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  • Was It Worth Quitting My Job To Make A Game?

    [06.25.19]
    - Armaan Sandhu

  • Surviving on this income

    So I've made about $6420 in the first 3 months, and I expect to earn at least $500 per month going forward, from Steam alone. Considering upcoming console ports for the game + discounts and seasonal sales, I expect the number to be safely above that.

    How can I get by on this, and how does this work out for me? As I mentioned above, low costs of living in my country help tremendously. During my time as a junior architect, my starting salary was about $220. (I also earned anywhere between $70-120 every month from selling random t-shirt designs on Redbubble) During that time [during job, before game] my monthly expenditure was less than $150 (including rent, food, parties, everything) Of course, with no family to support etc I could afford to live in what was pretty much a dump (which I shared with my friend)

    Once I quit my job, I moved in with my parents for the duration of the game's development. I'm now planning to move out and live on my own again, this time my monthly expenditure shall be double of what it was before (as I'm moving to a bigger city which is also more expensive) Going by everything I've often heard, I'm guessing this still counts as a very low cost of living (do correct me if I'm wrong and if this is infact normal monthly expenditure wherever you live)

    Traffic sources

    I think discussing the source of traffic during this period is also important. Here are the major sources:

    Feb - 66k visits | March - 16k visits | April - 13k visits

    • Other product pages - 43% (Feb) | 47% (Mar) | 37% (Apr)

    Discovery queue - 38% | 43% | 35.4%

    New releases - 4.2% | 1.5% | ~

    More like this - 0.5% | 2.2% | 2.15% <----- needs to do better

    • External website - 17% | 7% | 9%

    Google, other, reddit about 5% each; review on RPS about 0.09%

    • Tag pages - 9% | 17% | 10%

    New and trending - 8% | 11% | 9.92% <-------I don't understand this one. Never caught the game trending (maybe I missed it) but how is it a source 3 months from release?

    Main takeaway: The discovery queue is a MAJOR source of traffic, and I'd be dead without that. Only yesterday I read this blog that talks about what factors affect a game's appearance on the queue, but it seems there's not much you can do to help that other than be a popular and appealing game with positive reviews.

    It would also seem that I wasn't affected by the October bug that killed discovery queue as a source of traffic for many games? I'm not sure.

    Wishlists:

    At the time of launch: ~3300 (Created the Steam page on Jan 2018, so the duration here is about 1 year)

    During Feb (release month) ~4400

    Current total wishlists 10,101 (3 months)

    Conversion rate - 4.9% (below Steam avg of 14%, expecting this to change with discounts and such)

    Main takeaway: wishlist numbers explode around release time.

    Upcoming plans

    A couple of days ago, I went through this excellent blog in an attempt to optimize my Steam page, and mainly improved my short description and prioritized my tags (read point 5 in the link - order matters) I also discovered steamlikes.com - a website that shows you which game's "More like this" your game appears on. At the time, I had 13 likes, and all games except Virginia were relatively unknown, or weren't released yet. My major aim was to get on Night in the Woods' m.l.t list, as that's a huge game with a lot of similarities, and I'm sure players of that game would be interested in this game as well.

    After optimizing my tags (a good mix of popular and unique tags, ordered properly, with similarities to NitW's tags) I was thrilled to find that my game now does appear on NitW's m.l.t. The likes have now moved up to 16. The website seems to update slowly, so this number might still go up.

    But mainly, my traffic from More like this has gone up slightly in the past week from 11 per day, to 28 per day (or 49 visits/ 1.5% per week consistently to 73/ 2.1% last week) I expect this to slowly continue to increase as well. (The discovery queue blog mentioned above does say that Valve has been reducing the importance of tags recently, so maybe this could've been even better a few months back)

    Edit: I also plan to get the game ported to consoles (talks are under way), sell game related merchandise, and start a Youtube channel to not only earn through it, but create a presence that comes in handy for the next release. Multiple sources of income of that sort can be very helpful, but of course, take time away from development itself (which is why I didn't start a channel for my first game, but I think I can take some time out for it now)

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