Independent Games Sales: Stats 101
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A presentation for the Indie Games Summit at Game Developers Conference 2009 by Simon Carless.

A presentation for the Indie Games Summit at Game Developers Conference 2009 by Simon Carless.

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Independent Games Sales: Stats 101 Presentation Transcript

  • 1.  
  • 2. Independent Games & Sales: Stats 101 Simon Carless [IGF Chairman, Game Developer magazine/Gamasutra publisher.]
  • 3. Introduction
      • Indie games about making great art, experiences.
      • Understanding business important to making a living.
      • How do you make a platform decision for your game? (Onto one or multiple formats.)
      • Attempt to quantify sales across 5 main areas:
        • Xbox Live Arcade.
        • PlayStation Network
        • WiiWare
        • iPhone
        • PC (in its many forms)
      • DISCLAIMER: bold figures are public-released stats, italicized stats are my non-scientific estimates.
  • 4. PlayStation Network - Overview
    • - PlayStation 3 has sold 21.3 million worldwide (Dec. 2008)
    • - PSN launched in November 2006 alongside PS3 launch
    • - Around 60 downloadable PS3 games on U.S. Store,
    • - 20 million PSN members (as of Feb. 2009) on PS3, PSP, and PlayStation.com member accounts.
    • - 1.88 PSN accounts per PlayStation 3.
    • - 10 million accounts connect to PSN every month.
    • - Breakdown of PSN accounts: Europe or U.S. equal amounts, Asia half of that, Japan half of that.
    • - Games range in price from <$5 to $30+
  • 5. PlayStation Network - Statistics
    • - Cumulative sales of PlayStation Store - US$180 million as of February 2009 (video, DLC, PS1/PSP games too.)
    • - Flow sold 120,000 copies worldwide between February and September 2007 (cited by Sony in Game Informer.)
    • - Burnout Paradise (not indie and $30 at the time, but still PSN) sold 20,000 units in first 3 weeks after Sept. 2008 launch.
    • - Top 10 all-time PSN games as of February 2008 had Flow at #1 in U.S., #4 in U.K.
    • - U.S. all-time 10 (Feb. 2008): Fl0w, Mortal Kombat 2, Tekken 5, Pain, Warhawk, Bowling, Super Stardust, Calling All Cars, Aquatopia, and Everyday Shooter.
    • - U.K. all-time 10 (Feb. 2008): Tekken 5, Warhawk, Fl0w, Loco Roco, Mortal Kombat 2, Super Rubadub, Calling All Cars, Gripshift, Lemmings, and Super Stardust.
    • - Top PSN games in 2008 (via Pulse): Pain, High Velocity Bowling, Super Stardust HD, PixelJunk Monsters, flow, Warhawk, Aquatopia, Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection, High Stakes Poker Edition, Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty
  • 6. PlayStation Network - Statistics
    • - Numbered leaderboards good sales hint - but remember game sharing, multiple users per PS3 possibilities.
    • - My guess is that leaderboard numbers are 75-90% of sales in most cases , but sometimes as low as 50%.
    • - Super Stardust - 281,100 on LB for original; 98,000 on LB for Endless mode in expansion. (sales est. - 200,000 ?)
    • - Astro Tripper - 10,500 since December 2008 until just after North American launch last week, 12,800 this week. (sales est. - 8,000 ?)
    • - Many other titles don’t have leaderboards with total #s listed, but these two give us good context on higher and lower ends.
  • 7. PlayStation Network - Notes
    • Three ways to get your game onto PSN:
    • The VAST majority of the 'famous' indie PSN games are closely Sony-'published' via Santa Monica - this is gradually changing. (eg Everyday Shooter, Flow, etc)
    • Can also sign up with publisher who will deal with Sony, at which point it's milestone-based w/royalties like normal retail games. (eg PowerUp Forever)
    • PlayStation Network deal for developers dealing directly with Sony as ‘true’ third-party gives majority to developer - extra costs, include ratings/submission and bandwidth costs ? (eg Astro Tripper, Novastrike, Soldner-X) Ask Sony!
    • Demos are important, but not well integrated into the service/payment (unlike XBLA), which is a shame.
    • Nonetheless, there are notable PSN advantages, particularly the lack of competition. But ‘true’ third-party still very young.
