Anatomy of a Steam game launch in numbers

Anatomy of a Steam game launch in numbers

I’ve chatted with the Broken Arms team, creators of neat-looking winemaking simulator Hundred Days, a few times. They’re GameDiscoverCo Plus subscribers and I also helped them out with some pricing questions before their Steam launch on May 13th.

Steam launch retrospective: Hundred Days

So it was great to see them share a Twitter thread about their launch experience. I followed up with some direct questions to company CEO Elisa Farinetti to get some extra graphs and data transparency. So let’s take a look at the game, how it did, and lessons.

Firstly, Broken Arms revealed they “launched with around 60,000 wishlists – we grew the last 10,000 wishlists in 6 days when we entered the ‘Popular Upcoming’ chart .” Looking at the game’s follower data, that means it had around a 7.2 follower to wishlist ration before it hit Popular Upcoming, which is on the low side if you look at our surveys.

(Lower ratios are indicative of decent quality wishlists – or at least, people curious to follow along with detailed news updates for the complex PC-centric game, and not wanting to just hit the ‘wishlist’ button and walk away.)

Here’s Hundred Days’ wishlists since its June 2019 Steam page launched. It’s been medium-paced and steady additions to get to that 60k, with spikes for demos in three Steam Game Festivals, pre-restrictions on frequency (March 2020, June 2020, February 2021.)

Ignoring the spikes, we also see some decent daily follower/wishlist additions. Looks like the game was generally adding 25-50 wishlists and around 3-6 followers per day, through almost the entire period. These regular organic wishlists are key.

Broken Arms then revealed: “From launch day – May 13th – until the end of May we sold 12,500 copies: 89.5% of them on Steam, and 10.5% on other stores combined (EGS, GOG, Stadia, Itch). The top 3 countries for the game are US, China and Germany … we are super happy with the result.”

We’re happy that they’re happy. It’s a great result for a smaller team in continental Europe, actually. I checked with Broken Arms and they sold around 9,700 copies in the first week – so about a 16% wishlist to first week sales conversion rate. (It’s essentially the median of 20% if you ‘ignore’ the Popular Upcoming wishlists, which I think are often variable quality.) Here’s the sales chart: The nature of the curve is interesting – the Broken Arms team notes: “During the first weekend we had ‘Mixed’ and ‘Mostly Positive’ review days. During Mostly Positive days we had 2,5M page views, while Mixed days dropped to 300K.”

I looked at their impression graphs with them. There was definitely a lack of visibility on Steam – less referrals from front page, etc – at the same time their reviews were Mixed. But we couldn’t work out if it was review score-related or just external traffic-centric. I will note that NorthernLion dropped a popular video on Hundred Days on the 16th. So it’s very possible a spike of external traffic boosted their internal Steam referrals again, since we know that’s how the Steam algo works.

So I would definitely describe this as a good launch! The one place the Hundred Days team had some expectation/reality issues was in the story mode. It had some dialogue style and density that some players reacted poorly too, if you look at the reviews. (BTW looks like 278 reviews for 11200 Steam sales, which is 40.2 sales per review, almost exactly the middle of our expected range.) But since Hundred Days is quite a unique idea, very deep, and has extra content planned, they should be able to improve from a 72% Mostly Positive ranking over time! Thanks again for letting us see behind the scenes, Broken Arms crew.

Is X Steam wishlists on launch enough for you? Look, nobody likes data more than us at GameDiscoverCo. Well, a lot of you like data too, so that’s a gross exaggeration. Let’s start again. Many people like data, and so do we. And one of those people are Brave At Night, who we featured recently discussing their debut published game, Mind Scanners.

And here’s what they put up on Twitter the other day: “#Gamedev reality check: is 10k wishlists really enough to sustain yourself? There is no easy answer, it depends on many factors. BUT we made a tool to help calculate wishlists to sales conversion & how much can you expect to make.” The Google Sheets spreadsheet, constructed from a ‘dev having signed with a publisher’ perspective, uses some of the data GameDiscoverCo and others have put together (‘first week to first year’ revenue multiples, the ‘wishlists to first week sales’ conversion we were talking about earlier) to sketch out multiple possible scenarios. It does have publisher ‘markup’, but doesn’t do variable recoup percentages.

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