Expectations for Steam game sales (Gamasutra articles)

Indinera

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I wasn't really serious, just very surprised how much it sells for. :o
 

bgillisp

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Yeah, textbook prices are high. And the funny thing is, $100 is cheap. Many textbooks sell for $200+ here in the US.
 

rue669

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@rue669 : Agreed. Which is actually why my 2nd game is non-commercial too, as I know people are leery of RPGMaker games due to all the awful ones that have come out to date, so I wanted one that is free so they can see what I can do too in a shorter game as well.
I think this is really smart. I saw you post about that in another thread. I don’t remember why I didn’t respond. I think I wanted to think on it some more. But yeah, I think it’s great. What would also help is a means by which you can get people to sign up to a newsletter so you have people you can direct your games to.

I’ll have to think about the free game myself a little more. I think I will also do something like it.

I wish you all the best on your current and future games.
 

Icelord888

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Generally when making a game, like all products you take a risk, the more you invest in it (time, money, people, etc...) the greater are your odds of success, but it is a gamble, you may have 90% chances of success but you also have 10% chances of failure and the die sometimes lands on those 10%. Well its not all doom and gloom because in practice there are different levels of success and failure and as old man Marcus Aurelius put it, it is all a matter of perspective.
 

Indinera

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I'd say success = profitability. B)
 

EthanFox

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I'd say success = profitability. B)
:guffaw:

I think success is whether or not you meet your goals for the project. For some people, especially those starting out, that's just creating something and having a few people play it and feed back about the experience.

But yeah, profitability means success in most cases!
 

rue669

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I'd say success = profitability. B)
I think success is defined by the person seeking that success. To you it means profit, to another person that may not be the case.

Saying success = profit could lead the developer feeling anxious, overwhelmed and ultimately depressed.

I typically treat my game developing as a hobby. I’d like to make money off it and I will commercialize my game, but if I don’t break even or get profit, that’s not a big deal for me. And sure, I spent money on making the game, but people spend money on their hobbies all the time. This has helped me a lot with the stress of commercializing my game and making sure it’s this big success!
 

Parallax Panda

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@Icelord888
Generally when making a game, like all products you take a risk, the more you invest in it (time, money, people, etc...) the greater are your odds of success, but it is a gamble, you may have 90% chances of success but you also have 10% chances of failure and the die sometimes lands on those 10%. Well its not all doom and gloom because in practice there are different levels of success and failure and as old man Marcus Aurelius put it, it is all a matter of perspective.
Well, if you think of success like @Indinera then I can't agree with what you laid out. In fact, I'd say that after a certain point your success rate will start to drop if you invest too much (time, money, energy) into a game.

This might not be a popular opinion as putting this into practice will create a lot of crap games to flood the market, but I think the easiest way to make profit in today's climate is to keep costs down and make games fast. It will result in cheaper products, but they don't have to earn as much either. And if some flop, that's not a big deal.

It's worth to remember:
If you put ~1000$ into your game, you start at -1000$!
If you pay for marketing, you have to earn that money back before you get any profits!
If you work with a publisher, they'll probably take 30-50% of your earnings!
If you're not alone and work in a team, you have to split the earnings (you might have to double or triple the income for it to be worth it. Can you realistically do that?)

But, if you can make a game fast by yourself, for cheap. Publish and market it yourself. Then I'd say it's way more likely you'll actually see some profit. Because you only need to earn a fraction of a more ambitious project for it to be profitable.
 

jkweath

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It can be a real toss up these days, as it isn't like 2014 or so when you could break 200,000 sales if you were on Steam as people associated game on Steam with quality. Nowadays, the numbers have changed drastically and I'd say single digit sales might even occur, and I've heard of two cases where it has. For the first, I read an article on rockpapershotgun where they interviewed a dev who had sold 9 copies of their game on Steam. And it wasn't RPGMaker or an asset flip. 9 copies still. We had another post on here in September that they had sold 8 whole copies of their game. So single digit sales can occur now due to how flooded the market is.
Definitely. Still, the story of the guy who made DON'T GIVE UP was absolutely bonkers to me. I mean, hell, we just had a discussion on this board awhile ago where a guy was talking about how it isn't difficult to advertise and market locally/at gaming conventions/social media/contacting influencers, etc. Well, this developer took marketing and dialed it up 100x and got almost nothing for it.

