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Feat Unlocked: One Million Copies of Shovel Knight Sold!
by David D'Angelo on 04/14/16 11:14:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

We’re excited to share some amazing news! A major milestone! Our quest to a million copies sold is complete! In December 2015, Shovel Knight surpassed one million copies sold total, and as of this February, Shovel Knight passed a million copies sold only digitally! Thank you everyone for your unending support. We couldn’t be happier that Shovel Knight is still loved and played years after its release. To celebrate it crossing a million, we’ll be discounting Shovel Knight at 33% off for a week at various times this month on every store it’s released on (Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Sony PS4, Sony PS3, PlayStation Vita, Steam, GOG, Humble Store, and Amazon Fire TV) . If you haven’t picked it up, now’s the time! We’re also launching some new PS4, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS themes to join in the celebration! It’s like a whole new suit of armor for your system.

We hope to share a little bit of what we’ve learned over the past couple years of both making a game like Shovel Knight and maintaining it after release. As we’ve done in the past, below you’ll find a breakdown of Shovel Knights sales. Hopefully players and developers alike can find something to learn from this info!

(For the historians, all info on this page is as of April 1st, 2016.)

All Game Sales

Shovel Knight has sold 1.2 million units total! 200,000 of those units are physical retail sales. We’re still in a bit of shock here! Previously, a successful game in our portfolio would barely break 50k copies sold. Want to know the platform breakdown? Here’s a graph!

Before you save the graph above for your next platform vs platform discussion, there’s a few key items that are worth keeping in mind:

Our Sony and Microsoft versions did not come out until April 2015, 9 months after our initial release on PC and Nintendo systems. The Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and Sony PS4 are also naturally higher in sales as they received full retail releases in October 2015. Every platform except Sony’s systems have gone on sale during some major holidays, but none of them have ever been sold for more than a 33% discount. Keeping our game at full price has been a major part of our strategy as we believe players will be more invested in the game and therefore hopefully, enjoy it more if it isn’t bought at a bargain bin price. Although Amazon Fire TV does not have enough sales to appear on the graph, it’s a bit tricky to measure because Shovel Knight was packed in with 50,000 consoles, and those sales are not accounted for in the graph. The Amazon Fire TV also released in September of 2015 – which is rather late when compared to everything else and a tall order to catch up to. Also of note, we have still not released the game in Asian territories. We plan to release in Japan in June on Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U.

Some interesting facts about our sales trends:

  • In general, the game sales are still very strong. In November 2015 we actually sold more units digitally on Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and Steam in North America (our initial release platforms) than we did in the same month the previous year, November 2014.
  • Contrarily to the previous point, March 2016 was our worst sales month since our initial release. Oh no!
  • The first 6 months of sales on all Sony platforms are equivalent to the total first 6 months on just the Nintendo Wii U. On Nintendo 3DS we sold about 50% more than Sony. Alternatively, Microsoft is 50% of Sony.
  • We typically average 25k-35k units a month.
  • Steam is our best seller, but it’s also benefited the most from discounted sales. In an average month, Nintendo 3DS almost sells twice as much as Steam.

Retail Sales

Our big push last year was getting Shovel Knight at retail with the game and the amiibo figure. We’ve learned a lot of crazy things about retail: how small the margins are, how long and arduous the process is of creating and shipping discs/carts, how difficult and finicky retailers can be to work with, and much, much more. Although it was a huge pain, at the end of the day, we think our game benefits from being available at retail. Hopefully, it is bringing more kids, families, and an all around wider audience to our game that otherwise wouldn’t have considered it. So far at retail, we’ve sold more than 200,000 units:

A few items to note here. Tracking data for physical sales is extremely hard and not nearly as accurate as digital sales. In Europe, we get very little information due to all the distributors and retailers involved. In North America, we only get information for Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Gamestop, Toys R US, Wal-Mart, and Canadian retailers. Here’s even more detail with a breakdown of our North American sales per store:

Note, not all the stores carry all platforms of the game. For example, Target sells only Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions in stores. Also, some stores have an advantage due to time sold. Toys”R”Us started selling Shovel Knight late in December, and unlike most the other stores, did not have pre-orders available.

Some facts we noticed here:

  • In 2015, each month we typically sold twice as much at retail when compared to digital. Into 2016, the platforms now sell about 1:1.
  • It appears that retail sales did not cannibalize digital sales at all. The sales data looks more like we’re selling on a new platform rather than a percentage of people moving away from digital. It’s possible this could change over the course of the year though.
  • Interestingly, the retail release did not help the digital release! When we launch on another system we normally see a small boost on the currently existing platforms, but that wasn’t the case with retail.
  • We’ve currently sold through about 70% of our retail stock.
  • Retailers requested the most PS4 stock, but Wii U has been our best seller!
  • Note, for a $24.99 copy of the retail game, we receive a 3-4 dollars less than our digital release, which sells for $14.99. Also, we still haven’t actually been paid for retail product due to the long tail of not knowing if all the units will sell.

