Plus newsletter example: April 2022's big new winners (& losers?) on Steam
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[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert Simon Carless. This newsletter - co-written by our data/ops co-ordinator Alejandro - is normally exclusive to GameDiscoverCo Plus subscribers, but we’re making this one free as an example.]
Joyous Friday, Plus subscribers. This time out, we’re finishing up the week by poking contentedly at data from last month on Steam. There’s a lot of it to put together - and maybe some successful games you haven’t hard of?
But that’s how it goes in the Wild West of video game sales nowadays - all kinds of non-conventional niches can do super well. So let’s check it all out, now…
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Steam’s April ‘first week on sale’ winners… and losers?
Since April 2022 just ended, we thought it might be good to start with a rundown of what games actually launched strongly on Steam in that month. (We know that Steam isn’t the whole market. But it’s an important lead indicator.)
BTW, important note: the median ‘Hype Score to First Week Ratio’ for games that launched with more than 500 Hype points in April was 0.16. (It seems reliably around that number!)
First, the top games by ‘# of Steam reviews in their first week on sale’, date-adjusted (above). Some particular notes on these:
OK, we’ve hyped Lego Star Wars a whole bunch already, but you can see it sold 3x better than ‘expected’, even, in the first week. And it’s almost doubled its first week review numbers already, so it’s still going hard.
There are two very Chinese-centric games high on the list: open-world survival game Cultivation Tales (which has Mostly Negative reviews right now, btw!), and the hilarious-looking (but also Mostly Negative-reviewed, and no English language version) Retirement Simulator. Grey-market Steam still big in China, then.
Looking at overperforming games, Hype to first week ratio-wise, seems like The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (10x expected!) and Peglin (4x expected!) are two of the clear standouts. Oh, and horror cooking game Ravenous Devils - the subject of one of next week’s newsletters - has also overperformed by 10x.
Some of the other titles have done great, but ‘expectedly’ great. For example, Dune: Spice Wars was on target to be the #3 most anticipated game of the month, and ended up the #5 top-performing game. (More or less in line with expectations, and a great result.)
So, let’s also look at games that converted their ‘Hype’ particularly badly:
Incidentally, ‘N/A’ in reviews/Week 1 occurs when a game gets less than 10 Steam reviews in its first week. Some interesting trends here, too:
The N/As: Split was the game we identified had a follower-inflating ‘incident’ that was almost certainly fake - so it was never likely to do that well. (Oh, and Kingdom Workshop isn’t released, despite passing its release date, so that explains that!)
The 0.01/0.02s: top-down mech shooter Uragun is only Early Access, but def. launched slow - it’s not a super popular genre? And cybernoir point & clock Chinatown Detective Agency also underperformed, partly due to some unconventional game design decisions (save files/Internet searches). Also genre?
The 0.03s/0.04s: good-looking tactical RPG The Iron Oath is doing OK, just had a LOT of followers on EA launch, so isn’t matching that pace; Prehistoric Kingdom is similar - 600 Very Positive reviews in Early Access so far, but ‘expected’ would be more like 2,000+ based on Hype.
So these games all performed 4x to 15x worse than we would have ‘hoped’ based on median. But as discussed, there’s no easy predictability of results here. (Early Access does have a dampening effect, but you should make some of the $ up on 1.0 launch.)
And overall, it would be good if we started taking ‘velocity going into launch’ into account somehow in these charts. (A number of these titles had long-term wishlist/follower additions, but not much interest around launch.)
Next week & this week on Steam - a zip through the basics!
We’re running a little long this week, but let’s have a hack through next week’s big potential debuts on Steam and break them down a bit, shall we? Chart above, detail here:
Firstly, we have Lavapotion’s debut title Song of Conquest - published by Coffee Stain Publishing branch. With over 19,100 followers, this game combines turn-based combat with RPG elements and resource management - with a really good-looking pixel-art style. Expecting big things…
We Were Here Forever is the latest game in the ‘We Were Here…’ franchise from Total Mayhem Games. This co-op first-person puzzle adventure has 9,500 followers - and previous titles have good reviews and impressive sales numbers, despite being kinda ‘under the radar’. While the game seems to be quite similar visually and mechanically to their previous work - after It Takes Two, who would bet against it?
Next we have The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story, the latest Square-Enix experiment, an FMV investigation adventure. With over 6,200 followers, The Centennial Case seems to have a solid base. But we think its genre makes this product a niche one and its price-tag ($50) might be a problem for the mainstream Western audience. So… big in Japan, but maybe not elsewhere?
