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

Lessons from launching Democracy 3

So it’s been over a month now, what have I learned from the pre-release beta and final release of my political strategy game Democracy 3 I hear you all asking at the top of your voices? Here is what I have learned…

Launch Discounts do not matter.

As a gamer, you might insist they do, and point out how everyone else had them. I didn’t. Nobody even mentioned it. It’s a new game, people who want it, want it. I think the now standard ‘10% off for the first week’ thing is just a way of losing 10% of your revenue. I’m so glad I did not do this.

Having a decent trailer was worth it.

I don’t know why I’ve waited until this game to get a proper trailer with voiceover for my games. it has been so worth it. At least it convinced me to get another one done and also one for redshirt. here is the first democracy 3 one…

Have faith in your game with pre-release marketing.

I spent more than ever before on advertising to tie in with the launch of Democracy 3. I don’t regret a penny of it, and wish I’d actually had  even more faith in, and spent even more. The problem is, at the end of an indie game project you have spent a LOT of money on making a game that so far has not earned a single penny back. The ‘balance sheet’ for the game is always really upsetting. Taking another pile of cash and dumping it into the ‘marketing’ pit of eternal spending seems like the craziest thing to do when things are already covered in red ink, but it seems to be the right thing. Democracy 3 was my biggest marketing experiment yet, and it paid off.

Add steam workshop support earlier.

I underestimated how much work this would be, and how much trouble people would have installing non-workshop mods. This should have been in from day-one, in an ideal world. There are a decent number of workshop items for the game, but would have been more if I’d been more prepared on that front.


A $25 game will sell very well, if it is deep, and good quality and has a market.

The idea that the game should be cheaper to ‘compete’ with other indie games or with discounted AAA games is just wrong. Trust me on this, I have the sales figures. Democracy 3 is my fastest selling game ever. It is not suffering one bit for being a $25 game, in fact I wonder if it would have made more sales at $29.99. This isn’t a game for people looking for a cheap disposable timewaster, but for people interested in the idea and subject matter and prepared to invest some time. I got the price right. I’d even suggest, what with Prison Architect and others, that $25+ is the new standard price for ‘triple A indie’ or ‘premium indie’ games.
So far it’s gone well. More stuff coming soonish…


9 thoughts on Lessons from launching Democracy 3

  1. Hi Cliff,
    is there a Demo for Democracy 3 and Redshirt? If not will there be demos for these games?

    I would be interested in general what you think about game demos and if they are good or bad for sales.

  2. I would appreciate a demo too, but I’m pretty sure it will come. Just give it some time. Mr. Cliffski has had demos for pretty much all games he’s made, and blogged a lot on why studios should put them out. I’m sure there are more important things to fix in D3 right now than working on a demo, but it will come :)

  3. Oh of course, fixing bugs is more important. i didn’t mean to imply that a demo is super important or something like that :)
    Both games are on my steam wishlist and i will check the steam pages regularly to see if there is a demo (or maybe a sale or something so it doesn’t hurt my wallet as much in case i don’t like the game).

    I tried to find blog posts about Cliff Harris opinion about demos but searching for “demo” in the blog is not very helpful because of all the democracy posts ^^

  4. I quite agree with “launch discount doesn’t matter”. With the current way the market is evolving (rushing to -50%, -75%, then bundled in record times), it’s clearly not really attractive to see “-10%”.

    If you want the game early, you get it (wanting to play as soon as possible). If not, you’ll wait for better discounts, since they’ll come soon anyway.

    Too many times I have bought a game on release, to finally not have the time to play it fully, and see it for -50% a month or two later.

  5. As someone who does marketing for indie games (and has written marketing guides for apps, and other things) it is so hard to get developers to understand how much marketing adds to the revenue of a good game. Arguably, it can also add value to a pile of junk, but with any game with solid foundations, it is fantastic.

    Developers often ask me ‘But I can get my game mentioned on gaming websites for free’ Yes, but trust me when I say you want that trailer built and that steam greenlight page nice and early! Get a page built that shows off what makes your game worth playing, and whatever you do don’t make it sound like every other game out there.

    Still to this day my favourite advertising medium is Facebook. Myself, the developers I’ve worked with, and even ones I haven’t have stated that Facebook alone carries much more weight than pretty much everything else. I’d be curious if that was the case with Diplomacy 3 for you, or if it was something entirely different.

    Always enjoy reading your posts,

  6. I am desperate for a demo download. I’ve been anticipating this game ever since it was announced. I will eventually purchase the game twice or three times over if I have to when I have the money. But a demo would really satiate me at least for a little while.

    I’ve been playing the first Democracy which I purchased a long time ago. I’ve even lost the files and went on to purchase it again and again. I believe it’s pretty safe now. Lol. I’ve been playing the demo for Democracy 2 for the better part of a 2 years. I haven’t had the money in all this time to buy the game. When I do have money again, I’m going to buy it and Democracy 3.

    I love these games! The chance to play the game as an expression of what I hope to see change in my country irl is something that I must experience even if it’s a limited demo. I’ve watched people playing the game on YouTube. I swear it’s like I’m torturing myself!

  7. As a gamer, you might insist they do, and point out how everyone else had them. I didn’t. Nobody even mentioned it. It’s a new game, people who want it, want it. I think the now standard ’10% off for the first week’ thing is just a way of losing 10% of your revenue. I’m so glad I did not do this.

    I’ll second your thoughts, and add this for further consideration:

    I wanted to purchase Dominions 4, but decided to hold off for a while, when they were offering it with–I believe it was a $5 US discount, in mid-beta. When it was finally released, they provided no discount. I still haven’t purchased it. I want to, but I will wait until the price drops, because I know they’ve done it before, and will do it at some point, again.

  8. Dear Cliffski,

    I believe 25 Dollar really is the maximum price. I bought the game yesterday and I like it. I told my study mates (master political science) about it and they like it too. But just like me they think that 25 Dollar is quite a heavy price for an indie game. As students we are not poor but non-wealthy enough that 5 Dollar can make the difference.

    Thus, I am glad that you did not raise the price any further.

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