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Defender's Quest: By the Numbers

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Defender's Quest: By the Numbers

April 11, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next


Let's start with sales numbers. We went on sale January 19th. As of this writing, we've been on sale for about two and a half months. All dollar values are in USD.

*This does NOT represent a profit of 46.7K. Altogether, we put in several thousand hours of labor that still needs compensating.

We sold the game on by partnering with FastSpring, a popular online payment provider, which takes 8 percent of our gross revenues. At first, everyone who played the demo on any Flash portal was directed to our website to buy the full game.

On February 7th, we started letting players on the portal Kongregate buy the full game with "kreds," the site's virtual currency. Even though Kongregate takes 30 percent of kred revenue, we decided to try it because the system was easier for players, which would hopefully lead to more overall sales.

We started with the special introductory price of $6.99 on our site, and 50 "kreds" (about $5) on Kongregate.

Why two different prices?

1. The Kongregate version is online-only, and has compressed graphics/audio. The download version has a few extra features, can be played anywhere, and has higher-quality assets.

2. 50 kreds is a better impulse purchase price than 70, since the smallest amount of kreds players can buy is 50.

Though the game is a complete, finished experience, we plan to add more content later in an upcoming Gold edition release. With the bonus material included, the final price for Gold edition will be $9.99. Everyone who has already bought the game will receive free upgrades for the additional content.

Next, let's look at a chart of our sales over time:

Blue represents gross revenue from our own site, and red is gross revenue from kreds purchases. I've also marked various points on the graph with the following press and other events:

SourceEvent or ArticleDate
Destructoid Tower Defense meets RPG in ambitious Defender's Quest 1/20
Joystiq The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Defender's Quest 1/21
Jay Is Games Defender's Quest 1/22
Rock, Paper, Shotgun Hours Of Towers: Defender's Quest 1/23
Event Launches on Kongregate 1/27
Destructoid Review: Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten 1/28
Event Launches on Newgrounds 1/30
Event Front page of Kongregate and Newgrounds 1/31
Event Newgrounds goes down for redesign 2/6
Event Enabled kreds on Kongregate 2/7
Event Featured Game on Kongregate 2/8
Rock, Paper, Shotgun Second Wave: Defender's Quest Free Gold Update 3/22

Mentions in the gaming press (Rock, Paper, Shotgun, in particular) correlate to single-day sales spikes. The largest spikes, however, as well as sustained sales over time, correlate with launching on the major Flash game portals (particularly Kongregate and Newgrounds). So the question is, which made a bigger difference: Flash portals or good press? For further analysis, we turned to our coupon data.

We made several different coupon codes available, as one of our many metrics for tracking sales and virality. We gave people who had signed up for our newsletter prior to release a special coupon for $2 off. We gave reviewers coupon codes named after their sites, which were good for $1 off. Our first batch of coupons was good through the end of January, but we later added some that were good through February 14th, specifically the Kongregate and Newgrounds coupons.

Here's a chart of sales by coupon:

You'll also see some other coupons on the chart. I gave the coupon code "ZEBOYD" to fellow indie RPG developer Robert Boyd, who sent it out to his followers over Twitter and posted it on various forums around the internet. The "MONA" code was posted by our lawyer, Mona Ibrahim, and I posted another in my previous Gamasutra blog post about our launch.) The "SPECIAL" code was the $2 coupon from our newsletter.

When we released on Newgrounds and Kongregate, we were not sure if a demo with an up-sell would anger players, since those sites are free-to-play portals. Anticipating the worst reaction, we gave players on each site a $2 off coupon towards the game. After about a week on Kongregate, we replaced the link to our store with a link to buy the game for 50 kreds.

Coupon codes correlate fairly strongly to sales sources, but they're not exact. For instance, many people from a referring site will not use the provided coupon. Coupons have a tendency to leak throughout the internet, so obviously people outside the original target group end up using them. Also, if the coupons differ in value, word eventually gets out and people start using the higher-value coupon more. In the above example, the newsletter coupon (SPECIAL), was worth $2 off and only advertised in our newsletter. Many newsletter subscribers bought the game at full price anyway, and a lot of people who used this coupon were not on the newsletter.

Finally, all the coupons eventually expired, so sales from these sources after the expiration dates aren't reflected in this chart.

But even with these caveats, I think it is fair to say that these sites were among our highest sources of revenue so far:






Based on coupon redemptions alone, the two flash portals, Kongregate and Newgrounds, represent over 75 percent of sales.

Given that this chart only represents sales made with a coupon from our FastSpring store, and leaves out kreds sales altogether, the real number for Kongregate is surely signficantly higher.

For now, we are only selling on our site with FastSpring and on Kongregate through kreds. We plan to expand onto other portals soon (Desura/Impulse/etc.), and of course, if Steam or the Humble Indie Bundle come calling, we'll topple off our seats.

