Launching your game into orbit

When a new game is about to release, I try to guess how many sales it’ll get.

(you can estimate sales with the number of steam reviews)

This week, I, Dracula: Genesis launched into early access. 

I expected it to blow up because of a few reasons: 

  • 5.5 years of development time
  • Great art style
  • Huge amounts of content
  • The streamers who played it enjoyed it thoroughly
  • Decent Twitter following and well performing tweets (hundreds of likes each)

But a few days after launch, the game is still sitting at a few dozen reviews.

How could it get so few sales? 

Could you have predicted that games like Skul (4,200 reviews) and Stoneshard (11,000 reviews) would do that much better than I, Dracula?

When you become an indie dev, you want to make games.

You don’t want to spend your time trying to beat the Steam algorithm.

You don’t want to spend all day coming up with marketing shenanigans.

But it seems that as long as your game is “good enough”…

…those are the things that actually matter if you want it to be successful.

(which sucks)

I feel like launching a game is similar to launching a satellite.

If you get it into orbit, you’re good. 

It’ll get into a virtuous cycle of selling more, thus gaining more visibility (from Steam, influencers and other platforms), thus selling even more. (e.g. Scourgebringer)

If you don’t, it’ll crash into the ocean and no one will know about it. (e.g. Rising Hell)

You need to build a rocket that’s powerful enough to take your satellite into orbit. 

Your rocket is your marketing.

… but maybe it’s not how it works at all.

Keep in mind I’m just trying to figure it out from observation.

I haven’t personally experienced having a game this successful myself (yet)

…so there might be a lot of stuff going on in the background that I’m not aware of.

Until next week,

Thomas Gervraud,
Developer of Space Gladiators: Escaping Tartarus