Expectations for Steam game sales (Gamasutra articles)

Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by jkweath, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. Pots Talos

    Pots Talos Veteran Veteran

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    Here are the YouTube Ad results of the past 14 days:
    [​IMG]

    For anyone that doesn’t know:
    Impressions – Anytime the ad is played
    Views – Anytime the ad is viewed for over 30 seconds (or in full if ad is less than 30seconds)
    Clicks – Anytime the ad is clicked on (goes to my company homepage)

    I’m having this run until December 31st but as of now it hasn’t translated to any new sales or even additional wishlists.
    I’ll be sure to update if there is any change and we must also keep in mind I’ve only budgeted $200 towards this which is basically pennies when it comes to ad marketing.

    On the topic of Steam Curators, I don’t think it is about instant sales from having a Curator review your game it is mostly to help a buyer get more info if they are already looking at your game and they follow that Curator.
    The biggest Curator to review my game is RPGWatch they have 210k followers, which just means if any of those people happen to look at my store page, they will see that review jump out at them. That’s a good thing. But their review alone didn’t make a big jump in sales or anything.
     
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  2. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    Would you say you got your money back?
     
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  3. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    Coming at this from another source - ads for kindle books - advertising is really easy to do these days, but very difficult to convert to sales.

    The main piece of advice I would give is to be very selective with your targeting. Use all the tools you have available on each service and treat it like a Venn diagram. If you're selling a sci-fi JRPG with bullet hell combat, you want to ONLY show it to "people who like sci-fi AND JRPGs AND bullet hell shooters".

    The services will bleat at you if you do this, saying "that's not enough people for an effective campaign" and in a sense, they're right - the "impressions" on your ads will be low. However, more of your impressions will yield sales and, overall, you'll do better.

    It depends, always, on what you intend to achieve. Start with "why". Advertising we see day-to-day kinda becomes noise, but advertisers have very distinct aims. Coca-Cola are just maintaining their brand awareness (the best in the world, btw) whereas a plumbing business only wants to advertise to people who want a plumber (that's why Google got so rich).
     
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  4. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    Will it look bad to not have had any curators look at your game I wonder? All the curator reviews I’ve seen so far has been completely useless. Blank or copy-pasted from the devs description, but maybe having no steam curators look at your game would look bad as well?

    Although, after you had a few make their “reviews”, just keep throwing keys at any curator that ask, when most seem to do a poor job doesn't feel great either. But then again, those people probably aren’t potential customers anyway so maybe it’s best to just keep at it anyway for whatever minimal marketing benefits it could yield?

    @FluffexStudios
    Thanks. That is actually very helpful.
     
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  5. Pots Talos

    Pots Talos Veteran Veteran

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    I won't really know until December 31st when my ad campaign ends.
    In those 14 days I've sold 6 copies but that isn't a noticeable jump so I can't say it had to do with the ad.
     
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  6. Storyteller-Hero

    Storyteller-Hero Veteran Veteran

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    I think it may be important to note that competition on Steam includes not only indie RPGs like those made in RPG Maker, but also games made by large companies like Square Enix. This should probably be an important consideration when pricing a game for sale and gauging performance by price.

    The PC port of Final Fantasy IV may be a good example. It's one of the cheaper FF games at $15.99, with a long play time expectation and game mechanics that are comparable to RPG Maker games.

    If setting one's price at or greater than $15.99, there's a good chance of comparison with well-known RPG lines like Final Fantasy.
     
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  7. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    I think you might have to be a little careful with pricing your game at the same level as Final Fantasy 4. Keep in mind that game is made by Square Enix, a reputable company. You as an indie developer are unknown and don’t have a proven track record.

    I’m happy to drop 15.99 on a square Enix game. I would think twice about dropping 15.99 for a game by a developer I don’t knowing who’s games I’ve never played.
     
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  8. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    Hey, wait a minute. I kinda missed this the first time around but the author of the game "Don't Give Up" has a very different relationship to money than I do.

