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

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!

17 Responses to “PC is not dead and mobile is shit (with Charts!)”

  1. Jake Birkett Says:

    Thought I’d also throw in some additional info about localising.

    The 3 games in the post have also been localised to many languages, Spring Bonus at Launch in April 2011, and the other two in Dec 2011. So far the localised versions have made $11,451 on a couple of portals that take localised versions (most don’t). That is 7.12% of revenue and it’s for PC versions only. Localising those games was easy as I have a framework that supports localising. Total time spend localising those 3 games = 59 hours. Well worth it.

  2. Jake Birkett Says:

    Also admittedly, once you have a PC version in a cross-platform language like BlitzMax, a Mac version isn’t too much hassle, so is probably worth putting out on sites that generate decent Mac revenue (there aren’t many I’ve found). But mobile ports take a lot more time to get right and if someone else is doing the port for you, you probably have to give away 50% of the revenue in royalties if you are being fair.

  3. ImaginaryHuman Says:

    Interesting as always, Jake. … I’ve tended to try to design games that are as cross-platform as possible, which means they can work `the same` on lower-end mobile devices, and often find that this means a tonne of compromises in the tech specs because those devices are so underpowered to compared to the average PC. So it makes me wonder if it’s worth trying to support e.g. iPad at all, and to maybe just target the `big screen` of PC/Mac. Thanks for taking the time to share your findings!

  4. Jake Birkett Says:

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah also making games for mobiles can mean compromising the design so it works on touch screen. For me iPad sales are 10x iPhone sales so if your game can work on a 4:3 screen format that is quite large, it may still be worth supporting iPad.

  5. Michael Hartman Says:

    Very interesting post. Thanks for making it.

    My company has made online games for 16 years and just recently started adding downloadable games to its library.

    Our first such game, Tower of Elements, debuted on Big Fish last month. We are also selling it on our site right now and are working on adding it to other portals.

    We’ve been kicking around the idea of Android and iOS versions, but Unity licenses for those platforms are $1,500 each. So we aren’t in a huge rush to do that unless we feel like we can generate decent sales there relatively soon.

  6. Josh Says:

    Interesting. I’m guessing you submitted your PC game to some kind of online portal like Big Fish games. Did you have any marketing strategy to promote the games on mobile? What did the publisher do for you?

  7. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Michael, Tower of Elements looks cool and could be a good fit for iPad but I would recommend getting a publisher though. You can still publish and have the unity splash screen at the start and pay less for the license, but obviously it’s nicer not to have that.

  8. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Yep Josh, Big Fish Games and other portals for PC/Mac.

    The mobile game that was published got featured by apple, and cross-promoted with other games. It had IAP for people to upgrade from demo to levels and converts quite well, it’s just that overall downloads weren’t that high. I was pleased with what they did but it’s fair to say that we were all disappointed with the outcome.

  9. Arowx Says:

    Have any of the casual portals made inroads into the mobile space yet, as this could be a significant factor in your sales figures.

    If you compare none portal based sales with mobile sales how does that look?

  10. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Good questions Arowx. Yes Big Fish Games does mobile publishing, it’s just I haven’t got them to publish one of mine yet. Hopefully will do next year and I can report back with more positive numbers.

    As for non-portal sales versus mobile, I’d have to compare my direct sales with a self-published mobile title, so that would be Holiday Bonus. Numbers are:
    - Direct PC = $655
    - Direct Mac = $44
    - iPhone = $100
    - iPad = $968
    - Android = $57

    So yes, mobile has made more money than direct sales. If I was to get BFG to publish a mobile game and compared that to their PC sales I believe the mobile sales could be as high as 50% of the PC total if Paul Thelen’s latest talk at Casual Connect is anything to go by.

  11. Leo Says:

    Great article! I consider it “good news”. Since as a developer and user I am not so much into those mobile devices anyway and it appears a lot of gamers too are not into them . I hope it will stay that way. Mabye in a few years the whole touchscreen hype will wear off and people figure out that the PC after all is really the best gaming device :-)

    On the other hand mobile can’t be that *shitty* . I mean for a while ago you said that the mobile counterparts of the best casual hidden object games make 500K on mobile devices?

  12. Jake Birkett Says:

    Ha, true Leo. I think I’m still paddling in mobile and future sales will be better. Yes the best HOGs can make a lot when BFG publishes them. I think my match-3s don’t have as much appeal :-)

  13. Leo Says:

    > I think my match-3s don’t have as much appeal
    Then make HOGs or adventures or anything that they’d take :-)

  14. Jake Birkett Says:

    Well the art spend on HOGs is too much for my current budget that’s all.

  15. Leo Says:

    Yes, I see. Maybe some time in the future we can collaborate on a HOG or adventure if you like. But gotta finish my own game first ;-)

  16. Jake Birkett Says:

    Thanks for the offer Leo. Yep get your game out there and then see what your options are. Good luck.

  17. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » 2012 Review and 2013 Goals Says:

    [...] along nicely. However, I’m also considering not focussing too much on mobile in 2013 as a recent analysis of my revenue showed that 91% of it comes from [...]