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The_Typer

Successful or No?

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So it's been established that we get to watch a documentary of a game. That game has shipped today and I'm glad it has. I've been so excited the past two weeks to play this game, it's so wonderful and rewarding to watch a game like this grow from an idea and concept into this game. The fact that I saw this grow and all is amazing and I can only wish Double Fine does more of these documentaries in the future.

That being said...

I know we weren't entitled to this, but is it possible the staff gives us updates on the success of the game week-by-week?

Or at least lets the backers access a thread with those reports?

Of course as a backer I'm moreso interested in this just for the sake of seeing how well this will help Broken Age Act 2's development.

That does seem like a rather heavy request though, marketing/sales reports aren't something you can just share and I'm sure people that don't want to know if the game's successful or not want Backer updates on this information. But perhaps just a simple report in a thread, "The game's sales are performing at expectations, under expectations, or beyond expectations" could be a way to talk about it.

This also is a part of a game's development in some ways, post-launch, more bug-fixes, the process of knowing when a game's 100% done since its being worked on post-launch in most cases.

I realize we may get information like this in a month or two from now, but the game is out! I'm sure all the backers want to know if the game is selling well!

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Well, right now it sits as Steams #5 best seller, in-between the daily and weekly deals at 33-60% off. So I'd say so far, so good.

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Yeah and I'm sure we'll see continued trends with sales or the launch week.

But how much will it be selling a month from now? That's still kinda relevant.

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Well, there are 1,673 people playing Broken Age RIGHT NOW.

That seems okay. Gotta imagine that most of those people aren't backers, now, and plenty of people who bought it aren't playing obviously. It was over 2000 earlier. I think that's a very solid number for an adventure game.

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I've never considered looking at the stats on people playing a game at launch day...

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Well, I'd be interested in units sold, anyway. 10,000? 100,000? Justin said 500,000 would be the winner. If DF budgeted with about 3 million of their own money now, 200,000 might be needed to get the money back (assuming 70% of $25 each)?

So yes. Numbers would be really interesting, @DF.

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I think they wll keep these numbers under wraps for a while unless some kind of special milestone is reached.

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Well, I'd be interested in units sold, anyway. 10,000? 100,000? Justin said 500,000 would be the winner. If DF budgeted with about 3 million of their own money now, 200,000 might be needed to get the money back (assuming 70% of $25 each)?

So yes. Numbers would be really interesting, @DF.

Eh, not necessarily. I believe there's costs involved in putting your game up on Steam and marketing it.

In the new documentary they talked about how the new Max Payne ran a month long ad of sorts or campaign.

Same with any game on Steam, you do have to pay for that space.

That's why indie developers these days look to Greenlight. $100 and the vote of the public, and Valve will work to get that game up on Steam to purchase or be free in some cases.

Otherwise I believe your game does have to meet some criteria and you have to pay to put it up there. Now I'm not saying it's just the one cost of putting a game up on Steam for digital distribution and then DF has paid what they need to. But there's time and money invested in the hours spent working on the game post-release, as well as the growing ad campaign and whatever other markets DF wants to put this game out on. I'm sure there were some costs involved in getting the game on Android as well.

I'd imagine (not positive) it's sort of like the $1,000,000 ad campaign Valve took up for Left 4 Dead. $1,000,000 invested just on billboards, Times Square space for ads, television and internet ads, all that ramps up money costs.

It'll be interesting to see if DF talk about this and it's even a highlighted part of the next 2 Player documentary video, when to stop advertising, when to throw the game onto a sale, etc. etc.

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Well, I'd be interested in units sold, anyway. 10,000? 100,000? Justin said 500,000 would be the winner. If DF budgeted with about 3 million of their own money now, 200,000 might be needed to get the money back (assuming 70% of $25 each)?

So yes. Numbers would be really interesting, @DF.

Eh, not necessarily. I believe there's costs involved in putting your game up on Steam and marketing it.

In the new documentary they talked about how the new Max Payne ran a month long ad of sorts or campaign.

Same with any game on Steam, you do have to pay for that space.

That's why indie developers these days look to Greenlight. $100 and the vote of the public, and Valve will work to get that game up on Steam to purchase or be free in some cases.

Otherwise I believe your game does have to meet some criteria and you have to pay to put it up there. Now I'm not saying it's just the one cost of putting a game up on Steam for digital distribution and then DF has paid what they need to. But there's time and money invested in the hours spent working on the game post-release, as well as the growing ad campaign and whatever other markets DF wants to put this game out on. I'm sure there were some costs involved in getting the game on Android as well.