Being a retail publisher of the game also comes with additional costs. We had to take out a very expensive insurance policy, get the game rated at retail in every territory (much more expensive than digital), create packaged versions for every language, system, and rating, and much more.

Region Breakdown

One area we still have a lot of room for improvement in is reaching more regions. We’re still heavily bought in North America vs Europe. Typically about 63-77% of our games are bought in North America depending on the platform. PC is the low end of that spectrum where Wii U is on the higher end. Keep in mind Shovel Knight is still only available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, and French. So we definitely have room to grow, and hope to continue introducing new languages as the ongoing game updates begin to finalize. Here’s the breakdown by region for Steam:

 

Steam User Stats!

Here are some fun game stats based on our Steam users:

  • Our most unlocked achievement is First Purchase, which 85% of people have done. We’re not sure how much Goatician makes from each Meal Ticket sold, but we wish him well in his entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • 32% of people have gotten the Victory Achievement, meaning they completed the game as Shovel Knight. 2% of players have gone on to complete New Game +.
  • 5% of our Steam PC players were determined to be playing on Mac, with 1% determined to be on Linux.
  • 345,000 people have Shovel Knight in their Steam wishlist. 102,000 people have removed Shovel Knight from their wishlist and 131,000 people have picked up Shovel Knight after having it on their wishlist!
  • Median playtime is 5 hours and 23 minutes. Average playtime is 8 hours and 3 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows

When we set out to make our first expansion for Shovel Knight, Plague of Shadows, we knew that we’d be putting it out for free. We really wanted to make a great campaign that felt new and exciting, and would draw new players in! We also wanted to make players of the original game feel like they got their money’s worth, in the hopes of keeping our reputation as sterling as possible. For instance, many players feel great about supporting Blizzard because they know that every Blizzard game will be updated and improved for many years in the future (in fact, a new patch for the 16 year old Diablo II was just released!). Our plan was ambitious… but could we make it work?

You may remember our magic formula for how to simply calculate game production costs. Plague of Shadows was no exception – we went all out in its development just as if we were starting on a new game. We had 8 people full time on the project for about a year – meaning we effectively spent roughly a million dollars creating FREE update content for the game. Is that ridiculous?! Yes, most definitely. Was it worth it? We think so! We really love what we created and we think the fans who gave it a shot did too. That said, by traditional publishing standards, it would probably be perceived as a catastrophic failure!

Here are some facts about it:

  • We spent about 1 million dollars developing Plague of Shadows over the course of a year.
  • We made zero dollars selling Plague of Shadows. Whoops!
  • Development started in July 2014 with the target release date of Q2 2015. The update was released in September 2015. Boy, did we go late!
  • Plague of Shadows started as the Kickstarter Stretch Goal “New Playable Boss Knight” at the $115k funding goal. It also included the Stretch Goal “Challenge Mode” reached at the $180k Stretch Goal. By people using ‘Kickstarter math’, that means we should have spent $35,000 developing the content.
  • Some members of the team were involved with multiple projects at the same time as needed. Bug fixing, new language support, new regions, new features, and submissions on different platforms. Overall, we estimate these additions took less than 2-3 months of the team’s time.
  • 6% of players completed Plague of Shadows on Steam. This means roughly 20% of the people that beat Shovel Knight also continued on to finish Plague of Shadows.
  • Metacritic has 4 or less reviews listed per platform for Plague of Shadows as opposed to 46 for the Shovel Knight base game. Plague of Shadows scored an 89, 4 points higher than Shovel Knight! Our thanks to websites who chose to cover Plague of Shadows as an entire new release, reviewing it, or featuring it at the end of the year.
  • There was a small increase in sales on the month Plague of Shadows was released, but in general, it appears to not have directly increased sales. But of course, it’s hard to say if Plague of Shadows is actually helping keep the game selling at its current rate as opposed to dipping since, as we mentioned above, sales are remaining strong.
  • On some storefronts and systems, you might not even know Plague of Shadows exists! There are plenty of hooks out there to promote sales, DLC, and re-releases…but it can be unexpectedly challenging to promote free updates to a base game.
  • We’ve received a surprising number of requests from people begging us to let them give us money for Plague of Shadows that we’ve now setup a cool donation button on our site. Don’t worry though, you can actually download some pretty cool art with it too! Picking up official merchandise is also a great way to show support and get something rad! If you’re interested in other ways to support the game, anything from telling a friend, writing up your honest impressions on Steam, or a star rating on Amazon goes along way to help!

