Sales and Pricing
When we initially released the game on January 19, 2012, the price was $6.99. We raised this to $9.99 when Gold Edition came out, and settled at $14.99 as the final price for the Steam/GOG release. We raised the price because we knew we would make most of our money during sales periods, and we needed to give ourselves room to go down. All previous owners of the game received free updates at no additional cost.
As expected, the majority of revenue from GOG and Steam came during sales periods. Note that this effect is not just due to the discount, however, but the combined effect of the discount along with featured promotion leading to a temporary boost in visibility.
We used fairly steep discounts (33, 50, and 66 percent off), and did so early in the game's release. We're not sure if that was the wisest move, and feel we might have underpriced ourselves during these sales periods. For our next title we'll likely use shallower discounts to see if there's any major difference in revenue.
Steam provides the most detailed stats of any of our platforms, so let's look at some interesting data from there.
Steam demo-to-sale conversion rate
This stat means that over 1/3 of all people who have ever played the Steam demo go on to buy the full game. This speaks well of not only our demo, but also the Steam platform itself. Installing and playing a demo on Steam is often just as easy as playing a browser demo on the web -- the player clicks one button, waits for the game to download, and then she's ready to play.
To give that number some perspective, our conversion rate of Kongregate players (202,610 unique) to Kongregate purchasers (3,524 Kreds transactions + 4,977 Direct Sales by Kongregate referal) is 4.2 percent, which is considered very high for that platform.
Also, here are our playtime stats from our steam page (re-formatted to fit this page, and with emphases added).
Fully half of all people who have ever opened their copy of Defender's Quest on Steam have played for at least 10 hours, and over a quarter have played for 20!
According to the achievement data, 40 percent have beaten the regular game, 8 percent have beaten new-game+, and about 2 percent have beaten the ridiculously hard "Hero Mode++" challenge, which asks you to earn 180 gold stars without any generic recruits.
I'm very humbled by these numbers. In an era when gamers have dozens or even hundreds of titles in their Steam Libraries, most of which they've barely even played, I'm extremely grateful that people find our game worthy of their time.
The Power of the Press?
As we wind down, let's talk about the power that press coverage has on a game's fortunes. I used to think that getting featured by popular game sites was our ticket to success, and without the help of journalists our game would be doomed.
So far, that hasn't been our experience. To be sure, we've received far more coverage than we ever expected, but it's still modest compared to top-tier "Indie Superstars" like Braid, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, Spelunky, FTL, Hotline Miami, Legend of Grimrock, etc.
As of today, we don't even have a single review that counts towards our Metacritic score. By comparison, as of this writing, Offspring Fling has managed to garner the required four and Incredipede is almost there with three. (I don't give much credence to meta-scores in valuing games, but they're still a useful metric of your game's media impact).
Our biggest coups so far were multiple features in Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a Destructoid review prior to the release of Gold Edition, a glowing review on JayIsGames, and a brief nod on GameSpot's Free Play Friday.
As you can see on the graph (better details in the previous article), good press resulted in clear sales spikes. However, press is a single shot of traffic, with no tail. In order to really drive knock-on effects, I suspect we need coordinated press attention across all the major game sites, or at least our relevant niche, for the duration of the news cycle.
Still, I think we're a good example of a "sleeper hit" whose sales were mostly driven by forces other than direct, sustained, media attention.
I should note that as 2012 wound to a close, we started to pick up a little more attention before everyone moved on to the next batch of games:
#1 Best Indie Game of 2012 - Dealspwn (Beating Torchlight 2, Hotline Miami)
#2 Indie Strategy Game of 2012 - IndieGames.com (#3: Awesomenauts, #1: FTL)
#3 Indie Strategy/RPG Game of 2012 - JayIsGames (#4: Torchlight 2, #1: FTL)
#3 Best RPG of 2012 - Gamezebo (#4: Diablo 3, #1: Legend of Grimrock)
Making good games is hard. Selling good games is even harder. So many factors are outside of your control, and even if you do everything right success may still elude you.
I used to believe that if I worked really hard and made something great, an audience would magically find me and we'd make a lot of money. Reality is quite different.
Sales basically comes down to a simple formula:
Eyeballs * Conversion_Rate = Sales
You can't directly control the ebb and flow of the fickle eyeballs of the internet. You can, however, control how many you capture when they show up.
So make your pitch. Tell them what you're about. Give them a free sample. Repeat nice things others have said, and if you're so inclined, tell them if it's okay for their kids. Learn all about what Tadhg Kelly calls the Marketing Story. Be human, be humble, be open, and if fortune is on your side, good things can happen.
And when you're done, come back and share your data with the world! It's scary out there, and the more information we share, the easier it is for the next developers to chart their path.