Archive for the ‘Sales Statistics’ Category

How to estimate how many sales a Steam game has made

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

(click to enlarge)

I was having a discussion with Ryan Clark about using the number of reviews a game has on Steam to estimate its sales. He tells me the idea came from Mike Boxleiter.

Anyway, I recently got shown this article which lists the most popular Steam games of 2014 (Thanks Lars Doucet) and some other useful data like number of owners. So I thought I’d look up the review count of the top 50 games of 2014 and do an analysis to find out what the average amount of owners (sales) are per review using the data in that article.

Units sold and Revenue estimates

This means you can look up any game on Steam and multiply the review count by a magic number (or range) – see below – and estimate how many sales it has made. Then if you multiply by the price, you can work out the maximum gross revenue the game has made, although of course sales and bundles will greatly reduce this.

DISCLAIMER:

I’m not saying this is totally accurate or anything, but it’s interesting and fun if you are into this kind of stuff. Enjoy!

Some observations and the magic numbers

1) There are 22 F2P games in the top 50 (44%)

2) The date format is the stupid American format.

3) Average owners/review for all games is 148. However, it’s 201 for F2P games and 106 for paid games. An important difference.

4) For paid games (I’m not that interested in F2P games. sorry!), Football Manager and Dizzel were outliers with over 400 owners per review, so I removed them and got an average of 81. If I take out two more above 150, the average is more like 72.

5) The lowest average for paid games was 32. If I “eyeball” the graph of values (see image at top of post), I’d said the average looks more like 60-70 as that’s the longest flat area before it hikes up.

6) So to conclude I’d say you can use 30-100 as an approx guide. There won’t be any below 30, and there’s only a few over 100. Another way to look at it (based solely on this data) is to pick 70 as a kind of mid value and use 70/2 as the lower end and 70×1.5 as the upper end (=35 to 105). Someone who is better at stats will probably rip this apart, but you get the idea.

7) Average Players/Owners is 73% for all games (57% for F2P and 85% for paid … interesting) Lowest for paid was 40% and highest was 99%. If I take out two lowest paid outliers of 40% and 45% (next lowest is 69%) this gives an 89% average. I’m not sure if any of these games have been in bundles. If so I imagine that would drop this ratio right down.

Some things I have not taken into account:

1) Date released: Some games have been around longer to get more reviews. However, we know none of these games are more than 14.5 months old and they are all at least 2.5 months old. If I didn’t have to fix the dumb date format by hand in Excel (there’s probably a smart way), then maybe I could do more analysis.

2) I haven’t noted if they are indie games or AAA games.

3) I haven’t noted the genre the games.

4) Hours played (maybe people who play more vote more? Actually I checked this with a trendline and it’s true! So if you know a game is a short game, bank on a HIGH owners/reviews value, and if it’s a long game, go for a LOW owners/reviews value.)

5) I used Owners per review, *not* Players. However, the data clearly shows that the larger % of players to owners, the lower the sales per review, which makes sense because it means that more of the owners played it and decided to leave a review.

6) These games were super-popular. It’s possible that if you check less popular games their review counts change/become more unpredictable.

I hope you found this interesting, please let me know if you think I’ve screwed up anywhere.

Also if anyone wants to do the next 100, go ahead, I need to do some work now.

8 years of sales – Holiday Bonus revenue chart

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Holiday Bonus (for PC) first went on sale in December 2006 on several casual portals that sell download games, and it did OK but not as well as I had hoped

I brought out a Mac version in December 2008, but it wasn’t a big earner, although it continues to add to the bottom line.

A Second Launch!

However, later on I managed to revive its sales by doing the following:

1) After I shipped Spring Bonus in April 2011 I discovered several portals that didn’t take Holiday Bonus when it launched were happy to take it for Christmas 2012! Times change and the gatekeepers at portals change.

2) I made a localised version in multiple European languages and sent it to several distributors and it did quite well, especially taking into account the fact that it only took me 26 hours to do the work.