Granted it's worth noting he stated in his blog that he spent $0 on any marketing besides the costs of attending conventions, but still. The lesson I got from his blog is that there's no amount of marketing that can save a game that's not marketable.

'Not marketable' doesn't necessarily mean the game itself is bad. Though in the developer of DON'T GIVE UP's case, the game's gameplay is apparently mediocre, and the graphics, while they stood out enough to get attention, didn't help him much either.

I think you are right about this but I’m throwing some money towards Youtube ads for the holiday season and want to see how this translates to sales. I’m guessing it won’t help much but I want to get more data and will post back here with results for anyone who is interested.
I would be interested in these results. Personally I'll be trying Reddit and possibly Facebook ads. I was going to try a promoted Twitter ad but the process confused the hell out of me and I gave up.

The game “Don’t give up” in the other article looks straight up ugly. The pixel art is not well done and you can easily see it’s made by a complete amateur.
BUT, it’s actually more interesting. Yes, it looks bad but it has a somewhat unique style and it’s very colorful so it might still attract some attention. However problem is, since the art looks very amateurish many potential customers might assume the entire game is of similar low quality and simply move on.
I actually agree with you. I'm not a fan of the graphics myself, but I think the art was creative and odd enough that it stuck out just enough for him to get some traction. It actually seems that the game's art was only part of the problem, though. This review of his game praised the writing, but said the gameplay itself was terrible. I doubt that review helped his sales any.

he games from Bad Logic Games doesn’t look bad, but they don’t look good either. More importantly, the visuals are very bland and uninteresting to me. It looks... cheap, and quickly made. And in the trailer, the animations are very simple as well.

Fun fact: Those sprites actually remind me of some assets I’ve seen on sale on gamedevmarket and itch.io.
Actually I'm pretty sure that developer admitted that the assets for those games were store-bought, so it's likely we've both seen the same asset packs floating around on Itch.io.

I would like to leave the game dev who has aspirations to make a commercial rm game with some positivity and hope. Generally I find most of the posts in the commercial forum are a total downer. Maybe we need more topics about success stories of indie developers.
In the eyes of the developer of DON'T GIVE UP, his story was a success in a sense that he spent 3 years working on his passion project, and can now stand proud knowing that he finished that project.

I like the idea of a 'success story' thread, as long as the thread stayed positive with people respecting each individual developers' definition of 'success'.

I mostly wanted to point out his story to show that it's not just small-time RPG developers like the folks here who are having issues breaking ground on the commercial side of things. This guy spent three years developing his game and marketing it like his life depended on it, only to find that he could've made the same amount of earnings working a minimum-wage job for a month. It's the ultimate lesson that passion projects aren't always (some might say rarely) commercially viable. There has to be some middle-ground taken eventually where the developer crosses passion with what the market actually wants.
 
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doriantoki

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Maybe it's uncouth, but I will share with everyone my game's statistics, since it relates to this topic, and because it was successfully released on Steam almost 2 years ago to this day (wow!), November 23rd (I believe?) to be exact. So that's almost two years on Steam. Darkblood Chronicles has sold 168 total units. Please excuse me for a moment as I ;_; into this bucket.

All jokes aside, I won't regurgitate what has been said in this topic already, as I think the discussion here has been very enlightening, and seems to be on the nose. There's just too many games on Steam now. Another thing I have a particular beef with is how the algorithms work. It seems to be similar to Facebook and other platforms where if you don't hit the right numbers (views, reviews, sales) out of the gate, you get buried to the very bottom of every page. You can improve your odds by throwing money at it (probably? I've never tried with Steam).

