Spirits of Metropolis Sales Stats

David Galindo from Vertigo Games shares the story about the development of one his games: Spirits of Metropolis. The game was developed during college. This post is written by David.

Game Title: Spirits of Metropolis

Developer: Vertigo Games

The Goal/Objective:
David: I had made about ten free games prior to Spirits of Metropolis. The first commercial game I made, ShellBlast, did relatively good. I decided to set my sights on the casual games market with an original take on the match-3 gem genre. My goal was to get it on casual portals and perhaps help fund my other games. While the game got great reviews and a lot of people seem to like it, I didn’t really come close to achieving what I wanted to do sales/traffic wise. But this is only my second commercial game, and I’m optimistic about the future.

Development time:
The game took about nine months to complete, on and off during college. In actual dev time it probably took about three-four full months.

Release date:
December 22nd, 2008

Total sales (units):
31 sales in total (including distribution sites like D2D, GamersGate, etc.). Nine sales were made in the first two months of release, with about two to three sales a month so far. About $430 made in total.

Price (USD):
Originally priced at $20, the game is now $12.95. The new price hasn’t really affected sales at all.

Other income:
Placed on Game Giveaway of the Day in July for a $300 compensation sum. While this was a nice amount of money to get as I was/am a bit low on funds, the piracy rate spiked immediately after the game was made available on the site due to the lack of DRM. I knew that risk before going into the deal, and while it does make me a bit mad, I don’t blame sales/profit from here on out on piracy at all. It happens.

I paid about $250 in total art/music costs. There were other expenses made for a previous commercial game, called ShellBlast, which I was able to use for Spirits.

Downloads/Conversion Rate:
The game has been downloaded around 850 times, not counting the times downloaded on other sites like YoYo Games (8,300+) which aren’t very good places to advertise premium games, as it’s a primarily free game/young gamer site. So you could look at it as either a 3.6% or 0.3% conversion rate. The game is also featured on other distribution sites like Direct2Drive and GamersGate, but has no demo/trial to download on those pages.

I think I really failed here. The first step was to try and get it on as many casual portals as possible, and out of the forty plus I emailed, only two replied. GamersGate was on board as I already had a game with them on the site, and Direct2Drive was interested and picked up the game as well. RealArcade didn’t want it, but actually responded to me in just a few days after the email with some tips and pointers on what I can do to maybe get picked up by them in the future. It made a huge impression on me, and I can’t praise RealArcade enough despite the rejection. They have some really fine people over there!

So once I realized that the casual portal plan wasn’t going to work…I didn’t have much of a backup plan. I had made a lot of games previous to this one that was definitely an indie/somewhat casual type vibe that had a good audience, but this game was made (now that I think about it) with no intended audience. It was a bit too complex for casual gamers and out of their sight with no casual portal deals, and was too casual/puzzle for the audience I already had. I was left with literally no audience to sell the game to.

The game did make its way around the indie websites, with a post from IndieGames.com, a few good reviews from puzzlelicious.com, and the demo going out to a few sites for download. A debut trailer was put up on GameTrailers.com with about 7,800 views, but again I mis-marketed the game and replaced the relaxed-vibe music with a more rock/alternative music track in the trailer to market to the non-casual GameTrailers crowd (it didn’t work too well going by the comments on the video page).
I also had an official website from the game, but I do regret doing that now- it is too far detached from my main website. Looking back, I would have rather integrated it more with my main website to get more exposure for my site as a whole…only 3,000+ viewed the main Spirits of Metropolis site since it launched eight months ago, which is only 3% of what my main site gets for the same amount of time.

Another big push was done by Direct2Drive for an $8 day sale, with a video/ad on the front indie games page. That resulted in three extra sales, much to the surprise of the guys at D2D. It’s a game that doesn’t really sell itself very well unless you play it, another one of my mistakes.
What I have been doing since then is releasing content DLC level packs for free on my blog. I have done four so far and plan to do six more before calling it a day, and if anything its showing people who haven’t bought the game and aren’t interested in it that I support all of my games as much as possible, which can hopefully lead to a bigger fanbase for future games.