I'd imagine (not positive) it's sort of like the $1,000,000 ad campaign Valve took up for Left 4 Dead. $1,000,000 invested just on billboards, Times Square space for ads, television and internet ads, all that ramps up money costs.

It'll be interesting to see if DF talk about this and it's even a highlighted part of the next 2 Player documentary video, when to stop advertising, when to throw the game onto a sale, etc. etc.

Well, marketing costs are just the amount of time DF staff spend on marketing tasks rather than the game. All the marketing so far has been digital, so there are no materials overheads there, and they're not paying to get advertising space anywhere as far as I can see. I certainly haven't seen any billboards or trailers anywhere but on youtube, or banner ads, etc.

Valve take a cut of the Steam sales, but as far as I know they don't require an upfront cost, otherwise many of the indies now on the store simply wouldn't be able to afford it.

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Well, I'd be interested in units sold, anyway. 10,000? 100,000? Justin said 500,000 would be the winner. If DF budgeted with about 3 million of their own money now, 200,000 might be needed to get the money back (assuming 70% of $25 each)?

So yes. Numbers would be really interesting, @DF.

The pressure is still off compared with publishers, because they aren't 3 million in the hole - it's not 3 million investment they have to recoup multiple times before seeing profit, it's profits that have gone towards funding independently. So it's sustainable - they raised 3 million, invested it in development, whatever they make back doesn't have to match that 3 million, but it will partially determine the budget they have available for self-funding future projects (along with sales of merchandise, sales of other games like Spacebase and Hack and Slash and unannounced stuff).

Or, to put it simply, yeah, they spent 3 million, but because it's not 3 million debt, they don't have to be quite so worried about recovering it.

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I've been a little bit worried ever since they talked about investing their own money into the project, and how the future independence of the company relied on its success. After watching the latest episode and being reminded of the blood and tears that went into making Broken Age, I had to try to get a sense of how well the game was doing.

Some reading material :

Eldritch: Mountains of Post-Mortem-ness : an indie developer shares the sales figures for his game. The article also contains a link to the Dustforce sales figures. In both cases it is pretty encouraging to see the effect of Steam sales and humble bundles in the long term. Finally, there's the article Defender's Quest: By the Numbers, Part 2 with more graphs to study.

After reading those, I made a misguided attempt to correlate some of these figures with the average player count on steam for each of these games ( http://steamcharts.com/app/252630#All http://steamcharts.com/app/65300#All http://steamcharts.com/app/218410#All ) and compare it with Broken Age ( http://steamcharts.com/app/232790#1m ), as it is the only measure of success we have available to us. It's obviously a very flawed way to go about things. When working out a ratio of sales to average player count, I tried to focus on the spikes in sales as data points, but I imagine the degree of eagerness of people to immediately play the game when they buy it on a sale must be lower than the rest of the time.

Still, with that wildly inconsistent ratio (anywhere between 10 to 46 sales per 1 daily average player count) I think we can safely estimate the order of magnitude of sales for Broken Age to be in the tens of thousands. Which is an OK figure, given that we can expect more sales throughout the year (press coverage of act 2 release, steam summer and winter sales). Beyond that, it's pure guesswork. My crystal ball says 65k sales so far.

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Well, I'd be interested in units sold, anyway. 10,000? 100,000? Justin said 500,000 would be the winner. If DF budgeted with about 3 million of their own money now, 200,000 might be needed to get the money back (assuming 70% of $25 each)?

So yes. Numbers would be really interesting, @DF.

The pressure is still off compared with publishers, because they aren't 3 million in the hole - it's not 3 million investment they have to recoup multiple times before seeing profit, it's profits that have gone towards funding independently. So it's sustainable - they raised 3 million, invested it in development, whatever they make back doesn't have to match that 3 million, but it will partially determine the budget they have available for self-funding future projects (along with sales of merchandise, sales of other games like Spacebase and Hack and Slash and unannounced stuff).

Or, to put it simply, yeah, they spent 3 million, but because it's not 3 million debt, they don't have to be quite so worried about recovering it.

Huh? I'm not sure what voodoo logic you're applying to this, but the game cost $6 mil to make. $3 mil of that was earned back through pre-orders (Kickstarter). The other $3 million is investment that needs to be made back if the game is to be considered profitable. You can't go around making games that cost more than they sell for.

