Note: If you’re interested in publishing a portfolio of games with low costs that bring in downloads long-term, I recommend first checking out our free video that describes our simple App Scaling Formula and how we made well over six figures last year from apps. Update: November 12, 2014: We no longer have Buildbox and thus do not see the updates, fixes, improvements, etc. Buildbox and Game Academy will continue to improve their software, but we will not see these changes anymore and cannot comment on that. Also, I would like to mention that GameAcademy support has always been very helpful (as seen in the comments below)–replying very quickly (within 24 hours) and providing the answers we’re looking for.
Damn, that Trey Smith is so good at marketing… (and more on that later). My partner and I, of course, watched his presentations about his new software: Buildbox. At the time (August 2014), it was impossible to find a Buildbox review because the software was brand new. After being blown away by the videos, we talked about it… then talked again. We were on the fence. With other projects in the works, it would be tough to dedicate time to this; however, it would be nice to have if we could spit out games quickly without spending so much time on coding. Thanks to some profitable projects, we were in a position where we could spend the $2,675 and it wouldn’t completely break our bank account. When we put the pros (assets that come with it and bonuses if we buy early, plus we’ll be able to review the software for you guys) against the cons (price, software could very well stop getting updated after 6 months to a year), we decided we were 51/49 in favor of biting the bullet and buying it. To be honest, it was me that pushed us from 50/50 to 51/49 to buy it. 2 months later… we haven’t created anything with the Buildbox software, and not because we’re lazy. Damn (sorry, Lee!). Here’s an honest Buildbox review for you if you’re on the fence, especially since it is reopening for sale (very convenient, and more on that later). There are no affiliate links here and we are in no way affiliated with Buildbox or GameAcademy.com.
Buildbox Review – The Buildbox Software by Trey Smith of GameAcademy
When you’re thinking about this type of investment, there are some obvious things to consider. Let’s go right through those factors; hopefully that will help you understand if the Buildbox software is right for you.
The Software Itself
This is probably what you’re looking for if you stumbled upon this post after Googling “Buildbox Review.” You want to know–is the software good? My answer is yes and no. When we first bought it in August 2014, Buildbox was buggy as hell. I bought it thinking I could remake Swing Copters (the new app that Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen released), but boy was I wrong. I totally thought it would be easy, especially since Trey Smith shows that he can build a Flappy bird clone in less than 1 minute using the Buildbox software. If you can build Flappy Bird, you should totally be able to build Swing Copters, right? Wrong. After messing with it for a few hours, I realized that you can’t make the levels move upwards–meaning, you could only have the game move right–like a character walking across or flying across the screen. That was extremely frustrating, especially since it was shown to go in multiple directions in the videos of Buildbox. But that’s not all… the action of the character in Swing Copters is to move right when first clicked, but move left when clicked a second time. Buildbox doesn’t allow this–your character can move multiple directions, but you have to assign different buttons to those actions, so making the character go left instead of right with the same button click isn’t possible. And that’s just the half of it. Trey shows that the code can be exported easily to Xcode. When I exported, though, the code was pre-compiled, making it very difficult to work with. On top of that, the app did not function at all like it did in Buildbox. Bummer. That said, GameAcademy.com did respond to my concern and noted that they were working on the fix for the directional problem. Since then, the software has been updated a handful of times, and I believe you can now make a game that moves forward up & down instead of only left & right; however, I haven’t had the time to test it because with less effort, I could reskin a $27 Quiz code or our Bingo game, which would almost certainly make more money. Also, I still wouldn’t be able to make Swing Copters because of the movement of the character that I mentioned above. You could, however, make a portfolio of runner games, if that’s your thing, and you could use the characters and objects he provides so you wouldn’t have to hire a graphic designer.
Images, Music, and Sounds
This is actually probably my favorite thing about the purchase–it did come with a good amount of images, music, and sounds as you can see above and below. However, they are very specific to action games, like a flying dragon or a spikey wheel. Sadly, I probably won’t be able to use the images with our other apps. The music and sounds are pretty good, too, but you can license this stuff for like $1-$5 a piece on GraphicRiver (actually it looks like all of the graphics that he gives us are on GraphicRiver!!), so it’s not that big of a deal.
Price/Cost of Buildbox
When we purchased it, Buildox was $2,675 outright or you could do monthly payments for a larger total cost. When thinking about this, here’s what you should consider:
How risky is $2,675+ for you?
For us, it’s a sizable risk, but if we do absolutely nothing with it, yeah, that would suck, but we can recover because we have so many other apps and projects. Is that true for you? Would you recover, or will you be spending your entire app budget on it? I would only recommend buying this if you have a lot more money to work with. You will certainly need it. Publishing games with Buildbox might look and sound very easy, but there are some details that are left out in the videos and it still requires a lot of patience and knowledge.
