The impossible question: How many copies can you sell? May 24, 2015 cliffski If you aren’t already aware, I’m the guy who made the Democracy series of games. They are my top selling games so far. Because they have done well, my natural timid brutishness makes me think I’ve ‘maxxed out’ their sales, but the occasional binge reading of Peter Thiel books or articles on silicon valley websites makes me wonder just what percentage of the market I have reached with that game. A quick look at steamspy will tell you that there are currently this many owners of Democracy 3: ( I make no official comment as to their accuracy :D). So lets assume assume its vaguely right and 370,000 people have bought it. Lets also assume that given the various discounts over the years, on average people have paid 50% of the face price of $24.95, so that gives a total income (gross) of $4.6 million. Sweet. Assume roughly 70% of that for the developer is $3.2 million before taxes. Thats a big hit in indie game terms, but exactly HOW big is it? Lets look at a few other stats, with the same data. Space engineers has the same price, but 1.2 million owners, theoretically thats around $10.4 million for the devs. Jesus. Even more crazy but how high can we go? And are the games in any way comparable? Space Engineers supports 15 different languages, Democracy 3 supports a lot less, and not too well either. Is this something I should improve perhaps? On the other hand, it has no DLC, whereas there are 3 expansions for D3, so I’m not comparing apples with apples here. Plus, is the market for a deep political game like D3 the same as space engineers? Well lets look at other politics games on steamspy: The Political Machine 2012: 87,000 * $3.99. $347k max 170k gross, 0.03 x Democracy 3. Tropico 4: 1,200,000 * 19.95. 24 million max, 12 million gross, 3x Democracy 3. Tropico 5: 383,000 * 39.99. Thats $15 million max, 7.5 million gross. 2x Democracy 3. CIV V. 7,000,000 * $30. Thats $210 million max, $105 million gross, 22x Democracy 3.372 The production cost of Democracy 3 vs all of those games is obviously way lower, but lets assume, for arguments sake, that the total potential market for Democracy 3 is one tenth that of Civ V, given that we can reach EVERYONE who might buy it. Thats $10 mill gross, or in other words roughly $4.2 million of developer revenue sat out there waiting. Hmmm… Its VERY easy to live in a developer bubble where you assume that because you’ve written 100 blog posts about your game and read 20 reviews, seen 100 lets plays, that EVERYONE knows about the game. Get this for context… I was chatting to one of my closest buddies recently. He is my age, he plays games, but isn’t much of a geek. He didn’t know what twitter was or how it worked. HE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TWITTER WAS. God knows how many bazillion dollars of free PR, and this guy had never heard of one of the largest more pervasive companies on the planet. Such people exist. More than you think. When you have conversations like that, it makes you realize just how trivial the number of people playing your game is. Lets assume steamspy is spot on (and ignore everyone who bought it off other sites), and say that 372,000 people own Democracy 3. Lets show them on the map: There you go. That’s the entire population of Belize. Wohoo. There are a lot more people to sell my game to. Right now, my facebook ad campaign for Democracy 3 tells me my target group contains 8,600,000 people, based on the countries, demographics and specific interests that I selected. That’s people who use facebook, which isn’t everyone. Assuming one tenth of those people *will* actually buy the game if I can get them to take a look at it, then thats an extra 488,000 copies to sell. In other words, I’m half way through selling Democracy 3. Nuts isn’t it. Problems: Some of these people may already have pirated the game. Some of these people may have tried a demo or seen a video and not like the game Some of them may only be prepared to, or able to pay a price below which it make no sense for me to sell (due to alienating higher price customers). The $0.99 buyers. I’ve already hopefully screened out everyone else. They are all pc-owning strategy game loving English speaking desktop pc users in targeted countries, of the target age. Lets say that even given all of that, that in fact 10% is wildly optimistic and say just ONE per cent are actually interested… thats another 48,000 copies at an average of $12 a copy. That’s a Tesla model S with all the optional extras :D.