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Huh? I'm not sure what voodoo logic you're applying to this, but the game cost $6 mil to make. $3 mil of that was earned back through pre-orders (Kickstarter). The other $3 million is investment that needs to be made back if the game is to be considered profitable.

...

That is voodoo logic.

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Are you people serious?

What are you failing to understand?

The profit (P) made on a product is the total revenue (TR) of its sales minus its total cost (TC) of production.

P = TR - TC.

The game cost about $6 mil in TC.

P = TR - $6 mil

The game has already made approximately $3 mil in revenue due to Kickstarter sales of preorders and merchandise. This is VERY approximate, because all those goodies have marginal costs to produce. (It's debatable whether merchandise sales ought to be considered revenue for the game, but I don't want to confuse you so we'll keep them in. Also, I'm not sure how the documentary was funded.)

P = $3 mil - $6 mil

Therefore, the current profit on the game is NEGATIVE $3 million.

Look it up, I guess. I'm not sure how this is hard to understand.

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Are you people serious?

What are you failing to understand?

The profit (P) made on a product is the total revenue (TR) of its sales minus its total cost (TC) of production.

P = TR - TC.

The game cost about $6 mil in TC.

P = TR - $6 mil

The game has already made approximately $3 mil in revenue due to Kickstarter sales of preorders and merchandise. This is VERY approximate, because all those goodies have marginal costs to produce. (It's debatable whether merchandise sales ought to be considered revenue for the game, but I don't want to confuse you so we'll keep them in. Also, I'm not sure how the documentary was funded.)

P = $3 mil - $6 mil

Therefore, the current profit on the game is NEGATIVE $3 million.

Look it up, I guess. I'm not sure how this is hard to understand.

The bit you're missing from this is that there's a difference between talking about whether a game is profitable in its own right, or whether a company is currently profiting from a game, and it's an important one. Broken Age didn't happen in isolation, it's not a closed economic system.

Imagine double fine's money was all in a big bucket. Everything they make from everywhere goes into that bucket. That's not an accurate picture because all the titles have seperate funding models, but it'll do.

Double Fine gets about 3 million crowd funding in the bucket. Then they sell games A, B, and C on steam or Humble Bundle or whatever and it makes them another 3 million in profit.

They take the first 3 million out of the bucket and invest it in the development of Broken Age. Then they take the second 3 million out of the bucket and invest it in the development of Broken Age. It doesn't matter where it came from, this is their big bucket o' funds, this is all 'in the black'. This isn't money they owe to anyone, it's money they can spend as they please. It's no-strings-attached money, whether it be from sales or from crowdfunding (granted they've promised to spend the crowdfunding money in a certain way so couldn't choose otherwise, of course, but in principle it's money in the bucket)

Now what might happen is that they make less back from Broken Age than they took out of the bucket. Ideally they want to grow, which would mean putting more money in the bucket than you take out. But from day 1, the big ol' bucket is being refilled, so from day one it's no-strings attached money which is theirs to spend. That's what I mean when I say the pressure is off. If they don't make $6 million back, they're not in the hole, they're still making money that gets put back into the bucket to fund the next round of games and remain independent. i.e. they could empty the bucket, take $10 million out of the bucket to make a game, sell it, make back $6 and then immediately use that $6 to make two smaller games. It's theirs, even if they're operating with less funds than they started.

This is fundamentally different from what would have happened with publisher investment.

Let's say a publisher had given them $6 million dollars to make Broken Age (would never happen, but let's imagine). The deal would have been, "Okay, you have this $6 million dollars now... but it's not going anywhere near that bucket of yours. No, you have to keep it in a seperate bucket, let's call it the Publisher Funding Bucket. Use it to make the game, and then when you sell it, you'll get a 30% cut of the sales. And depending on how nice we are, once you've filled that Publisher Funding Bucket back up to $6 million, THEN you can start filling your big ol' bucket up with 30% of further profits. But actually, we're probably not that nice and will only let you put the money in your own budget once our investment has been recouped twice or more over.

In this situation, even when a game is profitable for a publisher, the developer may never see a dime, so they never get to the point where ANY funds get put back into the bucket to fund the next round of games and remain independent.

So that's one distinction that isn't at all trivial.

The next thing left out of your analysis is kinds of value. The monetary value of Broken Age to DF isn't just the money it makes back on sales. It's also, for example what it does to the company reputation, which will affect all future proceeds. It's how it is perceived as a success/failure by everyone else which are all things that are less tangible than sales sheets but have a direct impact on the future viability of the company. The simplest possible analysis is profit from direct sales minus initial investment, but it isn't one that's actually very good at measuring how valuable a property really is to a company.

