Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense!

DTD is one year old this week! In this post I talk about how the game came to be, how it grew, how many plays it has and how much money it has earned…

DTD was ‘launched’ by uploading the link to StumbleUpon.com on the 5th March 07. I was at a LAN party at the time and looking back at it now I really should have noticed that perhaps DTD was a little bit special because a lot of the gamers were playing it rather than blowing holes in each other at Counterstrike. Unfortunately they were still shouting and cursing but this time at the audacity of the flying creeps avoiding their mazes. :o)

At the time I was working for a small software company as a Visual Basic developer. I had watched my good friend Dave Scott code Flash Element TD during December and the massive popularity of it’s launch in January spurred me on to create my own TD. I spent February learning Flash 8 and, with a little help from Dave, coding DTD 1.0. The original name for game was actually going to be Paper TD. I had quickly decided on a hand drawn look for the towers and situating the game on paper or a notepad seemed a logical choice.


But I felt the game seemed quite flat so I decided to try a view that gave more depth:


Yuck. But fortunately serendipity stepped in and the next attempt produced not only the new background but also a new name, Desktop Tower Defense!


To complete the launch I created a simple website to provide instructions and scoreboards. It was later expanded to include a forum and group scoreboards. I launched DTD in the same way that Dave had which was to simply post the link up to StumbleUpon.com. That produced some small steady traffic over the first few hours but then a Scandinavian website linked to it (very quick to catch new games those guys) and by the end of the first day it had received 30,000 hits. At the time, it was an amazing thing and I remember spending most of the day (and then the week) F5’ing my stat pages! After a few days the site was dugg on Digg.com (killed the server) and was up to 40,000 hits per day. All the activity made it difficult to not improve the game so I started rolling out updates.

Version 1.02 was launched two weeks later which incorporated some new modes and started to fix holes that were being used for hacked/exploited scores. It was dugg again, and pushed above 60K per day.

Version 1.2 was launched two weeks after that and things went crazy for a while. I had upgraded my server from a celeron to a Pentium 4 HT (ooooh) but the 3rd digg killed it yet again, (Probably my poor database code) and the site peaked at over 200,000 pages per day. If you are interested in the stats for the year here they are:


At this point I started to get more serious about earning some money! I already had MochiAds running on the game so I added AdSense ads and a donation box. I tried an affliate program from a t-shirt website but it didn’t work out. Over the next couple of months I put out some more bug fixes and added the group & challenge scoreboards to the site. DTD remained at version 1.2. I expected the popularity of DTD to drop off but, after a pause, it carried on going up. It was mentioned on a few popular blogs/sites such as TechCrunch and GigaOm. I did an interview on how much the game was making (which was quoted wildly inaccurately by most other sites) and my work place found out about it. Oops. To cut a short story even shorter I looked at how much DTD was earning, thought ‘yeah I can mostly live on that’ and decided to quit.

All the activity around DTD spurred me on again to create a new version. Which, as I was depending on the earnings from the game and a games developer (chortle) full time, I thought I should make it look more professional. Version 1.5 was released at the end of June and was much faster, prettier and better all round. Unfortunately the keen DTD’ers hated it! For a month I received hundreds of mails and forum posts complaining about how I had ruined the game. They hated the new design, the new creeps, the new towers and the new modes. Even TechCrunch didn’t like it. Bah. In the end I made both the old and the new versions available to keep everybody happy. Most players are now playing 1.5 (and agree its the better version :o).

I had also agreed a sponsorship deal with Kongregate.com for 1.5 which brought in some welcome extra money. The revenue I received from DTD varied quite dramatically through out the year and has proven to be the most frustrating part of the whole experience. This is a graph showing how much was earned per load during the course of the year:


Aah yes half a cent per load, those were the good ol’ days. Those of you who run websites will probably have worked out that the current earnings of 0.2 cents per load is equivalent to a CPM of $2. Which I don’t think is bad for a single flash game. Imagine if I had two!

My total earnings from DTD for the year from MochiAds, on-site advertising, sponsorship and donations has amounted to just over $100K from 40M loads. Which is nice.

