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Announcing my new game - Solus - Survival/Exploration - Unreal Engine 4


Hourences
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What i notice is, you just released the full version on steam but there is no discount, not even 10%. In my book this is super important tho. The collective mind of steam users is always looking for a deal, even if it's minuscle or just an illusion. And with every deal you have a chance to be on the front page. With every front page you have a chance to appear in the top sellers. Everytime you're in top sellers thers a ripple effect because of others hopping on the bandwagon. From that follows more reviews, word of mouth, youtubers.

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There's no discount because when we were EA we had 15 Euro. After EA we went to 20 Euro as planned, but due to financial laws in the US  you cannot change price and then discount it at the same time for logical reasons. So that was not an option.

We are going to be in the summer sales though. And we are discounted on GOG right now.

Also a fun thing is that last time around we tried the Steam visibility banners. This gives you one of those smaller banners on Steam front page. 500 000 impressions timed with the European and then the American evenings, yet we sold like 150 copies out of those 500 000 impressions. It is ridiculous.

What is even weirder is that when we launched originally, we got well over 1 million visits (not impressions, actual page visits), yet our exposure then was equal to what it is now on Steam. On top of that 10% out of those 1 million either bought the game or in the majority of cases put it on their wishlist. So that 10% conversion rate (or at a minimum sign of interest) was good statistically. Yet it doesn't happen again.

I have tons of numbers we can't make sense of. For example the first week our Steam community group grew from 0 to 20 000 people in like 3 days time. After those 3 days, from Day 3 to day 120 or so where we are now, it grew by just 8000 people. So there is this massive peak in the start, and then that is it. No matter what content we released, what kind of trailer we did, how much press or streamer coverage we got, it never showed anything like the first 3 days again. People always say that if you keep updating the game you will gradually attract an audience, but we do not see this whatsoever. When we released 3 hours of new content we'd sell 100 copies extra because of that, which is about 1000 USD income.

So perhaps it is as Blackdog says, but since there's so many types of gamers out there, and so many people who would enjoy this kind of game it feels more of a "no one knows it exists" kind of thing. The visibility is super hard.

I would love for indie developers to work together more. We all have an audience. We could all beat the visibility problem together if we'd work together in small groups of similar games. As singleplayer games you don't compete with each other. I'd love to find other small studios willing to work with us on something like that.

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Blackdog makes a good point about Epic - as far as I know you have been quite involved with them in the past, in terms of providing tutorials and such (not sure if you've ever worked with them directly?) - would they not be willing to help you promote the game? It certainly promotes their engine well due to the visual fidelity

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3 hours ago, Hourences said:

Thanks guys!

Sprongy sorry it has been super hectic trying to manage it all. I wouldn't say it is too late however, we just released? Best time for a review is now actually?

Humble Bundle you can only do after about a year, and you must first make the investment of adding in Mac and Linux then, and then after that you can make a limited return. It was huge when it started but the market is incredibly saturated nowadays.

If you look at what we did for marketing:

  • Present with playable game at our booth at E3, Gamescom, GDC, CES, Paris Games week, and others
  • Marketing agency plus 2 part time people for months
  • Partnership with tech firms such as Tobii or Ultra-D who in turn sent it on to press and took the game to conferences
  • When EA came out, coverage on all major sites including exclusive reveals on Gamespot, 4 page articles in Edge magazine and so on
  • Short intense EA phase with multiple massive content updates, which in turn we contacted the press for time after time
  • Multi platform plus support from Microsoft, plus VR support.
  • We manufactured survival kits sent these boxes worth of cool stuff like USB chargers to the biggest streamers in the world to try and impress them
  • And a huge game, 12-16 hours long, high end graphics, very visually focused (easier to sell). Ratings on Steam at 86% and VR problems aside, pretty much entirely positive one after another. Rock Paper Shotgun was super happy with it last week in their review too.

But in the year 2016 this is not enough anymore for an indie game, even of our size. You drop off the Steam page within 24 hours, and that is it. If this doesn't work out then I really don't know how to go on making games. You can't base such a huge investment on nothing more than luck.

It seems like you're identifying a marketing need. I hope you aren't too disillusioned.

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Let me share some experiences with you @Hourences in regards to game journalism and audience reception. This has nothing to do with your game per se, but just some simple on point observations in general (that are in fact, very relevant to this discussion).

EA is your release. I haven't seen a single game that managed to overcome this issue. That's why it's important to go all out in your first build. That's something that Darkest Dungeon excelled in, but even that game's official release was overshadowed by the EA launch. It seems as though you only have one window to make an impact, use it wisely.

