Let’s talk Steam Spy5 April 2015
Hi all. Dave here. It’s been awhile. We’ve been plugging away on Technobabylon and haven’t had a lot of time for blogging, but there’s been a new development recently that I Have Thoughts about. Thoughts that can’t be encapsulated in a 140 character tweet.
You might have heard about this new thing called “Steam Spy.” It pulls user data from Steam and allows anyone to see the number of people that own any particular game. What that means is that it lets you see the Steam sales statistics for any game that’s on the service.
Everyone is lauding it as this Awesome Thing, but I have to be honest – I am super conflicted. For most of Wadjet Eye’s existence, the majority of the profit went to me and my wife. So giving away sales stats was the equivalent of letting you peek into my bank account to see how much was in there. We are fairly private people, and giving away that kind of personal information was just not something we were mentally prepared to do. Even now, with several developers and two full-timers on our payroll, we aren’t comfortable with it.
So hello, Steam Spy. I guess that’s all changed. This is the new reality and I suppose developers like me will have to adjust. Fortunately, the service only gives the number of sales and not the actual money that exchanged hands. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of people looking at our sales stats and doing comparisons and adding things up and trying to determine how much money we have. Some are even going as far as to ask me personally if their estimates are correct. Some expressed worry that we are going out of business. So… yeah. Exactly the kind of speculation I wanted to avoid.
BUT, if this is the new normal, I will have learn to embrace it. So let’s nip all this speculation in the bud and discuss these sexy Steam Spy Stats:
Gemini Rue: 230,524
Blackwell Legacy: 118,446
Blackwell Deception: 68,138
Golden Wake: 15,920
Blackwell Unbound: 101,889
Blackwell Convergence: 98,705
Blackwell Epiphany: 7,005
There is some margin of error and not all of these numbers are accurate, but they are close enough. Also, it’s very important to remember that Steam is not the only distributor out there. There’s GoG, direct sales, and various bundles like Groupies. So these numbers are in actuality much higher. But for the sake of simplicity, I am going to use ONLY numbers that are available publicly via Steam Spy and nothing else.
Looking at that list by itself, it’s easy to make some assumptions. Number one, it looks like Blackwell Epiphany totally tanked when compared to everything else. And yet, I have gone on record saying that game was our most profitable. So what gives?
First of all, remember the age we live in. This is the age of bundles, extreme discounts, and rock bottom sale prices. The older the game, the most likely it has been on sale a number of times, or been in a bundle. All of our games have been in various holiday deals, Humble Bundles, flash sales, and so on. So it’s only natural that their sales numbers are significantly higher, but it’s important to remember that those games were sold with steep steep discounts during that time. In some cases as low as a penny a copy during a bundle sale!
Blackwell Epiphany, on the other hand, is still fairly new and has NOT been in any major sales yet. So 7,005 copies were sold on Steam at retail price or close to it. So if you do the math… 7,005 copies at a cost of $14.99 each… it yielded us a gross profit of $105,004.95 for that game alone. That amount will only jump higher once it starts the rounds of sales, bundles, and promotions. Also helping us is that Blackwell Epiphany is a game we own, versus one we publish; so there are no developers to give royalties to and all of that money stays right in our coffers. We’re a small mom and pop operation, so that money goes a long way. None of our other games earned us that amount of money so fast without going on sale first, so that’s why I’m not lying when I say Blackwell Epiphany is our most profitable game.
Nobody knows more than me how easy it is to collate data, study it, compare it, and then come to the absolute wrong conclusions. I’ve discussed this before, but there are several other instances of me being SURE I cracked some kind of code and then getting bitten in the butt because of it. This new data trove is no exception. Steam Spy is a useful tool, there are many many unknown factors to consider.
Anyway, the data is out there now. If anyone has any questions about it, feel free to ask!
That’s the reason Steam Spy doesn’t claim to give information about sales, but only about owners 🙂
It’s merely a tool. I hope people will do awesome things using it – like researching a market for their next game, or finding a hidden gem in Steam.
But of course some will misuse this tool or misunderstand what it does.
It’s also worth remembering for a lot of people how steam isn’t the only platform selling games. I bought Epiphany on GoG and so did a bunch of my friends.
Either way this is interesting and I admire you for writing about it openly, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s one of many things I respect about you Dave, besides developing and publishing great games of course~
Oh yeah. GoG and Direct sales are not insignificant, but I wanted to just use the publicly available stats to prove my point. I’m still not prepared to totally open up our ledger for public viewing. We gotta keep some secrets, after all. 😉
Hm. I would have thought that platforms like GoG would be the first place to buy for indie games like yours, not Steam, therefore rendering Steam stats on your games irrelevant. At least I have all your games on GoG and would always go there first to buy. But probably I’m underestimating the fact that Humble Bundle bundles come with steam keys (some of them actually also duplicated on Steam through some bundles) and then it’s registered by steam.
Oh yeah. As I said to a previous commenter, GoG is a actually solid chunk of revenue for us. But since that data isn’t public, I didn’t bring it up. 🙂
Gemini Rue’s 230k is well deserved! 😀
“We are fairly private people, and giving away that kind of personal information was just not something we were mentally prepared to do. Even now, with several developers and two full-timers on our payroll, we aren’t comfortable with it.”
Same. You may want to consider writing your account rep like we have to give us the tools to opt out of this. Some other games and valves games are able to so why not the rest of us? Or even better shut down all the user data scraping which is intrusive, not just to developers but also customers.
for users most of this metadata will be harmless and simply used for comparison. However, I fully understand and agree that this can be misused to make assumptions about credibility, product quality, market worth etc. and I understand that this is worrying for developer/publisher to have these datasets public like this.
I have bought all my Wadjet titles via GoG and Primordia and Gemini Rue have been my favourites! 🙂
[…] But then comes SteamSpy and there’s no secret anymore. Well, not completely in fact. SteamSpy explains that all data must be taken with a grain of salt since it depends on so many factors (discounts, free weekends, bundles, etc.). You can read more about how careful you should be when reading this data on this blog post by Dave Gilbert. […]
Just to comment: epiphany rocks! ..of course healty profits must come from it, no doubt.
You guys are doing an incredible job mantaining alive and renovating the graphic adventure genera.
I wish you the best of lucks, and huge numbers on those steam counters, I surely am and will be part of them!
Would love to have more games for IOS. I also think that 1 $ games are very good if the procution time is short. Like the 1 room competition. Start with 2-3 settings and continue the most profitable.
It feels somewhat presumptious for others to try to figure out based on the stats if you make too little or too much money. Who cares? Good craftsmanship should be rewarded! So staying of the path of good quality for a fair price, there will be plenty of fans and happy normal customers who wish you well either way 🙂
Greetz from the Netherlands!
P.S. Wishing there would be more people to buy and enjoy Primordia, it rocks!
Me and my brother just found SteamSpy and it really motivated us to continue making our game. I think that is a really good thing. Maybe in your case its a bit annoying that people will know stuff you want to keep private but I think it can be a really helpful tool in many many other cases.
Thanks for the post! I’ve really enjoyed all the Blackwell games .
But this “metadata” was already in the open in the first place, so anyone could have been snooping way before steamspy even existed, am I right?
For me this service is more like a better “steam stats”, which I use too see the most played games.
Anyway, if some developers feels uncomfortable, there should be an “opt out” option.
By the way, my favorite game is Primordia.
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