Does Apple's 15% platform cut change the game?

And why did they do it?

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

We’re back, and firstly, thank you so much to everyone who subscribed to the new GameDiscoverCo Plus paid data/newsletter tier that we announced last week. (We already got a nice ‘milestone’ email from Substack about the number of subscribers.)

Anyhow, your support helps make this newsletter possible! The next Plus-exclusive newsletters (weekly Steam Hype charts, and that stat-filled Apple Arcade platform overview) are going out over the next few days to paid subscribers. But in the meantime… it’s regular newsletter time!

Apple’s platform cut - reactions and ramifications

So as you doubtless heard, Apple has announced the App Store Small Business Program, a major and permanent change to the flat 30% platform cut for apps and games on iOS (and I presume the Mac) App Stores.

The change “reduces App Store commission to 15 percent for small businesses earning up to $1 million per year”, starting in January 2021. So that means that all game devs earning $1mil or less per year across all of its apps (after Apple’s cut) get an extra 21.4% revenue.

Now obviously, the vast majority of revenue on iOS is from large-grossing free to play games or subscription apps. This Reuters piece has an estimate (though it’s on $1mil gross, not $1mil after Apple cut): “Sensor Tower said 97.5% of iOS developers generated less than $1 million per year in gross consumer spending. But those same developers contributed only 4.9% of the App Store’s 2019 revenue.”

So, this affects a lot of developers - which is great, although I don’t really know many game devs who make a regular living in this kind of revenue range on Apple. (I definitely do on Steam!) But it doesn’t affect Apple’s major app/game partners.

This is interesting, because you’d think Apple would want to keep a good relationship with its biggest partners. And this hints at the real issue. Apple’s big customers - yes, including Epic - are already mad at them, and trying to get European and U.S. government to act on antitrust concerns. (Or in Epic’s case, outright suing them.)

So I definitely read the move - though generous in the abstract - as Apple’s window dressing for any possible government suits in the future. And indeed the Apple PR re-iterates its bottom line: “The App Store’s standard commission rate of 30 percent remains in place for apps selling digital goods and services and making more than $1 million in proceeds… earlier this year, an independent study by the Analysis Group found that Apple’s commission structure is in the mainstream for app distribution and gaming platforms.”

But how about Steam, Sony, Microsoft & revenue cut?

What does this mean for other platforms? Well, Valve already made a call with Steam back in November 2018, and that call was the opposite: “For all sales between $10 million and $50 million [of a single game on Steam], the split goes to 25 percent. And for every sale after the initial $50 million, Steam will take just a 20 percent cut.” Valve cites the ‘network effect’ of large games bringing more users to Steam.

In typical Valve form, this is spot-on and true from a engineer-led logic point of view, but not super good PR for small devs - and is ultimately a ‘rich get richer’ move. Though actually it’s true that major publishers like EA, Microsoft and Sony have only been adding titles to Steam recently. And I think Sony and Guerrilla’s Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition might already be in the 20% cut revenue range already.

Of course, Epic sees 12 percent as the correct platform cut (see above). But I don’t really buy the ‘reverse engineering costs’ approach as the ultimate arbiter of price for a for-profit company that can charge what it wants. Even Mr. Sweeney and friends aren’t doing that for - for example - the cost vs. revenue of making a Fortnite skin, right?

And - unlike iOS - I don’t think you can easily argue to government regulators that Steam is an unfair monopoly on an open PC video game platform, given that players can pick any store they want. Heck, companies like Epic are already using price differentiation to compete with them.

(BTW, I found this editorial on Apple’s ‘15% deflection tactic’ interesting. I may agree that mobile and AR/VR devices should also have complete choice of store and payment platform. But I’m not sure that this choice on the PC has led to a massively different $ experience for small or medium-sized game devs. Though it does allow large companies to distribute independently.)

As for Sony and Microsoft - or Nintendo? Because they have clear competitors - and are actually moving into other platforms for streaming purposes - I don’t see many calls to change their 30% cut. (Perhaps a limited set of devs being approved for the platform also creates a tension, and means that creators are reluctant to push back?)

The bottom line?

I think this is ultimately a problem of capitalism. It goes like this:

- company gets there first and maybe even does a good job
- takes market share for their platform and generates excess profits
- is a company and so answers to its shareholders and not its community of developers
- so discussions of ‘developer fairness’ directly clash with the profit motive
(This was also a problem at companies I’ve previously worked at.)