Also notable: the isometric Diablo-like Achilles: Legends Untold, action-RPG side scroller JRPG spinoff Eiyuden Chronicle Rising, tactical turn-based pixel art standout, Cantata and the very, very Japanese Neptunia x SENRAN KAGURA: Ninja Wars. All of these have some good potential too.
Oh, and as far as games that did well this week? The real-time global top sellers reveal that a few specifics, but let’s dig into those:
Of new games, it’s Complex Games/Frontier Foundry’s Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters that is the big standout, hitting 11,069 CCU and 749 Mixed reviews. There’s excitement from the hardcore fans, but seems like optimization and bugs are an issue on launch. (This should resolve over time.)
We don’t track DLC, but worth pointing out that Poppy Playtime Chapter 2 just debuted, expanding the incredibly popular creepypasta game series via downloadable content. Looks like it’s selling very well, though some big grumbles on Mixed reviews because they changed the base game to F2P, and upped the DLC price.
Of other titles we were expecting good things from, Trek to Yomi from Flying Wild Hog/Devolver Digital has just been released and hit 855 CCU and 256 Mostly Positive reviews - critical reception a bit mixed, though. Pyramid Games/PlayWay’s Dinosaur Fossil Hunter had an OK-ish debut, as it hit 758 CCU and 109 Mostly Positive reviews.
And Straka Studio & Superhot Presents’ Loot River has been slow - 274 CCU and 104 Mixed reviews, on disappointing combat, even though the core platform-moving gameplay was smart. Finally, Bakery Simulator from Live Motion Games/Ultimate Gaming had a softish debut, with 428 CCU and 115 Mixed reviews.
What we’re tending to see with all this week’s titles except Warhammer is ‘OK-ish’ results, then. A number of those games will grind out 50,000-100,000 sales on Steam over time. But the crowded market is preventing them from really breaking out -unless a killer idea or spectacularly well-reviewed.
Console game sales? EGS? Meta Quest? We got that too!
Finishing up this week, thanks to Alejandro’s custom chart work, let’s take a look at our success indicators across console, EGS, and VR, as much as we can divine them:
Observing our U.S. PlayStation ‘recent’ download charts (missing a few games due to Sony errors), the F2P title Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt continues on top, followed by Elden Ring and MLB The Show 22 at #7 and #14. Looking further down, not much surprising here: The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe rises further to #58, while that inexpensive ‘horror cooking’ game Ravenous Devils pops up lower down.
Checking out the Xbox ‘recent’ game charts (U.S. paid downloads only by unit #, ignoring Game Pass - above), Elden Ring tops the chart again, closely followed by Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and MLB: The Show 22 at #4 and #5 respectively. Elsewhere, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe climbed to #25, while Rogue Legacy 2 - which is a Steam smash - rose strongly to #51 . If we take a look at the lower parts of the chart, Ravenous Devils and Bugsnax both made debuts (at #173 and #189 respectively).
Looking at our Switch eShop charts (only recent, paid, third-party, U.S. by download #), Star Wars: The Force Unleashed finally surpassed Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga this week. Further down, Bugsnax had a decent chart boost to #79, while Journey/Sky-esque 3D action game Arise: A Simple Story exceeded expectations at #91 - more on this in next week’s main newsletter. Looking down at the lower parts of the chart, we find super cute dinosaur zoo game Parkasaurus making a debut at #334.
Examining the Epic Games Store top-grossing chart (for all games except Fortnite), Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands continues topping the chart - followed by two Kingdom Hearts games (due to Golden Week sale!) and Sifu at #4, #5 and #6 respectively. Further down, Evil Dead: The Game continues a strong pre-order campaign at #7, and Ska’s Salt & Sanctuary sequel (and Metroidvania standout!) Salt and Sacrifice debuts on the chart at #14 on pre-orders alone.
Finally, our ‘recent’ Meta Quest VR game chart (ranked by new star ratings!) shows that the mega-hit Cities Skylines had an amazing debut too in VR - Cities VR topping the new games chart with 240 reviews (25,000+ units at $19.99 for the week?) Following that, niche cricket sim iB Cricket had 88 new ratings this week (170 total!) while survival sim Green Hell VR got 78 more ratings - and almost 1,200 in total, impressive for just a handful of weeks.
And that’s all we’ve got. Have a fun weekend - or maybe you already had one and are reading this on Monday. And we’ll talk to you all next week…
[This newsletter is handcrafted by GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game. Thanks for supporting us by subscribing to GameDiscoverCo Plus!]