Archive for the ‘Sales Statistics’ Category

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!

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.

Mobile

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%.

Conclusion

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!