There’s no easy fix. Personally, I’d like to see more solutions like investing company The Vanguard Group (created by index fund pioneer John Bogle), which essentially is owned by the people who invest in it. So there’s no external shareholders with different motives. Many traditional financial investment companies charge 1% or more in yearly fees for their index funds, and Vanguard often costs less than 0.1%.

How this would work in games? Well, you’d need to have a company that:

- had a very large market share as a platform
- and then was willing to switch to a model where it gave shares to all of its developers, based on their sales
- and then let the developers control the company’s strategy and fees as shareholders. (A non-profit model could also work, but they can tend towards the disorganized over time.)

This whole concept is, well, probably a tall order. Right now on PC, the most egalitarian platform, Itch.io, has a pretty small market share, as I discussed in a recent newsletter. So you can have the right intentions, but not have the share to make a difference. But I think it’s good to have a dream target model, right?

(A final caveat: most of the time when your game doesn’t make as much money as you wanted, it’s not an additional 21.4% revenue that’s the difference between making it or not. It’s generally a wider supply/demand issue for your game - not enough players, for whatever reason. Important to not conflate that with issues around % cut.)

The game discovery news round-up..

We’re going into Thanksgiving week here in there U.S., so you’d think it would be a quieter time. (Hope everyone is social distancing and keeping to social small circles, as you should!)

But no, there’s plenty going on - on all fronts. And here’s a giant round-up of some of the things you should care about on platform and discoverability that you might have missed:

  • Two notable upcoming Steam things: firstly, you can submit your unreleased game’s demo for the February 2021 Steam Game Festival until December 2nd. I highly recommend you do - short, sharp Festival demo appearances that may get picked up by streamers are the best demo appearances! And second, Fellow Traveller’s narrative games fest LudoNarraCon is back on Steam April 23rd-26th, 2021, and you can sign up if interested on their official website.

  • Following GameDiscoverCo’s survey of Week 1: Year 1 Steam $ sales, Kyle Kukshtel made an interactive webpage which lets you plugin your launch wishlists/cost - or gross Week 1 Steam revenue - and get possible gross Steam revenues up to Year 5. (Lots of caveats: use worldwide average price if putting cost in, your wishlists may convert worse, it’s all a giant crapshoot, etc. But it’s a fun indicative thought experiment.)

  • The performance of Microids/PlayMagic’s remake of early 2000s FPS XIII (itself based on a Belgian comic book) has been, well, remarkably terrible. And ICO’s Thomas Bidaux did some research and, ouch: “There are a grand total of 7 games currently available on Steam that are Overwhelmingly Negative. XIII is the only one under 10% of positive reviews. It is also the first game in that range released since 2017.” (The dev team ended up blaming the pandemic, but the game was as high as #2 in the GameDiscoverCo Steam Hype weekly charts when it released, so looks like a big expectations mismatch as well.)

  • That ‘medium/larger publishers Katamari-ing up smaller devs’ consolidation trend is continuing. Besides Microsoft’s buying spree of late, some indie publishers are still doing it - Devolver buying Croteam after working with them for so long, Curve buying the For The King dev, and then of course, there’s Embracer Group, who picked up 13 studios the other day (lol!), including pinball dons Zen Studio and Flying Wild Hog. A trend to watch…

  • Seems like the PlayStation 5’s Store UI roll-out has still been a little rocky. For example, there was no ‘Deals’ section on PS5 (until a Black Friday-only section got added, but that’s more like a one-off section, one presumes?) Comments on the article are not a fan of the web PS Store, either: “The new store is slow to load on pc (using chrome), and I still don't see wishlist on the store… Must say that digging thru deals (or whole store at all) on mobile is one huge mess. Nameless repeating icons or microtext on them.”

  • Cloud gaming news: everyone is taking the webpage approach to iOS cloud game distro now, of course, with Nvidia’s GeForce Now debuting via Safari - and “Nvidia and Epic Games said Fortnite is also coming soon to Safari for iOS, with touch controls.” Huh! And on the Google front: “…it will begin public testing of its Stadia game service via the iOS Web browser within the next several weeks. ‘This will be the first phase of our iOS progressive web application,’ the company said.” We’ll see what user adoption is like via this slightly fiddly method.

