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Sunless Sea Sales and Funding Deep Dive, Part III: Early Access and Final Release

Sales figures for Sunless Sea in early access and after launch, with charts.

Hello! This is the final post in our series on Sunless Sea's sales and funding. So far, we've covered Kickstarter in part I and pre-orders and Greenlight in part II. This time, we'll be talking about our aggregate sales figures – in early access, and in the month since final release.

Before we began development in 2013, we tried to estimate potential sales based on what numbers we could find for other indie games. It looked like we might sell anything from 5,000 copies (if it did really poorly), to 50,000 (if it was a pretty big success).

Early Access

On 17th June, we soft-launched the early access version of Sunless Sea on our website. Then, on 1st July, we launched on Steam.

SteamCapsuleSmall SteamTopSellersSmall

We reached #4 on the Steam top sellers list, and were featured in the main capsule for just over a week. Here are our aggregate sales for July.

Aggregate July Sales

Across all channels – our website, Steam and the Humble Store – we sold 28,423 copies in July. Of those, 72% were in the first week.

We're still not sure why there was a bump in sales from 5th – 7th July. There was no corresponding increase in traffic, and we didn't get much coverage from the gaming press on those days.

The next graph shows our sales across almost the entire early access period, from 1st July to 31st January.

Aggregate Early Access Sales

  • A: our early access launch.
  • B: in mid-October, Sunless Sea was selected for a Steam daily deal. This was a 33% discount, available for 48 hours, with some visibility on the Steam front page.
  • C: Humble's Halloween sale.  For most of the sale we ran a 20% discount, with a 33% discount for a brief period and no additional storefront visibility.
  • D: we ran a 20% discount during the Steam and Humble winter sales. We didn't get featured or receive any special visibility, but still saw a sales increase of roughly 800%. There's are two spikes at the beginning, a larger one at the end of the sale (some people hold off until then, in case a game gets discounted more steeply later in the sale), and another on Christmas day.
  • E: Emerald, our first major update since the Steam release. This got a bit of press coverage, and since Sunless Sea did pretty well at launch, we also experimented with paid advertising. Cumulatively, these had a small but noticeable effect on sales: roughly a 30% increase on the previous week, set against a broader downward trend.
  • F: Steel, a major release in which we completely overhauled the game's combat system. We combined it with another, smaller advertising campaign. Sales increased by about 150%, but from a much lower daily average than when we released Emerald. There were around 200 extra sales.

There were other major releases which I haven't labelled, because their effects are hard to see on the graph. They all added major features, large amounts of content, or both. The lesson we've taken from this is that major updates aren't particularly good for at driving sales. In future, we're unlikely to publicise updates outside our existing community

Across all distribution channels, we sold 50,017 copies during early access.

Full Release

On 6th February, we launched the full version on Steam, the Humble Store, our website (via a Humble Widget), and GOG. Here's a sales graph running from 1st February through a month of post-launch sales.

Aggregate Launch Sales

Before release, sales went from 100 a day at the start of the month to ~500 on the 4th and 5th. Some people were probably taking the last opportunity to benefit from our free lifetime DLC promise for backers and early access purchasers, but mostly, it looks like it was due to being streamed on Twitch by TotalBiscuit.

In the first 31 days, we sold 54,210 copies across all distributors – more than during the entire seven months of early access. Once again, most sales happened during the first week: 70% of the total, compared with 72% during early access.

And now, our cumulative sales graph.

Cumulative Sales

We reached 100,000 copies on 25th February. Within three weeks of finishing Sunless Sea, we more than doubled our most optimistic lifetime estimates. We're delighted, and deeply grateful to everyone who made this possible. Everyone who gave us feedback on the game. Everyone who trusted us enough to back the game on Kickstarter, or buy it during early access. Everyone who shared their expertise. Our wonderful Fallen London players. Thank you all! We can continue releasing free updates. And we can keep on making the games we want to make, with stories that get into your dreams.

Finally, here are some sales breakdowns for other games that we've found useful: DustforceGuns of Icarus OnlineShovel Knight. Thanks for reading, and if you know of others, let us know in the comments!

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