Also, while my game is certainly not going to win any awards for innovating game play systems, it's been positively reviews by everyone who has played it. While the numbers are small, it at least tells me that people who are genuinely interested in it, are playing it.

By the way, I saw a jump in sales (relatively speaking) during sales, but, only when the price was lowered to a certain point. The sweet spot seemed to be sub $10 CAD (so, like, $7 US?). After release I got a ton of emails from people coming out of the woodwork begging me to put the game into a bundle, where I would get like 13 cents per sale. Even though the sales have been abysmal, I don't regret not including the game in a bundle, because that seemed like a sure fire way to devalue your game right out of the gate. What this means is that once you lower that price barometer, the small amount of people that are actually interested and who might've purchased it won't - because they'll know you're willing to lower the price, thus, have devalued your game. I stood my ground on the initial price, and only lowered the price on the anniversary of release to see if I could generate some additional sales.

One thing I don't see a lot of people talking about is that while your initial release has the potential to see the largest sales traction, this isn't always the case. I've had blips of interest throughout the years with Darkblood Chronicles, usually spurred by sales. Applying this logic, you can continue to make the rounds with your game on the social media circuit (or even other platforms), and it'll still appear "fresh" to an audience that is not familiar with it from before. In this way, you can expand the longevity of your product. Unfortunately, except anecdotally, it's hard to find a lot of examples of this with concrete data to back it up. At the end of the day though, I guess what I'm trying to get at is that games don't have an "expiration" date. If you are not successful out of the gate, does not mean your game will never be. It only takes one person (granted, the right person with a ton of influence) to potentially spread your project through word of mouth, their blog, their YouTube channel, and so on. And this might be a game you released years prior.

Another interesting note, Darkblood Chronicles is sitting on 1130 unpurchased wish lists. That's ... pretty significant, IMO. That means like 12-15% of people purchased the game, assuming it may've been first on their wish list. I don't know what's stopping the remainder from purchasing the game, as they would assumedly get an alert when the game is on sale? Unfortunately, Steam does not let you mass spam your wish lists customers :p

What have I personally learned? Again, a lot of this has already been discussed here, so I'll try to bring something new to the table.
  • Generally, more "steam lined" games do better. This goes for anything from graphics (think Stardew Value, that was a huge success on Steam, huge) to game systems. For my next project, even though it is still RPGMaker, I am eliminating battles completely, and focusing on story and exploration. Looking at Darkblood Chronicles, the battle system was a means to an end, it was there because supposedly "that's what makes an RPG".
  • Crank up that hype train two months before release with daily postings if possible, on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog, whatever. Anything. And stick to the release date once it arrives. Darkblood Chronicles was in development on and off for seven years. There was a soft release in 2014, and the game was quickly taken off the market afterwards due to reports of bugs. In the following three years, I inconsistently kept up with blog posts, but the excitement very quickly fizzled.
  • Attach a "name" to your project, if possible. Doesn't have to be someone huge. The best thing an indie project can do is team up with another fellow indie artist, musician, writer, etc. This way, you bring in another audience by association. I am very interested in working with an indie musician for my next project. And not only to bring that "indie" flavor to the project, but because it works in context with the game.
Awesome article by the way @jkweath ! As well as your take on all of this. Great read.
 
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Motochi

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Steam is over saluated compare to other market, Switch & Nintendo are 2 big market to consider, it's just RPGmaker doesn't support that :o
 

rue669

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@doriantoki Thanks for sharing! I'm a proud owner of one of those units. Admittedly, I have not yet played the game, but my steam collection is over 300 games and FF14 tends to take over my life. Regardless, I've installed the game and will play it the moment I get a chance!

