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

Democracy 4 in Early Access (after 2 months)

So…. my political strategy game Democracy 4 has been in Early Access on steam for 2 months exactly today, plus on sale in a soft-launch alpha before then for a few months. How are things looking from the POV of one of those oh-so-predictable stats-dump indie dev blog posts?

Here are the headline numbers:

Net revenue (cash I get) about $500,000.

Gross revenue (headline dick-swinging number) about 800,000.

Before you go OMGZ how successful, I must also make a political strategy game ASAP, lets dig deeper and find out more about what that means in terms of profits. Firstly, the game is not actually even profitable yet, unless I count money that is in sales reports that I have not received. (Stores can take a while, usually 20-30 days to pay you after a month ends).

Everybody likes pie charts, so here is a breakdown showing where the NET money comes from. Note that the gross split is different as epic famously gives a higher rev share to the developer (as does the humble store). Direct sales came through and through the humble widget, both of which net me 95% of the sales revenue (woohoo). You can see how that pays off if you can get early, keen players to buy direct instead of through a store.

Of course, as I KEEP trying to make new devs aware, revenue, even net revenue after currency conversions costs and everything else are NOT profit. You have to spend money to make the game. So far Democracy 4 has cost $357,000 to make, including a reasonable but not exorbitant salary for me. Thats to get to *this point*, and there will be more spending to come because the game will likely need some more translation costs, some more time (quite a bit more), and just existing as positech costs me over $200 a month server fees and $150 month forum fees, and all sorts of other nonsense.

Still… it looks like I have a profitable game, and certainly one that should make a profit by the time it comes out of Early Access. Its a sequel to a very successful indie game so that’s not a surprise, but I didn’t take anything for granted. Its easy to get cocky and arrogant and then lose a fortune on a sequel.

So far I have not spent the majority of my allotted marketing budget for the game. My plan was to have a marketing spend of $150,000. So far I have spent just $35,000 of that. Part of that was to promote the recent autumn sale. Some more will happen between now and early access release, and then there will likely be a bit of a big ad-splurge when we come out of Early Access.

So far the game has been full price apart from the recent autumn sale on steam where it was 20% off. Its not a cheap game ($26.99) so its still likely at a price a lot of the more cost conscious gamers are not going to bite at. Also there are a lot of people who just *do not buy* early access games, so I am guessing there is a fair bit of pent-up-demand waiting for future purchasing opportunities.

In terms of wishlists the stats are like this:

D4 currently has about 60,000 wishlists. Conversion rate is 13%, total additions is 75k. I don’t get that obsessed with monitoring those figures TBH.

Because my strategy has always been maximum independence and resilience as a company, I try to spread my income as much as I can between different stores. I know a lot of indie devs think that PC == steam, and that’s just flat out WRONG. I got Democracy 4 on the epic store slightly later than I hoped for, so it missed the initial launch, but its still a nice source of revenue, and has not been discounted on that store yet, which is interesting.

Feedback on the game has been GREAT and last time I checked the average review score was in the 90s, which is fantastic. Obviously these are keen, early-players so that review score might be skewed high, but I can live with that :D. Its also worth pointing out, when assessing potential sales, that the game is currently PC only, and in English and (90% done) Italian languages. By the start of January I expect to have French, German, Spanish and Portuguese translations, which should open up the games potential market quite a bit.

A final note: My personal opinion, with a LOT of years indie experience (selling since 1997) is that new indies get WAY TOO OBSESSED with comparing their own games to those of others in terms of stats. Unless you have the exact data on 50,000 indie games (including their budgets) and a machine learning AI, its NOT going to predict whether or not your indie game will do well. I think devs should spend less time analyzing sales stats and more time analyzing player feedback and player stats. I spend a LOT of time trying to balance and optimize and improve the GUI for Democracy 4, and thats a far better use of my time.

I hope this was of some interest.

3 thoughts on Democracy 4 in Early Access (after 2 months)

  1. Detailed AI analysis of sales distribution by territory suggests that countries with the word ‘united’ in their name are highly successful.
    Our recommendation is to release the game in the United Arab Emirates for at least a 10% sales boost.

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