There was some discussion on Twitter last night, about indie devs posting sales figures, and how it tends to be those that do unexpectedly and spectacularly well that are most likely to talk about it…
So here’s another data point. Some numbers for Skyriders.
Skyriders released on iOS and Android last October, so it’s had the best part of 8 months on the App Stores now. So how has it done?
The iOS version:
The game initially released as a paid app only, at £1.49/$1.99. Soon after, in November, I also released ‘Skyriders Free’, which let you play the first zone (the first 20% of the game) for free, with an one-time in-app-purchase to upgrade it to the full version.
It’s hard to say whether the trial version was a good or bad idea. There weren’t many sales of the IAP upgrade to the full game – but it did get another 20,000 or so people to at least try the game, and maybe a few more of those bought the full version instead of the upgrade? But I think I made too much of it free, really. Especially with the difficulty of the final ‘challenge stage’ in each zone – I suspect a lot of players won’t have reached the ‘upgrade now!’ screen.
The price was dropped to £0.69/$0.99 for the New Year’s App Blowout promotion, before increasing it to £1.99/$2.99 afterwards as a short experiment, then dropping it down to £0.69/$0.99 again, where it still is today.
The game was also released on Android. The Android version remained at £1.49/$1.99 (in part, due to price changes being a bit more hassle on Google Play!).
No graph for Android, as I’ve not found an easy way to get the units sold/IAPs sold figures out of Google Play, but overall, the Android version accounted for 23% of overall revenue from the game. It’s also had over 130,000 downloads of the free version.
Promoting the game:
I failed here a bit. I was a bit burned out from getting the game finished, and quite ill around launch time – I tweeted a fair bit (and got a few nice retweets from developers with more followers that myself), and sent out a load of review codes to iOS gaming sites (somewhat neglecting Android), and did get some nice reviews.
I got some fairly positive comments on a TouchArcade thread, and tried to respond where reasonable, and patched a couple of scoring bugs/exploits reported by some of the more enthusiastic players.
I also put up a Steam Greenlight page for the game the day that Greenlight launched. This got a reasonable number of views (although it was clear within a few weeks that Greenlight was never going to be a practical route onto Steam, so I took the page down, and decided not to bother with a PC version)
I probably could and should have done more to promote the game, really, especially the Android version.
Piracy figures, reavealed very clearly through analytics systems, are quite shocking on mobile. Particularly on Android. Flurry reveals that Skyriders has had over 900,000 unique users on Android. This is clearly a long way from the 130,000 free downloads and 1000 or so sales that Google Play reports…
But there’s not a lot you can do about it, other than try to ignore it. The bulk of the pirates appear to be Chinese, anyway, and that’s not a market that I’ve been really considering – according to Flurry, out of those 900,000 Android users, almost 700,000 are from China:
So let’s just ignore that, and move on…
Anyway, adding up the payouts that I’ve seen from Google and Apple (so after their cut and sales tax, but before income tax), the overall revenue figures are:
iOS Revenue: £3761.23
Android Revenue: £1144.93
(It’s currently selling at a rate of maybe 2-3 sales per day across both platforms)
Out of that, there weren’t many direct costs for the project – the main ones were paying the musician, and renewing my Marmalade license. Then there’s the not-quite-so-clear costs… Upgrading to an iPhone 5 as soon as it launched, so I could test on the new device… and the occasional piece of software and PC upgrade that wasn’t entirely essential but helped things go more smoothly.
So was it worth it?
Well, if I ignored the cost of my time/cost of living – I could consider it a success. But the reality is that I’ve got rent+bills to pay. Even if I don’t go out much, my current cost of living (rent, bills, food) is around £1000/month – as I’m living alone in a rented flat.
I spent a little over 6 months on Skyriders. Full-time-ish – meaning technically full time, but slowed down by periods of low productivity (a mix of depression, lack-of-direction, distractions, procrastination, and just plain laziness every now and again). I guess it should have been closer to 4 months if I’d worked more flat-out, really.
So taking that into account, it’s not been a profitable project, but it has given me a bit of income – at least enough to slow down the rate at which I was burning through savings, somewhat…
Skyriders wasn’t really a ‘sensible’ choice of project. It was something that I wanted to make, and knew that I could make well (given my lack of art skills but better coding skills). But it was never a project that was likely to be a big hit. It doesn’t fit into a clearly-defined genre, or have a quirky art style, or follow often-profitable trends such as voxels or zombies.
And it’s not the game that I originally planned to make. The original intention was to make a more tunnel-based game, where you could ride 360-degrees around the inside of the tunnels (more like STUN Runner than Sky Roads/Trailblazer). But earlier prototypes didn’t really work out, and it gradually evolved towards the final game.
Maybe the platform was wrong, too. The game might have been more successful as a PC game, with lots more polygons/draw distance/effects (rather than holding back to keep it at 60fps on iPhone 4). But with Valve/Steam’s stranglehold on PC game distribution these days, and the increasing difficulty of getting anything onto Steam, I’ve more-or-less ruled out developing anything for the PC, at least for the near future.
Anyway, I’m happy with the end result, and glad that I managed to finish it and get it out there. It’s certainly not perfect – letting the player choose between tilt or buttons for control was a big mistake. And it suffered from the common problem of getting too hard quite early on (even though it feels trivially easy to the developer…)
I’ve got no immediate plans for a sequel or major update to Skyriders, but I do keep considering trying to port it to the web, as there’s now several options for attempting to get a C++ proejct onto the web: Emscripten, FlasCC, and NaCL.
So what about Little Acorns?
As publishers were involved with Little Acorns, both on iOS/WP7 and 3DS, sadly I can’t give numbers.
This was a bit more successful – but with more people involved with the project, and a publisher taking a cut on top of Apple’s cut, and launching at $0.99, you need to sell a *lot* more units to be successful.
Whilst more successful than Skyriders, it’s not made anybody rich, but for the months spent on it, it’s been a bit more comparable to what I could earn in full-time employment, but of course, more fun – as we were making a cute 2D platformer and in full control over the design!
And what’s next?
That’s a good question… At the moment, I’m considering a few options – I’m back in the position where I need to pick a game that I can make look decent with minimal art skills. I’ve got lots of fragments of ideas, but no cohesive plan yet.
And there’s always a chance that Team Pesky may get back together – we’ve not ruled out a sequel to Little Acorns, or something different entirely…