@jkweath I've also purchased your game, which I believe was released today? The reason I picked it up was actually because of the skill tree. I love games with skill trees and even if it's not the sexiest picture (it doesn't show any maps or battles but is a menu screen) it shows the type of game I'm about to play. Everyone pick up a copy because it's 30% off!
 

bgillisp

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  • Attach a "name" to your project, if possible. Doesn't have to be someone huge. The best thing an indie project can do is team up with another fellow indie artist, musician, writer, etc. This way, you bring in another audience by association. I am very interested in working with an indie musician for my next project. And not only to bring that "indie" flavor to the project, but because it works in context with the game.
.
Like...aldorlea?
 

JosephSeraph

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Darkblood Chronicles has sold 168 total units. Please excuse me for a moment as I ;_; into this bucket.
Oh WOW! And... It's one of the most interesting looking commercial Steam games! I've came across it a few times but never on steam, and never bought it. Now, I am still not going to buy it because I am currently in a R$10,000.00 debt....................... But I'll definitely keep an eye out, I'm legit surprised as this really seems like it has a lot of quality and personality. D:

And this might be a game you released years prior.
That's true. And, while only tangentially related:
upload_2019-11-5_13-48-27.png
(it was a remix of the original song, but still, anything can help push your game / book / song forward and make it relevant 1/3/10 years later, ya just have to try and research)

Generally, more "steam lined" games do better. This goes for anything from graphics (think Stardew Value, that was a huge success on Steam, huge) to game systems. For my next project, even though it is still RPGMaker, I am eliminating battles completely, and focusing on story and exploration. Looking at Darkblood Chronicles, the battle system was a means to an end, it was there because supposedly "that's what makes an RPG".
nuooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooo.......... I mean, I really wish Actual RPG Maker RPGs were more valued (I cringe everytime I see the "Horror RPG" tag and I know there's absolutely no RPG in that game. Parasite Eve clones where yall at?!) although, from reading the last sentence and it's not core to the game you're making... Then it definitely wasn't supposed to be there begin with; I think one of the important rules of game design is that you need to have the features that promote your experience... and only those. Anything else will hinder what you're trying to achieve.

Attach a "name" to your project, if possible. Doesn't have to be someone huge. The best thing an indie project can do is team up with another fellow indie artist, musician, writer, etc. This way, you bring in another audience by association. I am very interested in working with an indie musician for my next project. And not only to bring that "indie" flavor to the project, but because it works in context with the game.
Absolutely important! Crossovers with other indie games are a good way to do this, too. I mean, a good, fun way, but one that might not fit into every atmosphere.

it's just RPGmaker doesn't support that
i THINK it's possible to port, with a lot of effort, MV games into the Switch / PS4. Probably definitely XBOX too. I mean JavaScript is a pretty universally accepted language iirc, but who knows. Still, a new RPG Maker should be just around the corner if it sticks to the schedule of the previous releases, and that might be a lot more modern; I can definitely see console deployment as a new feature.

edit:
This is Canvas mode only, I can see MV running at, like, 2FPS there. But still, the 3DS?! The game would need a lot of optimization, but....

Like...aldorlea?
While this is a decent strategy, I definitely don't think it's what they meant, and especially so I don't think attaching your name to a publisher blocks you out of the benefit from affiliating yourself with other beloved creators, be it content creators or gamedevs/artists/etc
So submit the game to Aldorlea to reach their niche, but still, affiliating yourself with others is bound to generate a lot of hype.

I mean, think P.T. With Kojima, Guillermo del Toro and Junji Ito on board, lol. Now scale it back to indie devs and ya got your recipe for small scale hype XD

edit:
upload_2019-11-5_14-3-38.png
shjdhjsh sis????
 
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rue669

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I think RM games have been ported to switch and other consoles. It takes a lot more work but it is possible (and I wouldn’t begin to know how to do it).

I would be really surprised if the next RPG maker would allow you to port to consoles. It’s really tough to do. It requires a license from Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox, and I think it’s a more rigorous process. It won’t be as simple as, make your game and export it to Switch. Nintendo wouldn’t allow that, even though they love their indies. It’s also probably the reason why there are consoles versions of RPG Maker (FES and MV on switch and PS4).

Anyway, that’s off topic.

