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  • 11/07/19 06:00 PM
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    Analytics
    Chances of Your Game Becoming Successful

    Production and Management

    Twofaced

    Let’s say you have made a game. It’s working quite fine and in your opinion, it is extremely interesting to play. Will it be enough for becoming a new hit? What level of sales can you expect to get? This article is my attempts to analyze some general and insider information, gathered throughout years of working on different games and communicating with colleagues.

    Unfortunately, a possibility of finding a simple answer to this question is slim to none (which is not really different from trying to find some solution to other issues like “How to become successful” of “How to win one’s heart”). What is worse – it’s a lack of some proper statistics or at least, some trustworthy information on sales levels and promo feedback. Out of publicly available information, we can rely only on the number of reviews and players on steam, postmortems, positive twits and marketing presentations of developers. Half of this information is worthless but could be enough for some approximate estimation. Confidential information usually pops up in terms of a crisis, when this or that company goes bankrupt or a new post like “Our game has failed” turns up. In these cases people don’t care about conversions or organic anymore and tell the truth.

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    Gearstorm. Procedural sci-fi sandbox

    Well, enough of the initial data, so what about the goal? How to determine the level of your product’s success? I consider gamedev to be a part of the art world and making games is more of a calling than a job. But bare enthusiasm is not enough for living, so I have come to this idea – if you are doing what you like without any need of working extra hours in Walmart - you are doing fine. It means your games bring you and your family enough money for living and if any of these games one day becomes a hit – it will be only a pleasant but sufficient enough bonus.

    To keep it simple – let’s estimate the costs, based on the average industry salary and the time spent on making a game (in case if you are not hiring anyone). Gamedev is a poor industry when it comes to wages of average employees, so don’t count on more than $30 per hour. Let’s add more sad facts:

    It’s rumored that only 16% of games get any money at all

    If it is so, two reasons might have led to such an outcome, in my opinion. Numerous advisors tell you to release as many small games as possible, counting on the possibility of one of them to breakthrough. It’s a bad idea. This amazing model of behavior makes the market full of trash. In order to save up money and accelerate the release, these developers come up with raw and dull games. So, everybody is suffering from it. A good idea would be to start many projects, work on them up to some sufficient demo level and go public. If nobody wants a prototype with a well-determined unique main feature – give it up and start working on a new one. That’s how you can save lots of time and the general quality of the ready-to-play indie-games will increase. But don’t call your tech demos as “early access” and don’t waste time examining the market for years.

    The second is a problem of any creative person. I like to compare gamedev with music. Imagine, one day you decided to give up on everything and become a solo developer, sounds like an ordinary story, right? And now let’s imagine being in exactly the same situation, with the same zero knowledge of the subject, but this time you have chosen music. “Yeah, everybody is listening to music every day. What is difficult about playing something myself? Give me some advice on what instrument is the best, folks!” Doesn’t sound very optimistic, right? For some reason, forthcoming musicians study a lot, get together in groups and never expect that their yesterday-made track in their dad’s garage will become a hit. I have never seen an amateur guitarist, who would have such confident and overoptimistic outlooks of life as a typical developer from /r/Gamedev or UE4 forum. The higher you fly, the more painful it is to fall. Shining eyes of the latest go dim every time he/she faces the reality: bugs, procrastination, and, most importantly – misunderstanding. No one hears you and if they do – they mostly criticize you. A popular decision in this case is to give up halfway and release what you have.

    Bedroom.gif.e611fda2f2b488895bb650c7baca19bf.gif 

    Last Joy. cRPG about death in a world of immortal people

    How many beginner musicians have become famous? Or at least, paid off their educational costs. I think everybody will agree it’s less than 1%. Your game, probably, has even fewer chances of success.

    But even the most basic game requires at least 100 hours of work, meaning you have to sell more than 600 copies ($5 each). Sounds realistic but the level of difficulty in this current situation can be seen in the following example. It is like approaching a stranger on the street and trying to sell a book. And even in this case you have an advantage of some real-time contact and lack of competition at that particular moment. It is obvious that on the internet hundreds of people fight for attention of a potential buyer simultaneously.

