Saturday, April 11, 2009

Links for games selling

Let's start with links for games about running a lemonade business. Lemonade tycoon is a game where people play a character who runs a little lemonade stand. They try to make income juggling prices, rent, and hawk lemonade to wandering people. Here's a little game SEO advice about links some of you might find helpful.

When I search for "selling games" in google, the top site is currently the official Lemonade Tycoon homepage. I'm assuming it has a lot of links for lemonade selling games. You can create similar links towards your pages instead of just the game name or company name. You should easily dominate those if you picked them well, other people will be making links for you using them as text anyways.

But - why stop there? You can even create inlinks for your games about the title of OTHER games. So, for example, someone searches for the game Luxor. Don't use that one, it's also the name of a popular Las Vegas hotel among other things. In the list of search results is a page about your game.

It'd work even better if you mentioned the original game a few times on it. Just keep your title tag differently and work in comparisons using text near the names of the other game. This is where search engine snippets will be taken from. You might not want to use a page associated with your company for these links if you developed the game you're selling.

It won't help much when comparing to a very popular game like Mystery Case Files or Zuma, but it could be useful with the more nichey ones or long tail keywords. Try not to pick the things that are on portals to build links about. There's too much competition from all the affiliate and portal gamesites hawking them. Lemonade tycoon is another bad example for gcomparison, but a good one to write about their links for game selling SEO tactics.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Results from selling RPG games

Jeff Vogel is the main guy behind Spiderweb Software. They've been selling RPG games for longer than most people have been using the internet, starting with Exile series. Avernum (Exile remakes) are currently their most popular titles. Jeff Vogel released some sales stats of one of his recent RPG games, Geneforge 4. These articles also happened to get popular on sites like slashdot.

The RPGs in the Geneforge series are more science fiction than medieval fallout fantasy, aimed at an older audience. You explore a large somewhat non-linear world, choose what side you will fight for, and create and mold your own army of strange, powerful monsters. There's no group of kids you play as. Here's the RPG story description of Geneforge 4:

The Shapers have the ability to create life, in any form they choose. They can make plants to grow in harsh wastelands, living tools that obey their commands, and powerful monsters to crush any who oppose them. They jealously guard their powers and destroy any who question their will. Or so they did. Then the revolution came.

Some of their creations, tired of bondage, rose up. Jealous humans, wanting the powers of the Shapers for themselves, joined them. Now the lands of Terrestia are full of ruins, refugees, and maddened mutant beasts, hunting for prey. There is war. And the Shapers are winning.

You are a rebel, given the power to craft life and sent to fight the Shapers. At least, that is what they told you to do. Will you fight your oppressors? Or will you join them, tempted by the incredible rewards they offer? You have the chance to change the world. What path will you choose?

That's enough about the game. Here's the Geneforge 4 sales stats:

Geneforge 4 Copies sold (as of Mar 13th): 3979.
Geneforge 4 Sales: $111,412.

The budget was $120k. Here's some other quotes from his articles. They go more in depth about his selling RPG games and links are below.

So far, the Windows/Mac sales of Geneforge 4 break down to about 55/45. Before that, it was about 60/40. Now it's about 50/50. Macintosh market share went way up over the last couple years, and this has helped our sales a lot.

Releasing games for two platforms has always been the key to our profitability. Porting games is free money, and it's awesome.

A lot of people have commented that I should lower the game's price to $10. The idea that this would increase my profits is, I feel, purest nonsense. Bearing in mind that the percentage cost of credit card processing increases as the price goes down, and, to make the same profits from Geneforge 4, I would have had to triple my sales. Triple! As in, go from a conversation rate of about 1.5% to almost 5%.

Geneforge 4 was the game where we raised our prices to $28. Our sales did not go down from Geneforge 3 (which was $25). They went up. A lot. And Avernum 5 ($28) sold a lot more than Avernum 4 ($25).

Graphics are expensive. Really expensive. We keep our costs low, and our games thus become profitable quickly. We've had some games that did worse than others, but I've never, in fifteen years, written a game that lost money.

It has never appeared for sale on another site (like RealArcade, MSN Games, etc.). All of the sales were directly from us. Geneforge 4 didn't get a lot of press, like most Indie games. Some web reviews, some news articles, a few banner ads, but news of it mainly spread by word of mouth.

I charge a fair price. I write big, good games (with 30-40 hours of gameplay, easy), and they easily provide enough fun to more than justify the $28. I will not be shamed into charging less, not when my dollars and cents bottom line is telling me that it's working.

You can read the original Jeff Vogel RPG sales stats articles here: Part 1, Part 2.

