Failure postmortems

Doses of realism from indie developers:

Chris Shrigley, “A Postmortem. Making Games Is Easy. Selling Them, Not So Much.":

I self published Immortal Darkness: Curse of The Pale King about a year ago, in October 2018. I published the game the same week as the Steam Halloween sale and the same week that RDR2 came out. Needless to say, my game debuted to utter indifference. No one knew about my game or cared enough about it to check it out, and it was quickly lost amid the swirl of everything going on that week. And it really only got worse from there.

Constantin Bacioiu, "[Post Mortem]: I thought I could ship at least 700 units to stay in business”:

I’m not having the best of time writing this post but I feel like I have to. I have been warned against going full time indie by everyone on the internet and by my friends and family. I believed I could make it, all I had to do was ship just 700 units of my game on steam. I’m not even close. And I’ve been in the industry for at least 7 years working for studios like Gameloft and Mobility-Games and as a freelancer and party-time indie dev. I’ve released a few games before on my own and I believed Steam to be the magical unicorn that has my back and fills up your pockets. Now, I’m not sure I’ll still have a house past December.

Bruno Bombardi, “Postmortem from an unknown indie dev - First launch on Steam”:

I’ll just say it, we had the goal to sell at least 1.000 copies on the first month. Our expectations weren’t THAT big, right? After all, we read that the average game on steam was selling around 32.000 copies on 2015. Yes, we know it’s a small game, made by a 2-person team, and it can’t quite compete with a lot of production-rich titles out on Steam, but we firmly believe our game is at least close to the average line, in terms of innovation, quality and duration. All the people who played it, liked it.


Finally, on September 15th, we released the full version of the game on Steam, with a price of 9,99 USD and a launch discount of 10%. And again, trailer, press release, website, presskit, facebook, twitter, reddit, indieDB, youtubers, some advertising.

Very little coverage. And around 200 copies sold in a month (100 on the first week). Kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Daniel West, “Good isnt good enough - releasing an indie game in 2015”:

Airscape was a total commercial failure. I’ve actually never heard of a game released on Steam (with some level of marketing) that has sold less copies than Airscape, although I’m sure they exist. Currently, the exact figure sits just shy of 150 copies sold across all distribution platforms. Even conservatively estimating 10% of lifetime sales at launch, we will barely break even on PR costs, never mind development costs.

Kyle Pittman, “When ‘Doing Everything Right’ Goes Wrong”:

Super Win the Game sold about 200 units in its first day, 700 in its first weeks, and 850 in its first month. As of the time of writing, it’s inching up on 900 units sold. That’s not good. There’s no way to spin that other than complete and total failure.

Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, “What does it really cost to open an indie studio? All your money, most of your life”:

In three years, I personally went from having $20,000 in savings to $35,000 in debt. After two unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns, I was on the verge of bankruptcy before signing a deal with Bandai Namco. After three years of work with no income, we finally could pay ourselves a salary.

Just to clarify: our deal with a publisher didn’t make us millionaires. In fact, only the sales of our upcoming game, GoD Factory: Wingmen, will determine if we’ll even be sustainable at this pace.

Every month scares me as I watch our funds melt at an alarming rate.