  • 8. PlayStation Network - Download Estimates*
    • *Massive disclaimers apply, there may be outliers, etc
    • LOW-END: 5-20,000 units , if your game doesn't strike a chord with the public or is poorly marketed. (50% of games)
    • MID-END: 25-55,000 units , if you get some Sony marketing support (e.g. via PlayStation Blog) or good developer PR.) (40% of games)
    • HIGH-END: 75,000-200,000 units, if you have critical mass behind you, mass Sony support, and... a great game! (10% of games)
  • 9. Xbox Live Arcade - Overview
    • - 28 million Xbox 360s LTD (Jan. 2009)
    • - Service launched in November 2005 alongside Xbox 360 launch
    • - There are currently 196 Xbox Live Arcade games available on the service in North America.
    • - 17 million XBL members (as of Feb. 2009)
    • - 125 million XBLA games - including demos - downloaded (as of Dec. 2008)
    • - Games range in price from free to $20 for conventional XBLA games.
  • 10. Xbox Live Arcade - Statistics
    • - Firstly, some 'official' lists, etc - Major Nelson's Top 10 XBLA games of 2008: Castle Crashers, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Braid, A Kingdom for Keflings, UNO, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Fable II Pub Games, Duke Nukem 3D, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Worms
    • - In mid-2007, Team17 said that Worms had likely done 200,000 sales in the first two months.
    • - Jeff Minter said that Space Giraffe sold almost 10,000 copies in the first two weeks in September 2007 , but then slowed down a lot. (Also, was $5 game)
    • - In late 2007 , there was specific info at GameFest, but this has likely changed a LOT. For example, average conversion rate (from demo to full game) was 18 percent across all titles at that time, and there was a 156% average financial return over 12 months for Xbox Live Arcade titles published so far.
    • - Into 2008 and 2009, we believe that conversion rate has decreased by as much as 50% (due to larger amounts of games on service) but there are a larger amount of users to compensate . Conversion rate is still multiple times the 1-2% of PC casual game. (6% to get delisted.)
  • 11. Xbox Live Arcade - Statistics
    • - Overall, Xbox Live Arcade sales probably the most well-understood of all console digital download numbers - but possibly still overestimated.
    • - Somewhat possible to reverse engineer sales from looking at Xbox Achievements info exported to web. Needs achievements unlocked.
    • - Ben Schlichter at VGChartz does a good job of this (GIANT VGCHARTZ DISCLAIMER HERE!)
    • - When looking at these charts, remember that some games have had 'long tail' sales over multiple years.
    • - Random examples from latest chart (ended 2/28/09): R-Type Dimensions = 40,000 units, Castle Crashers = 553,000 units, Braid = 278,000 units, Penny Arcade Adventures Vol. 2 = 17,000 units, Space Giraffe = 24,000 units, N+ = 229,000 units . I think these could be overstated somewhat - by 10-30% - due to formula discrepancies, but are BASICALLY sound .
    • - As a leaderboard comparison point, Castle Crashers now (3/19/09) has 700,000 users on its leaderboards - VGChartz believes that real sales could be 80% of leaderboard entries for that title. Since it's a heavily multiplayer title, my guess - more like 60% = 420,000 units LTD for Castle Crashers.
  • 12. Xbox Live Arcade - Statistics
    • - Schlichter predicts approx 250,000 units sold per week , $2 million sales per week for last set of charts, and 30 million full games sold (or given away) on XBLA to date.
    • - VGChartz' average sales revenue per game = $1.14 million gross (remember, developers get about half to two thirds of that)
    • - From what we've heard (and bearing in mind that some VGChartz listings are for games that have been free at some point), it's more like 3/4 of that . Also remember that this is _average_ lifetime sales, and some games have been up there for four years at this point - makes a major cashflow difference.
    • - You want more stats via VGChartz? On the 'great game, low sales' side: RooGoo = 9,000 units, Go! Go! Break Steady = 7,500 units ( my estimates - 7,000 and 5,500 units ); on the higher end, most recent side: The Maw = 77,000 already, Kingdom Of Keflings = 211,861 ( my estimates - 60,000, 175,000 ).
    • - VGChartz is inexact, developer sources tend to claim its _basically_ good - on further probing, slightly too high.
  • 13. Xbox Live Arcade - Context
    • - Best XBLA third-party deals were 70% (developer) and 30% (publisher), were allegedly changed to 35%-65% at worst , to much Internet-leaked complaint
    • - Now may scale with number of copies sold , from approx half, back up towards the original pre-change percentage (70%) at higher volumes.
    • ‘ Three methods’ of publishing are similar to PSN. 1. Best titles get ‘closely published’ first-party. 2 Indie signs with third-party publisher for milestone deal. 3. Third-party deals (with first-party help, obviously!)
    • - Microsoft has been bad at giving a heads-up for soon-to-debut games, but being included in a group promotion like 'Summer Of Arcade' can significantly help sales and interest and Microsoft is now doing more of these - v.good!