  • Going deeper on Stadia, really dug this overview from The Verge of the cloud platform’s first year and prospects for the future: “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and the hotly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, which releases on December 10th, [are] crucial moments for Stadia. These releases… will define Stadia in the coming months, and [Google’s John] Justice knows it’s imperative Google treat CD Projekt Red’s big holiday launch as a make-or-break moment for the platform.”

  • Microlinks: congrats to The Game Awards nominees, a great range of games; interesting to check the Top 20 Epic Games Store games and see lotsa PS5 launch titles in there (Godfall doing great despite so-so reviews, Bugsnax, The Pathless); Superdata now trying to cover subscription service revenues: “Combined revenue [from Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now and EA Play] in October was up 142% year-over-year and subscriber numbers rose 113%.”

And finally for this week, we’re all about sales numbers here at GameDiscoverCo. And it’s the 30th anniversary of the SNES / Super Famicom’s release in Japan. (Super Mario World is my favorite game of all time, by the way!) So what better to end with than the all-time top selling Super Famicom games?

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game. You can now subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides!]

GameDiscoverCo Plus: subscribe today for much extra goodness!

That paid newsletter tier we mentioned is upon us.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

We’ve been teasing it, but it’s finally time to bust out the ‘IT’S HAPPENING’ GIFs, because the next evolution of our game discovery newsletter & research is finally here. We couldn’t be more delighted about it.

You can now subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus, the paid tier to this newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive custom data-led analysis, exclusive newsletters, an interactive data back end, and a member Discord:

If you’d like a little bit more detail, here’s what stays free and what is new in the paid tier of the GameDiscoverCo newsletter.

Free newsletter subscriber?

We’ll continue sending out free newsletters regularly to everyone signed up for the GameDiscoverCo newsletter.

These will be filled with the same awesome blend of overviews, analysis and notable links around game discovery and platforms. (And whenever we do public surveys, we’ll print all the results for free, of course.)

Paid ‘GameDiscoverCo Plus’ perks

So, if you subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus, we decided to make it fairly inexpensive for professional quality in-depth business analysis and research. For $15 per month for individuals (more like $12 per month, if you sign up for a year) - you get access to the following:

  • An exclusive ‘Plus’ newsletter every Friday which reveals and analyzes the biggest games coming to Steam, using the Steam Hype chart data created by GameDiscoverCo & Lars ‘GameDataCrunch’ Doucet. If you (or a competitor) have an unreleased game, you’ll want to see the charts, to see if it makes it in - and to predict which games are (likely) going to hit it big. The first one - more of an ‘explainer’ - is available now.

  • Actual access to the interactive GameDiscoverCo Steam Hype chart data itself. Via a password-protected experimental website, you’ll see the data we use, & be able to check daily the 7-day, 30-day, 90-day and all-time charts for all unreleased games, including yours or competitors’. You can sort by different Hype variables, look at daily performance over time, and plenty more (including standalone pre-release follower and wishlist charts) to help you gain insight.

  • Additional exclusive ‘Plus’ newsletters multiple times per month. These will include ‘state of the industry’ data-led analyses for large game platforms (the first being for Apple Arcade, coming shortly!), as well as AMA (ask me anything) newsletters, where I’ll answer questions from subscribers and sundry other game industry experts on game platforms & discovery.

  • A ’Plus’ subscriber-only Discord, where you can come and discuss/analyze video game discovery and sales trends with me and my colleagues - and other subscribers - to your heart’s content.

  • And this is just the beginning. In the future, ‘Plus’ subscribers will also get full back-end access to any other data sets/views that GameDiscoverCo creates over the next few months and years. And we’re planning more, including many deeper data dives.

For ‘Plus’ subscribers, you’ll see there’s also a Company subscription option at $500 per year, if you’re a larger (>20 person) company planning to use the information. We’d really appreciate the support. (It also allows multiple people within your organization to have access to the paid issues of the newsletter & back end.)

We do already put many hours of work per week into GameDiscoverCo’s newsletters - yes, even the free tier. So, by subscribing to GameDiscoverCo Plus, you will be ensuring that we can continue writing all of our newsletters and researching new data in the future!

What’s the GameDiscoverCo Steam Hype chart?

So here’s a bit more detail on the first ‘Plus’ data set - the GameDiscoverCo Steam Hype chart. This will be covered in a weekly paid subscriber newsletter, and also be fully interactive via the GameDiscoverCo Plus data microsite.