3) In 2012 I made an updated version called Holiday Bonus GOLD which had 55 more levels (double the original) and a few other tweaks. Some portals just took this as an update to the original (which probably boosted future sales due to having more levels), but other portals took it as a new game and re-promoted it, which was great. The GOLD version only took me a week (49 hours) and has proved to be very profitable.

I made it because some indie friends of mine were talking about DLC and casual download games don’t have DLC (the portals prefer to sell only whole games). So I thought that I could do something similar by adding more content, calling it GOLD, and getting it out there – and it worked!

4) Every year I remind the portals to promote it and put it on sale. Quite often they do but there’s more holiday-themed competition these days. In December 2014 one portal made a bundle of Christmas games and included Holiday Bonus GOLD, which was a nice surprise.

5) In December 2011 I launched a mobile version for iOS/Android that was coded by Damien Sturdy. It’s made about the same as the Mac version, which is OK, but it wasn’t a big earner. I also put out an XBox Live Indie Games version (and Windows Phone 7 version), coded by James Mintram. It was cool but made very little as XBLIG just wasn’t the right platform for it (the game was great, but players wanted zombie games and vibrating controller games).

6) I even did a small retail deal for a German version of Holiday Bonus GOLD in 2013.

Sales Chart

All of the above had a positive effect as you can see by the graph below. It was like having a second launch but twice as big as the first one! Note that the first year is only really one month (December), so this is 8 years and 1 month of sales.

(click image to enlarge it)

Some Numbers

Gross Revenue = $253,000 (this is approximate as I back calculate it based on my royalties received)
Net Revenue = $90,500
Hard costs = $4,100 (I couldn’t get away with a game this cheap these days. Some of this is rev share for ports.)
Profit = $86,400
Time to make/distribute = 464 hours (This is my time. I keep accurate logs)
Hourly Wage = $186
Launch month revenue as % of total = 3.4%
First 4 years = $29,458 net
Next 4 years = $60,976 net
Future = ? (but it’s all gravy now)

What did I learn?

This game was a passion project. I’d just shipped The Wonderful Wizard of Oz match 3, and I thought there was just enough time to re-use + enhance the engine and put out a Christmas game. So I worked very hard (so did the main artist) to get it done in a short period of time. I had fun making it, and now looking back, I’m very pleased with the result.

I’ve had similar good results with other quick games (my own IP) that I had fun making. Sometimes I think if you’ve got a good idea, you’ve just got to get on and make it quickly. Strike while your motivation is hot :-)

Important Takeaway: Your first year of sales may not be a true representation of lifetime sales. Games have a very long tail and many new opportunities present themselves over the years. Play the long game to win.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it. Thanks!

Why direct sales matter to indies + sales stats

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

As well as using distributors to sell Regency Solitaire (for PC/Mac), I also sell it direct on this site.

When I sell direct to a customer I receive about 90% of the price paid (excluding sales taxes/VAT) and the payment provider gets about 10%.

However, when I sell via a casual game distributor most of them only pay me about 35% (some less, some a bit more), which is pretty lame, especially compared to Valve who pay developers 70% of games sold on Steam. Unfortunately, none of my games are on Steam (yet), RARRR!

So naturally I encourage people to buy direct from indies whenever possible as it really does make a HUGE difference.

If all the games I sold last year were bought directly from this site, instead of 99% via distributors then my financial situation would by wildly different. Instead of failing to pay myself a salary in December, I’d probably have paid off my mortgage instead. That’s the reality of it.

What can YOU do about it?

Well, if you are a customer, please consider buying direct from the developer! It really makes a big difference. Heck if you buy your vegetables and meat from local farmers, then do the same for indies :-)

If you are a developer, are you selling direct? If not, why not? It’s not hard to do, and if you send all your potential customers to Steam or wherever then you are basically making it harder for yourself *and* other indies to survive (by teaching customers that you don’t really care about direct sales). Why would you do that?

First 12 days of sales

OK so how are my direct sales for my latest game so far? Basically shockingly low. Definitely not enough to live on (we spent a year making this game and also spent quite a lot on art and music).

Luckily the game is doing great on iWin (a casual game distributor) and will be on sale on other distributors soon where I expect it to do well – so we won’t go broke hopefully. It’s a shame that I need distributors to survive but I most definitely do because that’s the way most people have been trained to buy games now.