To stay on topic, I wonder if there’s a pricing problem with RM games or indie games in general?
 

doriantoki

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@rue669

Oh! Thanks for purchasing :kaohi:
If and when you get the chance, I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the game. No obligation though, again, if and when you are able.

Regarding the pricing problem ... I think it's more industry wide? Overall, games have become less expensive when you take inflation into consideration and disregard DLC. For whatever reason though, the general consensus seems to be that indie games are sold at a reduced price point just because "they're indie". This doesn't make sense to me, as an indie developer spends just as much time and resources, usually funding games from their own pocket, to complete their project. I take it as a more "perception" thing, as historically quality has never been associated with indie projects. This perception is changing, somewhat, especially in that indie games have distanced themselves from AAA titles, and embraced the fact that they are different, or attempting to think outside the box.

@bgillisp

Kind of. But, for example, the project I am now working on is very Earthbound-esque, which in-itself was already well ahead of it's time in the sense that it was a Japanese developer's spin on Americana. This concept in itself was progressively "indie". If that makes sense? The game has a strong element of music and performance, so partnering with (just an example off the top of my head) Oh Wonder, an indie rock band, would make sense. Partnering with a website would work, too of course. Again, it depends on the scope of the project, as it needs to make sense in context. But it's the easiest way to receive an additional fan base on top of the one you're already attempting to build surrounding the project.

@JosephSeraph

Ah! Yes, the curators ... I still receive requests (they seem to trickle in every couple months) from curators for keys. I have responded to most, giving out 1 to 2 free keys per request. I haven't seen a bump in sales from doing so, even with the large numbers of followers that the curator groups have. Also, I poked around the comments, and there's at least a few negative comments in the groups from members around, "what's the point of said group when all they do is recommend every game?" I am not sure if these are a scam to then sell off the keys, or if these groups just want "free" games, but either way, it doesn't seem particularly fruitful since again, I did not see a single uptick in sales from any curator recommendation.
 
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jkweath

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Ah! Yes, the curators ... I still receive requests (they seem to trickle in every couple months) from curators for keys. I have responded to most, giving out 1 to 2 free keys per request. I haven't seen a bump in sales from doing so, even with the large numbers of followers that the curator groups have. Also, I poked around the comments, and there's at least a few negative comments in the groups from members around, "what's the point of said group when all they do is recommend every game?" I am not sure if these are a scam to then sell off the keys, or if these groups just want "free" games, but either way, it doesn't seem particularly fruitful since again, I did not see a single uptick in sales from any curator recommendation.
I can confirm that I've also never seen an uptick in sales from curator recommendations, and most of the curators that request keys are the kind that recommend every game and usually don't review it so much as they just regurgitate what's written on the game's store page.

I'm not 100% certain on this, but I don't think curators actually see the keys sent to them via curator connect, just a button that allows them to redeem a copy of whatever game they were sent. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of curator groups only existed to get free games to play, though that leaves the question of some of them manage to accrue the number of followers they have.
 

Parallax Panda

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All this talk about curators peaked my interest. What is STEAM curators and are they useful / needed at all for your release? Sounds almost like you shouldn’t bother with them at all?
 

FluffexStudios

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All this talk about curators peaked my interest. What is STEAM curators and are they useful / needed at all for your release? Sounds almost like you shouldn’t bother with them at all?
I would say steam curators are not very effective in promoting your game, you basically send your game copy to a list of curators for them to rate it (positive/negative), usually 90% of the curators won't really look at a lot of games because there are too many. I did not really see a change of sale with more curators rating my game (probably very minimal). For those curators that do look at your game, they'll probably won't be popular (1k followers or less). Some can give really good reviews on your steam page, but that's pretty rare. The two that I would reach out if you intend to use curators are: https://store.steampowered.com/curator/6142328-The_Cpt_FROGGY-CLUB/ and https://store.steampowered.com/curator/24714686-SUPER-Giveaways/

Hope that helps!
 

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