A word of warning before you decide to try selling RPG games. Jeff Vogel from Spiderweb makes his RPGgames the old school type that appeal to an underserved audience. Cray from RPGCow sells his to a casual audience who doesn't have the time to grind or play for 30 hours. Amanda from Amaranth sells RPG games to people who loved Super Nintendo quality games or cute graphics. Jack from WinterWolves does things the normal gamer won't touch.

These are all very niche markets, much more so than just trying to sell a RPG game. Find one of yours if you want to stand out. You can even do "good indie RPGs" like Rampant Coyote Games sells on his affiliate portal, but he's got a headstart on traffic for that already and a popular blog attached.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thinking of charging for your own games?

Think what you've got what it takes to sell your own games? This is the perfect opportunity for you to get your feet wet in the industry. Caspian Prince of Puppy Games is letting everyone affiliate sell his games for 100% commissions (he gets nothing) for the entire month of april. Or as he calls it, "free money!"

Offer is for selling these three games:

These are some award winning retro games by Puppy Games available through BMTMicro for Linux, Macintosh and Windows. I think one was even in GameTunnel's well-known game of the year lists, and Ultratron was ported to be a Xbox game for sale. You'd be nuts not to try this... it's almost as if you made them yourself, you keep every cent of the profits from selling.

Related link: 101 guide to sell casual games. Hell, every previous post on here is somewhat related. Do some reading and I'm sure you'll be able to make some extra money this month selling puppy games.

Two things you should know if you're into selling games:

The game links above (Droid Assault, Ultratron & Titan Attacks) are all "nofollow". That means the search engines won't give those linked websites any bonuses in the rankings. Why? Because I'm probably going to try affiliating these games... and I don't want to make any more competition for myself!

Blog readers are more than welcome to compete though, I'd love to hear how you folks are doing in the comments later! The Puppy Games link above is permanently followed, because this is a pretty cool offer for Cas to make. Thanks for the "free money" opportunity!

And the second? Think about out why Cas is doing this offer of his. I'm assuming it's in hopes of getting more affiliates who make him sales. Some of them might keep promoting his games once Puppy Games is back to the 30% affiliate rate.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sell Xbox Games

Microsoft's Xbox Community Games, a service for the Xbox 360 that allowed game developers to sell XNA games on the Xbox 360 live system, has finally released some sales statistics to developers. How much money can you make selling xbox games if you aren't on the livearcade?

Most of the developers I've seen had disappointing stats, however there were a few that stood out worth mentioning. Microsoft also mentioned that several xbox community games sold over the US average salary total in the last four months, which is about $32,000. Not bad if it was for selling an xbox game you made in a short period of time.

Remote Masseuse, a "game" application which used the controller's rumble pack to let people massage themselves, had: 55,000 trial downloads. 3,500 purchases. 3.6% conversion rates for selling xbox games. Priced at 200 microsoft points.

Aaron's Ping Pong, a xbox game selling for 200 points had: 13,448 demo downloads. 877 games sold. Conversion rates of 6.5%.

Groov had 12,000 free downloads. 2,500 xbox games were sold. This had a whopping sales conversion rate of 20.8% which is well above average for almost any industry, especially selling games.

There are many more developer stats for selling xbox games available now if you look around. Developers don't have to provide sales statistics, but thanks to everyone who has. Is it worthwhile to try to sell an xbox community game? That's up to you. I'd say it's still a great option for something you didn't spend a lot of time making & can market.

Here's some other developer stats from selling their xbox games: Snake360 - 37,701 demo downloads. 1,456 bought. Conversion rate of 3.9%. This xbox game was for sale at 400 points. Solar, released last week, sold 1,500ish copies at 200 points and a 18% converting rate. I won't be updating this entry but feel free to comment with other posted results from selling xbox games.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

101 guide to sell casual games

Most people will tell you simply to join a game selling program like Reflexive Amazon's GameCenter Solution and put up their affiliate links. Or maybe you'll be told to do the same with Plimus, BMTMicro or other payment providers. There's plenty with casual game affiliate programs.

They'll tell you to throw up some screenshots, a description, and two links - "download demo" and "buy game". Sure, that can work, but you'll usually need a lot of traffic to leverage or an audience who already wants to buy casual games.

This blog is about other methods. Sure, that will be covered too, but I'm writing for the newbie audience. The ones who'll need a 101 guide about how to sell casual games on the internet. Let's assume for today that you don't have a website of your own somewhere. You don't even need one.

Don't just try to copy a portal if you have no intention of being one yourself. There's free services like Squidoo who let you host single pages and you can even use them for shameless marketing. Some programs like Playfirst and Gamecentersolution might not let you join without a website but others allow those pages. Demo? Screenshots? You don't need to give players those either to sell casual games if you know what you're doing. It's the hardcore market that expects those. Some copywriting and marketing skills are a major plus.

