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Community Momentum

As of this writing, Steamspy reports the lovely OXENFREE has sold about 6,500 units in it’s first week or so. That’s a solid start, considering that recently most games made within what I’d estimate to be the $100K-$250K budget range have launched at around 2,000 units. 2,000 units isn’t bad, considering these games tend to sell between $8 and $20 – which is a revenue of about $25K. It’s not a break-even by a long shot, but it’s definitely a good start on the way there. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of talk about game launches becoming less relevant – and while it’s definitely true that livestreaming and discounts have made the long tail more important, I’d argue the launch is still relevant.

I’d like to think of it as community momentum, and the idea is best illustrated with Kickstarter. Kickstarters that hit 30% of their intended funding goal in their first week seem statistically likely to reach 90% by their last week, and get funded as people on the fence about pledging get pulled over by the Kickstarter being so close. While there’s no data beyond the Kickstarter finishing (and as such, there’s nothing to be said about long-term effects), the basic effect seems to mirror in indie games as well.

Community momentum isn’t as much about making money, though – it isn’t about virality either. It’s simply about sustained conversation about the game. Conversation about a game tends to have a gravity, something that pulls back towards the game. Like gravity in real life, the only way to get rid of that gravity is to gain enough momentum. Very few games truly break free, but for most games the obvious truth holds: the higher the community momentum, the less gravity pulls conversation back into a niche. The higher you go, the more people can see you from down on the surface. The more people that see your game, or conversation about it, the more likely they’ll start adding to your momentum. It’s an obvious and simple effect, but it’s worth considering when you’re working on figuring out the best approach to market or launch your game.