The majority don't seem to care about the little ones and audiences are highly unpredictable. I can't use official numbers (confidential) but let me give you an example. I wrote about Bethesda probably announcing Wolfenstein: TNO 2, Prey 2, The Evil Within 2 and Dishonored 2 (already announced). All sequels to established brands that were well received and exceeded commercial expectations. Little to no audience response. I write about Fifa 17 switching to the Frostbite engine and it blows up.

The above is our region (Benelux), if you look at our sister site (UK) you can clearly see the change in demographic. The Bethesda rumor blows up and Fifa/Frostbite only gets a quarter of that traction. Like I said, it's unpredictable and complicated. COD, The Division, Destiny, Battlefield and GTA are all guaranteed traffic magnets though, the rest don't even come close. 

In regard to your review comment, no, it doesn't work that way. Review copies/keys are (usually) send before release. The review can then go up on release or a few days after. This is vital for every publication. The sooner you get it up, the more traffic it gets. That's why you sometimes see reviews based on beta builds and what not. It's all about the clicks. If you wait too long, people have read a review somewhere else and they are not going to bother, because they've already made up their mind.

Timing is everything. Let's take Solus as an example. You are releasing the full version a couple of days before the biggest gaming event in the world. It's impossible for the press to report on everything that's going on. The big titles are fighting for coverage and the little ones are praying to be noticed. Releasing the full game now, especially a game that's been in EA already, will get little to no coverage. Just to make sure I know what I'm talking about, I've checked the following sites: IGN, Gamespot, Polygon, Eurogamer.net, Destructoid and even Kotaku. Sadly, not a single word on the full release of your game.

I wish you all the sales in the world man, I really do. But if it hasn't happened yet, I don't think it will. Your best bet would probably be a good deal during the Steam sale. 

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1 hour ago, Sprony said:

EA is your release. I haven't seen a single game that managed to overcome this issue. That's why it's important to go all out in your first build. That's something that Darkest Dungeon excelled in, but even that game's official release was overshadowed by the EA launch. It seems as though you only have one window to make an impact, use it wisely.

The majority don't seem to care about the little ones and audiences are highly unpredictable. I can't use official numbers (confidential) but let me give you an example. I wrote about Bethesda probably announcing Wolfenstein: TNO 2, Prey 2, The Evil Within 2 and Dishonored 2 (already announced). All sequels too established brands that were well received and exceeded commercial expectations. Little to no audience response. I write about Fifa 17 switching to the Frostbite engine and it blows up.

The above is our region (Benelux), if you look at our sister site (UK) you can clearly see the change in demographic. The Bethesda rumor blows up and Fifa/Frostbite only gets a quarter of that traction. Like I said, it's unpredictable and complicated. COD, The Division, Destiny, Battlefield and GTA are all guarantees traffic magnets though, the rest don't even come close. 

In regard to your review comment, no, it doesn't work that way. Review copies/keys are (usually) send before release. The review can then go up on release or a few days after. This is vital for every publication. The sooner you get it up, the more traffic it gets. That's why you sometimes see reviews based on beta builds and what not. It's all about the clicks. If you wait too long, people have read a review somewhere else and they are not going to bother, because they've already made up their mind.

Timing is everything. Let's take Solus as an example. You are releasing the full version a couple of days before the biggest gaming event in the world. It's impossible for the press to report on everything that's going on. The big titles are fighting for coverage and the little ones are praying to be noticed. Releasing the full game now, especially a game that's been in EA already, will get little to no coverage. Just to make sure I know what I'm talking about, I've checked the following sites: IGN, Gamespot, Polygon, Eurogamer.net, Destructoid and even Kotaku. Sadly, not a single word on the full release of your game.

I wish you all the sales in the world man, I really do. But if it hasn't happened yet, I don't think it will. Your best bet would probably be a good deal during the Steam sale. 

So much this.  EA is your release. I have been telling clients this for years now.  And not everyone believes this on the indie side. Once again:

EA is your release. Burn that into your brain.

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EA was your release last year. In 2016 EA is not your release. What I mean is that when the concept of EA was still new you had quite a few games that did really well in EA, and their release was effectively (and for some still is ) their only real release. But if you look at the EA sales of a lot of the games right now you see pretty much the same number of sales for all of them (usually around 10k). A lot of people seem bored/burned with EA, and you tend to attract only your fans/EA enthusiasts.

So you cannot really approach EA as your launch in 2016, because a lot of people will simply no longer buy EA games at all. EA has become what EA was originally meant for. Feedback and QA. We approached EA even with stating very very clearly that it would be just 3 months + the game is done, but even that didn't convince people.

