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Thread: For the games on Steam and others...

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    For the games on Steam and others...

    I'm not sure how to ask this without sounding like an A$$...but...

    Are you making money with the games you release?

    I'm not asking for numbers just if it's turning a profit at all.
    I'm sure 90%(or more) aren't here just for the money. I'm just curios if it's making enough money to live on or not.

    The reason I ask is because some of these games look absolutely amazing while some don't at all but they are all on Steam.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by AM_Games View Post
    I'm not sure how to ask this without sounding like an A$$...but...

    Are you making money with the games you release?

    I'm not asking for numbers just if it's turning a profit at all.
    I'm sure 90%(or more) aren't here just for the money. I'm just curios if it's making enough money to live on or not.

    The reason I ask is because some of these games look absolutely amazing while some don't at all but they are all on Steam.
    For me, Outbuddies launch went very disappointing when it comes to sales. We had received some nice reviews, even from major sites like RPS, that curated Outbuddies to be the best Metroid-like since Axiom Verge. Did that translate into sales: Not at all. As it stands now, the launch sales wonít even cover my publisherís marketing investment of 2019. I cannot get into detailed numbers, cuz many things are subject to NDAís, but for sure 2019 was a very harsh year for indies. I know quite some cases where people invested like 60-100K dollars and sold < 100 copies on Steam. This October, Steam changed the way generic traffic is steered on your Steam page, favoring few top-selling titles and skipping smaller products in total. That means, your page will be linked to all top titles in your genre category (like AV and Hollow Knight, in my case), but your game will never appear on their pages, and just be linked from crappy products nobody is interested in. It is incredibly difficult to get people on your page next to the traffic Steam used to generically provide, and this will break a lot of more indie necks, Iím pretty sure of that. As it stands now, although players like it and the gameís quality is good, it is very unlikely that Outbuddies will make its investments back. This means Iíll not only make any money with this but lose a lot of money actually. The industry has become incredibly difficult now, Steam is almost as cluttered as the App Store, and people only buy games when heavily discounted (like -50 to -75%). Valve's reaction to this is to focus on top-selling products only, which makes sense from a business position, especially as the Epic Store is reaching out to top indies for exclusivity deals. Iím preparing full localization now, and the game will be on consoles next year. Thatís a new change for sure. However, numbers I heard from other devs are not what they used to be too. Even being on the Switch does not guarantee anything, especially since the investment needed to be on consoles is quite high (dev kits, porting costs, very high QA/ certification standards).

  3. #3
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    As someone about to go onto Stream, the above doesn't make for good reading

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    Steam, as any platform is only good in terms of exposure if you are there early. Listen to GaryVee for more on this, but to sum it up: Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, you used to get a lot of organic exposure back in the day. Those who did put up consistent quality content are now kings in the space and making big bucks. Same to Steam, AppStore and so on. When things get really crowded you have to put more money to get exposure and you have to really know what you are doing. The only exception (for worse) is perhaps Kickstarter, crowdfunding which always gave little exposure since beginning relying heavily on traffic coming from outside (that is, if you didn't have already a fan base and no ad money, no love for you).

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    The issue is twofold. For one, the markets are extremely crowded, so unless you can find a way to stand out from the pack, no amount of discoverability is going to help players find your game. Two, the traditional marketing outlets, like games media, are all but dead, and the new outlets, like content creators, can feasibly only focus on the games their communities want them to play. As much as generic games advertising types may tell you to go for big-name streamers like Ninja, the truth of the matter is they can only play one game, or at the worst take a risk for ~1 hour of playing something else or their followers unsubscribe. That makes playing unknown games a financial risk to them and I don't envy the position that puts them in. There are still plenty of variety streamers, but their followings are smaller, and you'll usually only get one stream where they'll play your game.

    At this particular moment, the only suggestion I have is to think outside the box when it comes to marketing. In Hollywood, the rule is to spend as much on marketing as you did making the game. We probably need to start following that same rule. So if you built your game for say $5000 (a measly budget), you better put $5k into marketing it. That's also not going to get you very far when it comes to ads, booth space, merchandise, etc. so you need to think of left-field avenues that no one else is taking. Radio, skywriting, food trucks, whatever you can do that's going to turn heads.

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    I also hope nobody finds my post too discouraging. It's not all doom and gloom, really. The indie boom is over for sure though, and the main issue is not competing with shovelware, it's competing with products of other devs that just delivered better than you did. I summed up some things I've learned from my Kickstarter 2017 and the game's Steam release this October, hope you find them helpful:

