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Numbers from Week 1
by jasonrohrerTuesday, February 4, 2014 [7:11 pm]

Today is the last day of the 25% launch-week discount for The Castle Doctrine. As I explained elsewhere, the game will never go on sale again, after today.

This plan (where the price rises slowly over time instead of starting high and getting deeply discounted later) was widely discussed. For people who might want to buy the game, there are no surprises on the horizon. Amazingly, the Steam Store page even has a live counter going. It looks like the launch discount will end at precisely 9:45am PST on Wednesday, February 5.


And thinking about surprises and gotchas, such a counter clearly wouldn't be displayed in the hours before an upcoming sale. "Just 24 hours left until the discount price kicks in!" Can you imagine that? I feel much better about the kind of openness that rising prices allow. And I didn't even have to ask Valve to open up---they put that counter in place automatically.

Speaking of openness, I figured today was a good day to share the full numbers from not just the first week on Steam, but also from the full 11 months of paid alpha sales too. So, first of all, how did the game do outside of Steam, through my own website? First, the big picture. This graph shows all off-Steam sales ever, for a grand total of 8,919 accounts sold, and a gross revenue of $73,077:


Okay, so there are three big spikes in that graph. First, back in March, there was the biggest off-Steam sales day ever. That was the day that I launched my paid alpha. In July, you can see a small spike when I released a trailer for the game. There's also quite a lot of turbulence in the graph around that time, because there was quite a lot of turbulence in the video game world about the game's themes, my personal stances, and so on.

The last two big spikes come right at the end, less than a week before launch. The first one, highlighted above on Thursday, was the day that the STEAL REAL MONEY Contest was announced. The next one, after that, is the day of my launch, as people exercised their last chance to get the game at 50% off. Here's a close look at that end period in the graph. During these three weeks alone, 3,841 accounts were sold for a gross revenue of $32,576:


The first small spike in this graph comes from the announcement of my alternative pricing scheme and all the controversy that swirled around that plan. Then comes the contest spike, which was already labeled in the previous graph. Finally, launch day, which was the third-biggest off-Steam sales day in Castle Doctrine history. Clearly, "the price is going to rise soon" drives sales in the same way that "the price just dropped" can, but with none of the nasty side-effects.

Those pretty graphs are screen grabs directly from FastSpring, which has the best data backend for tracking this kind of stuff that I've ever seen. And, since they let me keep 91.1% of the money, my net through them so far as been $66,573. That's pretty good for an off-Steam game made by one person with a $0 PR budget.

Okay so on to Steam. Of course, only a week has passed, so there's much less data to share. This graph shows a total of 6,546 accounts sold for a gross revenue of $78,562:


The biggest spike occurred on the first hour after launch, with another smaller spike around the same time the following day. This graph shows the daily totals:


After a sharp drop in the first two days, which brought in over $50,000 total, the descent has started to slow. The last available data point came from yesterday, when 342 accounts were sold for $4,107.

And, of course, I get to keep only 70% of this money, so my net so far from Steam is $54,993. Thus, between my own website and Steam, I've sold a total of 15,465 accounts for a net revenue of $121,566.

This might sound like a lot of money, but this is revenue from a project that took two full years to make. While $60K a year is way more than I could make doing a lot of things, it's probably way less than I would make as a programmer in the game industry. On the other hand, I only work half time (except during launch week!), eat three meals a day with my spouse and three children, and answer to no one.

Here, I've made an absolutely crazy, experimental game that is way off the beaten path for almost everyone who plays it---by far the most "out there" game that I've ever worked on---and it's not a commercial failure that will send me scrambling for a real job.

Well, success and failure are relative, of course. If I had a company of five other collaborators to support on this revenue, I'd be in serious trouble.

The full, eternal price of $16 will kick in tomorrow morning. Gasp! What will happen? Will I be crushed under the cruel black boot of the market and fade into obscurity as a result?

Stay tuned for next week's numbers to find out.

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