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Nightmare Reaper: doing a 1.0 Steam release the right way

Some impressive results from the splatterpunk FPS.

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

It’s a whole new week. And therefore, we’d like to welcome you back to our little newsletter. It continues our long-held mission: to probe hyperbole and hype, and extract ‘real results’ and actual data on how you get people to notice your games.

Nightmare Reaper: lessons from a Steam 1.0 hit!

One question we get asked quite a lot is ‘how much is my game going to pop on its Steam 1.0 release’? To which the answer is… it depends. You can get some great visibility tools when leaving Early Access on Steam, including the ability to appear in the ‘New & Trending’ chart on Steam’s front page.

But some games see major sales jumps, and some launch into 1.0 with, well, a bit of a whimper? Which is why it’s neat to see gorestained retro FPS - with looter-shooter and roguelite elements - Nightmare Reaper doing so well after its March 28th, 2022 1.0 release. It just hit an all-time high of 1,100 CCUs, and here’s its lifetime reviews:

Anyhow, the dev of the game, Blazing Bit Games’ Bruno Beaudoin and his partners at agency Evolve put out an informative Twitter thread about what went down around 1.0 - and clued me in so I could ask some extra questions.

Here’s some of the key reasons I would say that Nightmare Reaper has had a successful Early Access → 1.0 transition, during which 35% of all the game’s Steam page traffic was coming from the “New and Trending” tab:

  • There was something specific and new to talk about for 1.0: the July 2019 EA debut “released Chapters 1 & 2 of the game, giving players a good slice of what the final 1.0 content with all 3 chapters would be.” So this latest update finally shipped the ‘full’ version of the game, a major milestone that helped sell the whole title.
  • There’s a specific subset of streamers who concentrate on this genre: the thread calls out Civvie11’s video (250k views!) and Gmanlives’ much earlier video (150k views!) In addition: “Directly prior to launch, NR had a Twitch event in which ~70 Streamers were given early access to help showcase Chapter 3 and create pre-launch hype.” Oh, and MoonMoon “decided to stream the game for 7 hours the day after launch to an average of 11,914 concurrent viewers.” That’s some reach!
  • The game wasn’t overdiscounted during Early Access: if you look at discounts, the title only did 20% discounts - which emails wishlisters - a handful of times. There’s an argument that is too conservative, and sales were suppressed during EA due to it. But it led to a better 1.0 bump, when the game was more complete.
  • Nightmare Reaper is legitimately great: the game has serious depth, in addition to frantic retro FPS action. Which is why it’s had 95%+ Positive Steam reviews until very recently. One Steam reviewer explains: “3 separate unique skill trees in which you play mini-games to unlock various bonuses and perks which take multiple playthroughs to unlock… A plethora of weapons, enemies and level varieties. Also lets not forget to mention the cavalcade of treasure to hunt down and find..”

The results? Impressive. In 6 days, Nightmare Reaper has sold 10,400 more units, on top of the 19,900 accumulated in nearly 3 prior years in Early Access. So basically 50% of Early Access units sold in just the week after 1.0 launch! Check the pickup:

The game had 39k outstanding Steam wishlists at the point it went 1.0 - and has added another 36k wishlists in quick succession. I’d expect Nightmare Reaper to sell tens of thousands more copies in the next 12 months. (There’s various bonus Steam back-end graphs in the full social media thread, btw.)

Evolve & Blazing Bit’s conclusion? “A longer Early Access period can be an asset; After your game gets past an initial views/interest hump, Steam will proudly display it to users; Coordinating pre-launch efforts that gives early access to creators is win-win; You still need a ton of passion and work!”

Finally, GameDiscoverCo asked Beaudoin, the creator of Nightmare Reaper, what he think made the biggest difference in this successful 1.0 launch, and he said: “It's hard for me to say because I'm no PR expect, which is why I hired Evolve - which did a great job. I think it was definitely a combination of factors. But I think we shouldn't underestimate the power of great trailers and positive YouTuber videos.

The YouTubers that made positive Early Access videos got people interested. Most people held off for 1.0 before buying the game. I also feel like having been able to maintain "Overwhelmingly Positive" on Steam [throughout Early Access] kept the game in people's minds.

Once everything reached critical mass and 1.0 came out, people were ready for it and the extra word of mouth it created got it to the [Steam] main page. I still think we've only scratched the surface of what the game could have done, if it was able to capture more influential people earlier.”

Beaudoin also noted that he thought that luck was involved. Sure, there’s always luck. But if you make the right type of game, and then promote it to right type of people, then you’re increasing the chances of success. Which is what happened here!

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