But here are some things we did to increase sales.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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Eric Kinkead
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Congrats to your release!!!

Lars Doucet
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Thanks! Still not sure if we did something right or just got lucky!

Eric Kinkead
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You did something right Lars, you stuck with it and polished it up nicely!

Glenn Sturgeon
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I picked up the game from the Defendersquest site about 2 weeks ago.
Congratulations on the launch & success so far. The game is a great combo of TD & rpg with characters that are quite unique.(and likable.) The game is "well beyond the quality of alot of the games on gamersgate & steam", thats where you belong with this game. Maybe you will be on those sites when the gold version is done? I can only say i hope the best for LevelUpLabs and for continued success, with a game as good as Defenders Quest you deserve it.

Matt Hackett
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These are all extremely valuable insights, thank you so much for sharing Lars!

Lars Doucet
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No problem, Matt!

I see from your profile you're into HTML5 development - what part was most interesting/relevant to you? This is kind of just a huge info-dump, so I'm interested in what parts are actually useful to people.

E Zachary Knight
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As someone who is currently making a Flash game, I love the insight you have on how much different portals affected your sales. That is one of the things I am very interested in learning more about.

Lars Doucet
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Any questions in particular?

We had to trim a lot of content from the article, so I can share more details right here in the comments.

E Zachary Knight
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Nothing particular at the moment. You have provided quite a bit to think about right now. One thing I am researching at the moment is how Facebook would fit in my plans. My game is not meant to be a single player experience, so Facebook seems to be an important part of that. However, that influence may be lessening as time moves forward. Who knows how it will be in 6 months time.

James Hofmann
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Great article!

You've confirmed something about the Flash market that I've suspected for a long while - it's overlooked as a lead-generation tool.

Something that I wasn't sure about was whether maximizing the value on portals(high score, front page, etc.) was necessary to make that strategy work, but judging from your experience it seems like "make a good game" - and making an _honest_ game(with DEMO clearly indicated) comes before specifically tailoring the game to the needs of portals.

Bryson Whiteman
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Great article! Thanks for outlining your keys to success.

Jay McG
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Lars, incredible article, thanks so much from another indie dev, that launched at the same time as you... though not flash based, we have still found many similarities in strategies that worked or didnt work for us thus far. Thanks for sharing, this is invaluable for indie devs, and I'll be sure to look for you on Twitter!

Lars Doucet
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I'm @larsiusprime, what's your tag?

Colter Haycock
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As a Flash developer by day (real job) and a Flash developer by night (hobby/indie), I appreciate the information. I've always wondered why there aren't more Flash games out there sold like "normal" games. Once I saw DQ and realized it was Flash, I knew I had to buy it.

I know Kongregate is huge but I'm still surprised that most of your sales came from there. You guys seemed to have a good amount of very positive coverage on popular gaming sites; I expected your direct sales to be higher.

Congrats and I'm eagerly awaiting the expansion.

PS- The swords at the end are ridiculously overpriced :P

Lars Doucet
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It surprised me too. I'll have to compare to other's experience to arrive at more "scientific" conclusions, but based on what we've got, it seems like press leads to big single day spikes, but doesn't lead to sustained growth on it's own, whereas flash portals give you both spikes and long-tail growth.

I think this is because, on a news site, your game's on the front page, then drops off. Nobody binges through joystiq or RPS' archives on a daily basis, but players on flash portals do exactly that - they go through and find other games on the site to play. Not nearly as much as when you're featured, but it's still sustained, organic, traffic.

What press does give you beyond spikes is overall visibility, and general exposure in the community. Furthermore, our chances of getting on to Steam / HIB depend on cracking into their visible sphere, which I imagine has a lot to do with press.

Mustafa Hanif
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Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Lars you are one of the most awesome guy on the internet, no one shares so much info with so much details.

I am from Pakistan, and a game developer. I read every single word with precise detail so that no info escapes me. Thank you again, you wrote that "I hope it helps someone" .. Well it did atleast one person and its me.

I pray that you are cured of you illness. :)

Best wishes from Karachi.

Lars Doucet
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Thanks so much! Glad it's actually helpful to people.

Colm Larkin
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Congrats on the success & thanks for sharing numbers! Looks like you definitely made the right choice by charging for the game - don't think you'd have got a $70k (and counting) sponsorship. ++

Lars Doucet
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What's interesting is how the sponsorship model has affected the flash games community. On the one hand, it's forged a viable ecosystem, but its growth is stunted by the "sponsorship ceiling."

