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

Median time played on steam for my games.

Something very interesting is happening with Democracy 2. because the game is now on steam, for the first time ever I am getting accurate figures for how long people play the game for. Steam tracks that automatically and gives you nice charts and graphs for it, which is very handy.

The values for Democracy 2 are staggeringly high. They won;t seem high, when i tell you what they are in a minute, but from chatting to other devs, and looking at my other steam games, they are disproportionately high.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Democracy 2 is a pretty complex strategy game, that is based around running a fictional country. It has a fair bit of text to read, but nothing like the backstory in a game like dishonored. It’s a game of balancing competing needs (which is essentially what all strategy games are), and it has a lot of variables to tweak, just like all my games do.

The median time played right now is 2 hours and nine minutes. Does that seem short? Trust me, it’s pretty long, because the values are massively dragged down by people who buy games on impulse in a one-day sale, and only ever play them once. (Steam only counts games that have been actually played for a minute or more). For those who love comparing stats, the average time played is 3 hours 33 minutes. The game has been on steam less than a month, so you would expect that value to rise over time, as people revisit the game (although D2 has not been in a steam sale, which might explain some of this)

That compares extremely well with Gratuitous Tank and Space Battles. The average play time per session for both games is pretty much identical, but there is a massive difference in the distribution of time played. GTB basically hooks everyone for at least 20 minutes, then there is a falloff downwards until you reach this massive spike at 200minutes+

With Democracy 2, everyone is playing at least an hour, then there is a smooth drop off to the eight hour mark. D2 doesn’t have this weird U shaped distribution like GTB does.

Which would imply…errrr?  maybe that GTB does a bad job of helping people through the mid-game, but if they manage it, they are hooked and play forever. I wonder if people get stuck on a specific level, and then either make it through, and keep having fun, or they give up? some aspects of the game design are based entirely around avoiding that situation, but they may be failing.

two things I definitely conclude are that a) it’s good data to have and b)Democracy 2 does very well despite it’s age.

7 thoughts on Median time played on steam for my games.

  1. I’ll say in my case- while I like your games, often I get stuck at a certain level, with no idea how to get through it, and eventually I get tired of banging my head against the wall.

  2. I played GSB for 4 hours in my steam version (according to steam). But I have the non-steam collectors edition with the expansions and I’ve played that for a lot more hours. I’m not sure how many but I’ve completed the single player (I don’t really play multiplayer). Eventually I’ll pick up the Conquest expansion and play using the control your ships setting.

    I probably bring the steam stats way down. I buy a ton of games during the xmas sales (to stock up on cheap entertainment for the year). About 1/2 of these games turn out to suck and I play them for only an hour. Some are so bad I barely play them at all (under 10 minutes). But considering that a large number of them were 2.49 I don’t worry too much.

    BTW, if you get stuck on a game usually someone’s posted a faq with a solution.

  3. Cliff, I’m surprised you’ve not got some form of analytics for your games already, given how much you love to dig into web and advertising stats. Any particular reason for that?

  4. I do have some stats, but steam have written enough of an API that there isn’t need to reinvent the wheel. Plus for an old game like democracy 2, it was coded before stats gathering was common.

  5. Being brutally honest, could it be that Democracy 2 scared off the play-once impulse buyers from ever making a purchase?

  6. “Democracy 2 does very well despite it’s age”.

    Democracy 2 is a game I don’t see being obsolete any time soon, from the graphics, GUI and gameplay. Might not be an attractive game at first sight, but give the player 20 minutes to explore it and he may decide to spend an entire evening playing the game.

  7. D2 is an awesome game for political wonks, strategy fans in general, a bit of God games in there too. I am a fan of those things I listed, so to me, this game needs you to revisit it. I read what you posted about it and how much of a bitch it is to debug etc, but hell, even some simple GUI tweaks and of course more content could take these new Steam stats and really do a number on that playing time!

    Love your blog, first time commenting here.

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