In part 2 I will talk about my dealings with game publishers, licensing headaches, going to the GDC and what is in store for 2008.


26 Responses to Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense!

  1. […] Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense! « Paul & Dave’s Novel Concepts […]

  2. Mike says:

    Well done, and you deserve it. Had more fun on DTD than any game I paid for in the last year.

  3. Phil says:

    I totally agree. This shows that great games can be created with Flash. My first reaction to seeing DTD was “hell I can make that in 5 mins!” it was only when I tried to do so that I found out there’s a lot more to DTD then first meets the eye! This story gives indie game developers hope.

  4. […] Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense! < Paul & Dave’s Novel Concepts – DTD turns 1 and Paul provides some details on how things got started. Tags: dtd […]

  5. naimadnin says:

    happy birthday! i remeber i played this quite a lot!

  6. Martin says:

    Happy birthday DTD……great game that I learned about via techcrunch.

    I really enjoyed reading about how DTD began, thank you and keep the good work going.

  7. piccd says:

    Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense!

  8. Chase says:

    Are you still planning on releasing Desktop Tower Defense Deluxe, because I want to play the game offline and I would pay for it because it is such a great game. Keep up the good work.

  9. HUgo says:

    Happy birthday!
    I really love DTD, but i suck at it ;) Cant get past lvl 84 on 10k mode without juggling.
    //HUgo, a big fan of DTD ;)

  10. David the beta tester says:

    Thanks for mentioning us the beta testers!!!!

    …. oh wait you didnt

    lmaoo good job.

  11. plamsafox says:

    Hey there, just wanted to congratulate you on such a big success! Not to mention a quality waste of time for me&my friends. Thanks, guys, and i’m glad you’re doing well!

  12. MainstreaM says:

    March 2007??? My God I thought it was around for ages… I joined when 1.2 arrived came out and I’m still addicted…

  13. Laxaria says:


  14. Ruffnekk says:

    Congratulations! I find DTD the most entertaining game I ever played. (Not just flash games)

  15. Mike says:

    Cool, fun game and interesting read. It’s interesting to know how it all works, at least a little. Mostly Fun game. Keep the creeps coming.

  16. Aliean says:

    Hurry for DTD! Has it really been a year? I must have played it from when it started then, cuz i remember playing this in school (lol we had free time) in March last year xD.

  17. dustin says:

    you should make it so 2 player can play

  18. Kevin says:

    Thanks for a great game!! Spent way too much time and stayed up way too late playing this game!! I’m resisting the urge right now. Looking forward to the next post.


  19. […] 20k. Desktop Tower Defense has made about 100k since it came out a year ago. Read about that here: Happy Birthday Desktop Tower Defense! Paul & Dave’s Novel Concepts Anyway, this post is getting long. I love to talk about game development and help out new […]

  20. verry intresting , cool

  21. Drazick says:

    When will we see a new version?

    Thanks for giving us hours of joy.

  22. t2t2 says:

    Part 2 will be when?

  23. Absolutely awesome! I have GOT to learn how to make simple-but-fun games like this!!! Goes to show that simplicity can be the key to… HUGE BUCKS!!! *ahem* I mean, to a great game (AND BUCKS!). The business things like licensing sounds intimidating to me. All the legal stuff I just do NOT get. But it might be worth it to venture into. (I’m trying to write TWO books…guess I’m going to hae to learn.)

    All in all, this game is perhaps one of the BEST acton/strategy/puzzle/shooter games ever! I hope you plan to add more towers and more options for earning/spending money and upgrade options. What about the option to COMBINE towers and upgrade the towers’ new form? Could definitely make the strategy and money aspect take on a whole new level. Whatever you do, I think you’ll do awesome!

  24. Beatrice says:

    Happ Birthday Day!!!!!

    Love the game and can not get enough. I am constantly playing everyday so I hope that at least my daily visitis helped pay for the postage stamp on outgoing checks to pay the bills :P

    On the next version can the Spawn and Normal creeps be switched in the lineup?
    How about a 100K Gold fun mode?

    Keep up the good job and hope the prospects are plenty.

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