Nowadays I’m gearing up with another person to launch an Xbox Indie Game in a few days, as well as a small indie game releasing for $2-4 soon, and that’s a lot more in my comfort zone. Tackling a casual game with limited experience and few resources wasn’t one of my smartest moves, not to mention that I could be doing a lot more to give the game more exposure. But, it is a huge learning experience.

David Galindo, Vertigo Games

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Pure Sudoku Sales Stats Update (Pricing Experiment That Worked)

Mark from Glowing Eye Games kindly shared his Pure Sudoku sales statistics in the past and now he approached me and wanted to share an update for his stats.

Game Title: Pure Sudoku
Previous sales stats info: available here

Update by Mark:
“Pure Sudoku had its price changed from $9.99 to $5.99. Sale numbers increased significantly partly due to the price change and partly due to additional promotional efforts that brought in 50% more visitors to the website each month. Below I have made sure that my figures compensate for the additional visitors due to the promotional efforts.

Before the price change I was selling 20-25 copies of the game a month. So $200 to $250 in income before commissions being paid each month (but note I pay a European sales tax for copies of the game sold in Europe).

After the price change here are the numbers (income, before commission, but including sales taxes on European sales).

March = 45 copies = $302.06
April = 31 copies = $183.15
May = 38 copies = $225.80
June = 79 copies = $463.45
July = 64 copies = $380.06

Now if we take an average income of $225 before the price change we can see that my overall income for March to April was nearly unchanged (average of $237, a 5% increase). However even with a 50% increase in visitors for at the old price point which would have expected to get $337.50 for each month, it appears that my price change may have brought me an 11% increase in income for the June and July months.

What is great is that the game continues to sell and find fans, and even though the results aren’t a major increase it does make me happy to know that more people each month are enjoying the deluxe version. It’s likely I will keep the current price.”

Bottom line
Price change from $9.99 to $5.99 resulted in 11% increase in income for the June and July months.

More information
Mark’s main development site is: Glowing Eye Games
His Solitaire Games website: Solitaire Paradise

Thanks Mark for sharing this story, and update. I find it really great for us all to get these type of stories where you experiment with the prices and see how things go. For Pure Sudoku this certainly worked.

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Sales Statistics: Domain of Heroes

Aaron Murray from Tandem Games approached me and wanted to share the sales statistics of their game Domain of Heroes. The game is a free browser-based massively-multiplayer web RPG/PBBG with different factions, classes, skills and much more.

Here are the stats:

Game Title: Domain of Heroes
Developer: Tandem Games
Release date: October 26, 2008
Development time: 8 months from conception to release. About 10-15 updates per month ongoing since launch.

Platforms: Web. No plugins required. Javascript only.
Firefox, IE, Safari, Opera, Flock. iPhone, Wii, and PS3 browsers work as well.

Development Expenses:
First 6 months was sweat equity from two developers. Next 4 months was one lonely developer.
Once the revenues started coming in, the paid team has been growing about 1 person every 2-3 months since the start of 2009.

Marketing Expenses:
$300 per week in online ads. $2000 for a couple of magazine ads. $500 in t-shirt giveaways. $10,000 to take the team to a couple of conferences/events.

Other Expenses:
Servers: ($2k each)
Hosting/bandwidth: Hundreds per month

Total Expenses:
Approximately $150k in costs as of July 2009.

Downloads & conversion rate:
36,000 registered players.
Lifetime conversion rate from free player to paying player: 3.4%
4356 transactions from 983 paying players

Price: (USD)
Pricepoints range from $0.99 to $500 (all pricepoints have at least 5 sales)

Approximate total income: (USD)
$86,700 in PayPal sales
$5,800 sponsored sales (TrialPay, Gambit, etc)
$4,000 in ad revenue
$96,500 Total revenue

Comments on Marketing and Promotion:

“The game is very different from anything else out there right now, so there aren’t many direct competitors. It feels like an old MUD mixed with features from the new MMOs. Largely word of mouth, with some cheap banner ads purchased on low-volume sites.”