    Don’t rely on ordinary ads. I spent more than $240 in Google Ads during one night for my first game and received only 2 installations. On Facebook it turned out to be impossible to even figure out the budget in order to start showing the ad. It was already $50 for an estimated installation (more probable that it would be $500). Don’t think that once you create a page in a store you will start selling. No channel nowadays brings any organic installations (even though there are some individuals who manage to get 90% of the traffic from the “More Like This” section on Steam). But if you decided to give it a shot anyways, try to search for some growing portals which are obtaining content and money artificially.

    Post image

    I have lost $235 advertising my first game.

    Good news – if your game is good, after the first hundred of players you will face a problem of sales less and less regularly and the word-of-mouth will be in action.

    What unites good games?

    • Reasonable price. There is a golden rule that says – a casual player should pay $1 for one hour of gameplay. If it’s less – it is fine as well, if it’s more – you have higher chances of getting negative reviews, being called greedy and being nit-picked.

    • Eye for detail. The game should create a feeling of being worked on hard. Marketplace assets along with tutorial framework will never breakthrough. Polishing up the game will take 20% of the time but give 80% of the result. The point is to know when to stop because the process might last forever.

    • Right choice of the target audience. So much has been written about it – it’s the basic rule of business.

    The above is obvious but in order to be estimated by anyone you have to attract attention of potential players first. And as a result, the determining factors of success are:

    • Community support. Even if you are making crappy games but people already play them you can simply keep releasing series after series and make good money out of them. Even in case if your community is not made of gamers but a bunch of SJW paladins instead, they will be forming hype around everything you do anyways.

    • The core of the game is so unique and fresh that one can’t help noticing it. I guess it’s the easiest way. I am personally trying to follow this strategy in my projects.

    • Connections. A journalist of a well-known portal can find some space for your announcement. A famous media person can have a word with investors. An employee of a distinguished company can assist you with a grant for some commission. Yes, corruption as it is, unfair competition and everything else typical of our world. I have been personally advised to write a guy, helping with receiving EpicMegaGrants. It was like: “Text him on Linkedin as we did and that’s it, you will get your 30 thousand…”

    • Abuse of rating systems in digital stores. It seems like the programmers themselves don’t know their ranging algorithms (Steam, for instance, can’t even configure their account server). I am not even speaking of the Google Play ads, there are so many theories of how you can be promoted there once you sign up. The worse the system is working, the easier it is to break it. And who knows, maybe you are the one who knows the secrets of promotion.

    • Simple luck. Game announcement is similar to a longread on Reddit. Imagine you are tossing a 1d20 dice with each post. The post gets in “hot” only if you have a crit, 19 posts out of 20 will be lost amongst hundreds of announcements. A famous reviewer can accidentally pick up your game among numerous options and make a living for you, dooming others to stay poor. The chances depend directly on the length of the list.

    By the way, not all influencers are equally useful. I was lucky to have a few discussions with the authors of the games which were streamed with 30k+ audience. Guess, how much it increased their sales? Zero. Literally, zero increase. A vivid example – Balancelot, which was streamed by Lirik and Forsen. The guys who made the game, not to fall apart, had to start making a new one right away, using the same assets but in a different genre, less casual.

    Here is a checklist. Take a pencil and tick the points that really characterize your project. If you have ticked all the points from the first list and at least one from the second – keep going! Chances are you will get in that golden percent. Your success is just around the corner, finish up what you have started. Otherwise…

    Post image

    Alien Seasons. Mindless platformer for kids.

    As I have already said, if you are happy, you have some funds to keep living, your wife is not nagging you for wasting youth in front of PC, why not? You can consider you game to be already successful. You have found your calling – something most people dream of having throughout their entire lives and some of them give up on searching too early.



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