That's a Squidoo referral link. Both of us will receive an extra $5 if you use their pages long enough. The Squidoo pages & forum are a great way to learn the affiliate marketing basics, but you'll want to advance out of them once you're ready for a 201 guide to sell casual games.

Find out the audience

Chances are people who like Diner Dash won't also like Master of Defense or Aveyond 3. Many marketers waste a lot of time trying to promote products to the wrong type of audience. Find out who enjoys what you want to affiliate and find a way to get them to your pages.

Search Engines

This blog doesn't exist to sell games - you won't find any on here to buy. However, it's easier to fill it with useful posts instead of garbage... the readers I get are a nice bonus. This blog post was because keyword research said people are looking for information about it, without much competition. Use the same thing to design sites and pages that are meant to try to sell casual games online.

Don't fall into the trap of just finding products and writing nonsense about them - the more specific you are the better. Skip the useless positive reviews with affiliate links, it's already overdone and not doing too well for the casual game reviewers. GameZebo will rank higher than yours anyways. Or if you do decide to review, use that to also recommend other products at the same time... people searching for the casual game usually already have it or know somewhere else to get it, like a discount club.

Social Marketing

This could be promoting them to your friends, or even a message board post like "Popcaps new Peggle game is fun. What do you think?" if you're well known there. Affiliate links work every where, not just on your own site. Be careful where and to who you promote casual games. You might get yourself banned or even lose friends sick of you marketing towards them. One popular method that works is a simple forum signature. Most forums allow you to advertise in them and that's a perfect place to draw in traffic to your affiliate links or landing pages.

Paid Advertising

You can use this to draw more traffic to your pages for selling casual games online but I don't recommend it to newbies at all. You might as well be throwing your money into the wind.


Here's a little secret I wrote about earlier with sell walkthroughs. If the people had to already buy the game to reach wherever they need help with... chances are they'll buy more games too. Why market to random people when you can sell casual games to folks who you already know buy (or pirate) them.

This should be enough to get you started. Good luck selling casual games, more posts will be here soon to help you along the way. Here's one last tip:

Avoid Banners

Most affiliates just throw up a bigfish gameclub affiliate banner, or even worse, a bunch of them onto their pages. Sometimes being subtle with your casual game links will have much better results.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Walkthroughs that Sell

Lately I've been experimenting with some different forms of affiliate sales pages. Do game walkthrough pages sell games to people looking for help with them? I wouldn't have thought so. Turns out I was wrong.

Friends & I created a few minisites for basic game information, and these were intended to sell similar games to the readers that find them using google. However we came into an interesting observation: These game walkthroughs were also selling the games themselves that they were supposed to be about!

They give some basic information on how to play the game that only people who've already played it would be interested in. Another interesting thing about these mini walkthrough pages: no "buy" links, and most don't even have screenshot links.

According to the statistics programs they visit these pages, download demos again, then buy the game. None of these game buyers are probably pirates who decided to change their mind... I wonder why these people go through all that hassle instead of just buying the game from the demo they already have.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone as a strategy for selling games, but it's fun to play around with. The walkthrough affiliate sales numbers aren't yet high enough that it was worth the time they took us to make - months will tell. It could also be a sign that these demos have very poor upselling / landing pages / trial endings or are the types of games people will think about later.

If you've made a game of your own - you should definitely set up some mini walkthrough pages somewhere. It might even sell games, or keep affiliates who do stuff like this from piggybacking off your potential customers. If nothing else it'll keep sites like JayIsGames and CasualGameGuides that throw walkthroughs and hints into their titles of every game they want to affiliate sell further down the search engines.

You could even try selling game walkthroughs of your own - Jeff Vogel from Spiderweb Software does okay with the ones he creates according to recently released sales statistics from him. The walkthrough pages can also be used to sell sequels and other related materials... even if it's just links to things on Amazon.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February affiliate sales

I'll be giving away my sales statistics in blog posts here, and I'm not trying to sell you anything with them either. These updates are just a little glimmer of hope you can look on if you're trying to sell games as an affiliate without much luck.

Here's how I did selling games online as an affiliate during the month of February 2009. I haven't been doing this for long, and most importantly, I haven't put a lot of work into it either. I've spent maybe 10 or 20 hours maximum on this... other than the time to play through the games I wrote about of course.

Can you expect the same results if you're a beginner to selling games? No. I've got some experience with affiliate marketing and search engine optimizing, as well as friends who were able to help out with the initial pushes. However, I'll be happy to help you sell more in the future posts.

BMTMicro - Around $1,000 in sales
Plimus - $500ish
BigFishGames - $300ish

I've still got many more improvements to make to my game selling strategies, the next couple months will have much better sales. I've been concentrating on BMTMicro for now because of their simplicity. There's no need to be pre-approved for any games if you look for things to sell in their affiliate catalog.

