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What's the revenue split for first week sales across PC and console? Some more anecdotal data and comments within - also solely for PC games, including Epic Game Store!

Simon Carless, Blogger

December 9, 2020

7 Min Read

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

Look, we’ll level with you: we’re back, with a vaguely Beetlejuice-ian reference in the very subject of this newsletter. (We consider ourselves at GameDiscoverCo to be the ‘bioexorcists of game platform information’, as it happens.) So let’s get to it:

Per-platform first week revenue - new data!

“Because if I tell you, you'll tell your friends, your friends are callin' me on the horn all the time, I gotta show up at shopping centers for openings and sign autographs and shit like that and it makes my life a *hell*.” - Beetlejuice

Sometimes I feel like lack of transparency on game platform sales is a bit like the above Beetlejuice quote (about why he can’t tell Lydia his name.) That’s why we recently ran a newsletter including David Wehle’s per-platform first week revenue for PC, console, and iOS/Android for the First Tree.

We asked some of you to contribute what your first week revenue was across PC and console. And here’s the anonymous results for the responses that involved all of the platforms:

This is very limited and anecdotal data - but still data! Game 3 looks to be a bit of an outlier, having done particularly well on Xbox and way less well on Switch. But Game 1 and Game 2 are close to The First Tree’s broad trend for non-AAA looking games, which is what I understand many (but not all!) indie games trend towards.

Recently, I’ve been told, Switch’s first week % is shrinking to be a little closer to Xbox’s first week, due to the sheer amount of games on Switch nowadays. Even so, Switch’s long tail can still be better than other consoles, due to the at-will discounting. Or that’s the theory.

Per-platform revenue share… on PC?

More anecdotal data news! Smart but ornery UK solo dev Cliffski just published a post-launch blog update on his political strategy game sequel Democracy 4, which already has gross revenue of around $800,000 and net of about $500,000 just a couple of months into Steam Early Access. (Though he does note that the game cost $357,000 to make so far, and will cost more as he keeps building it out…)

And it’s notable because he included a per-platform net revenue update for the PC only game, which ‘direct sold’ through both the Humble widget and Itch at various times before Steam Early Access release:

So that’s a larger percentage that you would normally expect from Humble due to his active direct marketing via the Humble widget, which also only has a 5% platform cut - compared to 30% for Steam. (Handily, revenue from the Humble widget is labeled here differently to the Humble store. I was also told he drove his pre-Steam users directly to the Itch page at one point, which explains its larger percentage than normal.)

The other neat surprise is a look at Epic Games Store revenue for Democracy 4, which unfortunately launched on EGS later than Steam, so not a great ‘apples to apples’ comparison. Nonetheless, the total net revenue share for Epic looks to be in the ‘worth it incrementally’ ballpark, if not a game changer in this case.

It is interesting that Cliffski says pointedly: “Because my strategy has always been maximum independence and resilience as a company, I try to spread my income as much as I can between different stores.” And he’s done a better job than almost anyone I’ve seen - even spending on paid ads to get people to buy via the Humble widget. But he’s still at 75% net Steam revenue. Just shows how hard it is to get away from the Steam juggernaut!

I also agree with his final point on devs ‘gaming things out’ too much via numbers. Don’t get too obsessed. Concentrate on picking a good genre and hook for your game - and then using player feedback to make it. (But do some research to work out what good genres and topics are. Especially if you don’t own franchises in particularly Steam player-compatible genres! That’s where data is actually, uh, helpful…)

The game discovery news round-up..

Finishing out here with yet another graph (sorry, this particular newsletter is very graph-heavy!) And also a whole bunch of neat news from all over the Internet about video games, discovery and platforms:

  • That man Chris Zukowski is back again, with an essential blog post on the Steam Autumn Festival, featuring lots of real-world surveyed data. Wishlists data graph is above, and some of the notable highlights: “This festival was less popular than the Summer festival… However, each game converted more of their traffic to wishlists than in the Summer festival… Getting the featured spot is super important - you earn between 2,085 & 30,342 wishlists (median = 7,414.5) when you do.”

  • GameMakers has a video panel & complete transcript on ‘the future of PC gaming’, and it’s fairly high-end (Gearbox’s chief biz guy, Frost Giant’s CEO, Diablo creator David Brevik), but has a few interesting points. Gearbox’s Sean Haran on cloud gaming: “I think the mistake is thinking of it as a replacement for the current gen and next gen hardware… because gamers are going to ultimately critique it that way.”

  • Two more PlayStation 5 UI x discovery pain points, I’m afraid: firstly, here’s an article about how to clean up your PS5’s newsfeed which makes it seem like what games you ‘follow’ is more random, arbitrary or bugged than it should be right now; then there’s this video on how to get the Destiny 2 PS5 next-gen update. Could.. be… easier.

  • YouTube Gaming released its stats on most-streamed games in 2020 and Blake Robbins has the YoY comparisons, which are rather interesting: “1. Minecraft - 201B views (100.2B in 2019) 2. Roblox - 75B views (29.6B in 2019) 3. Garena Free Fire - 72B views (29.9B in 2019) 4. GTA V - 70B views (36.9B in 2019) 5. Fortnite - 67B views (60.9B in 2019).”

  • Did you know that Kickstarter also has wishlists - for upcoming campaigns? I barely knew this too! Luckily, ICO’s Thomas Bidaux does, and he reveals that “the number one video game upcoming project on Kickstarter is Mask of The Rose, the Failbetter Games visual novel prequel to the Fallen London.” Second is Mictlan, "an action-adventure third-person game set in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest of Mexico" - with 1,463 followers.”

  • Microlinks: Cyberpunk 2077’s download preload spiked Steam bandwidth like crazy; how a hobbyist dev went from knowing nothing about making games to publishing one on Steam, in 18 months (I think his game looks cute!); how to make a decent video game trailer for less than $100.

And finally, this is the last free GameDiscoverCo newsletter of the week (aw!), but it’s a special week, cos there’s two more GameDiscoverCo Plus-exclusive newsletters due out tomorrow and Friday.

As well as 1) a Steam Hype analysis newsletter re: the fascinating aftermath of ‘the crazy crowded week before Cyberpunk’ on Steam, we have 2) an Apple Arcade ‘deep dive’ in progress. Here’s a visual cue to chuckle over:

The deep dive features full charts & our analysis on Apple Arcade’s past, present and future, including review score/rating trends across the catalog. And we commissioned this super-cute illustration* for it from Lee Healey(*We’re sorry about your eagle, The Pathless!) Be there or be square - otherwise, we’ll see you next week!

[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game. You can now subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides!]

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About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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