What else could you do with that money?
This is really important to think about. You could spend $2,675 to make an unlimited amount of pretty much only runner-style games with the Buildbox software (and get access to the fairly large selection of images and audio), or you could spend that money to buy 10 or more different source codes for apps that are proven to make money in many different categories, like a Bingo game would. The key here is portfolio differentiation. Yes, you can make a bunch of different apps in Buildbox that look different, but there’s no chance you can make a Bingo game. There’s no chance you can make a Photo editing app. Even if you drill into games, you can’t make a Casino game like a slot machine. Really, you’re limited to Adventure-style games that will pretty much only be runner-style games (with levels, or endless runner style, or both). Flappy Bird would be included in this style because it’s essentially a runner game–the only different is it’s flying instead of running. So if you’re thinking about it, is that what you want? Do you want a collection of runner adventure games? If you’re new and just starting out, I would advise against it. Here’s why… When you’re a beginner in big bad app world, you need to hit what makes the most money, and adventure-style games are some of the worst at monetizing. Bingo and other casino games, like poker, solitaire, and dice, on the other hand, do the best with ads. Or if you want to hit long-term in-app purchase revenue, specific niches with content-based source codes kill it (learn more about that with our free video here). But adventure just doesn’t pay much in terms of ad revenue or in-app purchases. We know this from experience. You might be thinking: but Trey Smith’s first game built with the Buildbox software reached Top 30 in the App Store and made a ton of money, and his Line Zen app did even better! But did you know that it was because of a licensing deal that he hooked up with the major app development company Ketchapp? If you’re not familiar with Ketchapp, they published a game you might’ve heard of: it’s called 2048. Now, whenever they release any title, it reaches the Top Charts in the App Store, despite how crappy how it is. Trey, with his marketing power, hooked up with them and teamed up to re-release the game under Ketchapp, and that’s when it shot to the top of the charts because of Ketchapp’s insane power of cross-promotion. If you want to get that many downloads, you’re gonna need a deal with Ketchapp, too, or some crazy marketing power. And good luck getting that! Thousands of people try to make deals with Ketchapp, but if you can’t sell a ketchup (no pun intended) popsicle to a woman in white gloves, you won’t be so lucky. Conveniently, right after the huge surge in downloads (over 1 million) of his game, Trey and GameAcademy are reopening the Buildbox software for purchase again… and I’m sure we’ll hear about how the first game he built with Buildbox achieved a million downloads. The point needs to be emphasized that the game wouldn’t have hit the Top Charts without Ketchapp.
Updates & The Future
So far, they’ve been making a lot of updates to fix the many problems that the software currently has, but I’m genuinely concerned about the future. Here’s why: Pretty much every year, Trey Smith and GameAcademy release a product like this. Before, it was named Project Zero or Project Mayhem. Then it was Project Mayhem 2. We wrote about that one, and it had an even bigger price tag. Knowing that he had these other software packages (that some people claim aren’t being updated nearly enough) should’ve been a red flag. It’s almost certain that he will release a new Buildbox type of software, but maybe it’ll be named something different, and you’ll have to pay all over again to get access… and it’ll be much better than this version, albeit with its own set of problems and bugs. After Buildbox gets 1,000 sales and makes Trey another couple million dollars, why would he spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in support and fixing the software, when he could just create another Buildbox and sell it for $2,675 all over again? See the predicament? Sadly, as much as I think Trey seems like a genuine, cool guy, I don’t see updates going beyond a 12-18 months, and we could be left with an inferior product that never gets updated or doesn’t keep up with changes in iOS versions, etc. That’s the risk that comes with software like this.
The Bottom Line: Should You Buy Buildbox?
What this comes down to is awesome marketing with somewhat-good software. My honest opinion is that you should only buy Buildbox if you can afford to lose all that money, you have the time to spend to only focus on adventure-style games (and for some reason, those are the only games you want to build), you’ll make use of the graphics & sounds, and you can get it done fast, before the app landscape changes significantly. In other words, I’d rather buy something else, like a collection of really cool source codes, so your portfolio is more diversified and thus, less risky. If you’re a beginner, it’s really easy to learn how to reskin apps–easier than learning the Buildbox software. Drag and drop software and limiting yourself to adventure games isn’t the answer. If you’re just starting out:
Do you have the Buildbox software and disagree? Agree? Let us know if the comments. We really want this to be an honest Buildbox review, and getting other perspectives is more than welcomed.