WOW!!! Hello again and welcome to all legates and trustees. It's hard to believe it's been a full (desperately searches notes) 2 years since I first started selling freeholds in fictitious real estate or "video games" as the kids refer to them these days and lived the magic life. Within a week I had murdered all my friends and sacrificed their bodies to the River God for good harvest. THESE days I'd rather kick back with a cold... head and enjoy the... what?... the... spiritually nourishing artistic and philosophical discourses. "You've been a long way baby" and the videogame landscape (barren, littered with corpses) has developed immeasurably since those faraway yet golden days. It's now commonplace for our best and brightest young minds to tread boldly down the same monetisation road as I once did and when reflecting upon the small yet crucial role of the below in preparing the way for these terrific cultural changes I feel no shame in admitting that a small tear comes to my eyeless holes.|
In this lecture series I will share the secrets of my amazing success.
OK no pivot table shit or graphs this is just the basic reports. Here is the total income and sales of the three titles I've put on itch.io: 50 Short Games, Mouse Corp, and the small zine named Space People.|
50 Short Games was my first commercial enterprise and is still my biggest seller. Here are some pros and cons of this game and why I think it was a SMASH:
- 50 sounds like a large number
- at this point I had built up a backlog of free releases which maybe people felt guilty about and which influenced their decision to throw dollars at my miserable self.
- Windows only despite experiments which will not be discussed
- all the games inside are already free.. uh..............
- the games are all marker drawing klik n play things
Despite onesidedness of this list 50 Short Games did good and I am happy with it. My initial estimate for how much I'd sell was to take the number of people who generally download my smaller free games (c1800-3000?) and divide by ten for an estimate on conversion. In fact it was a little better!
NOTE: Itch.io has an optional tip system where people can choose to pay above the default price if they feel generous, this was an extremely good idea and helped tremendously with this game, the average amount paid is something like €5.2 now but was €6.5 for the first couple months which is >50% extra income per unit!! Wow!! And had many extremely generous outliers.
NOTE 2: TIMING
Most of these sales, maybe 250-275? happened in the first three months after release. After that there were occasional spikes when something happened (getting accepted for the WordPlay festival was a big one!) but it has mostly just kept ticking over.
The fact that I still get sales from it and that the individual sale return is pretty good make me think that building up a large back book would be the way to go in terms of making this "sustainable" rather than hoping for a freak hit.
Here is the next game called MOUSE CORP:
Firstly I would like to say I had mixed feelings about this game in parts despite the fact that it did 1000% of what it was built to do, namely, have colours, have mice. So for the first year or so it was set up as "pay what thou wilt". I was also maybe slightly less obnoxious about pushing it on people. It's ok if you couldn't tell...
So you can see this game got significantly less purchases but more downloads which is basically what you would expect, HOWEVER it got less downloads than most of my free games! I think pay what you want can become a weird liminal thing where you don't make much money but also everyone still feels uncomfortable about playing it anyway. After about a year I silently put the price up to a minimum €2 and since then I've actually been seeing a little more of an uplift again. Who knew.
This was a zine I made for a real life zine conference and it did OK there, I scanned it, I made a little cash, I'm happy.
All of these figures come from itch.io which is currently the only store I'm selling on, due partly to the weird technical structure of things like the 50 Short Games. Additionally no effort was made for things like sales, bundles, etc, given that the games were already pretty cheap and in some cases partially free and that I didn't want to rip off anyone who paid the full price for them (given this is a practice I would prefer to encourage anyway....).|
Additional sales could probably have been made in retrospect by submitting to more festivals and things but I was SHY and anyway the timing always seemed to be off.
In terms of additional storefronts I tried contacting GOG and they did not care for it. But no ill-will was generated and I for one wish them many happy years of trying to hock copies of Lemmings 3D.
I am not planning to submit anything to Steam at present due to emotional distress at the thought that a tithe of my earnings would ever go to the developers of the putrid Half-Life 2.
None, reelly, despite everything I still suspect the market for selling these things is weird and hyperspecific enough to make a general case study based on individual titles impossible, and all the above really shows is that games with zero budget / advertising / genre audience / quality control / etc are [not enormously profitable] / [pretty profitable] depending on what your metrics are. But this conclusion also I would not stand besides in 100% of cases, given the persistent and unguessable perversity of the human brain and specifically that small part of it which cares about videogames. So there is little to be gleaned except maybe for more evidence of how variable these earnings can be and the continuing sense that the commercial audience for small scrappy semi-narrative games is as yet still pretty scrappy and contingent. Having said all this I will not hesitate to draw some wholly outrageous prophecies of industry from the entire business in the manner of my idol Shingy.
1. Videogame players are not really the audience: which I think can be easily extrapolated from the fact that many games both big and small seem more successful at crowdfunding, patreons etc than at the actual release part, who among us has not felt like some campaign or other was ubiquitous and terrifically popular and then been mildly surprised when the finished product actually scoots quietly onto platforms some 12-18 months afterwards, usually with a minimum of notice or occasion. There are probably good reasons for this in terms of frontloading publicity and etcetera but in my opinion it also suggests people prefer paying for games when they don't have to actually play them, similarly twitch, etc, and that this is possibly less banal a thing than you'd expect given how many, uh, for the sake of glibness call them 'avant garde' games have spent the last ten years toying on that same split from the imaginary audience embodied in the design of a game and the reallife audience that actually plays it, all the way back to Life Of D. Duck and beyond. And arguablyeven some of the most conservative and straitlaced of game genres draw to some extent on the same idea, that what they're selling above all is the image of an invented audience which the real life players then try to adopt postfacto. I've talked before about how strange is the discrepancy between the media image of videogames - speed, flux, fantasy, control - and actual videogames, which are slower and more leaden, where everything comes at a buffer. Videogames are significantly slower than the internet, in particular, and lacking the resources (or the presumption) to insist that this lag is worth pushing through, I suspect small games will increasingly suffer from it, unless they can adapt by either jettisoning enough to keep pace, and become as fluid as their containing structure, or else do something interesting with that lag in the first place, by enacting an alternative vision that's strong enough and appealing enough to work as a countermeasure. Anyway, my current plan is to institute a kind of Patreon in reverse where I threaten to send videogames to people if a certain regular payment is not met, a venerable monetisation strategy previously adopted to great effect by both Cosa Nostra and the church.
2. Kill your friends and sacrifice their bodies to the river god: this one should be obvious! Hopefully if you're reading this then by now you've already murdered all your friends but if not then do it NOW for pete's sake. It gives big boosts to both LUCK and ENDR and you also get access to the secret club where the surviving remnants of the Bourbon dynasty gather together to spin the big wheel and determine the direction of videogames for the next year (bet big on "snake simulator" in 2016). 20% easier to build military bases. If you're not sure how to perform the blood rite of the river god just watch my instructional video about it which is currently available on GDC Vault.
Whoooosh! Whooooosh! Whooooosh!
- A1 Industrytitan