After hearing all that, you might be thinking…”Wait. you weren’t kidding! Isn’t Yacht Club currently developing two more campaigns just like Plague of Shadows!?”. The answer is…yes! From the very beginning, way back when in Kickstarter land, we’ve always done our best to scale up Shovel Knight to exceed the amazing level of support the game has received and we plan to continue doing so with the major game updates too. In the end, we just want to make great content for our fans. We hope that everyone tries Plague of Shadows sometime and sees how much love we squeezed into every pixel! Seriously, go play it. Next time we do a sales article, we want to see Plague of Shadows higher than 6%!!

Could you p..please play Plague of Shadows? It's free! Hee hee hee...

amiibo Figure Sales

We hope to provide a very in-depth article about how the Shovel Knight amiibo was made soon. So stay tuned for that! In the meantime, here’s a bit about its sales so far. Believe it or not, we actually ordered over 200,000 units to be manufactured and shipped all over the world. We’ve currently sold through 180,000 of those units since the amiibo figure launched January 8th. 60,000 of those going to Europe and the rest going to North America. The sales for the amiibo figure are still strong, enough so that our North American distribution branch decided to order 30,000 more units! Here’s a breakdown of US amiibo figures per major retailer:

Some facts worth noting:

  • When we were considering the possibility of releasing before Christmas, we would have launched with just 25k units in the US. We sold 75k units in our first week! We are very glad we delayed the release until after Chirstmas- after all, that would have been a lot of would be knights left out in the cold.
  • Europe and Canada have almost sold out of units!
  • We sold about 10k units in March in North America.
  • The amiibo only sells online at Wal-Mart because our distributor was worried we couldn’t keep all 10,000 stores in America full with stock.
  • The amiibo did not increase game sales as much as we might have expected. During January, we saw a small bump in sales, particularly on Wii U, but only slightly higher than normal. The strongest benefit was Wii U physical sales, which probably sold around 3k more than we expected for that month.
  • We spent 3 months of everyone’s full attention developing, playtesting, and iterating  on the amiibo content! In other words, just the game content cost the development team $240,000. In our in-depth amiibo article, we'll detail how much we get from each unit. Be sure to check that out in the near future!

Miscellaneous Facts

Here’s some stuff you may or may not want to know:

  • We really, really wanted to provide a grand total of how many emails we have received and responded to since the project’s start. However, we couldn’t accurately capture it in data format. Suffice to say, its a lot. With just rough checks on our public facing addresses, we have received over 30k, and we make it a point to respond to each and every one of them! Just one team member here alone has sent more over 6330!
  • We have written over 17,000 tweets with a great majority of these being replies. Not bad considering we did not know how to use Twitter before starting Yacht Club Games! One of our most popular tweets is, somewhat perplexingly, this.
  • Most watched single YouTube video: >1.5 million views! Most watched YouTube Playlist: >3.9 million views 
  • Half as many babies were born during Shovel Knight’s development as people that work at Yacht Club (that’s 4 babies)
  • Over 16,000 commits have been made to the Shovel Knight game repository.
  • When localization first started, the original game’s English text was around 11,500 words. It is now at 22,219 words in English and a combined total of 108,362 words across English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
  • Our build tech has grown too! We've gone from personally building each and every version of the game to three servers crunching away on new builds each and every change! It takes less than one hour for the servers to generate all 54 build configurations which are always ready to go (all platforms, regions, internal, stable, etc). We've had 19883 automated builds made since November 2014. A special thanks to TeamCity and JetBrains for their friendly and accommodating support!
  • 414,653 lines of code and counting, not counting 3rd party or tools ... and 0 warnings!

It’s Not Over Yet!

We’re still working away on the rest of the Kickstarter Stretch goals. King Knight’s campaign, Specter Knight’s campaign, Body Swap, and 4 Player Battle Mode are all being worked on at the moment. Also in production is the final Kickstarter reward: the Shovel Knight art book (lots of great stuff on the way in that department!). We hope to finally conclude Shovel Knight’s long development journey at the end of this year. It’s been a really fun few years, and we couldn’t be more grateful that you’ve all supported us through this time. We never though we’d be doing things like this, from making a game so beloved, getting to revisit and re-imagine it from another character’s point of view, releasing an amiibo figure, even to making a crazy awesome plush collection!!

Thank you again for your amazing support! We are so, so humbled. Thank you!

 

We hope everyone is looking forward to the upcoming Shovel Knight updates, and everything from Yacht Club Games! Congrats on making it through this very long article, here's a summary!

For now, here’s a tiny glimpse at playable Specter Knight’s run animation. As is the tradition! Now get excited, haha! Now and forever!


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