What Affects Indie Game Sales in Eastern Europe?

I gathered data from 18 different indie games (with their permission, and I even got permission to show you the aggregated data afterwards), and compared their sales in Russia and Eastern Europe along several axes.

It included games from various genres, with varying levels of financial success, and generally no marketing efforts spent on the region.

The data isn’t extensive enough to look for statistical significance, but there are a few interesting trends.

Major Takeaways:

  • Localizing to Russian could double your revenue in Russia (it did in one case), but no effect in the rest of Eastern Europe
  • Early Access seems more popular in Russia (maybe due to lower prices?)
  • Mobile games crossing over into Steam seem to do better in Russia (and overall?)
  • There is no clear genre pattern to the region
  • Anecdotally, targeting Russia with marketing doubled their Russian revenues proportional to other regions
  • Early Access games are generally rated 5 points higher in Steam User Reviews than non-Early Access games. Hmm. I guess that fan-listening-thing really works.

Disclaimers:

  • All data is self-reported. It’s possible they are all liars… and/or that indies who would take the time to self-report to a survey on Eastern Europe are particular (more business-oriented? more inexperienced? more trusting? more data-driven?), or make a particular kind of game. With only 18 games, it’s easy for there to be a skew.
  • “% Rev” means overall, how much of your total revenue from the game so far was from Russia or Eastern Europe (EE)… not how many units sold. Raw dollars. Err, rubles.
  • The “success” measure in particular is very subjective, only measuring how the survey participant felt the game covered their development costs.
  • 16 of the 18 devs were based in North America, 2 in Western Europe. It’s possible this data mostly just shows what it’s like for American & Canadian developers, with no relevance to the rest of the world.
  • If a given category (for example, games with released console ports) has 3 or fewer entries, I have faded out that bar. It should be considered anecdotal.
  • All right, let’s actually look at the data.

    What’s The Landscape?

    overall

    Generally, you should expect ~3% of your sales to come from Russia, and less than 2% to come from Eastern Europe. However, there’s the potential for a lot more.

    “Success”: It’s worth noting that the scale of that final category isn’t quite the same as the others — “Success” (again, self-reported, and simply “how well did/will this game make back its money”) had a minimum of 1 and maximum of 5, while the others are a percentage, therefore a minimum 0 and theoretical maximum of 100. But in general, it looks like the respondents in this group made back their money (average of ~3.4).. that alone indicates we probably do have a skew. Anyway, moving ahead.

    What Year Did Your Game Release?

    year

    I wondered if Russia was growing or shrinking over time. Doesn’t seem to be a huge difference, except that maybe Russia has become more interested in Steam since 2014… but if so, the rest of Eastern Europe hasn’t followed.

    One game was excluded, because it was still in Early Access.

    It’s also interesting how high 2016 is, given that we’re only halfway through. That implies that the first half of 2016 has resulted in the same percentage of revenue (and same estimated success) as games that were already out for all of 2015. Proponents of the indiepocalypse theory will point how how high “pre-2014” success was, but I would counter that it’s possible this just reflects the long tail, or that whatever explosion we feared happened 2+ years ago.

    Did You Localize Your Game for the Region?

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    Only 3 games localized past Russian, presumably because they were already successful and it made sense to invest in the game further.

    One game’s Russian translation arrived 2 years later than the others, while one of the “Russian+” games was entirely localized by unpaid volunteers.

    What Steam Tags Do Your Game Have?

    genre

    Keep in mind 1 game could have any or all of these tags. In the dataset, there were 10 Action, 6 Adventure, 7 RPG, and then a handful of others (Strategy, Casual, Tower Defense, Roguelike, Roguelite, Platformer, etc). I had some sort of hunch that more ‘hardcore’/challenging/complex game genres would do better in the region, but then again, it’s difficult for Steam tags to encapsulate how hardcore something is, and we only had 1 Casual entry to compare against. Perhaps in retrospect I should have asked participants to rate how ‘hardcore’ they felt their game was.

