194 - Neverending Reactions

Developer diaries about creating Neverending Nightmares.
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matt
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Re: 194 - Neverending Reactions

Post by matt » Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:36 pm

I agree with everything you said! :)

Indie development is a really tough business to be in. I think if I averaged out my yearly salary over the past 6 years, it'd probably be something like $20k - and that's only including the contracting we did on National Geographic's Dino Land, which paid decently. I live in LA, so that's not liveable at all. I'm an experienced game developer who hopefully has a lot of skills. You have to wonder how many indies are failing completely. :( [The $20k is just a rough estimation. I haven't done the real math because I think I would be depressed if I saw the real number... Quite honestly, it could be lower since I've made about a net of $0 off of Retro/Grade despite 4.5 years of work]

Interestingly, Steam provides numbers on how many accounts have Neverending Nightmares on their wishlist. If you are curious, we sold around 7k units through Steam thus far. We sold about 3,000 copies to backers on kickstarter. 45,424 people have the game in their wishlist. I don't know a lot about Steam wishlists, and I think I only added something to my wishlist during the Summer sale where they would gift you your wishlist games, but I think that's a huge number of people who want Neverending Nightmares but haven't purchased it yet. (For comparison, Retro/Grade is only in 253 wishlists)

While it's hard to build a "what if" machine and see what the indie market would be like if there were no Steam sales or Humble Bundles, and I used to think it was damaging to the indie industry, I'm beginning to think differently. Different people are willing to pay different prices for things. With retail goods, you can always wait or buy it used. I picked up Silent Hill: Downpour for like $15 or $20 new on Amazon. Is Silent Hill: Downpour worth $60? From what I hear, probably not. By waiting, I was able to get it at a price that is more palatable. With digital goods, there is no reason to drop the price over time. However, there are consumers who would buy your product but not at the full price. With retail goods, you'd get those over time as retailers want to get rid of your product, but with digital goods, you can keep the value over time but also sell to those 45,000 people who want the game but aren't ready to pay for it yet.

The trick is that you want to stage your price drops in such a way that you sell the game to people for the most they want to pay. To some extent, we already did this with kickstarter. Some people (besides my family and friends) were willing to pay $1000 for Neverending Nightmares. (I'm as surprised as you are!) I was able to sell a lot at $35 and $25. Now the game is selling for $15. I don't know what Steam sales we'll do and if we'll get featuring, but presumably, we could start with 33% off and sell to the people who the game is worth $10 to. Then we could sell to the people who the game is worth $7.50 to. Finally, we can get the cheapskates who only want to pay $3.74.

Then, we can start selling to people who don't even care about the game. Dan buys a lot of the Humble bundles and then never plays the games. I don't think Dan plays any games, but he still buys the Humble bundles. As you can see in the developer diaries, I am a collector of video games - although not so much anymore now that I'm indie and finances are tighter. (When I had a real job, I once dropped like $200 or $300 with Dan buying up all the cheap NES games a used game store had) I think digital collections are the next big thing, and Humble lets you sell games to people who wouldn't buy your game otherwise.

So if you pace yourself and do your sales right, you are able to sell the game to everyone for the most they are willing to pay for it, which is huge. Frankly, I think our audience at $15 is limited. It's dumb and sad, but it's a fact. If we are smart about WHEN to do sales and bundles, we can squeeze out more revenue for the product.

Another interesting data point is we have 16k sales of Retro/Grade through steam giving an average price of $2.40 for EVERYONE who bought the game on Steam. We have 32k Steamworks activations from our Humble sale and made a significant amount of money from our Humble Weekly Sale - at least compared to our Steam sales. Weekly sales are not very good compared to the real Indie Bundles - which we hope to get into with Neverending Nightmares. (We'll see how that goes)

If I can make an extra $100,000 by doing a Humble Indie bundle, of course I'm going to do it! Is it driving the "value" of an indie game down? It's hard to say, but I think otherwise, you are leaving potential profits on the table.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 194 - Neverending Reactions

Post by RightClickSaveAs » Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:40 pm

Harry Sunderland wrote: In many ways, I feel like Steam/Humble is ruining Indie. Prices are becoming a race to the bottom. :\ At the same time, tools like Unity are flooding the market with games. It blows my mind to read people on Steam say "I can't believe this game raised $99K."