    • - Demo to full download functionality, ease of purchase is great, and means that a great demo can easily sell lots of copies of the final game .
  • 14. Xbox Live Arcade - Download Estimates*
    • *Massive disclaimers apply, also long LTD issues and many previous games were $5.
    • LOW-END: 5-30,000 units , if your game doesn't strike a chord with the public or is poorly marketed. (40% of games)
    • MID-END: 40-75,000 units , if you get good developer PR and produce an effective demo. (40% of games)
    • HIGH-END: 150,000-500,000 units, if you have true critical mass behind you and a... great game! ( 20% of games )
  • 15. WiiWare: Overview
    • Wii sold 45 million LTD (Dec.2008)
    • WiiWare service launched in May 2008 in North America.
    • - There are 73 games currently available on the WiiWare North American store - swift growth here.
    • - This is the largest per-week rate since launch over all consoles on average.
    • - Games range in price from $5-$15.
  • 16. WiiWare: Statistics
    • - Very little information on how many Wii users online to download either Virtual Console or WiiWare
    • - No formal stats have ever been released on WiiWare.
    • - Comparison point - Virtual Console games had sold 3.3 million from November 2006 to April 2007, over 10 million by end of 2007 . Likely multiples of that now. (my estimate perhaps 30 million ?)
    • - There are 286 Virtual Console games (!) - important because it's a lot of competition for WiiWare, in many ways.
    • - WiiWare royalty rate , as with a lot of online services, seems to be ‘ a majority of revenues’ - I believe it to be towards 70%, not sure.
  • 17. WiiWare: Statistics
    • - VGChartz ( different people to the XBLA charts , again, MASSIVE DISCLAIMERS) also try to extrapolate sales for WiiWare using the Nintendo Channel.
    • - 101 info: you can use the Nintendo Channel as of mid-2008 (a Wii-based info channel) to see number of players - but opt-in, thresholds, just for 12 top WiiWare games .
    • - There's been an attempt made to extrapolate sales numbers from there - combination of Nintendo Channel figures and guesstimates. (Thanks to Keith Jackson.)
    • - VGChartz February 2009, have LTD stats such as follows (for just Europe and North America): Tetris Party = approx. 180,000, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles = 325,000, World Of Goo = 175,000,
    • - Back in December 2008, they attempted a worldwide LTD list (including Japanese Nintendo Channel data) which included: My Pokemon Ranch - 495,500; Final Fantasy CC - 434,000; Lost Winds - 295,400.
  • 18. WiiWare: Statistics
    • - BUT. From discussions I've had with WiiWare developers, I believe that the scaler is wrong (too much) by as much as 50-100% (high end) and potentially 100%+ (low end), due to multiple complex reasons.
    • - Actual Nintendo Channel stats (NOT total players): Defend Your Castle - 71,000; My Pokemon Ranch - 67,000; Dr. Mario - 55,000; Final Fantasy - 51,000; LostWinds - 41,000; My Aquarium - 39,000; World of Goo - 32,000; TV Show King - 31,000; Mega Man 9 - 31,000; Tetris Party - 25,000; Strong Bad 1 - 20,000; Bomberman Blast - 13,000.
    • - I believe that a 3.5x multiplier is about right to get to total sales (as of March 2009, will change as Nintendo Channel is greater adopter). This would get us to U.S. WiiWare sales of, for example ; My Pokemon Ranch - 234,500; LostWinds - 143,500; World of Goo- 113,750; Bomberman Blast - 45,500.
    • - BUT - remember these are all the top LTD titles, many of which were selling as early adopters when there wasn’t much else on the service.
  • 19. WiiWare: Statistics
    • - The curve down for WiiWare titles seems steep - lower-profile titles seem to sell slowly, due to storage/demo issues we’ll discuss.
    • - For example VGChartz had Evasive Space selling <2,000 (VGChartz) in two weeks after launch, my estimate is closer to <1,000 , potentially less still.
    • - Similarly, Lit being 4,900 units in America in first month (VGChartz) is likely massively overestimated. (No Nintendo Channel data.)
    • - There is a minimum amount that you need to sell in order to receive _any_ money from Nintendo. This is set in the mid four figures of units (North America) and low four figures for other territories.
    • - From my understanding, multiple games, including those by genuine indies, have not passed the threshold and therefore will recoup nothing . This is an attempt to stop shovelware but maybe currently be backfiring, and I hear Nintendo may be considering changing it.
  • 20. WiiWare: Context
    • - Downloadable storage problems are a major hindrance to WiiWare growth - apparently should be fixed soon!
