Basic Guideline for Getting Sales

Tom Cain posted a nice sales guideline at indiegamer.com. I believe both beginner and advanced developers can find this information very useful.

Here’s a general guideline I’ve come up with:

If you aren’t getting enough downloads, something is wrong with your marketing. Improve exposure, presentation, screenshots and writing. Make sure the potential customers you are talking to are the right audience for your game. Work on this until you get at least 100 downloads per day because you can’t test without traffic.

If you have traffic but not enough sales, something is wrong with your sales pitch. The demo is broken, too hard or easy, or shows too much or little. The price is too high or low, or there isn’t enough value difference between demo and full versions. You have a good download flow for testing because of marketing improvements, now tweak things in the demo. Some demo players will give you feedback that helps. Work on this until you are converting at least 1%.

If you’ve done the above but can’t get conversions to 1%, something is wrong with the product. Talk to your demo traffic and find out what you need to fix. Release improvements back into the traffic then watch conversion rates while soliciting more feedback.

I believe any playable game is sellable using this basic guideline. Tweaking a playable game is much easier than building a new one, so take advantage of the asset you’ve built! Talking to players who like what you’ve created and have ideas to improve it is very rewarding, both emotionally and financially. And once you have this experience with an audience, you’ll get future products closer to correct at version 1.0.

17 thoughts on “Basic Guideline for Getting Sales

  1. Pingback: Indie Game Pricing Experiment » Dark Moon Blog

  2. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Jake: yes, very true. Altough perhaps that could be included in the “sales pitch” part – after all: the website is your 24/7/365 salesman. You gotta optimize the website. As you optimize the demo. Good point.

    Reply
  3. Jake Birkett

    I also posted this in the same forum:

    Tom’s Guide is missing one thing (unless it’s included in the “product” umbrella, but I feel it’s best to make it separate), your game could be great but if your website including the shopping cart and payment page puts people off, this will lower your CR of course. This is really vital as it could drop a 1% CR to a 0.1%CR or worse.

    I’ve seen people post stats of how many hits the cart gets yet a suprisingly large number of people fail to complete for one reason or another.

    Reply
  4. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Fernando: Press Releases: I shall write a topic about that. Basically you fetch a press release service – and let the world know :) We (meaning Tim+me) are launching http://www.indiegamebusiness.com, a service dedicated to indie game business. If you are interested in press releases – contact us. Basically we have a loads of editors & media persons on our list… and when you do a press release: they get to know it, publishers come running to you offering $$$, news editors publish your story and money starts to flow ;)

    Our service is different from other press release services (I shall get a list in the PR post…) the way that it’s YOU who manages the actual press release – we just give you the contacts and one-click option to send your press release to editors. That’s way it’s YOU who gets contacted (and not the PR person/company).

    Reply
  5. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    Now I feel sorry I wrote that post yesterday in such haste…. but I try to sum up what I’m suggesting here:

    A) Focus on *big* picture. Make sure the product/price/quality meets your overall goals.
    B) Handle customer complaints: whether they are about price, product, pirates, or just pure rabbish. Handle it. You can use email, FAQ lists, forums, automated email answers. You gotta deal with them somehow.

    I must point out that Ken brought up a very important point: Don’t let the whiners get special rank. And don’t get caught on spending too much time on dealing with whiners – you don’t have to personally email everybody. I remember Kai-Peter responding *individually* and publicly* in his game forums to one customer complaining about the price. Kai mentioned several benefits and explained why the price is what it is. I think this was excellent way to handle the complaints. Other people who would complain about the price can see the thread or can be directed (by players in the community) to read the post.

    When should you spend time to get every sale? Especially at the beginning, but I really think personal contact even afterwards will be beneficial. Yes, it takes time – and you cannot deal with every email. But you can use email sometimes… and use other methods for the rest of the time. You must learn to balance it. I know players appreciate personal contact. And if they appreciate that – they will tell others about that. Automate what you can… but have a personal touch in the support. I remember we had a customer who complained about the price of GEOM and it was true that $24.95 felt bit too much for us as well. Still, he bought the game – but sent a small complain. We decided to drop the price to $19.95 (not totally because of this one customer, but simply because we wanted to see which would give us better sales result). The “complainer” contacted us about the reduced price, and we gave the complainer $5.00 back (because it was just a week or two before he bought the game) and emailed and asked him to make sure he has received the money. It took some extra time, but the customer is happy – and that makes us happy as well. But note: if this would have happened several times then we would (maybe) have dealt with it differently – like Ken said: “chasing people down individually takes time”.

    I remember that DavidRM spent about 3 months playing his Paintball Net game before he saw any sales. He played, chatted and spent time with demo players and finally he started to see some sales. Of course he cannot individually hunt all the sales any more – but in the beginning it can be efficient.