(click image to enlarge)

40 sales in 12 days. The game is $9.99 and I get about $8.74 of that after payment provider fees. So total revenue is approximately $350.

You might think $350 in 12 days is good, and it would be OK if it continued like that for the rest of the year, but it won’t. This is the launch spike and very soon sales will drop to just a couple of units A MONTH.

Newsletter Stats and Existing Customers
I tracked a few interesting things about those sales. Numbers are low, so not great for reliable statistics, but some interesting factoids can still be gleaned.

I sent out a newsletter on launch day, here are the stats:

Sent = 425
Bounce+unsubscribe = 8 (2%)
Opened = 178 (42%)
Clicked = 65 (15%)

And of the 40 sales so far, 12 were from existing customers, so:
Sales = 12 (2.8% of total or 6.7% of opened or 18% of clicked)

It’s possible some of those existing customers heard about the game via my Facebook page or some other means, but I don’t track that. So all I can say is that at *most* my newsletter converted 2.8% of recipients into buyers.

- On day 1 I made 16 sales and 9 (56%) were from existing customers.
- On day 2 I made 4 sales and 2 (50%) were from existing customers.
- Since then I’ve made 20 more sales and only 1 (5%) was from an existing customer.

I believe that sales from existing customers dwindled pretty rapidly and the remaining sales are mostly from the small amount of press that the game got, which I’ll go into in a minute. I think if I didn’t get that press, then sales would have dropped to pretty much zero.

Total sales from existing customers = 12 out of 40 total, so 30%.

This pattern is similar for previous game launches where I’ve sent out a newsletter to my newsletter subscribers.

It’s super-important to maintain a mailing list if you sell direct because selling to existing customers is easy and effective (it’s like the no.1 rule of marketing) – of course that means you have to stay in business long enough to keep making new games.

Refunds

I got 2 refunds out of 42 sales (=5%).

One was because the customer’s email program/browser/anti-virus told her the download site wasn’t safe. This isn’t true of course but she couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. This is a common reason for a refund. The other person thought they were buying a CD not a download for some reason, and didn’t want a download. OK then.

I operate a no quibbles refund policy because it’s easier (and better customer service) than getting into arguments with customers.

Marketing and Press

My wife and I have done a whole bunch of marketing-related activities for Regency Solitaire including Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, press releases, contacting youtubers, forum posts etc. Was it worth it? No. But we do it anyway because we’ve got to try.

We did get a couple of good articles: one on Kill Screen and one on JayIsGames. We are hoping for more too over time as our efforts pay off.

The second small spike correlates with the JayIsGames article and hopefully it’ll keep a trickle coming in over time.

The main problem we, and many indies face, is getting *any* press at all. It’s extra tricky for us because we are making casual games and most of the gaming press and youtubers only cover “mainstream” games, not casual games.

“Casual” games is kind of a dirty word in some circles, which is a shame, and it’s further been sullied by all the free to play casual games on mobile. In fact, these days when I say I make casual games, often people automatically assume I make mobile games. Only old skool devs/customers know I mean downloadable PC/Mac games.

Also casual games are mostly played by women aged 30-70 (up to 90% on some sites.) I know this because I’ve seen numerous large surveys of casual game players over the years. Some casual gamers play games *way* more hours per week than “hardcore” gamers. In fact, one of our testers sat down and beat our entire game in a single 12 hour marathon according to my metrics.

Casual games often have a strong female protagonist too. This is something that the mainstream gaming press seems to be constantly searching for in the name of diversity (largely in vain) in mainstream AAA games, with indies occasionally delivering the goods. However, if the press just took a look casual games more often, they’d find games for women starring women (of course men can play them too, I do!)

Oops, sorry about the rant, anyway…

TL;DR

- Not enough indies sell direct, and they should do!
- Customers have been trained over the years to buy from distributors instead of buying direct, and that sucks.
- My direct sales suck, though I am grateful for every single one of them.
- There are some really great casual games out there. I wish the press/youtubers didn’t ignore them.
- Please buy Regency Solitaire DIRECT from us today. Thanks!