This article was first posted on my blog on hammer-labs.com. I've edited the text a little bit so it makes more sense for readers who don't know me and my studio (so probably most of you ;) )
For the last seven months, the very first commercial game I have ever created - Farm for your Life - has been on Greenlight with the hopes of being able to sell it one day through Steam. As of tuesday, our game is no longer available through the plattform.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
1) We had an internal struggle about the account and, well, the game lost I guess. (A lesson learned in choosing your partners very carefully. This had nothing to do with the folks at Valve)
And b) – as you will see – it was highly unlikely that we would reach the goal. Since we get asked all the time if or when the game will be on steam, lingering on Greenlight felt like misrepresenting that possibility.
Anyways, moving forward. I want to show you some of the data we got from Greenlight about the progress of our game. Since our game got removed rather quickly and without notice, the only stats I can show you are from the beginning of April. I will also give my thoughts about all the stats, but please be aware that Farm for your Life is my only data point, so my observations are highly unreliable
(Just a quick note, If you put a game on Greenlight, you get so many statistics about it, it’s like porn really you have been warned)
Ok, I want to start slow. So here is a chart of how many people voted yes and no:
As you can see, about 60% of all the people who voted on our game voted “No”. You will see later that the best games on Greenlight have this ratio more heavily shifted towards “Yes” (about 60% vote yes for popular items). If I had to make a guess, I would assume that Farm for your Life, being a casual game, was probably not the right game for Steam. Another likely possibility – since Farm for your Life is our first game – is that the game is simply not good enough.
However, scrolling through the comments showed lot’s of very nice and encouraging messages. So, even though we got more No votes, the overwhelming majority of comments were positive. I loved that a lot about Greenlight and I regulary scanned the comments to get a motivational boost. (I was waiting for the trolls to come any day… but they didn’t show up )
This graph shows the amount of unique views (new visitors seeing our page) and votes during our lifetime on Greenlight. As you can see we started really, really strong. This is highly motivating in the beginning and you immediately think “this is easy, we will be on Steam in no time”. Here is a facebook post of myself after three days of being on Greenlight:
The graph I posted on Facebook is an ealier version of the stats and this was the only data we got back in October. However, you can see clearly that we did better than the average Top 100 item. Awesome!!!!
The spirits were up and I calculated in my head that it would only take about a month to race through the Greenlight process and get on Steam. Well, not so much
You can see the early peak and rapid dropoff in the lifetime graph. The way greenlight works is that visitors will be shown random games they have not yet rated and then they can either select “Yes, I want this on Steam” or “No, next please”.
As I have gathered from other developers (and the other stats we have) this initial spike is very common, since the “usual Greenlight crowd” will cycle through your game quite quickly. After that you are on your own to get new people to vote for you. To make matters worse, after about three days we dropped of the first page of the “Newly Released” site and got lost in the noise of Greenlight.
I want to note that we were featured on Rock Paper Shotgun in May and I am really sorry that I don't have a screenshot of the data for that. But since the RPS article was a very isolated datapoint for us, we could see the impact of that article quite clearly. We got about 200-300 new “Yes” votes and we even saw a small bump in the following graph: (the RPS bump is faked by me so you can get an idea on the relative impact)
As you can see, even though we got a short article on Rock Paper Shotgun, it’s really just a small bump. So one article alone is not enough to shift the odds to your favor. You need massive and constant exposure.
Note: Getting through the Greenlight process successfully is a lot of hard work.
This graph also shows very clearly that other games have the same initial spike in the first few days and after that it’s a tough climb to the top. Take note of entry #15 (the brown graph). They had roughly the same curve like we did (the bumps at day 60 and 90 look just like our RPS bump) but then, all of the sudden did god knows what to get discovered. So, if you have been on Greenlight a long time, not all is lost. Be patient and try new ideas to get discovered. You never know what will work.
The last bit of the statistics show you all the hard numbers that show you just how much people you need to successfully get through the Greenlight process.
I have to admit, marketing is not my strong suite. So I wasn’t able to do a lot to move the needle in my favour. The Rock Paper Shotgun article was pure luck and in no way resulted in any of my attemps to reach blogs and news outlets. So these results are definitely my own fault. But, as you can see in the numbers, Farm for your Life was a looooong way off to successfuly get onto Steam. The last count on “Yes” votes was just over 8000 and the top items on steam have over 40000 (note that is says average Top 50, so the best once that actually get greenlit have probably a lot more).
However, the Greenlight process has been good to our little game. As you can see, we got 27161 unique pair of eyes seeing our game and the first month we put our game on Greenlight we definitely saw an increase in Beta sales on our website. So even though we didn’t make it, we still got a lot of exposure and good will for our game that we otherwise wouldn’t have.
I hope this post helps other developers, who are thinking about putting their game up on Greenlight, to get an idea for what it will take. Again, I wasn’t very good at playing this game, but we will definitely try to find other avenues to put our game into peoples hands.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time.
About Farm for your Life
Farm for your Live is combining different genres by mixing up familiar environments and plots into a unique gameplay experience addressing players who are into farm-, restaurant- and time-management games.
Several details like refreshing mini-games, unexpected tower defense elements and the fact that you have to survive a zombie apocalypse without any guns create a gaming experience no one should miss.
About Hammer Labs
Hammer Labs is a small game development studio found by Andreas Bendt and Oliver Eberlei in 2013, shortly after they have graduated from university. The company serves as an umbrella to unify all their creative projects and teams. It’s a place of experimentation and creation, addressing passionate gamers and developers alike.
Hammer Labs is currently working on a mobile version of Farm for your Life and a Sci-Fi Shoot 'em Up called Sky Arena for the Ouya