I just want to be like, "First of all, idiot, the games budget was actually doubled by Ouya. AND EVEN AFTER THAT THEY HAD TO SELF-FUND THROUGH CONTRACTING PROJECTS." So don't act like this was a "take the money and run" situation.
Seriously, people don't seem to realize how little $99k or even $198k is for making a game. Good work costs money, and there are a team of human beings behind this project who need food and electricity for a year or more. Especially when you're making everything yourself including the ENGINE for crying out loud.

It's funny you mention Assassin's Creed and Skyrim because both are games I tried to play recently and just could not get into. I was done after a couple hours of each, Skyrim especially was supposed to be this huge sweeping epic adventure and to me it just felt really aimless and unfocused.
matt wrote: Interestingly, Steam provides numbers on how many accounts have Neverending Nightmares on their wishlist. If you are curious, we sold around 7k units through Steam thus far. We sold about 3,000 copies to backers on kickstarter. 45,424 people have the game in their wishlist. I don't know a lot about Steam wishlists, and I think I only added something to my wishlist during the Summer sale where they would gift you your wishlist games, but I think that's a huge number of people who want Neverending Nightmares but haven't purchased it yet. (For comparison, Retro/Grade is only in 253 wishlists)
I was very curious about the numbers but didn't want to be nosy, thanks for sharing!

I don't know if I'm a typical user, but I use Steam wishlists all the time. If a game looks interesting I'll throw it on there in case there's a sale or I have money to blow. I currently have 106 games on the list, half of which I don't remember adding. Still, that's a good sign for NN, because it means people are hearing about the game. Given the tone of most online discussion about the game, it does seem like they'd be people waiting for a sale.

I'm glad to hear you don't feel Steam sales and Humble bundles are killing games, because I've also always wondered what kind of long term consequences all these dirt cheap games are going to have on the industry. Sometimes I feel guilty when I pay $10 or whatever for a bundle that has games in it I'll never play. I do think there is some devaluation and changed expectations (in the form of serious entitlement) that go along with games being had now for so cheap, but there'd probably just be more piracy otherwise anyway.

ranger_lennier
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Re: 194 - Neverending Reactions

Post by ranger_lennier » Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:16 pm

It's interesting hearing some sales numbers, wishlist numbers, etc. It's a lot harder to come by data about digital sales than physical sales. Are the sales through other services (GOG, Humble Store, Ouya, anything else I don't know about) significant? How much of the sales money actually makes it back to Infinitap?

Do you get stats about how many people start the game, how many finish it, get all the achievements, etc.?

I think Matt's thoughts on digital pricing are pretty realistic. We can't really expect lots of people to act too much against their economic self interest. If Matt can make an extra $100K with a Humble Bundle, he'll do it. If consumers can get the games they want to play much cheaper by waiting a few extra months, lots of them will do that too. I've certainly done that. I haven't bought Shovel Knight yet, though I'm pretty sure I'd like it. But I also have a ridiculous backlog of games on Steam or other services--FTL, The Binding Of Isaac, Thomas Was Alone, Outlast. I could go on, but you get the point.

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matt
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Re: 194 - Neverending Reactions

Post by matt » Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:23 am

I don't have access to GoG numbers. I'm not sure how that works, but I haven't really asked yet.

Humble Store and OUYA has not been doing significant numbers thus far. Perhaps we didn't get our DRM free builds up soon enough on the Humble Store? (DRM-Free is now live though)

For the sales number, most portals take around a 70% cut but it can vary a little. The Steam prices include VAT (and I believe Washington sales tax - but I could be wrong about that), so usually I estimate getting 2/3rds of what the game grosses.

It may be the bundles/sales are devaluing games. Certainly Jason Rohrer has strong opinions against sales and bundles, but I think in this day and age, fans realize that a game will go on sale and buy at whatever price they are comfortable doing. Since retail games always get cheaper, I think giving digital consumers ways to save money is a good thing.

I imagine I have quite a bit of stats, but I can't seem to find them at the moment. I do know the median playtime is an hour and 21 minutes. I think that's probably reasonable considering I'm sure some people just play it for a bit and plan on finishing it later. It seems to imply that most people are making it to at least one ending.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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