Other comments on the game sales? What tips you’d have for other other developers who want to increase their sales?

“Create something unique. Offer most of your game for free so that players can tell their friends. Allow the “free” players to have access to everything somehow (spending time, trading with others).

This will allow them to enjoy the game as much as the paying players, and they will spread the word.”

Thoughts about the future of indie development:

“Indie game development is tough to break into the big portals and have a large impact. Running an MMO is very challenging and far more demanding that I’ve ever imagined.
It is also very rewarding to foster the creation of an amazing community. Indies can connect with people in ways that big corporations can’t. The human touch – the ability to play with the creator of a game is something that players really enjoy.”

Thanks for the sales stats, this has been excellent information

“You’re quite welcome. I hope it helps other developers by giving them some financial insight into a successful, indie-run game.”

For more information about Tandem Games and their games:
Visit the developer website: TandemGames.com

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Pure Sudoku Sales Statistics ($6,400 Sales, 1+ Month Development)

Mark from Glowing Eye Games was sharing sales statistics for his Pure Sudoku game at the Indiegamer boards and I asked Mark if he’d be willing to share the information here too. I got some additional information about the marketing (and we’ll get back when Mark has info about his $5.99 versus $9.99 price point experiment) and listed the details below.

I really think Mark has done a great job with Pure Sudoku, and we all could learn that creating a game doesn’t need to take much time (like 1+ month), nor it requires newest technology on earth (Game Maker is simple, yet efficient game development tool), doesn’t need to cost much (few hundred bucks, plus your own time) and it can still bring decent revenues at constant pace.

Check out these sales statistics for Pure Sudoku:

Game Title: Pure Sudoku
Developer: Glowing Eye Games

Development time:
The original version took me about 1 month to make part time with Game Maker. 1-2 month part time development for improvements.

Release date:
January 2006 (as a free version), Deluxe version later. Newest version was released in December 2008.

Total sales (units):
640 copies (over the years)

In January the game sold 21 copies and February 27 copies. Monthly sales range on average from 20 to 25 copies, and seems pretty consistent for a while now. (Perhaps due constant search engine traffic)

Price (USD):

For the next few weeks developer is experimenting with a $5.99 price point (and we will be adding info about this experiment later here on this blog).

Other income:
Google Adsense (worth maybe the equivalent of 2 or 3 extra sales each month)

Expenses 10 Euros for Game Maker and $250 to pay a developer to update my game last year. There are also a few items like website hosting and domain registration, I’m not really sure of the price of those – but its quite cheap.

Total 250,000.

(The free version has got 200,000 from download.com and 50,000 from various download sites)

2-3 months (part time) spent in marketing:

  • Getting the game to download sites
  • Getting reviews
  • Google.com search engine optimization (Pure Sudoku ranks in the top 10 for the phrase “free sudoku”)

One very important thing was learning basic Search Engine Optimization. For really competitive search terms like “Free Sudoku” this was really important. In fact Mark just purchased two books on the subject, as web tutorials can only go so far.

Other sites:
Solitaire Paradise – Glowing Eye Games is hosting free online solitaire games including one he recently created.

Thanks Mark for sharing these sales statistics.

Magic Stones Sales Stats: $27,500

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
Development time:
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

Development Expenses:
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.

Marketing Expenses:
Nothing at all, I just submitted new versions to major download sites and sent out PR on my own.

Total Expenses:
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.

Price: (USD)
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!
Thank you.

For more information about Winter Wolves and their games:
Visit the developer website: WinterWolves.com.

Top Selling Indie Games On Steam (January 2009)

Steam has its own category for indie games. Here’s a recent shot that lists the top selling indie games on Steam right now.

Quite interesting that Garry’s Mod (been there for ages) is selling so well taken into account that the game mod was published on 2006 (really cool!). It’s also quite interesting that World of Goo (80-90% of players are pirates) is also in the top. I’d wish to see more indie games getting there.

