It’s a crowded market for indie games these days, especially on Steam, where the floodgate on new releases is open about as wide as it can go. According to Mike Rose, CEO of publisher No More Robots, sales and revenue are falling for mid-sized Steam releases, and the average game on Valve’s platform is making roughly half as much money as it would’ve a year ago.
Rose’s data analyses 170 games released on Steam between July 5 and August 6, excising games with fewer than ten user reviews – so nothing too tiny for the public to notice – and triple-A releases – so this is all about midrange games. “Regardless,” Rose says, “these are still all estimates, and should be treated as such.”
The average (median) game in this data sells around 1,500 copies – down 70% from 2018 – and makes around $16,000 in review – down 47% from 2018. Rose also breaks down games by price point, and despite the volume of competition, it seems that games are selling better at higher price points – not just in terms of revenue, but in terms of units sold.
“The main takeaway for me, personally,” Rose says, “is that developers are still pricing their games waaaay too low!” The average game priced at $21 or more sells around 5,000 copies, compared with 1,000 copies for games $10 or less, 2,000 copies for games $11-15, or 2,500 copies for games $16-20. (Obviously, the revenue is better at the higher price point, too.)
But regardless of where a given game falls on the price charts, it’s still getting tougher for indies to stand out. Rose suggests that the increasing volume of game releases, the popularity of free games like League of Legends and Fortnite, and the increasing backlog that all these titles and subscription services have brought us all play a part in making it tougher for these mid-range games to stand out.