    Someone also noted that their game included a free competitive tactical demo, which had 14% Russian units downloaded and 3% EE units, even without translation. So that seems like an interesting outlier… either in genre, price, or some other element.

    Did You Specifically Target The Region With Marketing?

    targeted

    The “Yes” column only reflects ONE entry out of 18, and that particular entry was a low sales performer overall, so it’s very hard to read this as anything but an anecdote. Even so, it’s interesting that it would have double the revenue percentage of the other 17. In fact, it was the highest in that category across all games. There was only one other game with 6% Russian revenue, and 4 with 5%.

    Was Your Game in Early Access?

    earlyaccess

    Early Access does well there, maybe? Or maybe the later the game, the more likely they’re Early Access, and simultaneously the more Russians are on Steam.

    What’s not reflected here is that the Steam User Reviews were on average 5 points higher when a game was in Early Access (83.8 vs 77.9). There was only one other notable user review gap, coming up next…

    Has Your Game Been Released On Other Platforms?

    crossplatform

    We don’t know which platform the game released on first… I’m not sure if this shows that (in Russia) mobile games do well on Steam or that Steam games do well on mobile. Also, there were two games that had browser versions and one with a SteamOS version, which I decided not to crowd the graph with.

    However, it made me curious, so I decided to use this opportunity to do a cross-analysis of mobile vs others, and found that although their user reviews were on average a full 8 points lower (72.5 vs 80), their reported success was a full grade higher. There were only 4 mobile entries, so take that as you will, but it’s interesting. The mobile-cross-platform games also came out roughly a year earlier (2013 vs 2014).

    How Did Steam Users Rate Your Game?

    reviews

    So is it a case of popularity begetting popularity? Some might wonder if a globally popular game will be especially popular in Russia or not. It doesn’t seem clearly correlated here, though there were only 2 Overwhelmingly Popular entries.

    What Else?

    In retrospect the survey should probably have asked questions about pricing (not just base US price, but localized Eastern European pricing) and discounts (lowest price-point, etc). Other than the knowledge that the games were not free to play, I can’t comment on that factor.

    I also have deliberately chosen not to look to Steam Spy for sales data to compare the titles (yet anyway), as that would turn the data more towards units than revenue.

    Summary

    To me, this all says that if you were feeling shy about bringing your mobile game to Steam, consider doing it with some Russian localization. It seems like it could be a surprisingly good investment. Other than that, I’d be curious to see what happens if more indies tried spending a little more money on targeted marketing in Russia.

Survey Results Are In: Classes Ahoy!

We asked Shattered Planet fans what they wanted next, and here’s what over 100 of them said:

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In case you are chart-blind, it says class system improvements are the most popular, coming in at 36%! So we’ll look at that in the coming weeks. Pet upgrades were a close second, so that will be next on our list…

Thanks to everyone who voted. I promise we read every single written “other” entry, but feel free to comment below if you want to keep giving us more input!

Shattered Planet: Launch Week Sales & Press

Well, we’re plenty pleased with the sales of Shattered Planet so far on Steam, Humble, and Desura. We won’t be retiring as millionaires anytime soon, but the PC version was definitely worth the time investment! And since I believe in transparency, here’s our actual numbers per-day:

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And it’s no doubt in part due to the lovely press from these folks, among others:

  • “Shattered Planet is out today, and it’s pretty great” – Mike Rose at Indiegames.com
  • (In Swedish) “Whether or not you’re a roguelike fan, Shattered Planet is worth a look” (7.7 out of 10) – David Markkanan at IGN.se
  • “Shattered Planet is an incredibly fun and addictive game, made only better by its sense of humor.” – Gameramble
  • “Ultimately, Shattered Planet is a fantastic roguelike.” – Anthony Chodor at IAmThink
  • “the perfect combination of space opera and silliness.” – Jillian Werner at Gamezebo
  • “Fans of the roguelike and RPG genres may be interested in Shattered Planet” – Scott Mundy at Lusipurr
  • “a solid PC entry for those completionists who aren’t afraid to die for their efforts” (7 out of 10) – GameSkinny
  • (In Portuguese) “If you’re looking for a roguelike, this can be a great place to spend time” – The Nerd Maldito
  • (In Russian) “The game is excellent in all respects, from the beautiful graphics, great soundtrack, interesting gameplay” (9 out of 10) – Soulcry
  • “If you’re in to the comic-book style and want a more laid-back experience, I’d check this one out.” – Manapool
  • “Exploration is at the heart of the title. […] perilous yet lovely” – Calmdowntom
  • “Shattered Planet seems like a good fun waste of time” – Stephen Wilds of BlankMan Inc
  • Let’s Play by Quill18– 23,000 views and counting!
  • Let’s Play by SplatterCatGaming– 8,000 views and counting!
  • Lots and lots of Let’s Plays!