We realized that there’s lots of analysis of released Steam games, but exponentially less for unreleased games & their discoverability. We’re excited about the Steam Hype chart because it fuses together multiple algorithmic & custom weighted factors (Steam follower numbers and wishlist rankings, Steam forum ‘chatter’, dev/publisher track record, overall ‘community buzz’ & more) to make a daily score for unreleased Steam games.

And these scores can correspond surprisingly well to how the games end up selling on release! Made by GameDiscoverCo with help from Lars Doucet (former Steam contractor and current GameDataCrunch supremo), these interactive charts are segmented by one week from release, one month from release and three months from release - and even an ‘any unreleased Steam game’ option.

You can search for any game being released in the future on Steam and see how its relative ranking is changing over time. The chart is updated daily. Here’s a pre-release example for a recently debuted game (Mars Horizon, which is doing pretty decently so far!):

We think the Steam Hype chart is extremely helpful for developers and publishers trying to understand the best timing for game releases (vs. other big titles), and how various games are poised to perform relative to the rest of the market.

The first weekly newsletter analyzing the Steam Hype data - which explains exactly what all the variables mean - is available right now to Plus subscribers. So sign up now to get access to it and the tool, as well as the other GameDiscoverCo Plus perks - the member Discord, the Apple Arcade and other platform deep-dive analysis, the AMAs, etcetera.

PS - We’d super recommend Lars to others looking to build metadata-heavy back ends - check out GameDataCrunch for more info/contact details.

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? And you can now subscribe to the GameDiscoverCo Plus newsletter tier for exclusive data, insights, AMAs and Discord access.]

Prototypes, publishing, pitching, oh my!

Please imagine George Takei saying this.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

As we saunter even closer to the ‘holiday season’, it’s time to return to the ol’ faithful GameDiscoverCo newsletter - to see what’s been geysering up in terms of game discovery and platform news.

And BTW, are you all having fun with your new ‘video game systems’? (I, too, have bought the latest advanced hardware. That’s what you’re all playing, right?) Anyhow, let’s get on with this edition of the newsletter:

Publisher pitching tips and percentages?

There’s a couple of notable articles/threads this week trying to get deeper into what publishers need or want from developers nowadays.

Firstly, Xsolla’s Justin Berenbaum has a GamesBeat guest post on pitching your game which I found full of useful and actionable information. It’s great to see another no-nonsense take on the basic information you need to pitch. (Some devs still have a temptation to make too many slides, often involving story synopses or concept art!)

I found it notable that Justin said this so pointedly: “Developers: Do not sign deals with “publishers or investors” when they are not committing money toward the development, marketing, or PR of your game. The promise of “Well, you finish your game and we’ll market it” in exchange for 50% of the revenue (or more) isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on!”

I largely agree with this, especially if publishers are offering no-advance cuts as high as 50%. (This is out of the ordinary - remember folks, Kellen Voyer’s recent survey gives you a good idea of the deals currently being signed, %-wise.)

IMO, deals with a lower cut to publisher (25-30%) and no advance can be fine - as long as they are employing staff to directly work on your game. And I’d like to throw in a caveat in the opposite direction. Beware publishers who put a $250k marketing spend in the publishing package that they recoup against the game’s net revenue, and then blow it all on poor-ROI advertising. (That happens too.)

Elsewhere in the piece, I nodded at Justin’s mea culpa on behalf of publishers as to why their ‘yay/nay’ publishing answers come sooo slowwwly: “There are many stakeholders in the decision-making process, and one dissenting voice may be the nail in the coffin for funding for your game. On top of that, getting timely feedback from every stakeholder is often an exercise in herding cats.”

BTW, Justin’s article is the second in a series. Here’s the first, which includes the following interesting graph I hadn’t seen before (not sure exactly how it was extrapolated):

Cosmic genre/pitch graphs? It’s groovy, man!

Wanted to highlight a long/complex but interesting Twitter thread by Kyle Kukshtel (Cantata). Kyle has put together an interesting visualization around pitching your game to publishers, focusing on where certain genres fit (cost vs. complexity) for making prototypes.

