Archive for the ‘Sales Statistics’ Category

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.


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…


- 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!

PC is not dead and mobile is shit (with Charts!)

Monday, December 17th, 2012

I’ve track a lot of data about my indie business in a giant spreadsheet and recently I did an analysis of 3 games to see the breakdown in sales per platform. I had a gut feeling that PC way outperformed Mac and mobile but I wanted to 100% confirm that.

Just in case it’s not clear from the image here’s the percentage split:
- PC 91%
- Mac 6%
- Mobile 3%
- Console 0%

3 games = $160,800

I analysed the sales of the following 3 games:

- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Released Nov 2006 Total revenue = $55,800
- Holiday Bonus. Released Dec 2006. Total revenue = $54,000
- Spring Bonus: Released April 2011. Total revenue = $51,000

Distribution Methods

Those three games have been released in the following places:

- Direct sales via my site on PC/Mac
- Mac App Store
- Numerous casual portals including Big Fish Games, iWin, Real, Oberon, Amazon etc. Mostly PC but some have taken Mac versions.
- iOS
- Google Play/Kindle/Nook
- XBLIG (only for Holiday Bonus)

It should be noted that the Mac versions of Holiday Bonus and Oz came out about 1 year after the PC version, so they have not has as long to catch up with PC sales.

Also it should be noted that Holiday Bonus mobile was released in Dec 2011, and Spring Bonus mobile was released in April 2012. There is currently no mobile version of Oz.

So yes, obviously my pie chart is skewed in favour of PC, although Mac has had a pretty good chance to compete.

Only one game was released on XBLIG as an experiment and clearly that market isn’t interested in casual games judging by the poor revenue, which is fair enough. Conversion rate is actually pretty good (>20%), so many people who play it do actually buy it, but downloads are just super-low.


Of course my mobile games haven’t been on sale for as long as the PC/Mac versions, so haven’t had a fair shot. However comparing the launch of my mobile games to the PC version, there is still a huge difference in revenue.

I’ve self-published one mobile game and used a publisher for another one. The published game definitely did better, so that’s useful information. Even though it’s nice to self-publish and track your own sales stats and have complete control etc, I believe you are more likely to make money by using a good publisher – unless you have a great game that can garner tons of press attention. My games are “just” casual games and so the press is basically not interested.

I do have an Oz mobile port on the way and Holiday Bonus GOLD was just self-published on mobile (it was a last minute thing so not enough time to get a publisher), plus I’ve got something in the pipeline for Spring Bonus. So I’ve not given up on mobile yet and I expect my mobile revenue to grow, but still I don’t think it’ll touch the PC revenue.

Spring Bonus (last 19 months)

I produced a revenue by platform pie chart just for Spring Bonus because it’s a much more recent game than the other two so presents a more accurate picture. Here it is:

You can see that mobile revenue is higher than Mac but still less than 10%.


Well the article title says it all: PC is not dead and mobile is shit.

Of course I make a certain type of game and the market is more geared up to sell PC copies of those, and indies releasing PC games on Steam certainly find they can do pretty well on there too compared to other platforms. Other developers are having great success on mobile – good for them. But I would urge caution in the mobile market. It’s HUGELY over-saturated and hard to get noticed. I got my existing games ported to mobile as a low-risk approach, but there are teams of developers out there spending 6-12 months on mobile games and I personally think that’s a recipe for disaster in most cases.

Looking at my numbers, perhaps I’d be best sticking to PC only? Putting all my energy into that and not buying expensive Macs (and constantly upgrading the OS and Xcode, and farting around with provisioning profiles and certificates) and not buying an ever growing army of mobile devices to test on. Most devs have a PC anyway, even if they just play games on it! For me anyway, PC is the clear winner.

If you are a cross-platform dev and want to share your numbers in the comments, that would be awesome. Thanks!

Epic Chart Time! 7 years of sales from 5 games. Total $156,806 and 45,000 units.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Click on the image above to see it enlarged.

I’ve been tracking the monthly sales of all my games since 2005 when I first went indie and I recently decided to combine 5 of them into a single chart and it proved to be very interesting!

The 5 games are:
- Xmas Bonus (Dec 2005)
- Easter Bonus (Mar 2006)
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Nov 2006)
- Holiday Bonus (Dec 2006)
- Spring Bonus (April 2011)

Two of my other games, Fairway Solitaire and Unwell Mel, are not included in the chart because they were contract jobs for Big Fish Games (BFG). Nor is any of my revenue from consultancy, advertising, employment at Big Fish Games etc. – this is just the revenue from 5 of my own games on multiple platforms (PC/Mac/XBLIG/iOS/Android/WP7)

A note on revenue

[EDIT] I realised that November 2006 was wrong. It should have been $9632.43 due to $7K from retail deals for Oz. That actually means the total is $163,806!