Mystery Case Files Franchise Sales Stats: 2.5 Million Units

I don’t have details on how much the MCF games have sold individually, but now as the 5th title Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst in this series was launched Big Fish Games reported that:

“The Mystery Case Files franchise has sold more than 2.5 million units thus far.”

Not sure how many $6,99 game club discounts and how many $19,99 purchases that contains but even $10 average would mean 25 million dollar sales, which is pretty nice sales for 4 casual games.

Su Doku Live Sales Stats – $27,000 Income

Su Doku Live by DeadPixelGames has an interesting story. It’s their first game, and it sold around 50 copies directly on the Internet – yet made much more through publishing deal.

Title: Su Doku Live
Website: Deadpixelgames.com
Team size: 1 developer + 1 artist
Development time: 6 months (part time) + about 6 months to produce artwork

Price: $20
Direct sales: 50 (47 Mac, 3 Windows)
Sales income: $2000

Other income: $25,000 (exclusive publishing deal)

Production & contract costs: $14,000
– Blitzmax $80
– Google ads: $1000
– Banner ads at PC game sites: $200
– Dropped game project production costs: roughly $13,000

Profits: Around $13,000 ($27,000 – $14,000)

Developer comments:

“Su Doku Live” was my “plan b”. I had spent a year at another game. The project was dropped (could not get a publisher willing to buy me the license to market a networked “Settlers of catan” game), and it cost WAY over those 13,000 (that I ended up paying along with my two business partners).

I had to finish something, to actually release a game and prove to myself I could do it. So, I picked up a smaller project and saved the “game company”. At least I will have another go at it.

The lesson: making games is a lot of hard work, with loads of room for failure, things can go wrong, games may not get a publisher, etc. If “Su Doku Live” had not got into retail I am *certain* it would fail to pay the development expenses with just direct sales and my “game studio” (dead pixel games) would be dead by now.

Hopefully with the next games we will not end up paying for my lack of experience. I will start coding it soon. This is something I really love doing, so I must follow this dream, no matter the odds.

Very unique story – thanks Deadpixelgames for sharing this experience.

Kudos: Rock Legend Sales Stats

Cliff Harris from Positech Games offered sales stats of his latest game Kudos: Rock Legend.

Rock Legend is a sequel of Kudos game. Te game is part RPG, part life-sim, part Tycoon game. You are a struggling rock singer who puts together their own band, and tries to achieve fame and fortune, from humble beginnings as a starving garage-band. Pick your band-members, choose the band name, write the songs, play the gigs – and make it to the top.

Here are the game sales statistics, with some comments and comparison to Positech’s Democracy game.

Title: Kudos: Rock Legend
website: www.rocklegendgame.com
Developer website: www.positech.co.uk
Team size: 1 (me) plus 1 artist, 1 musician and 1 vocalist working on
Price: $22.95 through BMTMicro
Start of game development: November 2006 (approx 6 months dev time)
Launch date: May 26, 2007
Direct sales to date: 1,088 copies
Adwords Expenses: approx $480
Other expenses: approx $1,200 for music, maybe $200 other sound effects, approx $1,600 in artwork.
Rough total expenses: $2,600
Rough total income: $22,500

Earnings per month on sale: approx $5,600
Profit per month based on earnings to date and dev time: approx $3,300

Comments by Cliff:

Not as good a seller as I had hoped, but will probably continue to sell in
the long term. Portal sales unknown as yet. The game continues to sell quite
steadily, and my games have seen very long life spans. Democracy has sold
hundreds of copies over the same period, and that’s very old. Also there are
additional Mac sales, which I have not listed.

Discuss this entry: Rock legend sales stats forum thread.

Azada Sales Statistics Estimation: $250,000 Sales In The First Month After The Launch

To play Azada – download it from here.

Before going into details, I must add that the following sales stats are all speculation. They are not 100% correct – they are just estimations. I base these numbers on pieces of information I’ve received from different websites – including the Big Fish Games press releases. I believe my estimation should give a some kind of picture about how much Azada has sold in the first month after the release.

