In this post, we'll be talking about our Greenlight campaign and pre-orders. In part I, we covered our Kickstarter.
Once our Kickstarter ended, we started taking pre-orders. We never made pre-orders available on any store – we just sold them on our website through a Humble Widget, at a 15% discount on the full retail price. Here's a graph showing pre-orders from the end of the Kickstarter to the start of our Greenlight campaign.
It's pretty noisy because of the low volumes – there were just 314 copies in this period, or about 1.4 a day. The spike in late April is due to our closed Kickstarter backers' beta. The smaller one in February coincided with the announcement that we were working on a project with Bioware.
We launched our Greenlight campaign on 13th May 2014. Sunless Sea was approved 15 days later. Here's a graph of our traffic and vote breakdown during the campaign.
This was our first Greenlight campaign so we decided to soft-launch it, in case we ran into any issues. We only publicised it on the 15th, which is why there's a traffic spike on that day.
Greenlight campaigns aren't newsworthy, so we knew we'd have to combine it with something else to get any media coverage. We released a new trailer with the first in-game footage; journalists who covered it generally included a link to the campaign page.
Most visitors to the page voted, and (fortunately for us) most voters said they would buy the game. Here are the lifetime stats. (This screenshot is actually from a few months later -- most of the numbers are unchanged, but unique visitors would have been a little under 20,000 during the actual campaign.)
Greenlight has a pretty mixed reputation, partly because of the early days when even really excellent games struggled to get approved. That's now changed: around the time we were on Greenlight, Valve were approving 75 games every two weeks.
Our experience on Greenlight was really good, and if we're given the choice we'll almost certainly do it again. Here are the main benefits.
In support of that last point, here's some more sales data from the Humble Widget on our website. Everything up to the early access soft launch is a pre-order; after that, these are sales.
Over the two weeks immediately before our Greenlight campaign, we received 21 pre-orders, or 1.5 a day. In the 16 days were were on Greenlight, there were 125. And there were another 142 over the following 19 days (before we actually made Sunless Sea available for sale).
Allowing for a baseline of 1.5 pre-orders per day, that's an extra 214 at $16 each, or $3,424 in total.
We didn't actually mention pre-orders on our Greenlight page. The increase is from people who visited our website and found the widget there. We'd probably have seen a much higher conversion rate if, for example, we'd linked to a Kickstarter that was running at the same time.
Altogether, that's $11,000 in sales – a solid return on the time invested, much of which we would have had to do anyway. Of course, the real number could be lower. But the pre-orders, at least, can't have come from anywhere else. (For what it's worth, I actually think these estimates are quite conservative.)
To make the most of a Greenlight campaign, we'd recommend making sure it's possible for people to help fund it. That could be through crowdfunding, or pre-orders, or a purchase option if the game is already available elsewhere.
In part III, we'll cover our sales figures from early access and the first month after launch.