The birds are singing, the sun is shining* (*offer only currently valid for a portion of the world map), and it’s certainly a Wednesday here. So we’re going to get going, and bring you our customary dose of news, views (and even interviews!) from the world of game discovery.
IndieBI talks funding, utility for PC/console biz intel
So I think we’ve mentioned the PC/console centric business intelligence tool IndieBI a couple of times in recent months - but never too prominently, since the company was still in early development.
Today, IndieBI has come out with the announcement that they’ve raised a game biz-driven angel investment of $3M USD to expand, from folks such as Olga and John Graham (Humble Bundle), Forest Willard (Innersloth), Matias Myllyrinne (Redhill), Brjann Sigurgeirsson (Thunderful Group), & Alexis Garavaryan (Kowloon Nights and Kepler Interactive). Probably the most impressive game-centric angel round I’ve seen?
But if you read this newsletter, you’ll know we’re not generally very concerned with who raised money from whom. It’s more about what practical tools you can have, and how they can make a difference.
And I’m here to say that IndieBI does what has been sorely needed for a long time - systematize business intelligence for ‘premium’ PC and console games. We’ve used it with at least one company we advise, and it provides an extremely helpful holistic view of the biz - we’re evangelizing it now because we dig it, and IndieBI will be expanding access to the platform soon(ish?)
But first, some background. How did IndieBI originate? Tom Kaczmarczyk - who co-founded the company alongside Callum Underwood - explains: “We originally built IndieBI way back in 2018 as a homebrew tool to help us manage our sales at SUPERHOT... With games shipped across a dozen major sales platforms, tracking our sales and making smart decisions was quickly becoming a huge challenge and a source of anxiety.”
“We were starved for anything resembling modern business intelligence and there were exactly zero options available off-the-shelf that’d properly hit the spot for us. Efficient business management is a pretty hard problem — and admittedly not the most glamorous aspect of game development — so there really was nobody in the industry working to solve this. So we went ahead and started solving it ourselves.”
The tool is currently used by companies including Innersloth, Vertigo Games, Raw Fury, and Kowloon Nights, btw. But when we say ‘business intelligence’, what does that mean? Lots of graphs that look nice but nobody ever uses? Well, the most obvious thing IndieBI does that actually might generate revenue for you is to track when you can discount your games (above pic), and the money you’re leaving on the table if not doing it.
We’ve previously commented that “some game makers don’t spend enough time being 100% methodical about discount timings and amounts”, and this is a great tool to remind you. (You’ll note it’s phrased as opportunities for ‘self-approved platforms’ such as Steam and Switch - since you can’t discount at will on PlayStation or Xbox.)
That’s the most obvious practical use of the tool. But IndieBI also gives you a holistic revenue dashboard across all platforms and titles that you develop or publish, with clear ‘discount uplift’ built into the graph (see top picture!) It also allows a lot of breakdown and analysis into regional sales (and pricing optimizations), mix of sales, and sales over time.
And it also tracks Steam wishlist and impression trending (see below screenshot), though I’ve spent the least amount of time with that part of the back end. In any case, I sat down on a video call with IndieBI’s Tom Kaczmarczyk last week and got to ask him some extra questions that I thought some of you might want to know.
Firstly, where is the platform going? Beyond its existing aggregation work, the hope over time is to use anonymous aggregated information to help set the best tactics. Tom told me: “People will naturally want to have a perspective of what actually works in terms of best practices - [questions like] what numbers they should expect their games to actually make, what conversion rates are good, what revenue split between platforms is good, or when to launch your game.” That’s the longer-range intent of IndieBI.
Oh, and on the data security side of things - that’s probably something you’re potentially worried about as a dev/publisher, right? Tom explains: “We appreciate that people are trusting us with fairly sensitive business data. That's also why we opted to spin out IndieBI entirely out of our game studio, so that it’s a separate entity. We don't have any… [special] interest groups involved with IndieBI that would potentially want to misuse or otherwise abuse our privileged access to information. So that's… the philosophy behind it.”
In addition, he says the company’s engineering is built around the understanding there’s important and confidential data in there. And he says IndieBI intends to use “industry best practices” to ensure the info stays in the correct silos, including automated security scans and periodic external audits.
Another question you might have is - are NDA-heavy platforms like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft OK with this large-scale aggregation of their data? Tom says, that while there are no people responsible for analytical platform relations at these platform-holders (very true!), “everybody who've we’ve actually talked to on the platform side is very happy that this exists and are supporting it as much as they can, internally.”
In IndieBI’s company view, from a legal/contractual point of view, using it really isn’t that different from a developer downloading their own information from Sony and uploading it to a Google spreadsheet. This just happens to be a larger analytical platform: “We are just repackaging it into a service that is much more approachable, much more democratized, and much more available to everyone from the smallest developers in the industry, all the way up to publicly traded companies.”
One important thing to note: the service is still in limited Beta, though you can request a Beta invite via the IndieBI website. We’ll tell you when it rolls out more widely. But how much will it actually cost when launched? Tom indicates: “We have no conclusions just yet. We specifically wanted to raise this, this additional funding route to give us enough runway to actually figure out what makes the most sense.”
But Tom says the intention is to run IndieBI as a SaaS (software as a service) platform where “we will definitely keep it free or almost free for all of the all the indie developers and smaller companies that haven't yet had a breakaway success hit.” There may be larger monthly or yearly costs for bigger companies, “so that for the largest ones, it would probably still be comparable or less expensive than hiring an on-staff analyst, while giving much more value than that.”
Hopefully, the larger customers can help subsidize the smaller indies, which will, as Tom says, “make the entire industry a bit more of a level playing field.” I can’t predict where their business will end up, but it’s at least starting from a fairly altruistic point.
Finally: I think the biggest issue IndieBI needs to overcome is its split customer base. It’s already the case that post-release discounts - its most blaringly obvious use case - don’t always have a good ‘home’ in many game companies beyond marketing (who is often busy with other things!)
And there’s at least 3 or 4 stakeholders (finance, business, marketing, etc) who could use IndieBI in a larger company, but might not be motivated or organized to do so individually. Perhaps it’ll take higher level decisions over time to make this a priority. (And for small devs - you can just decide to use it all on your own!)
So - we like IndieBI, we hope many can try the existing Beta, and we look forward to its wider rollout sometime next year. At which point we’ll come back and poke at it some more.
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]