    - Have a VERY convincing hook. The best hook is great visuals. Gameplay or exciting lore, for example, is a lot more difficult to sell in the first place.
    - You should avoid outstanding weaknesses or major bugs at the launch at any cost. Your chain will easily break at the weakest link and Steam is very unforgiving. Outbuddies suffers a lot from the 8-bit art direction and some inconsistencies with the assets (which I'm patching right now, but it maybe too late). It got picked up by the 0.1% group on Steam, which are players rooting for difficult games. Players really liked the gameplay but I got quite some feedback from supporters saying their friends won't buy it, cuz it's too "ugly" (a verdict you'll hear a lot in general if you go with retro graphics). Other NO-GOs on launch include instability, performance issues or gamepads not working out of the box (I'm looking at you, joy2 extension).
    - If you are not able to get those basics right yourself, you should really consider a partner. The myth of the solo dev getting extra props is long over. Most will judge the quality of your game alone, not your achievements as a developer.
    - Be careful with showcasing on expositions like PAX and Gamescom, they are INCREDIBLY expensive and their effect on sales is really not great. Use them to make friends and business contacts tho, have a portable device with you, always. I use the GDP Win.
    - Work with Streamers and Youtubers a lot, they have become more important than the classic game press. You'll find those playing your type of game, although their audience may not be great. Be generous with keys if someone wants to create content for you. I had a discussion with my publisher once, cuz they won't give keys to content creators with less than a thousand subscribers, or so. I think that approach is wrong.
    - Be careful with journalists, especially Metacritic-relevant sites. Don't send them early builds that may drag down your score due to bugs and rough edges. Have a very good QA or wait for the first patches and feedback on Steam. A bad MC batch will sit on your Steam page forever harming your sales (mine is 66). MC is creating a Metascore if you've four reviews (which makes no sense at all, but it is like it is). So one negative review may dramatically harm your score, and a small indie you'll never get more than a couple of reviews (if any) from big sites.
    - Getting professional QA is too expensive for indies, so you should try to identify relevant Steam Groups and try to make contact there. Give keys generously to pro players, they'll help you a lot to improve your product for free and have tons of fun breaking and glitching everything. I was very lucky that a couple of skilled players hooked to the game from the very beginning, so I was able to fix a lot of things that felt clunky or harmed the game's flow. Anyway, I should have done this BEFORE release. I had a couple of KS backers in, but Steam is MUCH more critical than anything you'll encounter anywhere else. Be always friendly and open to feedback, even if it's packed in a rude form. Every player invested is a chance to make your stuff better.
    - Having a Discord Server is a must-have for community management. You can handle many complaints and issues there before people post negative reviews or start a flame war in your Steam forums.
    - Plan for a life cycle of your game of about 3-5 years. Of course, this means that your product is good. If your Steam reviews are "mixed" after the first month, it will be very difficult to recover your game from this. I've my biggest hopes here. Cuz Outbuddies is sitting at a great 90% positives right now. Pricing a game right is for sure a mixed bag, but generally, a lot of professional devs told me that underpricing is more harmful than (a little) overpricing. Compare your game to similar products and make a statement if you're convinced your stuff is good. And don't forget you'll only sell big on sale anyway. So you still need to make some money if your game is discounted at 50 - 75%.
    - If you want to be on consoles (and have not shipped any product before on consoles), you really should consider a publisher. Publishers generally don't invest in you developing the game, but they invest when it comes to expensive marketing and getting the console ports done. Be aware that most publishers will recoup their investments before you get paid any money after the game is out. So even if your game will make you money in the long run, you need to account for that.
    - Plan to set up your game for localization early. I had hard-coded all dialogues and used a text blitter instead of fonts, that was very stupid. Especially a release in Asia demands to support the local languages and writing, with Chinese, Japanese and Korean being most important. Characters in those languages need a minimum font-size 12px to display correctly. This is very important when planning text boxes, menus, etc.
    - Keep your daytime job or patch with freelancing until you managed to create a steady flow of income from your games. Only 5-7% of all games provide a sustainable income for their devs, you need to keep that in mind, always.
    - Good formulas for estimating sales: Copies sold = 30-40 x customer reviews. Copies sold in the first year = Copies launch month x 2.5. I've no good formula for wishlist conversion on launch, mine was very bad (< 5%). Another dev told me he would convert around 1-4 % of his wishlist on a heavier discount. Steam will give you extra launch exposure if your Wishlist is > 30.000 (I was far far away from that).

  7. #7
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    This is great advice all around. The one thing I would add is if you have local demo nights or parties, attend those, especially if you can't afford QA. The best QA is just getting people playing. Can't tell you how many bugs I've found when one random starts playing that I'd never seen before.

    Also for the above, invest in a good notebook and comfortable pens. Get used to jotting down notes quickly. It's a LOT faster and even clearer than typing on a phone, no matter how bad your chicken scratches may be.

    Be wary of being too generous with your keys, especially early on. Many Steam groups are used by scammers to get free keys that are then sold on the gray market (G2A, Kinguin, etc.) meaning you get 0 profit, 0 testers, and someone else just made money off your hard work. When it comes to key distribution, use a service like Do Distribute or keymailer and do your homework. How many followers is your minimum? Publishers may want 1000 but I'm personally good with 50. And don't be afraid to have some other rules in place, like seeing that they've played similar games and been active recently. Many many times have I gotten key requests from channels that have been defunct for 2 years, or only play dating sims, etc. Don't be afraid to be a little picky. Early on, you really want to get your game into hands of players who are going to actually care about what you're making, and it's a terrible idea to get keys leaked out onto the gray market before the game has even launched.

    If you're worried about localization, I recommend creating a Global String called "language." Then you can very easily replace alterable strings and graphics throughout the game, especially with the new child events systems, depending on how this gets set.

    I haven't found the magic formula for wishlisting either. Right now we're still under 100 despite that being the call to action on every video we put out. Oh well, here's the link anyway: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1...astic_Reality/

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    Good article on 2019 sales: https://www.google.de/amp/s/screenra...nt-report/amp/

    To sum it up, sales are down minus 70% compared to 2018, which has been an awful year already. And with 2019ís worst changes on Steam taking full effect for Q4 only, 2020 will probably be even harder.

    2020 still has a lot of great indie titles waiting for release, but one could argue that the decline in sales will likely lead to less quality products hitting the market in the long run. Crowdfunding is not the thing anymore, and getting funding in general will become a lot more difficult. I think a good strategy will be to cross finance development with another job, everything else feels like gambling now (high invest, very low chance to win).

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    This was the best response I've ever read. Thank you Julian82 and dsilvers I really appreciate you taking the time to fill me in like that.

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    Long story short: find new ways to market and new ways to make money because the old guards ain't gonna help ya.

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