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

The inconvenient truth about indie game sales revenue

Did you know that 95% of the money an indie game makes comes from when that game is on sale and highly discounted? Some pundits put this at more like 97%, although I do hear that other people claim it be 98%, which is nonsense because we all know that 99% is the real figure right? After all, we’ve all seen those exciting steam charts with those big spikes haven’t we? And sales are just GREAT, people on twitter and other social media go bananas over them. they have mini-games and memes. Everybody knows that the way to make money is to put a game on sale! sale! sale! not just 95% off, how about 99% off…etc.


Exciting stuff, which is slightly undermined by it being dead wrong. Like most slightly autistic numbers geeks, I can’t help but crunch the data. Lets look at Democracy 2 sales on a large online portal.

The game was priced at $19.95.  Clearly this is total madness for an iconic, old, 2D strategy game, so presumably nobody bought it full price?

Actually 52% of it’s money came from full-price sales. And that’s a low-ball figure because there was a launch discount (which I don’t even do any more). I suspect it could have been higher. This was an old game, already sold for years from my site, so the real hardcore fans already bought it, yet 52% of new customers grabbed it at full price.

At 25% off, 15.5% off the income was generated

At 50% off (bargain!!!) 17% of total income was generated

at 75% off (amazing!!!!!!) 14% was generated

I see those big exciting spikes in sales reports as much as the next person, but it terms out we humans SUCK at making sense of charts like that. We also get lured by the thought of lots of players, rather than actual income.

Another thought worth considering is that at price X, you sell copies to everyone who would be happy to pay X or more. So what that means is that when a game is 75% off, a fair chunk of those buyers might have bought at full price. They aren’t going to donate the other 75% of the money later. Maybe only a few of them are in that position, but you need four sales for each of them to match the revenue…

Sales make money. Sales are good, they allow you to sell to people on the fence, or with less cash. I’m not knocking sales. But when your entire marketing strategy is based around discounts and sales and shoveling your game out as cheap as you can go, you have to ask yourself if you actually ever checked that strategy was working.


Exchange rates…from hells heart I stab at thee…

That might be Shakespeare, not sure, I think it’s from the wrath of khan. Anyway…

Because I’ve been an indie developer for a thousand years, right from back when isildur cut the wrong from saurons hand, I have learned a few lessons, one of them being ‘exchange rate conversion is a bitch’. Because I live in the old world paradise of England, and the global games market is based ‘across the pond’ in the USA, I tend to get paid in dollars. That used to seem ok, because you just converted it to £ and there you go. And yet…. it turns out the exchange rate banks use for this is filed under the ‘exchange rate for dumbass schmucks that have no clue’ folder.

You can get a better rate through dedicated exchange rate companies, which is annoying because it means transferring to them, and then back again to a different account, and in any case beyond a certain minimum amount, you can get a better rate anyway, if you call the bank and ask for it.

So my first step was to set up a dollar bank account, which was an epic tale that makes wagners ‘ring’ cycle look like an episode of antiques roadshow, but I digress…

ach1Now I have a dollar account, and have actually persuaded almost everyone I deal with to pay into it, using dollars (except apple, fuck you apple…), I progress to the next level…

ach2Which is great. Now all I have to do is pick the right moment for the exchange rate, when the pound is really weak against the dollar (so I get lots of pounds). I started looking to pick my moment around October…


Well bugger… It looks like my timing isn’t exactly awesome. My economist head tells me that a booming house market and recovering economy means that speculators suspect UK interest rates will rise before the US, hence people piling into pounds and making them expensive. Grrrr. It’s basically moved from 1.6 to 1.7, so roughly 6% of my earnings over the last 8 months have evaporated in exchange rates. That sounds worse than it is, because the default exchange-rate losses from a normal bank account are *so bad* I would probably be losing 3-4% on them anyway.

Plus it’s not all doom and gloom, the last week or two has shown it sliding back in the ‘right’ direction. I just hope it slides a bit further before I have to start eating the carpet or convert some dollars… If only the UK economy would implode and us be plunged into economic letdown here, things might improve from my POV. Or as Garak put it…

How thoughtless of me not to consider the effects the destruction of my home world would have on your business; These must be trying times for you, be brave.”



Gratuitous Space Battles 2 planet image update

Nothing is final until the fat spaceship explodes, but there are some screens showing some test GSB2 battles with new planet imagery. I am going to need to knock up a level editor which lets me adjust all the planet sizes/parallax etc, so I can do something more creative than just slap any old planet with any old nebula, star and background… But I definitely like the ‘big battle over the planet in the background’ thing. Feedback is most welcome. (click to enlarge)





One of the things I’m not sure about is the extent to which I let the planets zoom in when you zoom in the camera. There are two possible methods, the ‘treat the planet as an object an infinite distance and don’t scale it’ approach, and the ‘it’s just another object in the scene so zoom in’ approach. I frankly don’t care which is more accurate. Nothing about GSB2 is accurate, it’s just aiming to look l33t. I keep changing my mind as to how to set up the camera regarding planets.

Posted in gsb2 Tagged

Election day… and democracy is for sale (and on sale… geddit?)


Well you wouldn’t expect an event like the European elections to go buy without some big promotional democracy-related thing from me would you? Here in my local polling station the queues were…well… nonexistent. I think we were the second people to vote in the village. So I hereby predict low turnouts, and lots of election staff finishing their crosswords and Sudoku during the day. The election works on proportional representation, which we as a country recently voted against in a referendum (doh!) so I suspect lots of people are boycotting the election because they don’t like the fairness of the system. yes that must be it…

Anyway.. DEMOCRACY 3 is 50% off today. YES 50% off!. You can buy it from steam here:


Or from my wonderful personal website **here**, which also gets you a steam key (and I get more money! yay!). Please tell everyone, tweet about it, blog about it, express your happiness for this event in interpretive jazz dance on street corners. Perhaps this is a good topic for you to write a song about, or maybe a play or some poetry? Hasn’t the whole ‘democracy 3 at 50% off story got the makings of a decent TV miniseries?

In all seriousness, all retweets and pimpage is much appreciated. We poor struggling starving indies need your help. I’ll have to eat jacks cat biscuits if you don’t buy a copy, and that will make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he is angry…

Jack will starve unless you buy cliffs games...
Jack will starve unless you buy cliffs games…

For those not aware, Democracy 3 is a political strategy game where YOU yes YOU are the president or prime minister of a real country, and get to make decisions on tax rates, laws, government spending and so on. It’s got great reviews. There are also some let’s plays scattered over the interwebs. like this one:

I’ve sold over twenty licenses to schools who use it to indoctrinate and confuse small children. Not convinced? It uses a NEURAL NETWORK, which sounds really impressive and cool, and thus must make the game better. Plus it was made by a developer who actually PAYS TAX, unlike many other corporations. Support your honest developers! especially the carbon-neutral ones!. You know you want to! Why are you still reading this when you could be using Democracy 3 to fund a space program, pay for food stamps or give blatant tax cuts for foreign investors?

I *may* have had too much caffeine.