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If you say so. I have a hard time believing that anybody at DoubleFine would be happy with their game earning back less in direct sales revenue than it cost to make.

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If you say so. I have a hard time believing that anybody at DoubleFine would be happy with their game earning back less in direct sales revenue than it cost to make.
Agreed! Ideally all the games should make back more than they cost (and I think Broken Age will easily do this) but there's still a huge difference between the bucket not getting filled back up to the brim, and the bucket not getting filled up at all. The former lets them carry on working (although possibly a smaller budget, depending on other sales, because remember this isn't a closed system) while the latter means that pretty much every time they make a game, they have to rely on landing a shoddy deal.

If all their games were making back significantly less than they put in, then that wouldn't be long-term sustainable, of course. But I don't think that's something we have to worry about here.

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If you say so. I have a hard time believing that anybody at DoubleFine would be happy with their game earning back less in direct sales revenue than it cost to make.

I agree. They've spent $6.3M total then on development and reward fulfillment. I guess we can view the Kickstarter money as an advance on profits, so that leaves $3M to make on sales to break even.

Justin said that 500k was his wet dream sales figure, now that would (at the current price point) bring is $12.5M before any Steam commissions, which is four times the break even total. However, the game (quite probably) won't sell 500k units at $24.99.

The game needs to sell ~120k units at the current price point to be profitable. It probably needs to sell around 250k units to be profitable at a level where it can be the start fund for the next project, in other words help ensure DF's independence. 500k units would set DF up with another two year project off of Broken Age profits, which is what we're all hoping for.

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About 70%. I posted the ratio above. They need ~200.000 copies sold to earn roughly three million at $25.

@Alamass: Interesting. And some mid-sized 10.000s does sound like a realistic figure at this point. Perhaps they'll announce when the first 100.000 are sold -- that's something that can be used for marketing too, after all.

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There are no investors, the funding is no-strings, or at least the strings are like the Ouya deal 'short term exclusivity on consoles' and so inconsequential.

I'm not surprised it's dropping position. I think the game will have a long tail, and also several spikes, not least of which will be once Act 2 is released.

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Well, there are 1,673 people playing Broken Age RIGHT NOW.

That seems okay. Gotta imagine that most of those people aren't backers, now, and plenty of people who bought it aren't playing obviously. It was over 2000 earlier. I think that's a very solid number for an adventure game.

Oh.... sorry, I was idleingPLAYING for the trading cards. Didn't realize I'd mess up your statistical analysis of new people playing :P

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I think it's pretty impossible to determine the success based on the information we have. We don't have actual figures, we have a $6m ballpark, which may be budgeted (but not yet spent - more likely) or actual. [And who knows what in there is dependent on the reception of Act 1]

Is Steam still taking 30% off the top? Are the additional non-backer funds completely string-free, or is some of that a loan from someone like Dracogen?

I think it's generally a bit worrying that it's dropping position on the Steam top-sellers chart, even with the vagaries of the relative-sales figures there, but this game will likely have an extraordinarily long tail.

Last I heard, (from a website citing a leaked memo/email from some inde company) steam is still doing 30%.

However, just to make things more complicated: Double fine get 10% of all broken age tradingcards/booster packs/backgrounds/emoicons sold on the steam market place. Trading cards usually go for 11-15 cents (currently twenty) and DF is guaranteed a penny per sale. Backgrounds/emoicons usually are around 2 cents (once again, penney per sale) (unless it's an awesome rare emoticon), booster packs are around 30 cents (currently $1.28). And foil cards usually hover around a dollar? (Don't usually check).

Double fine's hardest Broken Age Puzzle: Figuring out how much money Double Fine makes off Broken Age. Enjoy the challenge! (Personally, I'm going to look around for hint coins or a walkthrough or something)

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Something else to consider is Adventure games are long sellers and always have been. I often feel like a new adventure and if there's not a new release I'll randomly start looking for stuff.

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It's important to distinguish between "successful(1)", i.e. having a non-shrinking account aka surviving another year, and "successful(2)", i.e. ending up with a larger account than you started with.

