Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The long tail. Rock Legend game sales statistics

I used to publish games sales stats years ago, but haven’t for an age. I thought given its 3 years old, it might be interesting to look at the sales stats for Kudos: Rock Legend. KRL is a sim/management game based loosely around my experiences of being in a garage band. You choose members of a rock band through auditions, put together the songs, buy the equipment, book the gigs, and basically try and go from the garage to the stadium. It’s a 2D sim game I released in 2007, and I sold it both direct, and through some casual portals. The game was not a hit, but it wasn’t a disaster either.

The costs involved in the game were not huge, roughly $3,000, which is peanuts by game production standards, and it’s even pretty darned low by modern positech standards (GSB cost way way way more than that :D). Obviously, that doesn’t include my time, or marketing expenses, and the game took about 6 months fulltime in direct development, plus quite a bit of time post-release to promote and sell it.

Here are the sales stats: (click to enlarge)

The total income from the game is $51,174.43. That probably sounds pretty good. I’m sure peoples immediate response is “$50k for 6 months is $100k a year! But it is not so. Deduct the $3k, then deduct at least another $3k marketing/ads. Now deduct roughly 10% for payment processing and bandwidth. Now another 20% in corporate tax. That’s… less. Don’t forget the post-sales means it’s more than 6 months anyway.

But the good news is that long tail. Looky at the far right. The game continues to sell a few copies each month. If you have 10 games like that, then you are making a living (not an awesome one, but not a bread-and-water one either). KRL is not a whizz bang 3D game, so it doesn’t age quite as badly as most games will. I suspect in another years time it will still be earning 60-70% of what it does now.

KRL is not a huge ambitious mega-project like GSB. A single dedicated coder can do a game like that in a reasonable length of time. If you want to know what it’s like, try the demo.

And to anticipate some questions:

Yes, it is in retail in russia, I recall that making a few thousand dollars. It also made a few thousand on the casual game portals, although my cut is tiny.

The game is not on steam, they have only accepted one of my games (GSB). It is on sale through impulse, but doesn’t sell hugely there. I’d say how much, but their reporting is down right now :(

9 thoughts on The long tail. Rock Legend game sales statistics

  1. You did fail to anticipate one question…given that it’s a game of modest graphics, and respectable popularity on the casual portals, is there an upside to porting it over to iOS/Android?

    To anticipate your answer, I see two issues that might be problems (aside form the main issue that it would take time away from coding GSB). First is the development cost, which for porting a desktop game authored in 2007 is quite likely to be non-trivial, as opposed to a game of a more recent vintage, which may well have been developed with an architecture more conducive to such a port, but then, you know your code better than I do.

    Second, is the price. Games in the Android and iTunes Markets are generally priced significantly lower than in the desktop market, which poses a dilemma. If you price it at the handheld market rates, you risk cannibalizing desktop sales, and it still might not be enough to cover the porting cost, and if you price it at desktop rates, you’re going to lose out on potential sales in the portable market.

    But that’s not an insurmountable dilemma. The first stage would be to offer a discount on the handheld version to current owners of the game, which should be obvious, because you’re going to want to poll them in the beginning anyway, to see what phones they have, and how interested they would be in a portable version. For the second stage, if you consider your development costs of the original to be fully amortized, and it sounds like you do, though you know your numbers better than I, then it costs you nothing to offer the desktop version as a bonus, bundled with the handheld version, or vice versa, while you charge a desktop price.

    Of course, since GSB is a full time gig, this is all hypothetical, and again, the architecture of RL may very well make a port cost prohibitive, so there you are.

  2. Thanks for the numbers; I firmly believe in shairing these kind of information, so we all can learn from them (I’ll do the same when I have any intell to share).

    My questions is more content-related (and might seem a bit lame): After seeing Guitar Hero and the likes I wondered why these games (about rockbands) never really deal with the fun bits of being in a band: the groupies, the mad roadies, the groupies, the cheating managers, the drugs, the groupies, the hotelroomsmashing, the drugs…all these things?

    We (the indiegamedevelopers) have no censurship on what we do (almost) but we still don’t play around with these adult themes? why not?


  3. Good point. When I did KRL, I was vaguely targeting the casual games portals, but I screwed up. The game was too edgy and unpolished to be casual games fare, and too simple and cuddly to eb hardcore games fare.
    In retrospect, having some sex and drugs with the rock n roll would have been much much better.
    Huge variety of equipment for the band would have been better, too.

  4. Try getting your older games on People may be more inclined to buy with the added incentive of being able to trade the game back.

  5. One thing that you might have to be carefull with GSB is that it need and internet connection to work correctly (even more with your coming extension). So maintening that long tail will require you (or someone) to keep maintening the server. It could be a drawback of the system…

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