RegNow apparently uses a similar system for selling affiliate games, but I'd rather not help DigitalRiver get any more money. Plimus does have a different assortment of games to sell, many great ones, and it's something I'd like to concentrate more on as an affiliate in the future. One thing I dislike about Plimus is that they call up some of the people who bought games to confirm their sales order.

One more thing to note - I DON'T have a portal site for selling games or anything else like that. None of that reflexive game center solutions default sites. No niche genre sites. These aren't even being sold alongside other games I may have worked on. I'm just throwing up little minisites with custom content and seeing how they last in the water. Some are much more effective at selling online games than others. I'll be revealing some of what worked, and some of what didn't work in future blog posts.

Unfortunately in one way, I did better than expected. It's time to have to go through signing up for an IRS ITIN number thing to keep some of the payments from being withheld by the US government. That accounting & form headache isn't something I'm looking forward to!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How not to sell games

Today's post is inspired by the fabulous people on yoyogames' Game Maker Community boards. More specifically, the "Distributing Games" subforum. It's description is this - Discussion of specific distribution issues related to your freeware, shareware, or commercial GM products". It's mostly used by people wanting to sell their own games.

However, there's also plenty of advice folks give that's more suitable for a "how not to sell games" book. Here's some lovely tidbits:

- Selling games to trick or treaters who come to your door on halloween.

- Going into a gamestop store and asking them to sell your game. Or in some cases, sell your games (plural)

- Putting your demo cd inside of library books. Those aren't free folks, and there's a high cost with trying to sell your games that way. Most of those cds will just find their way into dumpsters.

- Upload onto rapidshare & megaupload and ask for donations instead of selling the game. Pretend its a full version game that was cracked or torrented.

- Join digg and other communities and spam the hell out of them with your game. Those people don't buy games. It's useless trying to sell games to communities that are ALL pro-piracy people... and who really wants to be a spammer anyways.

- Giving demo disks to your kids to take to school and try to sell to other students. If they were in college, maybe, but most of the people on those boards aren't even old enough to have kids

- Selling games at car boot, garage sales and tables at flea markets. People go there for pirated things, cheap stuff and stolen goods, not full priced versions.

- Try to trade them at McDonalds for free food instead of selling the games.

- Hire people to sell them on the sidewalks outside of Gamestores.

The distributing games forum for yoyogames game maker isn't all that bad. There are a few people there who actually do know what they're doing and try to help others sell games. Among them are rinkuhero (Immortal Defense), hpapillon (Cute Knight) and TeeGee (Magi). Their games have sold hundreds of copies and you'd do well to listen to their advice. I'm another poster who's done well selling games too, but I like to remain anonymous over there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Free game marketing advice

Here's a little bit of video game marketing advice for those of you who develop your own instead of just affiliate selling them. I'll probably get some flack for this because it's not always true, but if you're just selling a small title without a fanbase or underserved niche, this videogame marketing advice might as well be.

The press can be worthless for game marketing & promoting them. Unless you're willing to pay or bribe them with advertising of course.

Don't worry about the videogame journalists. Sure, you might get a boost in ego & traffic from having your game written about by them. But the truth is - many sites they write at just plain aren't read all that often. There's no reason to chase after them unless you want to be really proud of having your release mentioned on one. Don't worry if no one at Kotaku, Destructoid, GameSpot or CrispyGamer wants to put up a small blurb about your game in their news. Many people who depend on gamesites like those simply pirate everything anyways.

Why would big places like IGN want to write about your release? They don't usually. The articles they write are to either get traffic from new visitors/search engines or give people reading the site who are already interested in the games you're marketing news. People don't read them or magazines to find out about interesting new games except in the well-established franchises.

Sites like Tigsource & IndieGames get more readers (unless you're major news) than their unknown announcements and are full of people who love interesting games. They are where you should be focusing your video game marketing resources if you don't have a large budget. Go to the forums where you can post your release in an as announcement - I just gave you one.

There's plenty more out there if you do your game marketing research. Many of the same gamepress writers you'd be trying to reach normally with your PR efforts also pay attention to these.

You'll get more traffic by writing about other games yourself and using their visitors (people wanting more info about them? be creative!) to promote your own. Go to message boards about them and be subtle marketing your own. Write walkthroughs for some areas. Review another developer's product and use it as a game sales page for your own or another you're marketing. Make a list of the very best games of that type and stick your own in it. Those can get popular with a nice push if you're into Digg or other types of social marketing.

Find your fans, and have your fans pressure the press into writing about your game instead of harassing them yourself. It's much easier than trying to scale the mountain the hard way and whining about why game journalists never want to listen to your marketing materials or post your press releases. Rabid fans are one of your best targets for game marketing - especially if they help you sell more games to other players too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

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