    There’s no right answer or right guideline that will work in every situation. You must make sure you spend your time on right issues. Yet – you must make sure your game is a quality game (and sells ;) – and you must make sure customers – as many as possible – are happy.

    Reply
  6. Fernando De La Cruz

    Also, personally, I do not agree with Ken. No offense, but obviously if Juuso believes that emailing people to get a few more sales out of grumpy customers works, he must be speaking from prior experience. I’m sure what the biggest issue is how you approach that grumpy customer.

    My belief is that in the beginning, even if you have to fight for every customer, try and get every sale you can. If that means emailing a couple grumpy customers, or tweaking some elements of the game… do what it takes.

    Obviously, people are different. You can only do what works for you. Some people can make anything work.

    Reply
  7. Ken Paulson

    If you can get some more sales for sending couple of emails… that cannot be bad?

    But it can! :)

    Chasing people down individually takes time. Time that would be better spent elsewhere. As soon as you start handing out special discounts/bonuses/etc, then others will be demanding that they get them too. But more importantly, that community that you value so much is going to see that the people that helped build the community get passed over while whiners get special ranking.

    Everything has a cost. You’ll never please everyone and every single person you make an exception for will cost you.

    Reply
  8. Fernando De La Cruz

    This may be a silly question, but you mention press releases… I personally have never released one. So… how do you? Is it basically emailing the world of video games? Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Ken: Yep. Kind of. Depends.

    I first said:

    You must set a high price – and make sure your product achieves that quality. At least don’t change the price lower if nobody is buying – they won’t buy after that either. First you gotta try what’s being said there. But you could *try* different pricing to make sure it’s optimal for you… who knows if $10 or $20 price tag is optimal for your game – you really gotta test it.

    I mean: you gotta test the price. Make sure your product is a quality product. Like you pointed out in the #2.

    After that – the whiners. If there’s enough complains… and you think you can handle them, you could try some of the hints mentioned (discounts, add-ons, etc.). If you can get some more sales for sending couple of emails… that cannot be bad?

    Reply
  10. Ken Paulson

    but if they really, really whine about the price I think you could first try to get them buying by offering something extra (like maybe a free add-on level pack if you happen to have one? or special “rank” in game/forums – if available) or… something else

    I really can’t agree with this. You have 2 situations:
    1) The complaining group is small. Bending over backwards to please them is a waste of effort. No matter what you do there will always be people who complain.
    2)The complaining group is large enough to be concerned about. At this point the above advice doesn’t go far enough. There may be a real flaw with your game and you need to address it.

    That’s it. Either their concerns are big enough to address, or they’re small enough to ignore.

    Reply
  11. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    There’s always people who say that the price is too high (usually customers) and those who say it’s too low (usually other developers).

    if many people complain about the price you can always make some comparison (my favourite one is to compare the price of the game to the price of beer – okay, never done that to a customer but you get the point ;). You can tell that the price (let’s say $20) is reasonable because player gets all the extra fun stuff, free upgraders, direct customer support etc. etc. Then you can bring the “family to feed” point there – and also the “making business here – trying to make a living” point.

    But basically – you should look how the overall picture looks like. If there are some people who really want the game and bargain over and over… I still would keep the price – but if they really, really whine about the price I think you could first try to get them buying by offering something extra (like maybe a free add-on level pack if you happen to have one? or special “rank” in game/forums – if available) or… something else. You can try giving discount, but that would be the last thing to do – if done at all.

    I bet I could write more about this – and in fact… I have made my bachelor’s thesis about pricing (in Finnish) – I might write something about this issue (as it is very critical) later. Maybe a longer article even….

    Reply
  12. Ville

    What do you say to people complaining about the price? Can you just say nothing?

    That actually opens an interesting point, how do you react to people that say bad things about your game in the game forums. I bet that’s something you could write about Juuso. ;)

    Reply
  13. mahlzeit

    If everyone complains about the price, it’s too high.
    If no one complains about the price, it’s too low.
    If only a few people complain about the price, it’s just right. ;)

    Reply
  14. Ville

    Sure, you develop the game aiming for a specific price, looking for a specific number of sales with it, calculating it precicely so that you make a certain percentage of profit. :D

    Reply
  15. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    No no no… that’s the *last* thing to do Ville ;)
    You must set a high price – and make sure your product achieves that quality. At least don’t change the price lower if nobody is buying – they won’t buy after that either. First you gotta try what’s being said there. But you could *try* different pricing to make sure it’s optimal for you… who knows if $10 or $20 price tag is optimal for your game – you really gotta test it.

    Reply

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