Plus, for fun, Tanya had an interview with IndieGraph!

We’ve sold over 2,500 copies across all platforms so far, so thank you to all of our fans for a great launch week! We’re looking forward to continuing to improve Shattered Planet with this great community to help us out. We probably can’t afford to commit to any huge additions at this point, but we have a few improvements in mind, such as keyboard controls.

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We’ll also be ramping up development of Moon Hunters, so keep an eye out on our weekly livestream on Friday afternoons (Eastern time) and watch the transition from concept art to our prototype development!

Join Us Today: Concept Art Live!

Today Xin will be live-streaming painting a watercolor concept for Moon Hunters, from sketch to semi-finished, from 3pm to 5pm EST today (Friday June 27th).

A couple of days ago as a test, Xin brought this Marrow Temple sketch:

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up to this:

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And this time, he says the piece will be ‘darker’. Tune in to find out what he means!

Also, note that if you were subscribed to the Moon Hunters newsletter, you would have already received a notice in your inbox about this! Join if you want more timely information. 🙂

Launch Date Announced: July 3rd!

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Shattered Planet is coming to Steam, Desura, and Humble on July 3rd for PC, with Mac following on July 17th! Both will include Steam Achievements and Steam Trading Cards.

Humble and Desura will offer a DRM-free option. If you have any questions or excitements to share, the forums aren’t so far away!

And if you missed the Greenlight trailer, we’ve updated it for easy sharing, though we’re working on an even shinier one for launch, with the new features:

Screenshot Contest: Everyone Gets a Key!

Congratulations to AxL Neo, who submitted the following screenshot to our contest, thus stealing our meme-devouring hearts:

so WoW!

so WoW!

Thank you to all who entered. It was a tough decision. IN FACT…

We’re going to give ALL of the people who entered the contest a free Steam Key!

So, congratulations all around! But, for the record, AxL Neo wins more than all of you, and will receive his Steam key first. By at least 10 minutes probably.

Spring Screenshot Contest: Win a Steam Key!

Calling all photographers! We’re looking for some creative screenshots or photos of Shattered Planet!

You have until midnight EST on May 15th to submit your best screenshot/photo — edited or raw! Share on our Facebook wall, Tweet at @kitfoxgames with it, or send it on over!

The winner(s) will receive a free Steam key for the premium PC version!

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We will judge entries on creativity and appeal. Any captions submitted alongside will be included in judgment.

Limited-Time Event: Spring Gekkos!

If you check out Shattered Planet (whether you’re on iOS or Android), you’ll find your space station has a visitor!

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Meet Dinaxi, who trades in Gekko Credits, which are now appearing mysteriously on the planet’s surface. Although Gekko Credits are unrecognised by the Galactic Union, Dinaxi will take them off your hands in exchange for limited-time only consumables, as well as a special armor, weapon, and gun. This event will end May 12th, so log in and start exploring!

springevent

You can buy the Earthshaker Staff, which causes the ground to collapse under your enemies, or the Deer Mask, which makes animals such as the Nest Guardians and Hatchlings take longer to ‘notice’ you, or a variety of extra-delicious chocolate frogs, symbolising fertility and renewal on Gekk Prime. If you collect all five of the chocolate frogs, Dinaxi will reward your loyalty with a rare seedling companion she calls Sakura.

Will you be able to find everything by May 12th?