Estimated sold copies: average 500 per day (from Big Fish Games portal)
Price: $20 (or $7 with game pass).
Estimated average price: about $17 (assuming 25% of buyers use game pass)
Total estimated income: $250,000 (in the first month after the release)
Downloads: 600 000 in first two weeks, estimated 1 000 000 downloads in the first month
Estimated conversion rate:1.5%

According to the Big Fish Games press release Azada averaged about 43000 downloads in the first two weeks. Direct quote:

Since its debut two weeks ago, more than 600,000 people have played Azada on Big Fish Games’ site alone, making it one of the best selling games of 2007.

I’ve also heard developers telling that Azada smashed both Mystic Inn and Atlantis Sky Patrol in the first hours after the release. According to older BFG press release, Mystic Inn game sold more than 2000 copies in the first three days.

From these numbers we can estimate, that Mystic Inn averaged about 700 sold copies per day after the release. Here are conversion rate examples:

  • With conversion rate 2% would be 35 000 downloads for Mystic Inn (which sounds quite high CR – but not impossible)
  • CR 1.5% would suggest roughly 47 000 downloads for Mystic Inn (which is close to how much Azada was downloaded)
  • Conversion rate 1% would mean 70 000 downloads for Mystic Inn (which is unlikely, since Azada beated Mystic in)
  • with CR 0.5% it would be 140 000 downloads for Mystic Inn (here CR seems quite low, and again the download number too high compared to Azada)

With this data at hand, I assume Mystic Inn could have conversion rate around 1.5% – 2.0% – since Azada averaged 43 000 downloads and was said to perform better than Mystic Inn. Azada was reported to perform better than Mystic Inn, so it might have this quite high conversion rate of 1.5%.

Naturally we don’t know if they mean downloads or sales when they said “performed better”, but in this speculation let’s suppose Azada won in both figures.

Now there’s one big factor we must take into account: the game price. The normal price is $20, but there are lots of people who can use BFG game pass to get the game for $7. I have no information how many people use game pass (I believe it can be anything from 10%-50% of buyers – or I can be totally wrong – and this will make a big impact on the profits). I make a wild guess and suppose that 25% of the buyers use game pass. This means that for every 100 units sold, 75 are sold for $20 and 25 units are sold for $7. Total revenue for 100 sold units is then it means that average game price is less than $17.

Since Azada was downloaded average 43 000 times per day (and it was better than Mystic Inn) and with 2% conversion rate it would mean 860 unit sales per day. With $17 revenue per sold copy that means $14 620 per day. Or $438,600 in one month.

Azada stayed long in the top 10 ten (at the time of writing it’s still number one) so we might assume that it has been downloaded a lot after the release. If we assume 43 000 downloads per day, then it would mean 1 290 000 downloads in a month. By taking into account that BFG portal receives 25 million monthly unique users, this figure is possible to reach.

If we take a very low assumption – an unlikelyassumption – (CR 1% and the downloads would go down and average 20,000 downloads per day) we can still see that Azada would sell 200 copies a day (which again seems very low number). That’s $3,400 per day – making it $102,000 per month.

With these “maximum” and “minimum” ranges known, we might think that the download number went down a bit after the release, and assume that 1 000 000 people downloaded the game in the first month. With 1.5% conversion rate, this would mean 15 000 sold copies in the first month. With average price of about $17, this would mean about $250 000 sales.

Bottom line
As said, this is all speculation and exact numbers are only known by the portals and the developers. Perhaps the real number goes somewhere around $200K – $300K sales for the first month, or perhaps they are something else. The fact that Azada has stayed first on the top games charts for a long time and the fact that Mystic Inn was reported to sell about 700 copies a day (which Azada beated) supports these numbers. If the conversion rate is 1.0% for Azada, then the conversion rate for Mystic Inn should be around 2% – which again seems unlikely.

Whatever the exact figures are, it’s good to see Azada showing how a new innovation and heavy marketing vehicle can help game to sell in the $100K range in just one month.