A lot of people are trying to sell games online, And the vast majority of people seem to do a pretty bad job at it. I've been selling online since 1997. and have made a living from it for a good few years now. Here's a basic principle that most people miss when they are first trying to sell their game.
How many sales will I get?
A lot of people assume they can equate the sales of their game to the amount of traffic they get to their website. Others assume the sales will correspond to the quality of the product, others still assume that it's based on the price and the competition. If you think about it, it's clear that all of these factors will influence your sales (as well as many others). However, there is a common misunderstanding as to how these factors work together
How people assume factors influence sales
There are various stages that the customer goes through when buying from you. They need to hear about you, then they need to visit the site and find the site agreeable (no horrid popups, animations, or slow loading). Then they need to find and download the demo. The demo quality needs to be high enough to bring them back, then the order form needs to be easy to use (and the order process itself easy and fast). At the end of all that, you get your sales.
It's common for people to think that the factors influencing sales work something like the diagram below, where we divide up our potential sales to be influenced by a number of different factors with various weights:
That's all well and good, but it leads to a very sloppy assumption. It leads us to believe that the amount of sales we get is a straight aggregation of the various factors that go into generating a completed sales.
But this is wrong. A screwed up order form will not just result in a percentage reduction of your sales, it will drop your sales to near zero. This is because the way that different factors influence sales is not like a series of contributing but separate factors at all, but a series of multipliers.
How factors really influence sales
Here is a more accurate representation of how sales actually get influenced by different factors.
You might reasonably have assumed that just dropping the quality of the various elements by 20% from a theoretical maximum 100% efficiency and effectiveness would mean a 20% reduction in overall sales, but this is far from the truth. To illustrate this, assume 10,000 site visitors and 100% conversion rate at each point.
Now lets drop the quality of each of those factors (website effectiveness, demo quality and order page and process quality) from 100% down to 80%. What happens?
Our sales factor efficiencies have dropped to 80% but our actual sales have dropped to a scary 51.2%. This is the effect that the multipliers have. Weak links have a disproportionate effect on final sales.
What this means in practice.
Basically ANY of the many steps in the order process can drastically bring down your sales rate, so you have to make sure you give equal attention to each stage of the process. If you are getting great site traffic but poor demo downloads, your demo link is too obscure, or the hosting server too slow. If you get tons of demo downloads and no order page hits, the demo sucks. If you get everything high but sales, your price is wrong or your order page/process needs work.
Identify your weak link and work on it. If you have a single weak link in the chain, your are not getting anything close to the number of orders you should be. Above all, be aware that any step you are away from a 100% conversion rate at each point in the process is going to wipe out some of your sales. Be aware of the non-linear relationship between the quality of each stage, and the end result.
If you are a game developer programming a game with explosions in you might find this useful.