Here’s one of his master graphs, which is absolutely not taken from a Scientology induction seminar (there’s no axis for Thetans, for starters!) or a radical conspiracy theory subReddit:

The graph’s focus is based around finding the ‘pitching sweet spot’ in terms of ‘% of uncompensated work done on the prototype’, vs. the ‘% of the game’s budget you’re asking for’.

Kyle notes: “The thesis of this chart is that, despite what publishers say, there IS an ideal time to pitch your game. However the developer really bears the blunt end of that decision.” It’s an innovative visualization approach to what is a fundamental dev problem if you want funding for your game - what genre, how much prototype?

His conclusion - which relates directly to the problem of prototype funding for game devs we talked about before: “The economics of this are F*CKED! It forces development to consolidate around the middle genres, and deviating outside of that means taking a bigger financial risk just to make something that you can effectively demo.”

The game discovery news round-up..

Finishing up, there’s an irritatingly substantial amount of things going on in the world of game platforms and discovery right now. And that’s in addition to the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X, which are firmly ensconced in the ‘hella sold out for early adopters, we’ll find out actual long-term demand in a few months’ camp. So let’s go go:

  • All the game hardware platforms are doing well in this lockdown-heavy world, but Nintendo Switch’s continued domination is worth remarking upon - “the best-selling video game console for 23 consecutive months” in the U.S. and more than 735,000 units sold in October 2020, second highest ever in NPD history and “only outdone by the 807,000 units sold of the Wii system in October 2008.” Switch still viable platform? Surely.

  • Missed this at the time, but the folks at ‘personalized influencer game store’ Nexus responded to my newsletter on them with a bunch of interesting stats about what they claim is working. For example: “When Karmakut (379,000 YouTube subscribers) launched his Creator Store in 2019, he didn’t change anything about his channel… yet he drove more than $17,000 in game sales in the first 30 days.”

  • Buried in Paradox Interactive’s extremely good financial results, a note that Crusader Kings III has “over 19,000 reviews on Steam and over 1,000,000 units sold.” So that’s 52 sales per review - within the 20-60 sales per review range that GameDiscoverCo surveyed back in August. (We think smash hit games tend towards the high end of the range, and cult favorite ones with vocal fans towards the bottom?)

  • Applause to Newzoo, which is continuing its move away from over-extrapolative ‘aspirational’ data and towards larger sample real-life estimates, for grabbing a bunch of launch ‘player’ data for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, using player profile & achievement data (I believe?) Details: “More than a third of U.S.-based PlayStation 5 owners… played Black Ops or Spider-Man… Demon’s Souls boasted a PS5 player share of 15.8% in the U.S.”

  • Wanted to note that Evva Karr’s Founder’s Kit website - collecting game pitches and sundry other things for indie devs - has added some new pitch decks, including this one for Bear & Breakfast which I liked, as well as some U.S. example legal documents (MNDA, contractor agreement, etc!) which some might find helpful.

  • Steam’s top sellers for the week had a lot of the usual suspects in it - albeit with Destiny 2 shooting to the top of the chart, because of the Beyond Light launch. And interesting to see Football Manager 2021 all the way up at #4, showing how perennial that franchise is. (The game is doing something confusing where it officially lists its release as November 24th. But it’s been on sale since November 10th, saying that the early release is a Paid Beta.)

  • Microlinks: does a long-term ‘early access’ business model kill buzz for MMOs? (some thoughtful responses here!); here’s NPD’s top game titles for October 2020 across console/PC; Itch.io is giving its revenue share to developers on Black Friday, likely inspired by Bandcamp waiving its sales cut on select days. (Any other platforms want to step up?)

Finally, bonus link-wise, I really enjoyed this mini-documentary from Sam Sutherland that touches on social gaming and user-generated content in some heartwarming ways:

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game. Exciting announcement coming later this week!]

Data deep dive: what's the 'long tail' like for Steam games?

We have survey results for you.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

As you may recall, we did a call for data a couple of weeks back, because one subject has been coming up quite a bit recently. And as I said at that time: “Sure, let’s say your game made $50k in its first week on Steam. But at the end of Year 1, will you have $100k or $250k? And how about at the end of Year 2 or Year 3?”

So we asked for your (anonymous and abstracted) data to try to get a good sense of if there are any trends on revenue scaling/’long tail’, and I’m delighted to say that almost 100 of you stepped up to provide information. Thank you so much! So let’s see what we found out…

How Month 1, Year 1 Steam $ compares to Week 1?