    • - Lack of demo versions also seems to be a major problem, at least from anecdotal evidence. (Virtual Console titles already known to consumers.)
    • - These two factors seems to be leading to a steeper ‘long tail’-style curve on WiiWare - people will only buy 'sure-fire' titles as a result. Also be aware of ‘casual’ audience skew.
    • - Virtual Console is fierce competition - there are lots of games that gamers _already_ like that they don't own on Wii (Nintendo and other third-party emulated classics), which sets up quite a counterpoint for gamers.
    • - However, remember that WiiWare has been around by far the shortest time of all the systems - less time for sales to build up .
    • - Nonetheless, if you can break through, there are def. Significant opportunities for indies - eg World Of Goo, Strongbad, LostWinds.
  • 21. WiiWare: Download Estimates*
    • *Massive disclaimers apply
    • LOW-END: 2-10,000 units, if your game doesn't strike a chord with the public or is poorly marketed. (60% of games)
    • MID-END: 15-30,000 units , if you have a good fit for the Wii audience or good developer PR. (30% of games)
    • HIGH-END: 40,000-250,000 units , if you have a title that fits Wii gamers great, good use of hardware, a familiar concept, and... a great game! (10% of games)
  • 22. iPhone/iPod Touch - Overview
    • - Much more known about iPhone/iPod Touch because submission, store is much more transparent.
    • - Installed base of iPhone = 17 million, iPod Touch = 13 million (March 2009)
    • - However, #1 most important thing - note amount of games released and the disparity between top sellers and average sellers .
    • - Service launched in July 2008.
    • - 27,000 applications in App Store and 800,000,000 downloads as of March 2009. (Mobclix research.)
    • - Almost 6,500 of these are games! That's an average of 27 per day since launch.
    • - Games range in price from free to $10, with the majority at $.99 to $4.99.
    • - 70-30 cut, with 70% going to the developer.
  • 23. iPhone/iPod Touch - Statistics
    • - A recent interview (March 2009) revealed that early puzzle title Enigmo has now sold 810,000 units (as cheaply as $0.99 for many of them, though.)
    • - Super Monkey Ball sold 500,000 units as of November 2008 at as high as $9.99 (!!) - MAJOR EXCEPTION due to early adoption.
    • - Even for newer titles on a day by day basis, stats are impressive: iShoot was #1 in the App Store on January 11th 2009 with 17,000 downloads at $2.99 each - in one day - $35,700 to developer .
    • - Crazy amounts of shifting, for example creator of Blocked was selling 5-15 units per day until he price dropped to $0.99, hit #1 and sold 10-15,000 units per day (March 2009 interview)
    • - Other people have claimed 25,000 as a daily top download number , and off the record claims as high as 40,000 for 'hot' games or apps that everyone is trying to get on launch day.
    • - So basically, 10,000-18,000 (with high exceptions) units will get you to #1 for that day , anything in top 10 tends to sell in the low to mid thousands for that day , and anything in Top 100 is in the mid-high hundreds for that day (anecdotal).
  • 24. iPhone/iPod Touch - Statistics
    • - Rankings are by units/day, not by $/day , so higher priced games are hurt by this in terms of chart placing sometimes.
    • - HOWEVER: the key to understanding the App Store is that getting into the Top 100 is vital (self-sustaining ), and/or getting featured by Apple.
    • - SO EASY for games to get lost - eg competent puzzle title Dapple , which took 6 months and $32,000 to make (including internal costing of developers's time, etc.)
    • - Launched at $4.99 , was well-rated on Kotaku and the creator presented at the 360iDev Conference, but still only sold 131 copies in the first 3 weeks.
    • - Of 25+ daily games , speaking to iPhone indie developers and look online, I estimate only 1-2 sell more than v.low hundreds of copies. Massive competition.
  • 25. iPhone/iPod Touch - Download Estimates
    • *Massive disclaimers apply, there may be outliers, etc
    • LOW-END: 200-1,000 units , if your game doesn't break out of the morass. (90% of games)
    • MID-END: 1,000-5,000 units , if you have some marginal success, perhaps sneak into the Top 100. (7% of games)
    • HIGH-END: 10,000-300,000 units , if you can break into the top of the charts and sustain interest (3% of games) .
  • 26. PC Games - Overview
    • The PC Game market is gigantic ( 1 billion worldwide as of March 2008 - Gartner), but let’s split it into:
    • Downloadable from own site.
    • Downloadable from ‘core’ portals
    • Downloadable from ’casual’ portals.
    • Web game-related revenues.
