Today we have a special treat here. I interviewed an indie developer Riva Celso (Winter Wolves) and he was kind enough to share sales stats for his game Magic Stones. He started making games at age of 20 in a small italian software house. After a long pause of 6-7 years he resumed making games around 2003-2004 in form of downloadables.
Here’s the sales stats for this role playing game Magic Stones, answered by the developer.
Game Title: Magic Stones
Developer: Winter Wolves
Release date: October 17, 2005
About 5 months for initial release, then about another 3 months more for the various updates and expansion packs.
Promotion time: (after release)
Basically did a new PR everytime I released a free expansion pack or major update (so around 7-8 PR in about 3 years).
Platforms: Pc and Mac
Major expense was the 3d models to make the cards. I estimate I spent around $1k to buy all the models from Daz3.com. For music I used royalty free stock music so very low expense (under $50). No other major expense, except my own time of course.
Nothing at all, I just submitted new versions to major download sites and sent out PR on my own.
Everything considered (graphic, hosting, music), under $1,500.
Downloads & conversion rate:
Hard to count the total downloads, since nowadays many sites mirror your game like download.com or macgamefiles. I myself use several servers, so makes even harder to make a total count.
A very rough estimate is about 25.000-30.000 downloads for a CR variable between 3-5%. Of course I’m talking about direct sales. The game is also on portals, and while I can’t disclose the figures, both the total sales and the CR is lower by 10 times or more.
Version on sale in portals is a “crippled down” version, without the quest mode and magic shop.
Total Sales (units):
Around 1100 direct sales (up to 2008) for basically 3 years and 2 months
of “product lifetime”.
A vague idea of portal sales is less than 120 total for about 2 years.
In my own site the game is for sale at $24.95, and the magic shop add on for $4.99 extra. On most portals the game is on sale at $19.99.
Approximate total income: (USD)
Approximate income is $27500. I have to add that since I released Magic Shop, 99% of buyers buy the add on together with the game, so on top of that amount I need to add around 600 sales of magic Shop at $4.99, another $3000.
Comments on Marketing and Promotion:
Well the fact that I released several free quests every 4-5 months helped the game stay “popular”. However, after finding out that most people were completely fine to pay a small fee ($5) for add ons like the Magic Shop, I feel perhaps I should have made fewer updates, but with more content and charge for them.
A good thing about niche games like RPG is that nowadays almost nobody makes them anymore. Big software houses are all into MMORPG, and true classic single player CRPG aren’t produced anymore, so there’s a big market opportunity here. My game didn’t need much marketing at all to become popular between RPG lovers.
Other comments on the game sales? What tips you’d have for other other developers who want to increase their sales?
A thing I clearly noticed is that niche games perform very badly on portals. I really think people developing niche games should avoid portals completely, since it isn’t really worth the time spent. To increase sales is enough to produce many games of same niche, any one. Sports games, IF, Roleplay, strategy, wargames: there are so many niches completely unserved. A mistake is to think you can live with just 1 game. Each new game you make of same kind adds more customer to older games and increase your revenue exponentially: see Spiderweb for a very good example of this strategy.
Add-ons – and how to use them to increase sales?
When I made the Magic Shop, I made it mostly to make happy a small group of people posting in my forums – but I didn’t expect to sell so well at all! Basically now every Magic Stones sale gets the add-on included (by the customer) so every sale is like a $30 sale.
Developing quality add-on that add lots of new functionality/features to existing games can definitely increase the total income PER SALE of any niche product. It’s a bit like the free to play MMO model.
Thoughts about the future of indie development
I think niche games and MMO/Online games are the only resource left if you really want to stay independent. I’m not saying is the “best” thing to do, just that if you’re like me, and want to be able to produce games of any kind, this is the only option left.
With casual games prices falling to ridiculous amounts ($9.99 and lower) and at the same time new clones being produced at lighting speed, I personally think that as a single developer/team, you have way more chances to getting more money and long-term income by concentrating on niche/online/MMOs.
Of course a hit game in casual market is ALWAYS going to produce more income, but the chances that this will happen with your game are nowadays really really low (I’d say close to 0.01%), while the chances that you can make a decent income with a niche product are way higher.
So it’s all about a sort of “success percentage rate”. Also if you are your own boss, you’re safe from sudden drops in price/royalty percentages, which is always a good thing, if you want to plan your future without surprises…
Thanks for the sales stats and interviews!
For more information about Winter Wolves and their games:
Visit the developer website: WinterWolves.com.