So we asked about the gross revenue you all made on Steam in Week 1, and then asked ‘what multiple of that revenue did you have at the end of Month 1? How about Year 1?’ And got the following results:

So as you can see, the average multiples were 1.57x for Month 1 to Week 1, and 4.52x for Year 1 to Week 1. But the average is skewed by a few titles who launched with a small amount of revenue, and so blew their multiples out of the water, haha.

So we think the median (the 50th percentile result) is a better comparison than average. And that comes out to 1.47x your game’s revenue for Month 1 compared to Week 1, and precisely 4x revenue for Year 1 compared to Week 1. Thus, for a median game that launched with $50,000 in gross revenue, you’d have $73,500 at the end of Month 1 and $200,000 at the end of the first year.

(Two important caveats. Firstly, we didn’t talk about units sold, just gross revenue. So presumably you’re putting your game in all the big Steam sales with discounts to get to those numbers. And so units sold are more than 4x. Secondly, we excluded Early Access games from this chart, because EA games moving into full release can really spike multiples.)

Getting deeper into ‘long tail’ data points?

Something we’ve done with previous surveys is to also show all of the relevant data points that we plotted, just so you can understand the shape of the possible outcomes.

So here’s all of the Month 1: Week 1 Steam multiples, including Early Access in this case (because we’re presuming nobody launches out of EA in the first 30 days!) You can see a pretty large range here, but the vast majority of outcomes are between 1.2x and 2x:

Next, let’s take a look at all the data points - including Early Access games - for the Year 1: Week 1 revenue multiples. There’s some pretty outlandish multiples in here. But many of them are because a full Steam launch gets you extra Steam featuring (and an Early Access launch gets you - relatively speaking - less.) Nonetheless, check it out:

So if you’re not launching in Early Access, the points plotted seem a little more conservative and sensible compared to what we’ve heard anecdotally. The wisdom was generally that an ‘OK’ Year 1 is 2.5-3x your first week, revenue-wise, and 5-6x is doing really well. And indeed, the data shows this:

Before we carry on, one vital thing to discuss. This data was from all eras on Steam - from 2015, from 2017, from 2019, from 2020, even (for the one month data!) So perhaps things have been changing massively, and so we should take this all with a grain of salt?

Well, at least with the data we have, year of launch doesn’t change the multiples that much. It’s true that more and more games are launching on Steam, and we do believe the first week average/median sales for all Steam games is decreasing. But after you launch, the Month 1/Year 1 multiples are similar, no matter when you debuted on Steam. Look, here’s proof:

The only addition we’d make is that the ‘1 week to 1 year’ multiplier for games launching in 2019 with >$50k revenue in first week was 3.26x - and the ‘1 week to 1 month’ multiplier was 1.39x. We feel like those might be more realistic numbers to expect for larger games launching on Steam in the recent past.

The ‘long long tail’ - Year 2 and beyond

Finally, we suspect our longer-term results are somewhat affected by survivorship bias. (If your game isn’t selling a couple of years after release, you may not be responding to calls for data about it!)

But nonetheless, we wanted to show you the numbers we received for ‘1 week to 2 years’, as well as 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years - all split by ‘all games’ and ‘non-Early Access games only’:

So just to put the gross revenue multipliers out there in text too, it’s, for non-Early Access games: 4x (Year 1 multiplier); 6.06x (Year 2 multiplier); 6.69x (Year 3 multiplier); 8x (Year 4 multiplier); 8.77x (Year 5 multiplier).

And then for all games, bearing in mind that slow start for Early Access (and perhaps that EA games are longer lived when they do SaaS-style updates?) 4.7x (Year 1 multiplier); 7.82x (Year 2 multiplier); 10.48x (Year 3 multiplier); 14.55x (Year 4 multiplier); 20.34x (Year 5 multiplier).

Conclusion

And there we have it. Use this data with the 'Steam wishlists to first week sales' data* and you can stitch together your own story about many unreleased or released games - yours and others. (*Incidentally, we’ll have an update on ‘Steam wishlists to sales’ soon, since we’ve got some new data about how to interpret that better.)

Of course, your trajectory isn’t your destiny. But surveys like this do show some things that you can and can’t do. So please be hopeful but realistic about the whole thing. The video game business is big, crowded, and complex, but there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game. Contact us if you want help with your game or game portfolio’s discoverability quotient.]

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