I am aware the timing is not great, but E3 is not exactly the only consideration. Timing is rarely great. Last month had tons of big releases. After E3 it are sales everywhere. After that people go on vacation + are busy with their sales. Then there is No Man Sky. After that it is Gamescom. Etc. If you wait for the right moment it can take a long time, and in retrospect everyone will say "yeah but it wasn't the best time". With E3 ahead we are able to travel to E3 and meet up and push with press in person at least which is better than the other options. Then we have another push after E3 for the Xbox launch.

We sent out keys a week in advance already to all the big ones, so we are aware of that.  It is hard to cover every website and magazine out there however, so if a game cannot be reviewed because it would not bring in enough hits, that is sad to hear.. I am not sure if that is why we all got into this industry... Or if it was for the love of making and playing cool games? And we don't have many reviews yet, so if you are after getting people to read something they haven't seen before, I'd say now is still very much so the time?

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54 minutes ago, Hourences said:

We sent out keys a week in advance already to all the big ones, so we are aware of that.  It is hard to cover every website and magazine out there however, so if a game cannot be reviewed because it would not bring in enough hits, that is sad to hear.. I am not sure if that is why we all got into this industry... Or if it was for the love of making and playing cool games? And we don't have many reviews yet, so if you are after getting people to read something they haven't seen before, I'd say now is still very much so the time?

It wasn't criticism, I was just explaining (in case you didn't know) how it works. I'm also not speaking for Eurogamer, I'm talking in general. Please, let's make that clear :)

The harsh truth is, it's business. They don't care why someone got into this industry. They have bills to pay and audiences to satisfy. It's not that it doesn't bring in enough hits, it's because it isn't worth the time from their perspective. You've got the E3 which means all hands on deck. I have no idea how long your game takes, but let's say 15 hours. That's losing someone for two work days plus the additional time to actually write the review and get it published. If it was for the new Battlefield for instance, that would be worth it because it has a huge following. But now it's for a game, that already has reviews up, that apparently isn't getting a lot of traction and for which you are going to be late. Trust me, your audience loves to bitch and moan if your not up to speed. So business wise, it's the smarter move to focus on the E3 because that is what your audience wants to read right now and they are paying your bills.

Again, I really want to stress out that I think your awesome. I've been following your work for, well almost, two decades now. I've read your book, I've played your previous game The Ball, so when I say I'm a fan, you know I mean it. I really hope I'm not sounding like a dick when trying to convey what I know. 

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What @Sprony says is very sound and probably more likely to be the case than my speculation.

Anyway I have a question @Hourences: was your EA release a proper release, or was it a beta? I mean if that was your way to try an episodic release, you might have shot yourself in the foot because my feeling is (and you said as well) that people buy EA if they're into that thing. So a person like me would have completely ignored your release because I would think it's a game that not only I have to wait for more content, but would also be buggy.

And yeah you have a bundle of older games you developed, have you thought about creating a bundle to give a perception of a better deal? Something could be "for a limited time get The Ball for free".

Also about indie community, there have been examples of cross-promotion with NS2 and the guys of Overgrowth, and I think others. Maybe you can organise some sort of "adventure bundle" with some other devs.

Release windows are so difficult to get right, and maybe there's no "right" like you say, but yeah, I hope that with the next pushes it will bring players :)

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I remember seeing that the Solus Project is bundled with the Ball on Steam for a little bit extra, not free but only about £3 more. Out of interest Hourences - how did The Ball do in terms of sales?

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It's interesting to read everything you done to promote the game, all your contacts and still "few" people bought the game, compared to how much time you put into all "marketing stuff".

I've been thinking a lot about what you said there, that smaller devs should work together more to market each others games, if I understood you correctly.
Though each time I start to think of different ways to help each other out, it kinda stops at me starting to "select" projects in my head that I like and people I want to work with. However, sometimes some projects might just not fit with ours very well, even if I like the developers and then there are indie-games that I rather keep at an arm's length, cause I don't like them and don't want our own products connected in any way.

Also, btw, I tried doing this once, just a small thing with another developer, just an cross-achievement thing, seems that guy didn't want to develop his game any more or whatever reason and we ended up doing our part but not him.

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  • 3 weeks later...

If I remember correctly, the whole Humble Bundle thing started with the guys of Overgrowth cross-promoting with Natural Selection 2… not like there was any thematically point of contact between the two.

Not sure how much it impacted NS2 sales but they ended up doing well, and the other guys are still in alpha but are managing a millions dollars worth of business now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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