Let's do a Steam market analysis to see if my upcoming game Witchmore is going to make money or not. We're going to:
- Compile a list of comparable games on Steam
- Estimate their revenues
- Estimate Witchmore's development cost
- Compare estimated revenue to development cost – will it be profitable?
Watch on YouTube (if you prefer)
Defining the genre
I've heard these games called single-stick shooters, bullet heavens, casual action roguelikes, and everything between. We're talking about games like Vampire Survivors, 20 Minutes Till Dawn, Soulstone Survivors, and any of their cousins.
For simplicity's sake let's call them bullet hell arena games?? IDK
The spreadsheet data
Once you know the genre you're investigating, it's easy to get a list of similar games. Here are two ways:
- YouTube compilation videos. (I can't find the link but) I found a video on YouTube, something like "100 casual roguelike bullet hells".
- Find a comparable game on Steam and click "More like this".
Let's look at the data I used:
There's lots of useful data in this sheet. I included columns for Game, Developer, number of games released, Art Style, Early Access (or not), Demo (or not), Release Date, Price, All Reviews (e.g. "Very Positive"), Boxleiter number, Lifetime Revenue, URL, and Notes (just to jot down thoughts).
After refreshing the list (see video where I walk through this), I trimmed it down to only include games I felt had success that I could recreate. Omitting the data from hit games like Brotato or Vampire Survivors keeps my expectations in check.
That said, once the data is compiled we arrive at some interesting numbers:
Spreadsheet data highlights
- Average price is $3.87 (I figured it would be in the $2.99-$4.99 range).
- Average developer has released 2.62 Steam games (I'm in this range).
- Vast majority of the games are 2D (this is good for comparison reasons).
- Most of these games are Early Access (again, good for my purposes).
- Average review count is 501.
- Average release date is around August 2022 (approaching 1 year!).
- Average revenue guess: $34,146.
- Average lifetime revenue guess: $170,728.
Based on these estimations, it sounds like a solid 2D game in this genre can expect to earn somewhere around $35k in the first 6-8 months after launch. In its lifetime, one of these games could earn more like $170,000.
Witchmore development cost
It's tough to guess how long I've been working on Witchmore. I've been tinkering with it on and off for several months, but only recently began to dedicate my full energy to it. In the tradition of all this rough, hand-wavy data we've got going on, I'm just going to say:
So far I've been working on Witchmore for about 3 months fulltime.
My best guess is that before launch, total dev time will be more like 9 months.
How much does 9 months of dev time. cost? Time for more rough data! There's an industry standard to estimate dev costs:
It's funny how money works, isn't it? At my first job I made way less than that, and at my last job I made way more. It's basically impossible to just generalize and say "all dev time is worth this amount" but $10k holds up fairly well so let's just use it.
So now we can do some simple math! (9 months * $10k) = $90,000.
Yikes! (You have witchlisted the game, right??)
Again folks, these numbers are rough, but let's look at where we landed:
- Estimated potential ~6 month revenue: ~$35k
- Estimated potential ~5 year lifetime revenue: ~$170k
- Estimated potential Witchmore launch cost: $90k
- Estimated potential Witchmore lifetime earnings: $80k ($170k - $90k)
If my plan were to launch Witchmore and walk away, I would say things were looking pretty grim. With a cost of $90k and an initial revenue of ~$35k, I'd be taking a big hit.
However! I think the hidden story about these games is that when the developers devote themselves to their games, the players recognize this & support them. I'll be launching Witchmore into early access and "doing it right" this time with frequent updates for content and of course bug fixes etc.
I couldn't find it. I swear Ryan Clark linked to a spreadsheet in one of his videos, which is where I got my spreadsheet template from. There's just too much Clark Tank to find it on my own but if you find it link it to me!
Anyway here are the general resources that I used to execute this method:
- The Clark Tank
- How to Market a Game
- Using Steam reviews to estimate sales
- Boxleiter Number
- Steam Revenue Calculator (Chrome extension)
- ... and music by Joshua Morse!
Support my work ❤️
Phew, this took a long time to make! If it's helpful to you, please do support my work by buying my game dev book or luxurious tutorial package, checking out the video gear wishlist, and of course witchlisting Witchmore on Steam. Thank you!
Coming up: more about making profitable games. Exciting times ahead.