Zombie Accountant hit the Xbox Live marketplace just over a week ago, so I figured it would be a good time to share my thoughts on the process along with some sales data. I’ll also go over the sales of the WP7 version and what I’m working on next, just to keep things interesting.
Zombie Accountant entered AppHub Peer Review on Thursday, Nov 25th. This is my first game, and while I’ve been answering questions in the forums for a while, I don’t have much reputation. With no past releases, I didn’t garner any attention from other peer reviewers and had to wait until my game floated towards the top of the list (as games are sorted in ascending order by date entered into peer review). This was no real surprise, although it is a bit deflating to see games after yours start to get reviews. However, after 6 days I got my first review. Two days later (which felt like an eternity) and Zombie Accountant had accrued enough passes to be approved for the marketplace. This was excellent for two reasons: first, I had finally released a game for XBLIG! And second, it was going to hit the market late on Friday / early on Saturday, which is a beneficial time to appear on the New Releases list.
Sales on XBLIG
First off, my expectations for Zombie Accountant were not high. I’ve followed the “Share you sales numbers” thread for long enough to know that even great games can be buried before they get a few thousands downloads. For me, ZA was more about testing the process of releasing a game and getting over the mental barrier of never-having-shipped-an-indie-game. Getting trials and feedback was the next most important thing. Sales were just gravy.
Too many words! Let’s look at a pretty chart and some actual numbers:
I was stunned when I saw the download numbers. I never thought I’d reach 15K downloads, let alone within 10 days of release. The sales were a pleasant surprise too, though largely as a corollary to the trial numbers. I figured conversion would lie in the 5-10% range, which appears to be dead on. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not satisfied with that ratio. But it is what I expected.
As a nice consequence of these trial numbers, Zombie Accountant occupied the #1 spot on the Indie Games list at Xbox.com when sorted by “Best selling today”. It was like that in the US, the UK, Canada and even Germany. It was like that for three or four days! I’m pretty proud of that. (And no, it’s not #1 anymore.)
However, it’s obvious that “Best selling today” must refer to download numbers, and not actual sales. This is because another game, Epic Dungeon, sat in the #2 spot during a period where its developer shared downloads and sales stats. The number of downloads was just slightly less than that of Zombie Accountant (giving Epic Dungeon second place) while its sales were roughly 8x that of ZA. I believe the dashboard’s Top Download list’s ordering reflected actual sales, but I didn’t keep as close an eye on that.
The decline in downloads, sales and ratings is not surprising. If anything, I expected the drop-off to be more like 50% a day whereas it seems to be closer to 33%. There was also a nice uptick on its second weekend, reinforcing the notion that weekends do matter when it comes to release timing. Overall, I’m very happy.
Sales on WP7
Last week, Microsoft updated the AppHub with reports for WP7. This kinda makes my post on using analytics to track sales a bit redundant, although I think there is a wealth of data that can be gathered using this approach. For instance, I was taken aback at how few people look at the options, help and credits screens.
Anyway, I already had a good sense of how Zombie Accountant was performing on WP7, so the official reports were not a surprise. There are, however, still disappointing:
This chart shows total downloads. Total sales are 19. The reports are a bit wonky, in that they list “Paid”, “Trial” and “Free” numbers. Does a trial that gets converted to paid count for both? What if you just download the paid version right away? What the hell is free? A re-download? One user license on multiple phones? An update? Who knows.
So 19 sales in month. Pointless really. Unless I make another WP7 game, I won’t be getting a payout.
So WP7 results are gloomy. Other developers have had some success though, so I won’t write the platform off. I’m not targetting it at the moment though.
XBLIG is where it’s at! I’d also like to make a foray into PC gaming, through a portal like GamersGate or hosted on my own site. I’m sticking with XNA for now though, so that limits the cross-platform appeal for PC.
I’ve been playing around with few things to prototype my next project. First was to grab Farseer physics and mess around with that. Next was to implement 2D dynamic shadows on the GPU using Catalin Zima’s excellent tutorial. Lastly, I’ve been wading through the Procedural Content Generation wiki. I’ve always wanted to dabble with procedural levels, so I think my next project will involve that. I am undecided on whether procedural generation will end up in the final product or if I will just use it as a starting point to help me make content. Either way, I feel I’ll need the help when it comes to producing content. I’ve just implemented some dungeon generation from a series here by Dirk Kok. I’m happy with the initial results.
Take a look: