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


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.

2006

- 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.

2007-2010

- 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.

Conclusion

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!

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

  1. Aaron San Filippo (@AeornFlippout) Says:

    Great, practical advice!

    I would add, as someone about 7 months into my own indie journey: Get a year’s savings, but try to ship some stuff in the first 6 months, and make a personal budget – it’s amazing how fast the money goes when you’re living off savings!

    Congrats on finding so much success, hope it continues for you!

  2. Leo Says:

    Wow! That are some impressive numbers Jake! I can only hope to get there someday too. Good luck with your projects for 2013!

  3. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks for your comments guys! Good luck with your stuff too.

  4. Grey Alien Games Says:

    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! Have made an edit to top of article to reflect this.

  5. Leo Says:

    Hey, one thing, how much % of your sales for your PC games are macintosh sales? I only have windows support in my game, wonder if that’s gonna be a problem…

  6. Jake Birkett Says:

    Interesting you should ask as last night I analysed exactly that. Mac sales are around 5% and it’s a considerable hassle to make mac versions. Almost not worth it…

  7. Leo Says:

    Yes that’s what I thought too. Better to make an iOS version of the game then. Btw. may I ask what the iOS % of sales for spring bonus was? But I do understand if you can’t share that publicly.

  8. Jake Birkett Says:

    iOS versions are even harder to make than Mac versions due to different screen sizes and complicated provisioning/submission protocols etc. AND they have only made me about same % as Mac. Still I’m continuing to test out mobile.

    iOS% of sales for Spring Bonus was better than Holiday Bonus, due to using Hothead as a publisher, although I’d better not say publicly. Soon I’m self-publishing it after regaining rights and then I can post stats.

  9. Andy Says:

    Jake, great arcticle, very encouraging! I was thinking why didn’t you try making one of those puzzle/adventure games? Would you say it’d be something way too ambitious to try?

  10. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks Andy. I’m very tempted because I would like to make a game engine that supported inventory and clickable areas of screen and scripted effects etc. However to make such a game requires a huge art budget, which I cannot currently afford. Also it’s a very competitive market now.