Hi everyone, we’ve been super busy supporting all the new players which have come to Outscape over the past two and a half weeks (we launched on Steam Early Access on October 22nd). Thanks for all of your help onboarding those new players!
One thing we did not anticipate was scoring a ‘Very Positive’ on Steam so early. It actually feels like ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ (the highest possible score) is within reach. At least 500 reviews are needed plus at least somewhere between 90% and 95% positive reviews. We are incredibly thankful to all the community members that purchased Outscape and also left kind and useful reviews for other players. At the time of writing, there are 98 reviews and 90% are positive. In fact, around half of the negative reviews came from China where connectivity is challenging. We’ve made some changes which seems to have helped this problem.
Here is our sales chart. As you can see we launched with a pop, but then things slowed.
A few things to note, there is on average a 20% sales tax (or VAT) to pay and then Steam’s commission. We also have a refund rate of 14.5% which is higher than the nominal 10% for early access games. All these things eat into the final figure we are able to invest back into the game. We also have quite high server costs per player, so we are not making much on a sale, as a result our scope to reduce prices is limited. Our strategy is to ensure that a wide audience feel that the game is both exciting and unique enough to justify the relatively high price for an Early Access game. At least the Steam reviews show that both existing and new players feel their money has been well spent!
We also stayed on the front page of Steam Early Access for almost two weeks in many regions which was a surprise given that ~60 new games are launching per day.
Every day following the launch we made some sort of small surplus we were able to put aside for future investment, however yesterday we crossed a line where we made our first daily loss (running costs were higher than income). This just makes us more determined, we feel we have a number of options at our disposal. Sales also pickup on weekends, so we are a way from making an overall loss.
Short/Medium term options we have to increase sales:
- Localize the game into several languages. We will launch in Russian soon as we have some Russian speaking team members. But also Germany looks like it could be a very strong market for us – we are considering asking for community help to localise given we already have a number of German speaking players.
- Make inviting friends more worthwhile (which will also drive sales). We are looking at ways we can continue to put steps forward towards full alliances. We are considering how to allow players to either start together or to allow you to donate a planet you already own as a starting position for another player. We are investigating if something could be delivered in time for the Steam Winter Sale.
- Paid acquisition – run Facebook or Adwords campaigns. We did a bit of experimenting, but it was costing around $7 per player acquired which, given our other costs, means at the moment it’s not worth it. We do feel like a lot of optimisation is possible here though but this is a time consuming job.
- Community Videos – A lot of new players comment on how little there is on YouTube. Some have said this is where they look before buying and the lack of content put them off. It would be great if the community could create more videos, maybe gameplay guides, strategy videos or even 2 minute videos focusing on a specific aspect of the game. To this effect we are going to count both YouTube and Twitch videos in our Community Goals (previously we only counted Twitch videos). Please help us!
- Vloging and Streaming – We could engage with various channels to see if they are willing to cover our game. This can get expensive though, we will investigate in the coming weeks.
- Steam – If we can get to and sustain ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ reviews, Steam’s algorithms should treat us quite differently and we should gain a lot more visibility. We also think that our relatively high refund rate probably doesn’t help us in Steam’s ranking system so we need to do more to improve the experience for those players who request a refund.
- Sales – Our relatively high cost base means any discounts would be quite small, but this remains an option. Whether this equates to more or less revenue overall remains to be seen. Ultimately we don’t think this should be part of our core strategy, but if times get hard it may help.
In summary though, our biggest problem is simply visibility. Most strategy gamers who stumble upon us, love the concept. But the reality is that very few players know about us right now.
Remember, this is all about making a surplus to invest back into the game. We want to hire more people and we’re doing ok. But we do need to sell around 40% more per day to be able to secure another developer (and convince them the job is stable enough). Of course, we’d love to get a team of 10 or 20 devs around this to do something truly mind blowing!
This brings us onto our Community Goals which we suggested to the community as ways players can help drive visibility in ways we just can’t. We update the goal charts daily here. Based on community feedback, players didn’t feel Twitch was always the right medium for Outscape videos and this goal didn’t feel quite right, so we are now tracking both YouTube and Twitch videos for this goal. Please do help us by YouTubing, even if it’s a short video about a single aspect of the game!
As you can see in the charts below, excellent progress has been made so far! 3 of the required 5 goals have been achieved (including the stretch goals for 2 of them). And the ‘Steam Discussions’ goal is not too far away from being reached either.
There’s a little way to go on some of the other goals still. But as we mentioned above, more Community Videos will both help increase sales and move another goal closer to being achieved. And although the review score is currently ‘Very Positive’, more reviews could push the score to ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ – which would be huge.
Another piece of good news, our servers and systems held up pretty well since launch and we have had a bit more time than expected to work on a couple of upcoming patches, bringing both fixes and new features to the game. More new on this to follow shortly.
– The Outscape Dev Team
PS: If you have been passively following Outscape, now would be a great time to dive in and purchase a copy – or if you are a fan of what we are building, please consider investing in the game by purchasing a copy – this will help us immensely in delivering the full game we all want to play!