    So the full budget of the game was below 30K USD? Since he/she specifically mentions that number I have to assume it was close though. And if so, 30.000 USD? You kidding me? How many of us RM devs are investing that much into their games? Not many, if ANY. Because chances of earning that back on sales are slim. Fact is, most smart (commercial) RM devs probably don't even put down 1000 USD into their budget and make do with a few hundred. Although, there's exceptions to the rule but 30K? No way.

    To put this into perspective. I don't even make 30K USD working full-time (including night shifts) in ONE YEAR (if we exclude taxes and look at what I actually get deposit into my bank account). And while my pay is pretty poor, I don't live in a developing country with poor living standards. And there's a lot of people here getting paid even less than me if they have a blue collar job, work at restaurant, cafe, hotel, shop, supermarket etc. 30K USD is a lot of money for most people. A lot.

    So he/she made about 2100$ in the first month, and they think that's kinda bad? Well, with that budget invested I can understand where they're coming from, but if a game I made made 2000$ in it's first month I would consider that a success. But then again, I wouldn't have invested 30K USD and 3 years into my game either. And if you didn't, 2000$ in the first month isn't half bad, especially not for a first game by a small indie. Because that's just the first month, he/she'll earn more over the years, especially during sales. So I dunno...

    I just had to get that out of my system. Me and that dev's perspective on, and relation to, money - is very different.
     
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  9. jkweath

    jkweath Goes Fast Veteran

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    @Pots Talos thanks for sharing. I had a small Reddit ad run for a couple days after Knight Eternal released:

    reddit ad.png

    I only set it to spend a max of $20 with an average CPC of $0.10. I'm 99% certain no sales resulted from it, but I wonder if the ad at least helped the game get some name recognition. Similar to how you said curator reviews may not result in direct sales but could help indirectly, I imagine ads like this would work the same way.

    I might run another ad with a different setup, as you can set it between a cost-per-click based ad or a simple impression-based ad that's focused on just showing it as many times as possible.

    Jeez, I didn't read the part where the developer spent "below 30K USD". If that's the case, then that guy's got some debt to pay back for sure.
     
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  10. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @Parallax Panda : And that is why I say as much as people rail on the RTP, we're going to be stuck with it for a lot longer with games that are released. A fully functional tileset made by a good artist is going to set back most devs 20K right there, and with sales as low as it is most aren't going to sink that kind of money into the art at the moment, knowing that they will probably never get that money back.

    The only way I think that will change is for someone to release for free to use full tilesets (unlikely) or DLCs with full tilesets to be developed. And seeing as most have not completed a full tileset yet. and I mean FULL. Indoor, outdoor, forest, swamp, ice, desert, lava, jungle, cave and modern, all in same style. I don't think a single tileset exists outside of the RTP that has all of that, so if you make a big game you either will need to take the 20K risk, or use the RTP.
     
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  11. jkweath

    jkweath Goes Fast Veteran

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    @bgillisp technically the FES and DS could be considered RTP but they're far, far less common. I've only seen two games made with the FES RTP, and one of them is mine. The FES set is relatively affordable and contains more than enough to make a full game out of.

    There's also the Time Fantasy set which is pretty extensive, though it costs a bit more to buy every piece of the set. The same artist has the Omega Modern pack too, which isn't quite as extensive but would probably still be enough for a full game.
     
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  12. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @jkweath : I have the DS and DS+. There was something it was missing (don't remember what) though which meant it didn't work for my game. Plus the new rule of no editing on the new DLC version of it means if your tile is close but not what you need you're in trouble.
     
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  13. Storyteller-Hero

    Storyteller-Hero Veteran Veteran

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    It says "Editing Permitted" on the store page here for DS and DS+ packs though.

    :elswt2:
     
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  14. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Check the EULA for the new one that just came out.

    Edit: Ok, it says no editing for facesets and pictures in any form. The rest can be edited. Still, I've seen others that say no editing allowed so if that occurs you could run into a problem too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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  15. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    @bgillisp You just had me go through all my purchased DLC to double check that personal edits were allowed. dayum near gave me a heart attack!
     
    #55
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  16. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    Yeah those new DS&DS+ DLC's have some weird fine print. I can't even begin to understand how you'd put a weird clause like that in a commercial pack sold for money, so people can buy it and make games out of it. It's just ridiculous in my book. But even so, I bought it so I'm not exactly helping the problem by passively supporting that business practice.

