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The Red Stare VR - Fun "Sales" Facts

Fun statistics about releasing The Red Stare VR on Steam as a student team.


It has been little over a month since we released The Red Stare on Steam, so I thought it would be a good time to post a summary of how the game has been doing. Often independent developers find these statistics useful when making plans for their own release. Some players / media outlets may find these interesting too.

There is a small caveat which is that I cannot disclose all the information that I would like to share due to NDA contracts.

Before that, I want to make clear that we did not make this game in order to make any money--the game is literally free! The Red Stare was developed by a team of third-year students at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences over the course of an entire year. We wanted to make an interesting and immersive thing foremost, and have a great portfolio piece second.

It’s difficult to gauge whether or not the statistics presented here would have been any different if the game was sold for say $8, instead of being free. Keeping this in mind, I’d rather not speculate and extrapolate, and rather let the numbers speak for themselves.
I also specifically did not look up any ‘sales’ reports of other VR games, because I didn’t want any implicit comparisons to slip into this.


So here’s what I can say:

In the first month, The Red Stare has been downloaded and played by nearly 12000 players. This is substantially more than I thought it would be, considering the (still) small adoption rate for high-end virtual reality platforms. The game 
The Red Stare launched on two VR platforms: HTC Vive and Oculus. Neither of these seem to dominate; HTC Vive is strong, and Oculus is also very strong for us.

When we started development of The Red Stare, we envisioned the game to be exclusively available to HTC Vive players. There were a number of reasons for doing this, but the most important reason was the native room-scale functionality of the HTC Vive, which is a core part of the game. Relatively late in development (and several months after the commercial release of the Oculus Touch) we felt comfortable in supporting Oculus.

Although we do not have any hard numbers on the HTC Vive-Oculus ratio, we can look at other areas, such as Let’s Plays, forums, discussions etc. and get some (minor) insight into what VR headset people are using.
In terms of YouTube Let’s plays, a significant majority played The Red Stare using an HTC Vive. But when we look at the activity on several forums (the Oculus and HTC Vive reddits, amongst others): they are about equal.

There is a small caveat that there were more tech support questions regarding the Oculus implementation which may have had an effect, but who knows?! The same applies to the Steam discussions: more people directly mentioned Oculus due to technical problems they have encountered and reported. 

Was it worth it to release while supporting both HTC Vive and Oculus? Absolutely! Could we have spent some more time on the Oculus implementation prior to release-- maybe! (??)

For those that are interested in downloads by region (because maybe they want to target a specific audience... I don't know), 53.0% of players are from both Western-Europe and North-America, followed by ~15.0% being located in Asia, followed by Eastern-Europe and Latin America. 

We can also compare this by country instead of by region, which ranks the U.S.(25.1%) at #1 followed by China(11.7%), the U.K.(5.8%), Germany(5.0%), Brazil(4.2%), and Russia(3.9%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Reception:
The game is currently sitting at a 94% positive rating on Steam, with a lot of players saying it’s “the best VR game currently available” and a “must-play”. This is very nice to hear, since we didn’t have any experience with VR prior to The Red Stare. Different people like the game for different reasons, but the most recurring themes are 'engaging gameplay', 'immersion', 'perfect use of room-scale VR', 'attention to detail', 'great visuals', and 'intuitive'.


Let's discuss the negative for a bit, because this is arguably the most useful of the two:

Common (and not unfounded) critique is that the game is completely in English, and can be difficult for non-native English speakers (30% of our players are from English-speaking nations). In my mind, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the game featured subtitles for different languages, but by the time we realised this might be a problem, it was too late. Furthermore, I am not sure how we would have been able to represent the subtitles in a way that maintains the immersion of the game.
In retrospect, the fact that we approached the game in this English-only way is a bit of a shame, because the gameplay and the rest of the game is completely detached from that: seeing somebody being murdered in the parking lot has the same implications in English as it does in Vietnamese-- something bad happened (unless there are cultural differences that I am not aware of!).

Then there are aspects of the game we knew that could definitely be better, but lacked the resources to do so.

We had to work with a pretty limited set of animations, which shows to anyone that plays to game for some time. It’s an area during development that we struggled with a lot, which might be a topic of interest for another time. The integration of the audio is something that could have been worked on a lot more, because we’re not really taking advantage of the audio-tools we have at our disposal.

Marketing:
With more and more people developing games, it is also becoming more and more difficult to get noticed (seriously, even well-known indie developers are suffering from this!). I think that, now more than before, it’s important go out and exhibit at events that are both attracting a lot of press, but are still small enough as to not overwhelm consumers and press with a sea of developers (but please, organisers, don’t put all the VR projects in the same area in close proximity of each other.)

After exhibiting The Red Stare at these events, the game got covered in some pretty big media outlets, both gaming and non-gaming related, and a bunch of YouTube let’s plays got around 100k hits. Did these have any effect on the number of downloads? Probably, but it’s difficult to say. Some comments seem to suggest so, but the majority are just interactions with the YouTube personality, not really the game itself. This probably has to do with the smaller adoption rate of VR, as mentioned earlier.

Despite of this, there are bunch of things we could have done better, such as reaching out to more established media outlets and have them review the game. Despite the differing opinions on MetaCritic, it has proven to be an effective way to spark some interest (whether that is because the game is terrible, good, or somewhere in-between).


What's next:
So the game is doing great, but that doesn’t mean that we’re done yet. Since release, we have pushed 3 updates and worked on post-launch support (releasing on PC with different configurations is an absolute nightmare).

Right now, we’re working on something pretty exciting, and we might be able to announce something in the near future!


- Elroy

Technical Designer & Gameplay Programmer on The Red Stare
Currently looking for an internship anywhere in the world.

The Red Stare is out now on Steam for free!

@elroy_gopal
www.elroygopal.com

[email protected]

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