Indie Game Performance on Steam
A while back, howtomarketagame.com published a blog post about the most popular indie game segments on Steam in 2022, based on revenue. Because the article is very relevant, we wanted to take a closer look at some segment statistics and challenge the premise that you have to commit to a specific genre to be successful on Steam. We used a similar methodology, only looking at Indie games published between 2019 and 2022 with at least 10 reviews.
Since median revenue was already examined in detail, we looked at each segment’s revenue distribution and other statistics, including price, as well as follower & review counts.
Unsurprisingly, our analysis revealed similar results: Complex games such as Roguelike Deckbuilders, 4X games, Simulation – Management games and City Builders are very successful on Steam, as seen in their revenue distributions. The majority of games falling within these four genres have earned between €10k and €50k revenue since their release, with City Builder and 4X games posing the highest potential for generating earnings above €50k. City Builders especially are capable of generating earnings exceeding €1m, followed by Sims, Souls-like, and FPS games.
In terms of revenue, the loser segments within the indie game genre are clearly Battle Royal games, 2&3D Platformers, Shoot ’em ups, Puzzle Platformers, and Puzzle games. The majority of these games don’t make it past €5k earnings. This comes as no surprise though. For one, competition among these segments is extremely fierce. In the 3.5-year time span we considered for the analysis, there were almost 2000 2&3D Platformers released. That is 12 times more releases in these segments compared to Roguelike Deckbuilders and 4X combined. The same goes for Puzzle games and Puzzle Platformers, which released an astonishing 4275 in the same period. While the number of Battle Royal releases was below average compared to the other segments, almost half of the games (77 out of 162) are F2P. On top of that, it makes sense that indie Battle Royales are struggling with the F2P AAA Battle Royal competition out there, such as Fortnight & Warzone (Activision just revealed that the release of Warzone 2 will be scheduled for 2022 instead of 2023).
Games in the lower-performing segments are, on average, also priced considerably lower than those in the better-performing ones, partially due to the immense competition, but of course also because they are easier to produce than complex City Builders or Simulation games. On average, 2D Platformers were priced at only €7.01 and Puzzle games at €6.26, whereas Roguelike Deckbuilder and 4x games cost, on average, €10.89 and 13.37, respectively. Games in the Match 3 segment were priced the lowest, only 5.47 on average. The vast majority of games in this segment do not earn more than €5k, and those that do almost all have an erotic touch.
Follower count strongly corresponds with revenue performance: The average median number of followers of the four top-performing segments is 1453, as opposed to an average follower median of 860 for the middle performers and just 486 among the bottom-performing segments. Follower average is often highly inflated due exceptional performers in their respective segments. E.g. including Fall Guys inflates the average follower count in the Battle Royal genre by approximately 3 times, from roughly 3500 to 9187.
Looking back at the revenue distributions, there are only a few segments where the majority of games makes it past the €5k revenue hurdle, including the top performers we already looked at in detail, but also story-rich RPGs, Local Multiplayers, Party Games, Souls-likes, Dungeon Crawler and Metroidvania. Given these insights, it seems a no-brainer to develop and publish games in any of these segments as opposed to the others. But especially in the indie genre, developers prefer to make games in segments that they like rather than what is popular in the market. That’s why there are so many Platformers and Puzzle games out there. And as shown in their revenue distributions, you can make good money with those as well. The key to generating desired sales and revenue numbers in these segments is, ultimately, discoverability. If you make a great 4X game, it shouldn’t be hard to stand out among the +-/25 games 4X games released in the same year. But even if you make a great Puzzle game, it will be challenging to generate traction if there are +/-1000 other games in the segment waiting to be discovered. So coming back to what the article on howtomarketyourgame.com suggested: Yes, a lot of your game’s market potential is determined by the genre or rather segment you chose, but not necessarily because there is a lack in popularity, but rather because it will be hard to win through the hundreds or thousands of other games released in the same segment. So at the end of the day, if the decision for what type of game your studio is going to make fell on any of the bottom performing segments, then not only beware of the competition but start your marketing engine as early as possible.