    • Alternative business models (microtransactions).
    • [Remember that you can combine many of these methods.]
  • 27. PC Games - Downloadable Sales From Own Site
    • - Selling directly on your own website can be a great way to receive vast majority of revenue yourself.
    • - Companies like Plimus take 10%+ of revenue to do processing, reporting, etc. (Also can do affiliate deals with fellow indies.)
    • - Public examples of non-affiliate sales numbers: Geneforge 4 (Mac/PC , released 2006-2007) sold 4,000 copies at $28 to March 2009.
    • - GameProducer.net has a ‘sales statistics’ section which has some other examples, v.useful to see low end too! (Some as low as 500 copies over multiple years.)
    • - Positech’s Kudos: Rock Legend sold 1,000 copies directly at $23 each from May to September 2007 . Cliffski made $189,000 from direct sales in 2008 for all his games (10,000 downloads).
    • - IGF finalists with some buzz but not masses of advertising (and no affiliate deals) have sold 5,000 copies directly at $20 each . (anecdotal).
    • - World Of Goo’s presentation likely explained that their own site did well for them, because they did a god job of community and promotion.
    • - Low-end sales: 100-500 copies; Mid-end sales: 500-2,000 copies; High-end sales; 3,000-20,000 copies.
  • 28. PC Games - Downloadable Sales From ‘Core’ Portals
    • - Rise of ‘indie’-friendly digital download portals is important.
    • - Examples include Steam, Direct2Drive, Impulse, GamersGate.
    • - These portals will take 30-50%, (in theory) expose your game to a new audience. They are somewhat picky, however.
    • - Some indies are choosing to launch on their own site and then roll out to portals later, others are doing simultaneous.
    • - Very little information on sales on these portals.
    • - Garry’s Mod sold 312,000 copies on Steam in two years from launch to Dec. 2008 . (Only public stat ever?)
    • - Anecdotally, Steam is currently selling multiples of other portals for indies, but others are beefing up indie content (eg Direct2Drive’s indie section).
    • - Low-end sales: hundreds of copies; Mid-end sales: low thousands of copies; High-end sales; high-thousands and above of copies.
  • 29. PC Games - Downloadable Sales From ‘Casual’ Portals
    • - If your game is suitable, casual portals can give you good mass.
    • - Examples include Big Fish Games, Reflexive/Amazon, etc.
    • - These portals will take a higher percentage (60-70%) but larger potential market. Divorce you from your player further.
    • - Largely a discussion for the Casual Games Summit, but casual games are moving into some ‘indie’-friendly genres, eg adventure games.
    • - GreyAlienGames.com has a good ‘sales statistics’ category on his blog collating indie/casual game sales numbers.
    • Examples - Big Blue Bubble’s ‘Home Sweet Home’ did $240,000 in casual portal revenue in first year on sale, less than 3% direct sales revenue.
    • For casual portals, you have to tailor quite specifically to the genres that are popular. Also, beware the casual price war.
    • Low-end sales: hundreds of copies; Mid-end sales: low thousands of copies; High-end sales; high-thousands and above of copies.
  • 30. PC Games - Web Game-Related Revenues
    • - Massive potential here, but LOTS of free Flash games out there.
    • - For non-multiplayer Flash games, you can make money via these methods:
    • - ‘Exclusive licensing’ from free web game portals (high hundreds to low thousands per license, sometimes a lot more - FlashGameLicense.com).
    • - CPM deals from ads attached to games or shown elsewhere on the page. (not gigantic at regular CPM rates, might add up)
    • - Possible deals to rebrand or convert game for advertisers and/or custom commissioned material.
    • - At high end, def. Possible to make living from juggling licensing deals and ads + other revenue. LOT of competition.
    • - See IGS’ PixelJam lecture for more info!
  • 31. PC Games - Alternative Business Models (Online Games)
    • LOTS of opportunity here for online-connected games in pursuing item sales, micro-subscription models, etc.
    • Because there’s so much diversity, not going to go into much detail - but check The Indie Businessman lecture tomorrow (11.15am-11.45am) for more information.
    • Some of the most interesting business models that I’ve seen recently:
    • Selling access to a still in-development game (Cortex Command)
    • Selling in-game upgrade and items to a multiplayer indie game community (Toribash, see tomorrow).
    • Charging for the second episode/expansion of an otherwise completely free-to-play (insane) online game (ForumWarz)
  • 32. The End (Finally!)
    • Interesting future possibilities:
    • DSiWare
    • PSN for PSP Games
    • - (XNA Community Games)
    • Thank you!
    • [email_address]