so passionate about the game that they wanted to share their thoughts on how to add new content and make it even better. I find it extremely helpful to be able to read all of this.
However, you are right – it is time consuming to respond to every email and luckily – my coder’s girlfriend Chloe helps me out by responding to some of them after I have read them. I still respond to around 50 a day though as I enjoy the direct contact with players (I also do everything on the Ndemic Creations twitter and Facebook account).
Note – Miniclip does the technical support for android but I read all the emails there as well.
How long was the development cycle for Plague Inc.? Were you working on it full-time or as a side gig?
Roughly one year – I had a full time job in business as a strategy consultant so the only time I could work on it was the weekend / evenings. Luckily, I have a very understanding girlfriend!
Do you have a background in game development or was it one of those great side-project success stories like Andreas Illiger had with Tiny Wings?
No background in game development – I’ve always loved games though due to their ability to challenge, inspire and educate players. I’m planning on getting more familiar with the games industry now though!
What was your inspiration for Plague Inc.?
Heh, I get asked this one a lot! I got inspiration for Plague Inc. from multiple sources, including the 5 year old, flash game, Pandemic 2 and the board game Pandemic. I am a big fan of Pandemic 2 and I loved the concept but I wanted a deeper, more strategic game with a strong narrative. There was nothing like it on the iPhone at the time and so I decided to make the game that I wanted to play. The more I thought about it, the more cool things I thought of (random mutations, research teams etc.). I wanted to play this imaginary game so much that I knew I had to make it.
We know you’ve had to answer this before, but some people no doubt feel that Plague Inc. was at least partially inspired by Dark Realm Studios’ Pandemic 2.5. How do you feel about your success when Pandemic 2.5 went largely unnoticed?
Development of Plague Inc. began over a year ago, before the mobile game ‘Pandemic 2.5’ was even announced and the fact that they both came out within 1 month of each other is just one of those coincidences.
As mentioned before, I was inspired by the 2008 flash game ‘Pandemic 2’ (I mention this on my website) but I set out to make a unique game which significantly evolved the genre by being far deeper than Pandemic 2. I view Plague Inc. and Pandemic 2.5 as two very different games
p.s. a player recently mentioned a game called Contamination, which was made in 1985 – this may be the granddaddy of the genre! (http://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&num=606)
You’ve stated in the past that Plague Inc. was one of the most pirated games on iOS. However, Android gaming has a bad reputation as a piracy haven. Plague Inc. launched for free on Google Play while it’s still 99 cents in the App Store. Do you and Miniclip believe this is the best route for monetization on Android or is there another reason behind it?
Plague Inc. is free on Google Play but if players want the true Plague Inc. experience, they can pay $0.99 (same price as on the App Store) via an in app purchase. We felt that it was the best way to get as many people as possible playing and enjoying Plague Inc. whilst also making money to allow me to keep updating the game, pay the bills, work on new games etc. Too soon to say how it is going so far but things are looking good.
Due to a highly fragmented set of devices with varying processing power and resolutions, Android is generally considered to be a developer’s nightmare compared to iOS. What was your experience like with bringing Plague Inc. to Android vs. iOS?
You are right – there are always going to be compatibility issues with the highly fragmented android landscape and this is one of the reasons why I chose to use an experienced publisher like Miniclip to port Plague Inc. to Android. I want players on Android to have exactly the same high quality experience that players on iOS have.
I can’t say too much about the specific technical details of the port as Miniclip handled it but I can say that I am very pleased with Miniclip’s rapid release of hotfixes to fix the compatibility issues that a few players are reporting. The aim is 100% compatibility!
Going off the comment section in our Plague Inc. Strategy Guide, a lot of users enjoy spreading diseases with silly names, such as BieberFever. Since you have surely played your own game, what’s your personal favorite fun name? Serious name?
I don’t really have a favorite name – I tend to go for the more scientifically plausible mix of random letters and numbers. I really enjoy seeing the names that some people come up with though.
We know you have multiple updates planned for Plague Inc., including new content, and it’s great that you’re continuing to support and improve the game so much. It seems inevitable, though, that you’ll release another title. Though no developer likes to share intimate details about future plans, what can you tell us, in a broad sense, about your intentions for the next game?
I do want to release other games in the future but at the moment, my commitment is to keep 100% of my focus on Plague Inc. as I feel I owe this to the players. I have new disease types I want to release (e.g. Zombies), UI enhancements to make and also I want to translate the game into multiple languages (we are localizing the game into German in update 1.4).
Hopefully by Christmas, I will have time to properly look at new games…
After such massive success in such a short time, are you worried about being labeled a one-hit wonder?
Nope, I made Plague Inc. for me and the fact that so many other people enjoy it is a wonderful bonus. I don’t feel I have to prove anything.
Are there any Easter eggs our readers should know about in Plague Inc.?
There are lots of them but some of the more popular ones involve infecting astronauts in space and triggering a thermonuclear war!
What other games or types of games do you enjoy playing? Excluding Plague Inc., what are your top five iOS games?
This list changes quite a bit but currently:
Bad Piggies, Castle Raid, Outwitters, Kingdom Rush, Rune Raiders
We at Delta Attack would like to thank James for taking time out of his crazy schedule to share some insights about Plague Inc. and his life as an indie game-developer. We look forward to his future endeavors and wish him all the best.
Here are some handy links for keeping tabs on James and Plague Inc.:
Here’s our relevant Plague Inc. content:
Thanks for reading. We’ll leave you with a pic of The Man himself.
About the Author
|Markham Asylum is a founding member of Delta Attack. His tier-1 favorite genres are role-playing, puzzle, and strategy. His tier-2 are adventure, shooter, and platformer. He strives to provide spoiler-free postings whenever possible.
Markham Asylum has written 398 posts on Delta Attack.