The Race to the Top: SproggiwoodÂ’s First 14 Days on Mobile
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Hi, it's @ptychomancerÂ from Freehold Games.Â So we releasedÂ anÂ indie game on mobile for $9.99.
On May 28th, our story-driven roguelike,Â Sproggiwood,Â came out forÂ iOS and Android. (It's been available on Steam and Humble Store for eight months.)Â In my last blog post, I talked about how we struggled to warp our design around in-app purchases until we threw up our hands and decided to let our premium flag fly. In this post, I'll show you how SproggiwoodÂ sold over its firstÂ 14 days. I won't draw any grand conclusions about the sustainability of small studios (though if the topicÂ interests you, I encourage you to read this);Â this will merely function as a data point forÂ premiumÂ sales in the mobileÂ ecosystem.
The Reason & RhymeÂ Behind $9.99
Deciding on a price was difficult.Â For the Steam / Humble release, we landed on $14.99, which we consider fair value for the game givenÂ Steam's salesÂ cycles. For mobile, there was pressure to drop down to as low as $2 or $3â€”which is absurdly cheapÂ in comparison, but possibily necessary to compete in the free-to-play dominated iOS and Android markets. A giant volume of games and very littleÂ curation means that success in the mobile space is wildly unpredictable, so there's temptation to price as low as you can and gamble that your game is a viral, outlier success.
We'd heard some other rumblings, though, that the endless sea of mobile games makes it so thatÂ demand for your game isÂ relatively inelastic (meaning a small change in price won't have much affect on the number of units you sell)Â since the bulk of your buyers are likely loyal fans or genre enthusiasts whoÂ found your game in the first place. This fact, coupled with our "PC perfect" port, led us to chooseÂ aÂ price closer to parity with the desktopÂ version. This way, desktop buyers wouldn't feel ripped off, and enthusiastic iOS and Android buyers would pay a steep-for-mobile but fair price for a game they're likely to enjoy.
A week before our release, I learned that QCF Design was planning to launch itsÂ mobile port ofÂ Desktop DungeonsÂ on the same day as us. Desktop Dungeons and Sproggiwood occupy a similar niche;Â in fact, DDÂ wasÂ a big influence on Sproggiwood's design. I hadn't talked to designer Danny Day about their launch plans. I must admit, I was scared that they would unintentionally undercut us. As it turned out, they chose $9.99 as wellâ€”and for similar reasons.
A Tale of Two Launches
Before we get into the numbers, I'd like to establish the context for both our mobile and desktopÂ launches. In October, we released the desktop version of SproggiwoodÂ to relatively little fanfare. Steam reviews were positive, but we didn't get much press coverage. For the mobile launch, we decided to work with the wonderful folks at indieÂ PR firm Novy Unlimited for help with promoting Sproggiwood. Designed with mobile in mind, we thought thatÂ SproggiÂ had a chance to really shine, but the volatility of the mobile market left us only cautiously hopeful.
As it turned out, our launch went way, way better than expected. First and foremost, we gotÂ a Best New Games featureÂ on the App Storeâ€”the holy grail of a mobile launch. The release was also picked up by Touch Arcade, Pocket Gamer, and Gamezebo, and then all three sites posted glowing reviews. Then, we won Touch Arcade's game of the week. Then, onceÂ our new releaseÂ feature rotated a week after launch, we got another brick feature on the App Store front page, aÂ Best of May feature, and a feature on theÂ Pay Once &Â PlayÂ pageâ€”Apple's new promotion for premium games.Â
Now, The Numbers
Over the first 14 days of our mobile release, we sold:
- ~3300Â units on iOS (~236Â / day)
- ~800Â units on Android (~57Â / day)
Compare this to the first 14 days of our desktop release, where we sold:
- ~1800Â units on Steam + Humble (~129Â / day)
Factoring in the relative prices, that's ~$40,950Â on mobile and ~$27,000Â on desktop (all gross revenue).
Note -Â These dramatic curves are typical of launches: the wild numberÂ party flattens out to a much less exciting afterparty a few weeks in.
Some Interesting Observations
14 Days In, Mobile > Steam
This is the big one. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom regarding premium games, our mobile release solidly outperformed our Steam release.
iPhone and iPad Sales Are Nearly Equal
Sproggiwood's universal iOS support is really paying off for us. Our iOS sales are split nearly equally between the two devices.
Android Is More than a Den of Pirates
While we were selling 5x as many units on iOS than we were on Android over the first few days, those numbers have converged. Fourteen days in, we sold ~40Â units on iOS and ~35 on Android.
By all accounts, the launch was a bigÂ successâ€”but not a rampant outlier.Â It's hard to isolate factors here, so I won't draw any hard conclusions. Given the volatility of the mobile space, though, I can say that we're happy with theÂ results. The big question is whether we can get the same long tail out of mobile that we're getting from Steam. If so, then we could triple our Steam revenue over the course of Sproggiwood's lifespan. I'll keep you updated.
Postscriptâ€”4 Weeks Later
For the pastÂ few weeks, as we prepÂ for theÂ July 15thÂ Steam Early Access launch of Sproggiwood's spiritual predecessor,Â Caves of Qud, I've kept oneÂ eye glued to our sales data. A few interesting things have happened. First, predictably, our sales flattened out after the launch buzz. As of two weeks ago, they'd baselined to around 28 units/day on iOS and 13 units/day on Android.Â Second, due to some shuffling of the Pay Once & Pay page and a fortuitous inclusion in Apple's 15 Most EpicÂ RPGs feature, our App Store sales have jumped back up to 64 units/dayÂ over the last two weeks.
That puts our App Store average at around 45 units/day over the last 27 days. We've had no such luck getting a Google PlayÂ feature, so we hovered aroundÂ 13 Android units/day over that span.Â
It'll be interesting to see how Caves of Qud, a more traditional roguelike with a modest but existent following,Â performs on Steam compared to Sproggiwood. It caters to a much more narrow set of playersâ€”the kind who like retrofuturism, brutal difficulty,Â books and books worth of excessive lore, and sentient plants. But it caters to them really well.
The Caves of Qud logo in all its 70s sci-fi novel cover gloryâ€”it's available July 15th on Steam Early Access