Here's how I understand it:

When DF receives money from a publisher (say, for a project like Brutal Legend), that pays their bills at the DF office for a while, but it doesn't necessarily grow them, and it might actually restrict their growth. While it's not the same as taking a loan from the publisher (i.e. accruing negative money), it does kinda result in a kind of negative growth, because IF any profit is made on the game, the larger percentage of it is going to go to the publisher (i.e. you don't have to pay all the money back, but you do have to fork over some---possibly all---of the growth). In the end, Double Fine is still able to pay its bills in that kind of deal, but they don't necessarily lose money, and they don't necessarily accrue debt. The publisher model is a "staying alive" kind of success, but getting the "growth" kind of success out of a publisher is much harder.

When you look at Broken Age, though, it's different. This is like thousands of tiny angel investors all chipping in. Basically, throwing free money at Double Fine. It's their money to use, they don't have to pay it back, and IF any profit results from the product, 100% of that profit goes to Double Fine from day one.

So the challenge with a publisher is twofold: 1) Try to make a game that audiences will like but that your publisher isn't so afraid of that they run away screaming and take all their money with them; 2) While trying not to scare publishers away, also make the game so awesome that it sells blockbuster copies and you get a cut of the publisher's profit.

With a kickstarter game, the challenges are also twofold: 1) Don't do anything that pisses off the backers. That's probably a lot easier than not scaring away a publisher, because publishers are scared of huge stupid things that individual members of a specific niche market are either not afraid of or actually rather enjoy. 2) Make the game good enough so that at least one person who was not a backer buys it. If you only spent the money you earned from kickstarter, then that one person is growth, b*tches.

So when it comes to the $3mil that DF got from KS, that was an automatic "staying alive another year" success. There is no negative money there. That money was theirs to spend, and they spent it (on themselves, which is important to note), and so 100% of that money was a net win.

The other money DF spent on Broken Age was also their money. It was money that they made from Steam sales, Humble Bundle sales, new ports of their old games, etc. Some have speculated that possibly Dracogen or other angel investors chipped in on the second injection of funding, and that's entirely possible, but those angel investors are no different than kickstarter's backers. That is money given to them in good will, and it is theirs.

Let's put it in the form of a simple analogy: Say it is your birthday, and all of your friends and family members give you a card. Every card has anywhere between $5 to $50 inside. When you count up all your money, you were given a total of $300 for your birthday. You then spend all $300 as well as a $20 you already had in your wallet to buy a $320 stereo that is awesome. You "lost" money in this situation because $300 wasn't enough for the stereo, and you even have less money than you started with, because you bolstered the $300 with an additional $20 you already had. But you spent all $320 of your own money ON YOURSELF, so you didn't REALLY "lose" it. You used it, which is what it was there for.

For a business, the above kind of success is adequate, but ideally you'd want to spend $320 and get returned at least $321.

IN OTHER WORDS:

Broken Age is already a huge success in the sense of "studio stayed alive for another year". Success type 1 achieved.

Furthermore, every time someone who is not a backer purchases Broken Age, it's contributing toward another year of success type 1.

But ideally what DF (and fans!) would LOVE is if enough non-backers purchased Broken Age that it returns twice what it cost. EVEN IF IT DOESN'T, it was still a success in the sense of staying alive. But growth, for a business, is always the goal you're crossing your fingers for. Staying alive for another year is success, but it's a scarier kind of success---like a rickety old bridge. Growth is MUCH better. Growth is another word for "hakuna matata, mother f**kers".

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I'm not surprised it's dropping position. I think the game will have a long tail, and also several spikes, not least of which will be once Act 2 is released.

By the way, while it may have dropped quite a bit at one point, now it's back at #6 on the top sellers list.

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I like to judge some games' sales based off my friends list.

Out of the 147 friends I have on Steam, 9 of them own Broken Age, which is up from 4 during the backer period, and up from 7 from this morning.

Keep in mind that these results are skewed because I have people from DFAF on my list, 5 of those 9 are people from this forum.

This isn't really a good way to judge how successful the game is, but I find it fun to watch, especially seem aside the 8 or so people on my list who are from the forum, none of the others have any real connection and are just a random(ish) sample. I remember years ago I had about 4 people on my list who owned Psychonauts, most from the forum, it was barely anything. Somehow over the last year or two Psychonauts has risen to be owned by 25 people on my list, that's just amazing.

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Seeing that BA has been on the top 100 list since the pre-sales started I'd figure it has been making money steadily and might even be close to breaking even at this point. It's been quite a visible game after all, one of the most visible one from Kickstarter funded ones, as many sites have been following it.

I do hope though, that this matter is discussed in the document as well in a bit more detailed manner as well.

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