Most successful flash developers who don't charge for games follow what I call the "Nerdook Strategy", after the famous and awesome flash developer Nerdook (

In this strategy, you make short, simple games, and lots of them, releasing several a year. It works really well for some developers (like Nerdook). For dorks like me who absolutely HAVE to make these big elaborate things, though, sponsorships just can't cut it.

YC Sim
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Kinda awesome to have a strategy named after me. Congratulations on your release again, Lars, it's nice to see successful Flash games being released like this. Hopefully I can get a commercial release out the door sometime soon, too!

Damian Connolly
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Congrats on the game Lars, great writeup! Did you have any problems going to the gaming sites like RPS and Joystiq given that it's a flash game, which could be seen as less "professional"?

Great to see someone pushing AIR as a viable framework for indie dev!

Lars Doucet
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We really didn't!

Joystiq, RPS, Destructoid, all had no reservations and were really approachable, friendly, and didn't show any sign of condescending because of our platform. In fact, having a browser demo of the game probably made it easier for them to check the game out in 5 minutes, so if anything it probably helped us get press attention.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe Machinarium and The Binding of Isaac are also flash games? They might do some things to disguise it but I think that's the core technology they're using.

Chris Melby
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Thanks Lars, this is a great source of information. It addresses areas that I hadn't even thought about yet! :)

And Machiariam and Isaac are both Flash at the core.

Lars Doucet
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Also looks like Kyle Pulver's latest release, "Offspring Fling" is Adobe AIR underneath, too! I'm sharing some tips with him right now about how to compile the game for Linux.

David Paris
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Thanks for the in-depth facts and figures. I really appreciate it when people are candid about their results.
rnAlso just plain looks fun, so I'll probably pick this up tonight and give it a play.

Linh Ngo
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Amazing insights into the Flash game market. I learned quite a bit. As Unity devs, we are considering our options in this arena, so this was invaluable. Thanks!

John Funtanilla
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Lars, you're the man! I was reading this article on my phone and had to get out the bed and on my computer just to post a proper comment.

I'm actually releasing my game Super Ski Runner ( on April 20th for PC and Mac, and am doing a "Pay What You Want" model. Those who donate get the special Gold package. I'll be sharing my statistics after several months as well.

I'll be releasing a Flash demo of the game (doesn't have the Gold edition bonus content). What would you say your conversion rate of plays vs sales was? I know my game isn't as extensive as Defender's Quest, which is why I'm making it pay what you want. The developer of indie game Proun found some success with this model. What's your take on it?

Again, thanks for posting and congrats!

Lars Doucet
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Depending on how we figure, our particular conversion rate is somewhere between 2 and 3%.

We've got more detailed stats on this tigsource forum thread:

I think Pay What you Want is a great model, and I'd love to try it out in the near future, but I was a little gun-shy of trying it right out of the gate with my first commercial title.

Proun was an awesome game - I definitely bought it. I think they could have improved on their method in a few ways:

1) Offer a free demo (pay "0" for the non-bonus version was essentially the demo)
2) Make the gold version have lots of extra content (rather than just a few bonus tracks)
3) Set the minimum price around $1

That's just nitpicking though, they clearly did pretty well anyways.

Good luck with your game!

Saul Gonzalez
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The Proun developer himself called the "Pay what you want" experiment a failure. He said he was sure he would have made several times more money with a more traditional model.That said, I would agree that setting a minimum that's not $0 is important, as explained by Lars in another article.

(This post was meant to be a reply to John, made a mistake when posting)

Lars Doucet
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Minor update: An authoritative source that wishes to remain anonymous wrote to tell me that the Primary sponsorship game has changed over the last few years.

According to the source, primary sponsorships up to 100K - with reasonable terms - are not unheard of these days. The source mentioned that he/she knew of 6 titles that had cracked this barrier, but wasn't able to give any names or further details.

These numbers haven't been published widely, and I imagine flash portals have no incentive to make these figures public lest it drive up bids :)

So apparently the flash market is still growing and the sponsorship model can support larger, more robust games than it could a few years ago. In light of this information, for our next title I might consider putting our next title up for bids just to see what offers we get.

Even still, I'm glad we took the route we did, as there's still a fixed ceiling to a sponsorship payment.

Finally, there was no way for us to know this information when we made our decision, which I think further underscores the importance of developers sharing sales and revenue stats.

Adam Buffett
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Many thanks for sharing the experience and particularly the little details. One question... have you thought about putting this inside Facebook with a free demo, then a Facebook payment required to continue past the demo stage? Is something like that on the roadmap, or have you decided against it for some reason?

Steven An
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Dude thanks for posting this detailed information. GamaSutra needs more articles like this..

Patrick Kirk
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20 months development and 5 months sales and your income is $46,000 between 2 developers. Your article is great and shows a lot of insight. I wonder if you have any predictions on what your income over the next 2 years or so from that game will be?