    Time Fantasy and the DS sets are probably the most complete DLC sets in the traditional JRPG style. If you're okay with a more western look then PVGames has a fair collection of sprites, tiles and what not as well. And then there's FSM, ancient dungeons and other DLC's that might have enough for a game, depending on what game you want to make. Although, they lack sprites so you'd have to get that elsewhere.

    So yeah, there are options to the RTP, although nothing wrong with the RTP either. There's a lot of user made content for it so if you take that into consideration, the RTP style (with it's character generator) is probably the largest collection still.

    @jkweath
    Yeah, I missed it the first time too. But man. It even says he made his tiles and sprites himself so I've no idea where that money went? Probably towards music and programming? The game is probably made in a more complex engine than RM and it seems the dev can't programs which probably made that a huge money sink. Which in and of itself is a bad way to handle a first project in my opinion though. If you can't program you either learn or use an engine that allows you to bypass it. Sinking 30K USD into paying someone else to do it for you seems like sub-optimal. :kaoswt2:
     
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  17. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    I totally concur. The max I've spent on a game was not even 1K.
    Even in the "good ol' days" I don't think spending this much would be a good idea.

    Considering how much he invested and all the gazillion (but useless) marketing things he tried, yes it's pretty bad.
    Also back in the days (think, 3 years ago lol) a $2000 launch was nothing to write home about. You could do that on a $50-budget game (with zero spent in marketing). :ninja:
     
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  18. Parallax Panda

    Parallax Panda Got into VxAce ~2014 and never stopped... Veteran

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    @Indinera
    That might have been true then, but I think this game was released recently. Like, a month ago or so. Obviously he/she expected more for all the work and money they put into it. And who knows, maybe it IS a great game, I dunno. But when casually observing screenshots and trailer, it doesn't come across as one. And that's really all that matters. The first impression of the customers. All things considered, what I see when I look at it is a game that I would expect to make way less than what it did.

    And it's not just that game. I don't even expect my own game (whenever it's launched) to get that much during release month either. Which is a little sad but you know. Market is tough now. A great game, even a great looking game, isn't guaranteed to sell unfortunately.

    Also, better set expectations low and be happily surprised then vise versa.
     
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  19. Indinera

    Indinera Indie Dev Veteran

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    And who knows, maybe it IS a great game

    It's not even the point IMO. I'd say paid marketing is over-rated regardless of the quality of the game. It's over-rated for great, good, average and bad games. :dizzy:

    And it's not just that game. I don't even expect my own game (whenever it's launched) to get that much during release month either. Which is a little sad but you know. Market is tough now. A great game, even a great looking game, isn't guaranteed to sell unfortunately.

    Is your game a "classic" (epic fantasy) game?
    Release it on my website if that's the case...

    Also, better set expectations low and be happily surprised then vise versa.

    I never set any expectations at all.
    I do my own thing and then whateva. :ninja:
    (obviously in the framework of profitability a dev can only follow this approach as long as the games kinda sell overall xD)
     
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  20. JosephSeraph

    JosephSeraph White Mage Restaff

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    In my experience advertising my personal artist page on FB, spending one dollar a day has the best bang for my buck and I've had posts of speedpaints go semi viral a couple of times.

    Setting a budget of 300+ per year and using 1 dollar a day on that form might be very cost efficient, long term. Of course, there are multiple platforms for that ... But yeah just echoing that cheap and very specific campaigns probably have the best chance of turning a profit especially after a good enough amount of time


    Also, about the tilesets, I'm kind of surprised to see you guys are in such need of a complete RTP equivalent that covers each and every staple because not every game needs to tick every box. And a lot of the tilesets have small pocketfuls of missing scenarios that you could either commission someone to cover for a lot less than 20k (since it's just one scenario adapted from a pre existing style) or even contact the original artist and propose to invest into a tilesets add-on by paying their work then potentially getting a share of pack sales back :p

    I'd definitely do that, in fact the 3D animations I'm doing for Records in Blue are soooooo becoming asset packs, lol
     
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