In previous posts, I discussed what it’s like to develop and port games for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. Clearly, some platforms were much more difficult to develop for than others. But does the revenue earned from iOS and the PlayStation systems offset this frustration? In this post, we’ll take a look at how much money each platform makes for Thylacine Studios. Keep in mind that these values are very unlikely to be indicative of every company in the market – after all, we produce very niche games which probably appeal to a much different market than others.
These numbers are based on our most lucrative game, Siralim 2.
Siralim 2 for Windows, distributed on Steam, accounts for the majority of our sales at 58%. This shouldn’t be at all surprising considering Windows is the most popular operating system. There’s really not much to say about Windows – it’s easy to develop for, and is the most lucrative. If I had to pick only one platform to support, it would be Windows.
Most revenue comes from sales – most notably the Steam Winter Sale as well as those that I run on my own. Most other Steam-driven sales aren’t very useful – for example, I’ve only sold a couple hundred copies of Siralim 2 during the Steam Autumn Sale. Not only is there a lot of competition with so many games on Steam now, but most people are definitely holding out for the Winter Sale which will inevitably have lower prices for all games across the board.
It’s also interesting to note that none of my games have ever been featured on Steam. Despite having higher sales and more positive reviews than other games (Siralim 2 has 94% positive reviews), we can’t seem to find our way to the front page during flash sales or other sales. I’d imagine Steam would account for much more of our revenue if this were to ever happen.
The Mac version of Siralim 2 accounts for less than 1% of our annual sales. While that’s obviously quite low, it’s also very easy to port a game to Mac. In most cases, it’s as easy as clicking the “Compile for Mac” button rather than “Compile for Windows”. There’s a little more to it than that because Apple is a horrible company, but it normally only takes one day to test, debug, and prepare a game to run on Mac. I’d say it’s definitely worth supporting this operating system as long as you’re using an engine that makes it easy for you, such as GameMaker or Unity.
Much like Mac, Linux accounts for less than 1% of our annual sales as well. Linux is a bit more difficult to support since it’s a lot more likely that users might be missing some required runtimes and other software, but it’s really not a big deal either way. It’s just as easy to port a game from Windows to Mac as it is to port from Windows to Linux, so I think this platform is worth supporting as well. It also generates some decent press from Linux-based gaming websites, and as you know, any press is good press.
Android (Google Play)
Google Play accounts for a little over 6% of our annual sales. While that might not seem like a lot, keep in mind that Android also helps to sell the game on other platforms because our games all support cross-platform cloud saving. Many of our players purchase our games on multiple platforms so they can play them both at their desk and in the bathroom. And regardless of that, 6% is nothing to scoff at – this amount of revenue is almost enough to cover development costs of the game itself!
Stay away. Stay far, far away. I’ve attempted to distribute our game on two different Amazon platforms so far: the Amazon App Store and Amazon Underground.
The Amazon App Store works like any other Android store. Users simply purchase the game and then they have access to it forever. The problem is that, despite being the second largest Android store, Amazon doesn’t have enough market share to garner a decent profit. Aside from that, they have some pretty annoying technical requirements that make development a nuisance. The Amazon App Store earns less money for us than any other platform or store.
Amazon Underground is interesting. It allows people to play your game for free and access all DLC and in-app purchases at no cost. Developers are paid for each minute users play your game. The problem is that Amazon Underground only pays out $0.002 per minute. Yes, that’s 1/5 of one cent. That means a player needs to play your game for over 8 hours to earn developers $1. Most games don’t even last that long, but luckily Siralim will last most players far longer than that.
Unfortunately, that also means that I need thousands of players who are willing to play the game on Amazon Underground in order to make any decent amount of money, and that’s simply not practical for a niche RPG. In fact, I’m guessing that’s the case for most games. Aside from that, Amazon Underground has some pretty ridiculous technical requirements that make it an absolute chore to develop for. Right now, the Amazon Underground versions of Siralim and Siralim 2 don’t run very well on some phones, and crash for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, I also can’t remove these games from the Amazon Underground program – Amazon simply doesn’t allow me to do so. Right now, Siralim has a 3.5 star rating on Amazon, while Siralim 2 has a 1.5 star rating. Cool.
As you might imagine, Amazon Underground earns so little money for me that it’s not even worth providing you with a number.
iOS (App Store)
I’ve done enough complaining about Apple lately, so I’ll spare you from me repeating it again here. iOS earns about 1% of my annual sales. Not bad, but definitely not good, and it’s absolutely not worth the time it takes for me to port the game to phones. I think a lot of it has to do with the game itself, though – a lot of people don’t like on-screen virtual controls. Still, it’s strange that Android earns so much more money for me than iOS despite having a lot more apps and games that people need to sort through in order to find my own. Siralim 3 and The Negative will have much more intuitive touch controls, and I’ve also learned a lot more about creating higher-quality storefronts since I released my last few games, so we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out for iOS in 2018.
PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita
The PlayStation platforms account for the remaining ~31% of our annual sales. These are huge, largely-unexplored platforms for independent developers. I don’t think it’s necessarily worth the time it takes to learn all the intricacies of developing for PlayStation just yet since in the time it took me to launch my games on these platforms, I could have made a whole new game. But now that I know how to do it, it’s a lot easier and I’ll continue to support PlayStation 4 and all future Sony platforms for as long as I can.
However, I’ve been in talks with a company called Limit Run Games this year, and it sounds like we’ll be releasing a limited supply of physical copies of Siralim and Siralim 2 for PS4 and Vita in early 2018. Sales are projected to be so high that it’ll nearly double my total revenue across all platforms. In that case, PlayStation is by leaps and bounds the most lucrative platform.