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The Effect of Short-Term Sales on Quantity Sold - A Case Study on Zeboyd's Deal of the Day
by Robert Boyd on 04/19/12 05:54:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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.


There has been much discussion on the usefulness of short-term price discounts on improving sales and revenue for video games. To further this discussion, we'd like to share some data from a recent sale we participated in on Steam. (Note, I asked permission from our partners at Steam before publishing this article and they gave us their blessing.)

Our games, Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII, were released on Steam in April of 2011 at the price of $3 USD. They have done well but as you might expect, sales have been dying down over time. On April 6th, the games were featured in Steam's Deal of the Day during which time they were 50% off ($1.50) for a period of 24 hours. The games had been in holiday sales before this and at one point had even briefly been in a larger discount (66% off) but this is the first time that they were featured in a sale specifically for them.

During our 24-hour sale on Steam, we sold approximately 125 times our daily average from the week prior to the sale (when articles about our new game started coming out and gave us a sales boost) and approximately 230 times our daily average from the week before that (when we had no such boost).

Not only that, but in the week immediately following the sale, our daily average was about 35% better than it was immediately before the sale. Now admittedly, we had the benefit of getting additional coverage for our studio due to the articles about our upcoming new game, Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3, but since that coverage began before the sale and continued after the sale, I think the post-sale boost was primarily due to a lingering effect from the sale and not due to coverage of the new game.

From our experience, I think we can draw a few conclusions.

1 - The visibility of a sale is more important than the amount being discounted as long as the discount is noticeable. Our Deal of the Day did substantially better than our Holiday sale even though it was a smaller discount because we had much greater visibility for the Deal of the Day. In contrast, with the holiday sale, just about everything on the store was discounted and so our particular sale got little attention.

2 - Beyond the period of the actual sale, short-term discounts can offer long-term benefits as they get people talking about your game and may get you a position in the Top Selling charts, both of which can result in additional sales.

In short, periodic sales can be extremely beneficial but only if the sale has visibility. And though some people believe that short-term sales are just making potential future sales come sooner than they would have otherwise, in actuality, I believe this is a case where success breeds success - not only do sales not decrease your potentialfor future sales, they actually are more likely to increase your chances of future success.

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Just to reiterate a few points, we had numerous articles mentioning our company and games coming out around that time due to Rainslick3 coverage, and being the weekend of PAX probably helped to some degree as well, since PAX goers would potentially want to check out our previous games since we're doing the new Penny Arcade game.

I also want to say that this was just a day. Sales for that day were great. But you still have to have a good game with a decent-sized market to appeal to in order to succeed on a broader scale... I just don't want devs to think that the only way to make money on their games is to constantly slash the price in half or more.

Lars Doucet
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Great stats and insights! Thanks for sharing!

Simon Carless
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Robert - I also think that the fact that your game is cheap even at REGULAR price helped the post-sale 'halo', maybe. For example, if someone has a daily deal at 75% off ($2.49) and then it goes back up to $9.99, people coming to the page after the sale might be a bit less likely to bite, I think.

But considering your titles were _still_ only $3 after the sale, which is very cheap even for Steam, I feel like that might have helped the post-sale boost effect. But if devs out there have any other data...?

Robert Boyd
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Yeah, that's a good point. I think there's a halo effect regardless of original price, but that halo effect is likely to be stronger and last longer if the original price was cheap to begin with.

Kevin Reilly
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@ Robert, do you know how many other titles were on sale during the same period? I assume having Steam feature the game was also a boost to sales. BTW - agree w/William that having a good game is essential. Thanks for sharing!