Note that the revenue is the net royalties paid to me after publisher/distributor fees. Most of my sales come from the casual portals who take anywhere from 60%-80% for themselves. Yes, you read that right.

If I assume the portals take an average of 70% then the gross revenue from those games is over $500,000. If the portals only took 30% (like Apple/Steam/Google), I would have a very different living standard now…

Units Sold

Here’s a chart showing the units sold each month. It’s pretty similar to the revenue chart but there are some differences which I’ll explain below.

Click on the image above to see it enlarged.

First Year

- Looking at the first year on the Units Sold chart you can see when Xmas Bonus came out in Dec 2005 and when Easter Bonus came out in Mar 2006. There are tiny spikes for those. The revenue isn’t tracked accurately per month for those titles, which is why there’s a big spike in June 2006 because I logged it all then.

- During my first year as an indie, those games only made me $1562, which is clearly not enough to live on. I supplemented my income with IT consultancy work, and went into debt whilst I worked on my next two games.


- I spent most of 2006 writing a new game game engine for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which I then reused for Holiday Bonus. This is why the two games were launched very close to each other. This is the first big spike on the chart.

- After that you can see a declining 4 year long tail with spikes every December. The spikes are entirely due to me asking the portals to re-promote Holiday Bonus every Christmas.


- During 2007/2008 I was doing control work for BFG and so there are no new titles.

- Note that in December 2009 the units sold spike is very high but the revenue isn’t as high comparatively. That’s because the game was on sale for $2.99 on BFG and so even though a lot of units were sold, revenue wasn’t huge.

- During 2009/2010 I was living in Vancouver working for BFG and so there are no new game releaesd. You can see the revenue had dropped right down and I needed to do something, so I did…

Spring 2011 – Spring Bonus

- In Jan 2011 I quit my job at BFG and went indie again. I made Spring Bonus which I shipped in April 2011 on multiple casual portals including some who had never taken my games before. That’s the first really huge spike.

- After the launch of Spring Bonus you’ll notice that the revenue doesn’t always correspond with unit sales. That’s because some of the new portals have different business models including making money from advertising or pay per minute of play.

Winter 2011 – Reusing IP

- Towards the end of 2011 I had two epic ideas: After the success of the localised version of Spring Bonus, I thought I should localise Holiday Bonus and Oz and get them on BFG. I also thought I should try and get Holiday Bonus and Oz on the new portals who never took those games in the past. Both ideas worked and panned out very well and led to the massive spike in December 2011 and have contributed to the pool of higher monthly revenue I’m currently receiving.

2012 so far

- The spike in spring 2012 is a mixture of things. There’s a spike in units sold in April due to Spring Bonus being re-promoted but the revenue spike is in May. This is actually a big payment from one of the portals for Holiday Bonus and Oz, and it’s non-unit sales revenue! These payments seem to arrive on a 3 month cycle and that’s why the graph is so bumpy in recent times.

- I’ve also released a couple of mobile games (Holiday Bonus and Spring Bonus) over the last year or so and there are more coming soon. However, mobile has not been a big earner for me. Most of the revenue is from sales of the PC/Mac download versions, and 99% of that is from the portals. My direct sales are very poor but I don’t put much effort into them.

- Finally do not worry if Oct/Nov 2012 look a bit low. I simply haven’t received all the royalty reports yet.


I’ve said it before in other posts, but… wow games have a really long tail! Especially if you can maximise the IP in terms of localising it, getting new distributors to take it, and getting it on new platforms/devices.

Also note that I struggled to make money for a long time at the start. If you are new to being indie make sure you get your first few games out there quickly to see what the real world is like! Also make sure you have at least a year’s worth of savings stored up to live off, preferably more.

Being indie is a long-term game. If you are dedicated, you can make it work. Good luck!

What’s next

Last week I finished Holiday Bonus GOLD, and it is coming out on a bunch of portals soon as a new game on some, and as an update on others. This should keep my Christmas sales spikes going for a few more years. It’s also coming out for iPad and hopefully Kindle. Oz mobile is coming out soon too, in early 2013.

I’ve also been helping Klei Entertainment with with Eets Munchies, which is due out next year. Plus I’m porting Titan Attacks to mobile for Puppy Games, which is also due out next year.

So watch this space!

Please share this article as I’m sure many people will find it interesting. Thanks!