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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Didn't think the Avernum guy made that much